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