© 2014, Jon Belber. All rights reserved. Friends of Holly Hill Farm
Early Spring on the Farm
Though ice and snow still dominate the landscape, one can easily slip on the bits of slick mud while carrying heavy buckets to the compost pile. There is always a need to make compost, as coffee shops, restaurants of all sizes, third grade classrooms in Norwell, the cafeteria at Hingham high school and kitchen chefs across the south shore have peels, stems, scraps and browning lettuce to dispose. At the Farm, the horses and chickens continue to provide a nice carbon to nitrogen ratio of shavings and manure to add heat to any pile. And make compost we must, along with the worms. What else are we to do with the waste? How else can we lessen the load of trash making its way to barges (not for burning anymore) and carted far away never to be seen again? Collected waste, not thrown away in haste can make brilliant, rich, organic matter. The worms and thousands of micro organisms do their part as well, making for an active pile.
And all this compost and nutrient rich humus is good for the humans in late Winter when snow showers keep Spring at arm’s length. When the Cohasset high schoolers in a new semester of environmental science have the opportunity to engage in meaningful, hands-on learning both at the farm and at their high school farm garden, then we at the farm are excited to provide that enrichment. Shivering and cold, the teens look at our pile of manure, egg cartons, coffee cups and carrot peels and see steam. We turn away the top layer of recently added material and the heat rises. We take the long spool compost thermometer and see that it measures over 100 degrees. Some wave their chilly fingers over the pile I am holding and feel a sense of warmth, along with other decomposing scents. There is a lot of activity in that pile. But we do not linger, as we head into the hoop house, where, by 1 pm, the sun has done its job of warming up the place. There in the greenhouse, with many a farm seedling already dancing out of their trays, there is a wheelbarrow full of surprises. Finished, sifted compost is ready so we can collectively make soil and start our own seeds for the Spring, for the school farm garden, fresh, organic produce and crops for the Cohasset Food Pantry, for growing and learning. The mostly high school seniors and some juniors have probably not allowed themselves to work with kale seeds and sugar snap peas. It has been far too long since they put seeds in a tray, added water and waited for germination. Grow seeds grow. Grow teens grow before graduation.
The presence and danger of frost will remain until late May. Dangerous for seedlings and other living creatures who need shelter. So we sow certain seeds, that can handle this cool weather and changing seasons. We take that compost and put it to use. We urge Spring to continue its march towards April, cruel as that month may be. We welcome back the singing birds in the morning, we welcome the late light at 6 pm and beyond. We seek warmth in greenhouses and sunny spots, like Shadow the cat who stands on the top step, in the midday sun (or whenever it shows itself from behind the clouds). But we remember to still walk slowly, sure of foot, as it is icy and we would not want to spill that precious bucket of compost ingredients which makes this whole growing endeavour possible.