Breakneck Hill Farm News

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Bluebirds Visit Breakneck Hill Farm

Friday, October 21st, 2016

We had a flock of bluebirds come visit the other morning. A healthy ecosystem means diversity and bluebirds are part of that diversity. Bluebirds along with other birds eat insect pests and are a vital part of the pest manage plan here.

 

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And here’s another valuable member of the pest control team. A praying mantis that seems pretty interested in whats going on inside. These are all signs that the ecosystem is healthy and functioning.

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Helping the Help

Friday, October 21st, 2016

This garden was planted to attract beneficial insects and even in the late season we have lots of bumble bees visiting the many flowers. This garden cost less than $7.50 (from Johnny’s seeds) to plant as I have used the seeds on a number of gardens. These plants will self seed for next year. While the bumble bees have done their job for this year, it helps them for next year to have late season flowers to feed on. Besides benefitting the bumble bees these gardens are beautiful to look at and easy to maintain.

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This image has about 10 bumble bees visible on the flowers in mid-Oct.

Boston YMCA comes to Breakneck Hill Farm

Tuesday, October 18th, 2016

Saturday Oct 15th, we had the Boston YMCA return thanks to Ladawn Strickland and The Move which is now part of the Urban Farm Institute. It was an very busy but rewarding 3 hours. Twenty eight high school aged students and 9 staff came out to learn about sustainable farming, help with some projects and have a great meal directly from the farm. We split into 5 groups, each was assigned a leader and a task to work on. They built a raised garden bed which will be used next spring and a hugelkultur swale on the cow paddock to help retain water and nutrients and build soil there. They also helped feed the cows and pigs and learned about their role in the fertility of the farm. I am greatly indebted to the folks who donated their time to make this a success, Anne Brown, Janet Fuchs and Yun Gao and of course the folks at the Y. Lunch consisted of a salad which was harvested, cleaned and prepared by the young people, a vegan three sisters stew and of course grass-fed hamburgers. All the food was donated for the event by Breakneck Hill Farm.

Here is the new raised beds.

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and the new hugelkultur swale

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The pigs also benefited by receiving lots of weeds and veggies from our enthusiastic guests.

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And enjoying a hearty lunch of hamburgers, salad and vegan three sisters stew.

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Thanks to the Boston YMCA for their effort and attention!

The Move Returns with the Davis Leadership Academy from Dorchester

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016

About 70 students from the Davis Leadership Academy in Dorchester came to visit and lend a hand. While we worked on a couple projects and learned about sustainable farming the kids had a ball with the animals. I’m not sure if the cows or the pigs were the biggest hit but they sure liked spending time with them. At the end we came together to discuss the relationship we have with food and how to make healthier choices. It was a joy to host this wonderful group of young people and I hope they can return again.

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Turkey Family Passing Through the Corn and Eating Weed Seeds

Thursday, August 25th, 2016

 

TurkeyMomKidHere is a family of turkeys in late August that decided to past through the farm.  The link below shows them in the small patch of corn. Its interesting to watch as they strip the weed seeds off the plants. Like chickens, they are able to eat seeds directly because  they have a crop at the base of their necks where the food is held until it passed to the gizzard where they keep small pebbles to grind up the material they eat. Humans and most mammals can’t eat seeds directly. That is why we grind them in a mill.

 

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Urban Farming Institute Picks up the First of Hopefully a lot of Produce

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016

Our partnership with the Urban Farm Institute took the next step. Ladawn Strickland and Apolo Catala came out to harvest some of our abundant produce. The produce which I donate will be sold at very affordable prices at two three farmers markets in Boston. I will be supplying produce every week through the summer and into the fall. Our partners are training young people to produce food at their urban farms in Boston and sell their healthy food to restaurants and farmers markets with the goal of creating businesses around the local production of food. Producing food in the city can be very challenging as property values are so high and many city soils are heavily contaminated with lead. The goal of this experiment besides providing healthy food to people who may not be able to access it, is to maximize food production on my 2.5 acres. This will not happen overnight as we are not so much challenged with toxic soil as the lack of soil. And soil building will be the number one focus for the next 5 years.20160711_113547

 

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The Urban Farm Institute is a non-profit formed to train young people to grow fresh, healthy food. The Move is a partner organization which organizes youth volunteers to connect with farms and healthy habits. Please consider donating to these organizations.

The Ever Expanding Garden

Monday, July 4th, 2016

 

We’ve had some great weather for growing so far …… but only if you have water. Very dry through May and June. Permaculture systems temper the need for water but the garden beds definitely still need it for crops to thrive.

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Lots of stuff happening in the gardens, here are beets almost ready.

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There are a couple small zucchini starting, we’re expecting a big crop soon.

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Here’s more Zuccini with cucumber plants in front and sweet peppers behind.

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I thought I’d try sweet potatoes this summer, I planted 25 slips.

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Some lettuce just getting started.

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Bush beans here.

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Asparagus doing really well.

Breakneck Hill Farm Continues to Evolve

Friday, July 1st, 2016

“..yet my mind was not at rest, because nothing was acted, and thoughts ran into me, that words and writings were all nothing, and must die, for action is the life of all, and if thou dost not act, thou dost nothing,”

Gerrard Winstanley 1649

Gerrard Winstanley was an activist in the wake of the English Civil War where King Charles I of England (the guy Charlestown is named after) lost his head (literally). Winstanley took a group of the poorest people to the common land on St Georges Hill where they built a small community and farmed the common land.

While many people talk and write about their beliefs, it means nothing if we don’t act. I have always believed that I must own my stay here on Earth and I must leave the parts I have control over better than when I found them. I must reduce my impact to this finite planet. And I must share with my community.

My original vision was for a larger farm but there are many examples of people raising significant amounts of food on just a few acres. That is my dream and goal. And it will include everyone who wants to be a part of it. I will reach out to communities where food security and quality are not taken for granted. As the Cow Fund finishes the process of dissolving, we will continue to disperse the funds generated from the sale of the last cows to hopefully help to inspire young farmers to look at how they can change the food system.

To this end, three organizations we are supporting that are making a difference in both Boston and Worcester. Over the course of the year you may see members at Breakneck Hill Farm helping with the management of the animals and the production and harvest of food.
Please consider making a donation to them.

Urban Farm Institute, Boston, https://urbanfarminginstitute.org

The Move, Boston, https://farmvolunteer.org/themoveteam/

YouthGROW, Worcester, http://www.recworcester.org/#!youth-grow/c1thu

Here are some pictures of the YouthGROW farm in Worcester.

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Thanks to everyone who has helped and supported this adventure.

Paul Bourdon

Cow Fund Donates Money and Beef

Sunday, April 24th, 2016

The Breakneck Hill Cow Fund made our first two donations as we close down operations. The two non-profit organizations receiving the $2000 donations were both hosted by the Cow Fund at Breakneck Hill Farm in 2015. The Urban Farm Institute who came out to Southborough twice last year, trains young people in urban sustainable farm methods. They run a number of small scale (less than an acre) farms in Boston. They will put the money to work on farm supplies. The Cow Fund also donated a cow to them. The beef will be distributed to underserved residents of the Roxbury community. The second organization, The Move also trains young people by taking large groups from inner city Boston to farms to help out with various projects. They came out in October with a group of about 40 and with the help of Cow Fund volunteers we ran a number of different projects. Their major expense is a bus to transport such a large number. We plan to continue and expand the relationship with both organization at Breakneck Hill Farm. While activities on the conservation land will be limited to the orchard, production at Breakneck Hill Farm will be intensified and all the extra food produced will be donated to the Urban Farm Institute.

Two members of the Urban Farm Institute picking up the beef of the donated Cow Fund cow.

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Seeding the Cow Paddock

Friday, March 25th, 2016

The cattle herd has been pretty tough on their winter quarters, basically tilling it. Bare ground presents so many problems to sustainability, erosion, loss of carbon and evaporation just to name a few. With the herd reduced and needing less space and the spring weather coming early it was time to seed part of the cow’s paddock. I am hoping to get the pigs in here this year and decided to plant barley. While it would be nice to harvest the barley it is more useful as a forage. The cows and pigs will be happy to grazing on it. Barley is an early germinating grain, meaning it will germinate when the ground is still fairly cool. It is also fast growing so I’m hoping to get the cows and pigs in here in May. With the ground already prepped by the cows it was a matter of simply broadcasting the seed and figuring a way to harrow it in. As it turns out I happen to have the front part of a 19th century spike harrow which works great as a human powered harrow. It was heavy enough to turn the seed in enough to cover most of it.

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This shot shows the harrowed ground on the right.

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The seeds on the right have been harrowed.

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The goal is to eventually keep this paddock covered in forage plants. That will require exceeding the animals from most of the paddock during the winter.