Winter Days at Red Gate Farm

Farmyard Tails: Dreaming of Green
By Jennifer Bennett, HF Contributing Writer

Young children are invited to explore and discover the wonders of the farm in winter right here in the hilltowns!

As we ring in the new year, on the farm we are busy preparing for the year to come. There are lots of things happening. There are monthly activities for kids and their families to prepare, warm eggs to collect, neighbors to catch up with, and thoughts of an amazing year to come.

Our first seed catalogs have arrived, our own seeds are undergoing their germination tests, and our minds are racing with veggies to come. But, we need not look far. This year we decided to try our hand at winter growing in our unheated greenhouse.

On Tuesday when it was six degrees outside with wind gusts up to 45 mph, our little greens were happy in their home at a balmy forty-seven degrees! So, when my bones are feeling frozen, I just hop on down to the greenhouse and thaw out a little while gazing at all the lively greens. Who needs a Caribbean vacation anyway!?!

We do indeed have a fabulously fun winter planned for our community. Join us every second Tuesday through April for Mornings on the Farm, a program geared toward the littlest farmers (ages 0-4). We also have our Family Farm Days happening on the last Saturday of every month. Both of these programs have a different theme for each class.

Our Annual Snowshoe Hike is planned for Sunday, February 7th. If you have come before, we’d love to see you again. And, if you have never come, now is your chance to try a new winter activity with a great group of people. We have many pairs of extra snowshoes to lend!

Not sure what to do for February Vacation? We offer Winter Farm Fun, a vacation camp for children ages 4 – 10. The age groups are split to ensure that each child has a wonderful time exploring the farm and forest. This is a great time for kids to explore winter in New England with new friends. Send them down, they’ll thank you.

SAVE THE DATE!!! Fire & Ice returns on Saturday night, February 20th. This is an event not to be missed. Come sledding under the lights, sit by the bonfire, and enjoy a winter barbeque. Don’t worry – S’Mores will be plentiful!

Don’t forget, every Saturday at 3:30 we welcome you to help us with the afternoon farm chores at our Young Farmers Program. So, if the kids are feeling antsy, come over and make them work! But realy, it is fun and you may learn a little something while you are here.

If you are out searching for local winter produce, be sure to check out the Northampton Winter Fare on January 9th, and the Greenfield Winter Fare on February 6th. While you are there stocking up on gorgeous winter squashes, succulent greens, and savory cheeses, be sure to stop by our booth to say hello!

Happy New Year! And, Don’t Let Your Dreams Be Dreams.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Bennett

Jennifer BennettJen is the Program Coordinator at Red Gate Farm in Buckland, MA. She lives in the woods with her husband, two teenage daughters, a trusty dog and a frisky cat. A gardener for much of her life, Jen enjoys cooking with her harvest, canning and preserving foods. She sees nature as her home and can be found outside during all manner of weather. A graduate of Goddard College (BA with an emphasis in Ecological Education), she is at her happiest when she is able to share her love of farming and nature with children and adults alike. Her column, Farmyard Tails, shares events and explorations that happen on the farm while educating children about farm life.

Summer Days at Red Gate Farm

Farmyard Tails: Lazy, Crazy Days of Summer
By Jennifer Bennett, HF Contributing Writer

Photo submitted by Jennifer Bennett

Ah, the lazy days of summer… WHAT? Did I miss the boat on that one? Summer seems to be the busiest time of the year. Here in the hilltowns at Red Gate Farm, we have so much going on. Are gardens are in full swing, which means lots of weeding, harvesting, canning and cooking.  Our animals are out on the pasture so, while we get a break from throwing hay bales, we pick up extra hours moving fencing and animals, not to mention gathering up escaped animals once in a while. All this, and all of our camps, field trips, and events keep us going all summer long.

The amazing amount of rain that we have seen this summer has failed to dampen the spirits of any of our campers, farmers, or animals. Our garden seems to have pulled through the soggy days, and we have already harvested many meals from the ground. Oh sure, we’ve had our challenges, but what year doesn’t? That’s the beauty of farming – there is never a dull moment!

Photo submitted by Jennifer Bennett

Photo submitted by Jennifer Bennett

Our summer camps were a blast this year. All of our weeks were either filled or just about filled to capacity. We had a great time with all of our ‘young farmers’. We learned about the honeybees, trained oxen, harvested from the garden, tended to all of the animals, and explored the woods and pond. It amazes me how patient our oxen are with the young teamsters, and how brave the kids are when working with the oxen who outweigh them by about 2,000 lbs!

This summer we added a new event to every week of camp. The young farmers hosted a “Family Picnic” every Friday afternoon. They worked hard all day to harvest vegetables and herbs from the garden for the meal that they would prepare. Our menu changed week to week, but some popular dishes were Quiche with Swiss Chard, Onions, and Parsley, Roasted Roots, and Honey Cake (from our bees on the farm!). The kids served their families the light meal and then took them on guided tours all around the farm and into the woods.

A highlight for me this summer was sharing the farm a group of kids visiting from Springfield, MA. Many of the kids haven’t had any experience with farms. We met the animals, harvested garlic, and nibbled in the garden. We nibbled on the last of the Sugar Snap Peas. Most of the kids had never eaten one before. The peas got mixed reviews, but every kid tried at least a bite. As we were nibbling, I thought to myself, ‘this is the life, being able to grow and share something so precious as fresh, good food with people who I like’.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Bennett

Jennifer BennettJen is the Program Coordinator at Red Gate Farm in Buckland, MA. She lives in the woods with her husband, two teenage daughters, a trusty dog and a frisky cat. A gardener for much of her life, Jen enjoys cooking with her harvest, canning and preserving foods. She sees nature as her home and can be found outside during all manner of weather. A graduate of Goddard College (BA with an emphasis in Ecological Education), she is at her happiest when she is able to share her love of farming and nature with children and adults alike. Her column, Farmyard Tails, shares events and explorations that happen on the farm while educating children about farm life.

What Does a Trebuchet Have to Do with a Farm?

Farmyard Tails: Feche la Vache!
By Jennifer Bennett, HF Contributing Writer

New spring lambs at Red Gate Farm in Buckland, MA.

Little lambs at Red Gate Farm in Buckland, MA. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

As I sit at my desk, I find myself looking outside at all of the beautiful flowers and buds. I can hear the birds singing and the peepers peeping. And yet, I am still having a hard time realizing that all of the snow is really gone. I know it is crazy, but it is true!

The Spring has been quite a whirlwind of activity here on the farm. Our little lambs are growing fast. All of the animals are out on the pasture, and they just can’t seem to get enough of the good stuff. Our first set of chicks who arrived all fluffy and tiny on April 13 have more than doubled their size and grown nearly all of their true feathers!

All this and a summer camp to plan! This year summer camp sessions here at Red Gate Farm are almost all full! It looks to be a wonderfully fun summer of camp.

And, let us not forget the garden! All of the potatoes and brassicas (brussel sprouts, kale, cabbage and broccoli) are in the ground. There are some greens coming right along as well. The beloved tomatoes are looking wonderful and vigorous in the greenhouse along with their buddies – peppers, eggplant, and basil! We could not have done it without our wonderfully hard working volunteers and the great kids from our Sprouts program and the Tree of Life.

All winter and into the spring, we have welcomed many children during our day programs. The Farm Leaders, a group that I now teach, comes once a week. They are a great group of kids with wild imaginations. We have taken on some very cool projects, as well as some very useful ones. One recent activity consisted of learning about levers and catapults and building a model trebuchet.

‘Fire in the hole!’ was heard echoing through Apple Valley here in Buckland, MA, as students tested out their trebuchet that they named (in the historical tradition) ‘The Tre-Bu-Z.’ The whole group worked hard over the weeks days to learn about the physics of trebuchets, they ultimately modeled their design after an old French plan they learned about from the television series Nova.

The trebuchet worked beautifully and was able to throw objects such as a golf ball, matchbox car, and, of course, a ‘diseased’ toy pony ala 12th century castle siege! To all you Monty Python fans, I say, “feche la vache!”

One parent asked me, “What exactly does a trebuchet have to do with a farm?” Great question! In learning about the physics of catapults and trebuchets, we also learned about the different types of levers. This knowledge helps us understand how the big barn was built and assists us when we have jobs to do around the farm, such as repairing rock walls, moving big logs, and other challenges that may arise. Farm Leaders will be ready for the challenge!

Every day is full of pleasant surprises here on the farm. The other day, on a hike with a group of students, one energetic and animated boy got to the top of the hill well ahead of the group. When we arrived he was quietly gazing out over Apple Valley. We all tumbled into the clearing and he exclaimed, “Oh, you ruined it!”. Unbeknownst to us, this boy, who is normally always on the go, had been basking in the silent beauty of the place. It seems that everyone who spends any time here, can find themselves a special little bit of peace and tranquility.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Bennett

Jennifer BennettJen is the Program Coordinator at Red Gate Farm in Buckland, MA. She lives in the woods with her husband, two teenage daughters, a trusty dog and a frisky cat. A gardener for much of her life, Jen enjoys cooking with her harvest, canning and preserving foods. She sees nature as her home and can be found outside during all manner of weather. A graduate of Goddard College (BA with an emphasis in Ecological Education), she is at her happiest when she is able to share her love of farming and nature with children and adults alike. Her column, Farmyard Tails, shares events and explorations that happen on the farm while educating children about farm life.

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