May 2010

The Animals

Animal-wise, things are moving along at the farm per usual as we continue to maintain initial animal projects that were started in the past. In keeping with the normal cycle of things springtime on the farm can only mean one thing…BABIES! We have calves (both Highland & dairy), chicks, lambs, piglets, and goats.

For the most part, the Highlands are doing well, although it’s a difficult time for farm staff and friends as the older animals have started to pass away (See our article on Jay) and be replaced. While it’s sad, their deaths serve as a real milestone for the farm as the herd that’s been around for nearly twenty years is re-circulating and we introduce new blood lines into the herd. Like the Highlands, the herd of Horned Dorset sheep is being upgraded with new genetic lines too.

As the Highlands and Horned Dorsets recirculate the Large Black pigs are bringing new life into the world. Despite a low birth rate this spring, the pigs produced a litter of piglets that continue to fascinate visitors. Whil we raise the piglets, Bernice, Toshi, and Longfellow (the lovely adult pig breeding stock) are having a fantastic time rooting around in the woods, enjoying their time off.

We have also successfully incubated 400 New Hampshire chicks. Raising New Hampshires is more than just a business or breeding endeavor though; it’s a conservation effort to bring dual-purpose chickens back onto farms. Not only is our conservation attempt going well, but the selection process we did last year to improve the chicks’ genetics has already been successful.

The New Hampshire chicks aren’t the only baby poultry on the farm. This spring we also hatched 60 turkeys (and sold quite a few as well), bringing turkeys that much closer to being locally raised! Right now we don’t know of anyone breeding turkeys in New England, let alone the heritage breed found here.

MITP says Goodbye to an Old Friend, Jay the One- Horned Wonder

This past month Moon in the Pond said goodbye to Jay, our dear one-horned bull, and one of the first Scottish Highlands to call the farm home. Jay was the perfect example of not judging a book by its cover. He was purchased to be a herd bull, but when he stepped off the truck thoughts like “what on earth was I thinking” and “I’m going to have to shoot this thing” flitted by in my head. He was big, beastly, and hairy, a cartoon of a bull who looked as though he was about to gore anything in his path. To my great surprise though, he not only became tamable but one of the farm’s most beloved animals, eventually becoming the mascot that graces the farm’s Web page.

Jay’s passing was sad, but not too surprising. What to do with him afterwards however, was somewhat more perplexing. How exactly does one dispose of a nearly one-ton animal? Well burying it is no longer an option, since the remains may leach unwanted toxins into various water supplies. That means leaving the carcass somewhere it can decompose naturally in the open air. Unfortunately Jay the One-Horned Wonder died on a neighbor’s property, a neighbor who wasn’t too excited about the natural decomposition process happening so close to home. So back to the original problem: How does one move a nearly one ton animal? With a backhoe of course! I rose early Thursday morning and with the help of some of the farm’s interns managed to get Jay Wonder’s body into the bucket of the back hoe and move it to a far-off field. The job went smoothly (well, as smoothly as moving a 900-pound decomposing bull carcass with the wind in your face can.). If people knew what goes into caring for farm animals, from taming a young angry bull, to raising it, to dealing with the overwhelming stench of that bull after its passing, many of us would probably rather just become vegetarian and head to the grocery story. But that’s simply what it takes to grow your own food, and that’s just everyday life on the farm.

The Produce

As far as the garden is concerned, we continue to grow only heirloom vegetables (as we have since 2008), a project established by our magnificently idealistic apprentices. As of this growing season, there are 150 different varieties growing, so come to the farmer’s market and taste the fruits of our labor!

The big news this season in relation to the vegetable garden is expansion. It has grown from .5 acres to 1.5 acres by instituting one-acre of green manure/cover crop. All this new space will be instrumental in permitting us to deepen our commitment to soil enrichment by allowing us to rotate vegetable production to ground that has rested for two years. In the past we’ve used the same area and have maintained decent fertility with the help of lots of compost. But that means the same patch of land gets tilled over and over again which isn’t ideal for soil organisms. As an educational farm, it’s also not necessarily a good way for us to demonstrate growing vegetables to farmers who don’t have as much access to manure and compost. It’s an important project for us to introduce the green manure/cover crop system and we look forward to see it coming up.

This Month’s Recipe

Every spring we harvest the lovely and plentiful Rhubarb plant. Since Rhubarb is rather prolific there is plenty to cook/bake with. What should one consider making with Rhubarb? Well, there’s always Rhubarb pie, but why not switch things up with this recipe for Rhubarb Struesel Coffee Cake?

“Rhubarb, a reliable perennial, rewards the gardener with ample fruit from early spring until strawberry season, which in our area is the first week of July. Rhubarb cake with a nice sweet and sour balance between the crumb topping and the fruit, is especially good as a morning treat. To preserve rhubarb for winter use, chop the stalks into 1-inch pieces and freeze in self-sealing bags.” -From the cookbook, From the Cooks Garden

1 ¼ cups milk

1 tablespoon white distilled or cider vinegar

2 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon fine sea salt

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temp.

1 ½ cups packed light or dark brown sugar

1 large egg (Duck eggs are GREAT for baking!)

3 cups rhubarb sliced ½ inch thick


½ cup packed light or dark brown sugar

½ cup old-fashioned rolled oats

1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

o Preheat oven to 350 F and lightly butter and flour a 9 by 13 inch baking pan
o Combine the milk and vinegar and let stand until the milk curdles (about 5 min.)
o Mix the flour, baking soda, and salt in a large sized bowl
o Cream the butter and brown sugar together in a medium bowl with an electric mixer on high speed until light and fluffy (about 3 min.)
o Beat in the egg
o Then, beginning with the flour, in three additions, use a spoon to stir in alternating portions of the flour and curdled milk, mixing just until smooth (be sure not to over mix)
o Fold in the rhubarb
o Spread the batter evenly in the pan.
o Mix the brown sugar, oats, and cinnamon in a small bowl with your fingers until blended.
o Sprinkle evenly over the batter
o Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean (about 35 to 40 minutes)
o Allow to cool.

MITP is Seeking a New Summer Intern! Are You It?

MITP is a small, diverse, sustainable, permaculture farm where the relationship of people to nature is explored in a myriad of ways through our crops, self-sufficiency, sustainability, conservation of heirloom vegetable varieties and seeds, conservation of historic livestock as well as traditional and modern farming techniques, all while attempting to fill the needs of today’s culture and society. With the variety of new projects going on at MITP, the current interns/apprentices are a bit swamped. We’re currently seeking someone to help work on our 1.5 acres of garden space as well as help with our numerous animals including both beef and dairy cows, ducks, turkeys, geese, pigs, sheep, and goats. We are located in Sheffield, MA and are seeking someone with outdoor work experience and an ability and willingness to work hard outside. Facility with hand tools, basic carpentry, and gardening skills are also desired. A driver’s license and clean driving record is a must. If interested please email with a detailed letter of intent (what you want to learn, why, and what you expect to contribute-specifically why you think you fit this listing) and résumé and proposed dates for visit/interview.