Breakneck Hill Farm News

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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.

New Raised Bed

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016

In New England there is no shortage of rocks. There is a shortage of soil though. One solution is to build raised beds. Using wooden forms presents the problem of what type of wood to use. If you use untreated wood, the boards will only last a few years. If you use pressure treated there is a certain toxicity that must be accepted. By using stone to build the beds we solve two problems. We’ve removed the stones from one place they were unwanted and we create a raised bed that is rot resistant and very flexible. This space was some of the worse soil on the property. By raising the soil by 6-8 inches we’ve now added about 200 square feet of growing space. In addition to the cow and chicken manure that has been added to this new bed, I planted black locust trees behind it. Black locust is a member of the pea family meaning it is a nitrogen fixer. Not only during the short growing season a pea might have but for most of the year. Black locust is also one of the most under-utilized woods. It is very strong and one of the most rot resistant woods that grow in this climate. At some point the trees will be harvested and used for other projects. Permaculture is about utilizing local  and multifunction resources.

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Chickens Still Foraging in February

Monday, February 22nd, 2016

These Red Dorking Hens are enjoying the beautiful spring weather in February. They will continue to eat weed seeds and bug parts as long as the ground is accessible.


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Pigs Eat Turnips

Monday, February 22nd, 2016

I have been supplementing the pigs grain ration with turnips (among other things) which I grew last year and couldn’t seem to get preserved before the hard frost hit. They froze in the ground but with the return of warm weather I’ve been feeding them to the pigs who don’t seem to mind one bit.

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It Really is Winter

Monday, February 22nd, 2016

We’ve had a pretty easy winter this year (thank you el Nino). Here is a very picturesque scene from one of the few snow storms we’ve had.

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Cows Moved, Cow Fund Gets Help From Our Friends from Boston

Sunday, November 22nd, 2015

12294656_324893684301772_7349358830723890849_nMembers from The Move and Urban Farm Institute made the trek from Boston out to Southborough to help move the cows to their winter quarters at 61 Breakneck hill Rd and then stayed to help take down fencing. Both organizations help to train young people to grow and connect with their food and live healthier lives. We hope this relationship will continue after the Belted Galloways are gone. Breakneck Hill Farm will continue to expand its capacity to produce food on my 2.5 acres using ecologically resilient permaculture systems.

https://www.facebook.com/urbanfarminginstituteboston/photos/pcb.324894617635012/324893684301772/?type=3&theater

 

Cows Moving Off Pasture for Last Time

Saturday, November 14th, 2015

The Cow Fund decided to make Nov 22 the last day on the pasture. We’ll be moving the cows and taking down some of the fencing. Come join us. We’ll be joined by The Move and the Urban Farming Institute,

https://urbanfarminginstitute.wordpress.com/

The Cow Fund would like to give huge thanks to Kendall Sweeney who produced this beautiful video along with being a senior at Algonquin Regional HS and producing many of the senior pictures for her class is also captain of the (as far as I know) undefeated girls soccer team. She will continue to be involved as I concentrate on developing a permaculture farm at Breakneck Hill Farm (across from the conservation land).

Please feel free to stop by and see how this project is progressing.

The Move to Visit Breakneck Hill Farm

Wednesday, October 7th, 2015

The Move is an organization that connects young people from Boston with farms and the food system. They travel to various farms both in Boston and in the suburbs. They will be coming to Breakneck Hill Farm on Oct 17 at 9:30 AM to help with a number of projects. We will be moving the cows and taking down the fence on the Back Pasture. We will also be getting the barn and barnyard ready for the cows to come back to in November. I am hoping to secure an oak log to split into rails if not we’ll be finishing some rails and setting up some home made split rail fence. Please stop by and say hi if your in the area. We’ll be serving grass-fed burgers for lunch.

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Urban Farm Institute Comes to Breakneck Hill Farm

Thursday, October 1st, 2015

Five members of the Urban Farm Institute came out from Boston to visit Breakneck Hill Farm on a beautiful day on Sep. 18th. Our immediate goal was to pick some of the thousands of delicious and organic apples that are on the trees on the conservation land. The orchard was originally planted in the 1940’s and at one point had something like 3000 trees. Invasive plants, disease and development have destroyed almost all the trees. The only ones that survived were the ones in the cow pasture that were protected by the cows who ate the invasive plants and who also ate the apples that dropped to the ground. Drops are a problem in orchards as they harbor pests and diseases.

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The goal of the visit was also to make a connection and exchange ideas between our suburban farm and one from the city. The cow fund provided lunch and we discussed the many ongoing permaculture projects at Breakneck Hill Farm.

The Urban Farm Institute is a non-profit organization that trains inner city young people in the skills to grow high quality healthy food. They have a number of properties they have or are turning into small farms in Boston. They most recently acquired the 2 remaining acres of the historic Fowler Clark Farm right in the middle of Roxbury. This will be their headquarters with a garden filling what was an overgrown lot. Congratulations to the UFI!

https://www.facebook.com/urbanfarminginstituteboston/posts/315815115209629

A Letter to the Community

Monday, September 28th, 2015

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September 28th, 2015

Dear Breakneck Hill Cow Fund Friends,

It is with great sadness that the Breakneck Hill Cow Fund has decided that that we are no longer able to sustain a herd of Belted Galloways on the Breakneck Hill Conservation Land. We began this journey in 2001 to “save the cows” with a very suspicious Farmer Ray Davis. The adventure grew into a restoration project, an agricultural passion, and a way to bring a bit of Southborough’s agricultural past to life.  Children and adults from Southborough and surrounding communities have enjoyed watching calves being born, cows grazing against the backdrop of flowering apple trees, families enjoying “Farm Day” and excitedly waiting to see what square the “cow pie” would be dropped on and so many of us finding peace while walking the trails alongside these beautiful animals.

Recently, The Breakneck Hill Cow Fund (BHCF) learned that recommendations for the management of the Breakneck Hill Conservation Land would reduce and limit the amount of grazing areas for the cows. Lack of rain over the past few years has negatively impacted the quality of existing grasses. These factors make the need to feed the cows hay during the warmer months necessary, and costly, to maintain a healthy herd and have contributed to our decision to close our operations.

Reflecting upon the past 14 years, the BHCF and the cows have brought us joy. There are so many people who have been instrumental in the success of the Cow Fund and so many stories and personal reflections.  The present Board wants to thank the Southborough Conservation Commission, the media, our past and present Board members and everyone who has loved, supported, volunteered and enjoyed the cows on the Breakneck Hill Conservation Land.

Thank you,

The Breakneck Hill Cow Fund

P.S. We will be making arrangements to return recent contributions to our supporters. We will be in touch once those arrangements have been finalized.