Harvesting Pigs

My uncle Shawn lives about 5 miles from my house in the same town. Being my dad’s twin brother they are very close and as a child I spent a ton of time on their ten acres with chickens, horses, pigs, rabbits and at one point ducks. I wouldn’t describe what they have as a farm considering the neighboring dairy farms have hundreds of cows but they certainly had their hands full with a few of each species. My cousin Ellie she loved the horses and they were more or less her horses so my brother and cousin Josh had to hav your own favorites. Mine was always the pigs cause I thought they were funny to watch and for the most part were really easy for me to help take care of. These things basically had a huge section of mud/field to themselves and when they were little they were super fun to roam around with. As I got older my responsibilities to the pigs increased a little but the one responsibility that really taught me something was the harvesting of the pigs. My uncle asked me to be a part of it first when I was approximately 10 years old. It wasn’t necessarily a job I wanted to be a part of but as a young boy I definitely didn’t want to be considered a wimp. So I went along to be met by a group of guys I had never met before. I can’t recall exactly where they came from but there was three of them all speaking Spanish. Small town Vermont I hadn’t ever met people that were so different from me. As it turns out my uncle had these guys come every year to help him kill and butcher the pigs. Without going into the details these guys amazed me, they took home every part of the pig my uncle didn’t want. Of course he gave them some of the traditional meat but they took every thing but bones. They took the head of the pig which I guess makes head cheese which fun fact is nothing like regular cheese. They took intestines and organs that are never eaten or used in typical American culture but they used it all and they were beyond happy to do so. As a kid it impressed me that these guys left absolutely nothing to waste whatsoever. Its always stayed with me to not waste things especially when harvesting animals. I am no vegetarian but it taught me to respect the value of life and not to waste what someone worked hard to produce. After a couple harvests of the pigs I will always remember to understand that even if you don’t want something from your farm or garden to give it to those who do.

White Birch Trees

This subject may not at first seem like it connects to gardens, or farming, but give me five minutes and I’ll be able to connect it to both, I promise.

Birch Trees in North Andover, MA 3/31/19 (photo Danny Lovell)

Growing up, I was a Boy Scout. I even made it to the rank of Eagle. Along the way, I was able to pick up some information firsthand about the outdoors. What kind of water is safe to drink, how to filet a fish with a sharpened stick, and how to start a fire in pouring rain with nothing but the damp woods around you. The key to that last thing is birch wood, in particular, the bark.

My roommate Shamus holding up a piece of birch bark. 3/31/19 (Danny Lovell)

Birch bark contains oils that make fire starting easy, and since oils and water don’t mix, it won’t matter if the birch log is wet. I remember one time I was at the base of Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire at a scouting jamboree. I was in a tent by myself, and the early June rain made sleeping that night miserable. I had a cold can of soup my mother stuck in the bottom of my backpack, you know, just in case. (Side note, my mother will provide me with a can of soup, no matter what. I could be heading to my friends house for the night, going on a week long boating expedition, hell, even take the dog for a long walk and she say,”Here, take this in case you get hungry.” Anyway, I find a few pieces of birch wood, and after finding a piece of flint near the bed of a river, started a small fire that, as it grew, the group of adolescent boys also did. We shared stories, dried our socks, and heated our collective cans of over-protective-mother soup and had a pretty nice evening.

A semi-rotten birch log, still flammable though 3/31/19 (Danny Lovell)

How does this relate to gardening? Or farming?

We were trying to clear our garden plot and our backyard of old growth from last year. We decided that a controlled burn was necessary. Only problem was, it was the last day our town allowed for burning, and it was a downpour. Luckily, by using some birch logs in the woods behind my house, I was able to get a blaze going, heightened by a couple old Christmas trees we had in the backyard. Thanks to the birch bark, we got what we need to get done, and we ended up with the best garden we’d had in years.

-Danny Lovell


GrandFather’s Backyard

As long as I can remember my grandfather has had an obnoxious backyard. Let me explain. He lives on the edge of woods in Easton, Massachusetts. When you enter his property all you can see is trees and bird feeders. You think it is just a few but if I could say a number, I would put it up in the thirties. I don’t know why he keeps buying more, but it makes him happy looking out his porch and seeing all the birds and squirrels. It doesn’t just end with squirrels and bird, he has his residential turkeys and deer that make their rounds. Last time I remember there were eight turkeys and all their names were Tom. Even if he is out there replenishing their feed, all the animals watch from the distance ready to pounce once he leaves. It’s very interesting to watch.

Example of the turkeys that come through his backyard : Flickr.com

Feeding the birds and other New England wildlife is just half of his wild backyard. His garden is something else. Once the new year pasts he fills his pots with seeds and turns his basement into a greenhouse. I believe one year he planted 50 pots with seeds. Something in his head kept telling him to buy more and more that one trip to Home Depot. Once it gets warm enough, it takes him a whole three days to plant them all. He has been doing this ever since my mom was young and still does it till this day. It makes him so happy to see his backyard in full bloom with the plants and animals. I think he likes seeing all the creatures walking or sprouting.

One of the planters that my Grandfather does

Growth Cycle of Cannabis

By: Rebecca Salerno

Recently I started working for a medical cannabis dispensary in my hometown, I assist in the growing and production of the plant for medicinal use. Now that Cannabis is legal in Massachusetts I have had the opportunity to work in this industry professionally, and am excited to be sharing the knowledge I’ve gained so far on the growth cycle of a cannabis plant. Cannabis, also known as marijuana, is a psychoactive drug used for medical or recreational purposes. The main psychoactive part of cannabis is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-psychoactive compound. THC and CBD are both cannabinoids derived from the cannabis plant. Cannabinoids are chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant that interact with receptors in the brain and body to create various effects. There exist hundreds of cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, but THC is most widely known among these due to its abundance and euphoric attributes. While THC is the principal psychoactive component of cannabis and has certain medical uses, CBD stands out because it is both non-intoxicating and displays a broad range of potential medical relief including help with anxiety, inflammation, pain, and seizures. These make CBD an attractive therapeutic compound.

Desert Diesel //HealthyPharms.org

Cannabis plants, like all living things, go through a series of stages as they grow and mature. It’s important for me as a grower to understand the changes a plant undergoes during its life cycle, as each stage of growth requires different care. Different stages call for different amounts of light, nutrients and water. The stages also help us decide when to prune and trim the plants, and overall health as well. The life cycle of cannabis can be broken down into four primary stages from seed to harvest:

  • Germination
  • Seedling
  • Vegetative
  • Flowering

The first stage of life for a cannabis plant begins with the seeds. At this point, our cannabis plant is dormant, patiently waiting for water to bring it to life. Between 5-10 days the seed should pop. Once the seed has popped, it’s ready to be placed in its growing medium. The tap root will drive down while the stem of the seedling will grow upward. Two rounded cotyledon leaves will grow out from the stem as the plant unfolds from the protective casing of the seed. These initial leaves are responsible for taking in sunlight needed for the plant to become healthy and stable. As the roots develop, you will begin to see the first iconic fan leaves grow, at which point the cannabis plant can be considered a seedling. When the plant becomes a seedling, you’ll notice it developing more of the traditional cannabis leaves. As a sprout, the seed will initially produce leaves with only one ridged blade. Once new growth develops, the leaves will develop more blades.

Life cycle of a Cannabis plant// Leafly.com

A mature cannabis plant will have between 5-7 blades per leaf, but some plants may have more. A healthy seedling should be a vibrant green color. We have to be very careful to not overwater the plant in its seedling stage, its roots are so small, it doesn’t need much water to thrive (reminds me of cacti and other succulents). Its extremely important for us to keep the environment clean and to monitor excess moisture. At this stage, the plant is vulnerable to disease and mold.

The vegetative stage of cannabis is where the plant’s growth truly takes off. At this point, we’ve transplanted the plant into a larger pot, and the roots and foliage are developing rapidly. This is also the time to begin topping or training the plants (we generally use bamboo). Spacing between the nodes should represent the type of cannabis you are growing. Indica plants tend to be short and dense, while sativa plants grow lanky and more open in foliage.

As the plant develops we also have to change our watering style. When it’s young, the plant will need water close to the stalk, but as it grows the roots will also grow outward, so we start watering further away from the stalk so the roots can stretch out and absorb water more efficiently (also helps things stay sturdy).

The flowering stage is the final stage of growth for a cannabis plant. Flowering occurs naturally when the plant receives less than 12 hours of light a day, in our case we grow inside so we just adjust the indoor light cycle. It is in this stage that resinous buds develop (the flower).

Once the buds have reached full maturity, it’s time to harvest.

Harvesting at healthypharms// Bostonglobe.com

My plans for the future are to someday own my own cannabis grow operation, and maybe even open up a lounge. I hope with the experience I am having at my work will pay off in the future.

Camaraderie in Community Gardens

A look inside the plots at our community garden. Photo taken by Jones Farm.

Each year my parents and I grow edible plants and decorative flowers in Spring and Summer. We have a plot in a community garden down the street from our house, where other people in town also rent plots and grow whatever crops they want. I’ve learned by having this plot over the years that there is a sense of camaraderie and a lot of teamwork in a community garden. I see this in a couple different areas- in the upkeep of the community garden land, and in seeing excess crops being shared between gardeners.

There is always help needed at a community garden. At ours, there is regular weeding and mowing that needs to be done in the grass aisles in between each plot. Sometimes the fences need to be mended, the watering tanks need to be fixed, and gas needs to be put in the lawn mowers and rototillers. The organizer of the garden seeks help with all of these tasks from plot owners. Without it, no one would be able to use the land because it would become messy and unorganized, so community gardeners depend on each other to keep the land workable.

A monarch butterfly on a milkweed plant at our garden.

I’ve also seen lots of sharing between gardeners, especially in mid to late summer when plants are growing with copious amounts of fruit and vegetables. There’s a picnic table at the entrance to the plots where gardeners often put a basket or bag of excess produce that’s up for grabs. My parents and I have done that quite a few times, especially when our tomato harvest becomes too much for three people to eat and we’ve exhausted everyone we know with bags of them. Whatever is left on that table always gets taken, which is nice to see. You know that the surplus goods did not go to waste. I also see recipes and planting techniques shared between gardeners, which we do often with our plot neighbor, who’s a master farmer.

Our excess harvest of cherry tomatoes last year that we put in a bucket and left at the table at our community garden for anyone to take.

I think the bond between people in a community garden comes from not only needing to rely on others to have the land be functional and organized, but also because gardening itself is an act that’s all about giving. With a good harvest, you’re giving yourself and your family homegrown produce, and you could have excess crops to give to others who don’t have a garden so they can experience farm fresh food too. In a community garden, it’s all about teamwork to make the gardening season successful for all.

The New Opposition

Last Thursday me and a couple other ESS students were huddling and working on our senior projects when we heard the news from our Professor: someone had heckled at a climate Cafe. In our minds this news had a bit more of significance because we were holding a climate cafe ourselves the night of March 14th. As an approach to talking about environmental issues, a climate Cafe can be utilized as simple as a round table discussion or it could be a multifaceted event with multiple speakers. In the case of the disturbed event, it was the latter and included many members of the environmental community and the commonwealth.

Shiva Ayyadurai disrupting a climate Cafe
Credits: Carl Russo/Andover Townsman

It was held in the Memorial Hall Library in Andover, Massachusetts and was attended by hundreds hoping to listen to Anthony Janeto, a professor from Boston University, talk about his research on climate change. Shiva Ayyadurai, an independent candidate, like any other citizen was allowed to participate but soon became very disrespectful to both the audience and Dr. Janeto. He started to call the professor a “liar” and making unfounded claims about how climate change is hoax. This uncivil discussion escalated more and more which led to the police being called and the event was shutdown.

The Memorial Hall Library
A different angle of The Memorial Hall Library

Shiva Ayyadurai is a product of the zeitgeist of Trump Era politics, In a similar manner to Trump he uses  subversive language to attack his opponents. In addition Shiva has made questionable claims about his qualifications claiming to be the “inventor of email”. For those who are unfamiliar his most recent efforts  was an independent bid for senate. Where he used similar tactics of “organic” publicity stunts and attacking the media to gain attention. He represents the new opposition to the environmental community and its ideals

I talk about this particular event because it encapsulates the  polarization of environmental politics today. Which wasn’t mentioned a lot in Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal,Vegetable,Miracle and or a lot of the other recent readings we as a class have read. The exception to the rule was the Food Chains where they talk about the nature of the opposition. The movie talks about corporate interests like Publix not coming to table to discuss both the importance of sustainable practices and workers rights.  

Data representing the ideological divide in politics
Credits:Pew Research Center

A segment of our  citizenry have their own skepticism when it comes to environmental policy-making  and this is backed-up by data from the Pew Research center.  According to the data seen below subscribing to a particular ideology has an effect on your perception of  the effectiveness of environmental policies. Comparing these contrasting ideologies the data reflects that  conservatives have little faith in these climate policies and that liberals more often than not support these policies. A healthy sense of skepticism is important for a democracy to flourish. It when the skepticism becomes toxic that is when we have a  real problem on our hands. I hope in the near future that we are able to convince a lot of the climate skeptics that we are willing to include them in the conversation. But it’s more important for us as a citizenry to use that skepticism and constructive criticism to make these climate policies more effective. In the hopes that this sort of situation doesn’t happen again.

-Bram Kools

My first garden

Growing up in a small neighborhood, all my neighbors had gardens except my house. While my parents were busy redoing our house, they finally dedicated a summer to planting and making our yard look prettier. Just like in the book, Farm City, it really took a small community to help plant our garden. My mothers best friends both had huge gardens at their houses and both loved planting, so they were thrilled when my mother decided to start planting in our dull yard. My mother and father had no idea how to start a garden. I remember my dad cleared out a flower bed in the front and back yard and surrounded it with wood. We then went to the local Home Depot to choose the flowers that we wanted to plant in our new gardens. When we got back that’s when everyone started to help plant. Even my neighbors came out to help make the days work go faster. After everyone was done planting my dad had a little corner he took out on the other side of our walk way. By the end of the day we were all out of flowers to plant and I was not able to help because I had sports games to attend. My father knew I was upset that I couldn’t participate in the days activity and he let me plant whatever I wanted in the little corner space that was left. As an 8 year old I had no patience to wait until the next day to pick out flowers so I picked all the dandelions in my backyard and buried then into my little dirt patch. That was my first gardening experience.

the garden shop

Growing at home

I was first experienced to Gardening and producing fresh food was with my Grandmother. She lives in a small town outside of Chicago and my entire life has had a beautiful backyard covered with flowers, fruits and vegetables. I was able to grow up in a place with little fresh produce and see what it takes to grow and cook your own food from an early age. My Grandmother would used all of the fresh food she had grown and incorporate them into our dinners. She would also incorporate eggs and meat from chickens that she raises in the same space and the plants. Learning to handle chickens and their eggs was something my Grandmother taught my brother and I.

Moving from Chicago to New Hampshire has opened me up to the beauty of fresh food. Farms are not something that you tend to see in the city of Chicago. Most food is eaten at restaurants or served in a take out bag. When my family moved to New Hampshire my parents began to cook more fresh meals with some vegetables coming from a small garden that me and my father were able to create in our backyard. This was a great experience that took me and my father about six hours. We decided to grow things such as green beans, rhubarb, tomatoes and cucumbers. These vegetables became apart of our meals, the fresh vegetables were noticeable better than ones bought at a grocery store.

The biggest difference to me is the mass amount of farmers markets that are available in New Hampshire compared to Chicago. Apart from having a small garden farmers markets and small farms  are a one of the main ways my family’s buys fresh fruits and vegetables. A fantastic farm in Meredith New Hampshire called Moulton Farms has made it easily available for my family to purchase produce.  


Mom’s Project

Growing up, I lived in an enormous house that my dad built with his own two hands. Both the back and front yard had a tremendous amount of freshly mowed grass to play on and a playground in the back, that was greatly appreciated by my three siblings and I. We lived a life that was strictly based on outdoor activities. No matter what the climate consisted of, we bundled up in the snow and we slapped on sunscreen during the hotter days.

My older sister Maggie and I playing on our playground.

I remember one beautiful spring day my siblings and I were playing whiffle ball in our back yard when my mom came marching down the back deck stairs, a bin overflowing with various gardening instruments nuzzled in her arms. She headed towards a patch of dirt in the corner of the yard and yelled for all of us to come to her. We circled around the patch of dirt and she said, “We are going to get our hands dirty and plant some flowers, whether you all like it or not.” That’s when we got to work.

Every day after school my siblings and I were allowed to watch a half hour of television including a snack, then we were told to report to the backyard to help my mom on the flower garden. I would always wear these pastel pink gardening gloves that ended up molding to my small hands by the time the garden was finished. Most of the time I would play with the worms and dig holes in unnecessary places, my mom was more lenient with my gardening duties, seeing as I was the youngest.

A few months had passed and our job was done, we had cleaned up a dusty old corner in our gigantic backyard and devoted it to this colorful canvas of flora. There were tulips, bleeding hearts, daises etc. exploding with beauty. I think that one of the best moments that came out of that garden was seeing how happy my mom was after accomplishing such a tedious and time consuming task, bringing her children together to create something so undeniably gorgeous.

My sister Maggie and I posing in front of our garden.

Bee’s In The Trap.

Growing up, my parents worked a lot and when I wasn’t in school, they would send me to my grandparent’s house in Weymouth. My Nana and Papa always loved having me come over to hang out with them. We would play board games or look at old pictures of my dad as a child, but on sunny days my Nana would take me out to garden with her in the side- yard. Along the side of their home, she had a beautiful garden filled with many vegetables, fruits, and flowers. It smelled so beautiful and sometimes I would even be able to eat some ripe strawberries or tomatoes with her.

Some of Nana’s beautiful flowers.

One year, on a beautiful Saturday in the Spring, my Nana and I went out to plant some daffodils. What we hadn’t realized was that above the garden under the gutter of the house, their was a bee’s nest and the pesky insects were swarming around that day. My Nana decided to let me water the plants that day too, and I was so excited because she had never trusted me with the hose before. I was holding the hose waiting for the water to come spouting out of the end and then, things went wrong.

My Nana had good reasoning behind not allowing me to water the plants before this day, and after this day, I wasn’t ever allowed to do it again. With the combination of the powerful hose and my noodle arms, I had lost control of it and water was flying everywhere. Normally, this wouldn’t have been such a problem with it happening outside and the weather being so warm. But, while my Nana was laughing at me trying to gain control back, she had not realized the water was spraying straight into the bee’s nest.

The bee’s became infuriated that someone was disturbing their lives and ruining their home, and they wanted revenge. Once my Nana had realized what was happening, she called out my name and told me to run as if my life depended on it, which it really did because I’m allergic to bee’s. The angry insects came flying at my Nana and I and we were running all around the yard to avoid getting stung. All I knew was that I would be okay because my Nana couldn’t run fast, but I could. Safe to say I haven’t gardened with Nana since that day.

I’m so sorry Nana.