Introducing Land’s Sake’s Community Supported Forestry Program: Sign Up Today!

This coming year, we are excited to introduce a new model for firewood sales that will align our program more closely with Land’s Sake’s mission of connecting people to the land.

Since 1980, Land’s Sake has been sustainably managing portions of Weston’s town forests and supplying cordwood to the greater Weston community. The program has been a large success- our customers consistently comment on the clean and well-seasoned quality of our firewood. Sustainable suburban forestry is about more than cutting firewood, however. It is about education, sharing the beauty of a well-managed forest and inspiring its appreciation in all of its stakeholders.

Our Community Supported Forestry model will help Land’s Sake accomplish two important goals:

1. More deeply connect our customers with the mission and importance of sustainable forest management. As with many vegetable CSA models, we will offer each customer/family the chance to join us in the woods for work and education one Saturday morning in February or March. During this time, members will go on a guided hike with Land’s Sake’s foresters, witness a tree felling demonstration and then help split and stack firewood. Dates for these optional educational walks/work sessions TBD.

* This education/work component is not a requirement- we understand that not everybody enjoys this. However, working alongside our foresters will give you a new appreciation for the effort that goes into producing cordwood. Also, we would greatly appreciate the help!

2. Alleviate some of the initial production costs. In order to preserve a healthy forest ecosystem, firewood must be cut during the dark cold months of winter. We will require a $50 deposit with each order- this will help us cover the upfront costs of the program at a time when we traditionally do not generate any income and will guarantee your order for cordwood in 2012.

Details:

Deposit: $50 (all other fees will be assessed at time of delivery)
½ cord: $250
1 cord: $400
Delivery fee for orders outside Weston: $50
Discounted optional stacking charge: $44.45/labor hour (orders placed after this sale will be stacked at our normal rate of $50/labor hour).

Deliveries will be scheduled between September and November of 2012. We are limiting this sale to 20 total cords! While there may be additional wood available for sale in the late summer/early fall, this is weather dependent and cannot be guaranteed so ORDER NOW! Please contact Jordan McCarron, Conservation Land Manager, at jordan@landssake.org or (781) 893-1162 for more information and to place your order. DEADLINE TO REGISTER: JANUARY 31ST, 2012.

Irene Knocks Down Trees, Knocks Out Power

While the Boston area was spared from the brunt of Tropical Storm Irene, she still managed to stir up some trouble for Land’s Sake, its staff, and its trees. If you’ve been to the farm stand over the last two weeks, you’ve probably noticed that we lost a large tree next to the parking lot. The storm took down a significant portion of the tree, and unfortunately the remaining trunk was too dangerous and had to be removed. Sadly, over the last several years, many trees on the grounds of the farm, which was once a part of Harvard University’s Arnold Arboretum, have come down due to old age and wind. Jordan McCarron, our Conservation Land Manager, has been hard at work cleaning up after Irene.

Downed tree at the farm

The Land’s Sake office was without power or phone service for almost a week following the storm (Aug 28th – Sept 3). We apologize if you tried to call or email us and were unable to get through to leave a message. We are now fully up and running, so please call and let us know if you have not received a response to a message from that week.

We’d also like to thank all the volunteers who showed up to help prepare for the storm before it arrived. Thanks to your efforts, Land’s Sake made it through with no major storm damage to equipment or crops.

Land Care & Food Justice

Volunteers harvest collards at the Field of Greens

Right around the time the founders of Land’s Sake set their dreams in motion here in Weston, a like-minded group of folks in Cambridge founded Food For Free. A non-profit like Land’s Sake, Food for Free sought to connect families and individuals around Boston most in need of food assistance with the massive amounts of “excess” within our food system. Food for Free visited super markets, wholesale clubs, bakeries, farms and farmers markets, “rescuing” the end-of-the-day leftovers from being discarded as “waste” and distributing it within the local emergency food system.

Nowadays, Food for Free is still going strong. In 2010, it “rescued” 1 million pounds of fresh food, distributing it to 25,000 individuals via 76 food programs in Boston, Cambridge and Somerville.

Food for Free also now runs a small, ¼-acre farm in Lincoln, MA called the Field of Greens, of which I am the manager. The land as well as the seeds, organic fertilizer, tools and invaluable advice is donated each year by Lindentree Farm and head farmer Ari Kurtz. Every Wednesday from 8 a.m. until mid-day during the growing season, my assistant farm manager and I oversee the planting, cultivation and harvesting of cabbage, collards, beets, carrots and swiss chard. These crops have a high nutrient density, store well, are popular amongst the families and individuals who receive the food, yet are rarely donated to Food for Free.

Each week, we are assisted in our work by a crew of approximately 10 regular volunteers and occasional groups. By seasons end, we will see more than 50 volunteers at the Field. The food that we produce at the Field of Greens goes directly to meal programs, shelters and pantries; it is either prepared or taken home by a family the same day we harvest it. In 2010, we harvested just over 7,000 pounds of food!

My work at the Field of Greens has been a great compliment to my work as Conservation Land Manager here at Land’s Sake. In both capacities, I am able to affect, in a very real way, the relationship we all share with the natural world. As Conservation Land Manager, my work in maintaining the town’s fields and hiking trails as well as the grounds of our main farm seem equally important in ensuring a connection between us humans and the land around us. Though the farm crew here at Land’s Sake does all the important work to grow such amazing food, I feel like I’m cultivating something as well: a respect for our common land through my work maintaining the towns fields and trails and an appreciation for the cultural heritage of New England farming towns through my attention to aesthetics at the main farm and our work on field-edge preservation projects.

At the Field of Greens, we often play host to volunteers’ first experiences with growing food. The power of those first experiences with farming is multiplied tenfold when volunteers learn that the organic and highly nutritious food they are helping produce is going directly to families that desperately need it. Respect for the land, an interest in our food system and an awareness of its strengths and inadequacies are all in cultivation at the Field of Greens.

In the end, it might be these experiences in farming and food justice that are more important than the actual food itself. However, that won’t keep us from trying our best to produce as much healthy, tasty organic produce as we can 🙂 Our goal for this season is 5,000 pounds of food. As I write this in mid- August, we have harvested just over 2,200 pounds of food thus far. I think we can do it!

Jordan McCarron, Conservation Land Manager

Building Boardwalks

Before

With ferns and skunk cabbage creating a thick camouflage for the mud and stagnant water below, you breeze through the swamp–high and dry on a brand new 200-foot-long boardwalk. An old stone wall borders your walk on the right, lending an air of history and culture to your stroll. The smells are mixed- mud, grass, sweet ferns, cut grass from nearby homes. At the end of the boardwalk, you hop down to solid ground, your socks and shoes just as dry as when you put them on. Where are you? In Vermont or northern Maine? Nope-Weston.

The new boardwalk, installed by Land’s Sake in early June on behalf of the Weston Forest and Trail Association, spans 200′ of formerly inaccessible trail parellel to Westerly Road. The trail can be accessed via two trail-heads on Audubon Road. The trail connects to the Sunset Corner trail system off Highland Street.

After

Jordan McCarron, Conservation Land Manager

Communities that Work Together, Stay Together

Many hands make quick work.

When ever we get a request from a group to help us out on the farm, the first things that flash through my mind are logistics. Do we have the time, resources and the need for a mass of people to join us in the fields or forest? There are a lot of moving pieces and to top it all off we are completely at the mercy of mother nature’s whims. Coordinating so many details can be a daunting task, but one that I can assure you all is well worth it.

This Spring a group of 25 freshmen from the Rivers School in Weston came to work on the farm. Together with the Land’s Sake farm staff we planted nearly 5000 strawberries in about an hour and a half. That is a serious amount of work. A project that may have taken days of time out of the farm staff’s limited schedule was accomplished in one fell swoop.

Jeanette Szretter, Director of Community Service and Spanish Teacher at Rivers School, said, “The weather cooperated and our faculty and students have nothing but raves about the success of their work with you today! What an impressive amount of strawberries! Thank you so much for your willingness to host us and to partner with us. We look forward to many more such opportunities!”

These projects go far beyond the tangible work that is accomplished. By focusing our physical energy on a common goal we build stronger connections with our friends, neighbors and to the community as a whole. My experience at Land’s Sake over the past two and a half years has been that when we call upon our community for support in a time of need we are often rewarded by a profound outpouring from all over.

When I arrived at Land’s Sake I felt like I was immediately adopted into a truly unique and strong community. Every day I am proud and grateful to contribute to an organization with such deep roots. Now in our thirtieth year we are working harder then ever to assure that those roots remain healthy and will support us for another thirty years. If you live anywhere near Weston and want to feel connected to an amazing community, don’t hesitate any longer, explore all we have to offer. Join us in working towards a sustainable and rewarding future any way you can.

-Douglas Cook, Education Director

Preserving Weston’s Fields – One Vine at a Time

Weston is blessed with some 2,000 acres of protected conservation land, including farmland, forests, and open fields. To help preserve this great resource, over the last several years Land’s Sake has been working on behalf of the Community Preservation Committee and the Conservation Commission to maintain several of Weston’s open fields. The work of preserving these fields is some of the most daunting, but rewarding, that I have been involved in while at Land’s Sake.

Most recently, we have been working at the 80-Acres field at Cat Rock to push back the field to its original stone walls and clear all the “tree islands” of overgrown invasive vines and debris.  If you’ve hiked or walked your dog at Cat Rock over the last six months or so then you have probably seen the slow transformation that’s taken place. When we first started the project last year, most of the trees were completely entangled in thick walls of bittersweet, multiflora rose, and (my favorite) poision ivy! Each day we attacked these massive invasive entanglements with chainsaws, loppers, and hauled it away with our tractor.

For the larger trees and debris that needed to be removed, we brought in a large chipper to grind them up. Once removed, the brush was either burned or hauled into the woods and cut down low to decompose. Although the work was difficult and often left our crew with cuts and scratches from thorny brush all over their arms and legs, it was always incredibly rewarding to look back at the newly cleared sections of field and see our progress.

And this spring, after months of hard work, we finished our work clearing the 80-Acres field.  If you haven’t been to the field, we encourage you to take a walk, check out our work, and enjoy all that Weston’s conservation land has to offer.  A map of Weston’s extensive trail system can be found on the Weston Forest and Trail website – you may be surprised to find that nearly every area of town has access to this great trail network.

For more photos of our work at 80-Acres field and the Dickson fields on Highland St, click here.

In all, Weston has 24 fields that are maintained by the Conservation Commission and the Weston Forest and Trail Association.  For updates on how Community Preservation Act funds are being used to preserve Weston’s fields you can visit the Conservation Commission’s website.

– Dave Quinn

The heart, and soul, of Weston

One handful of Dandelion at a time

Land’s Sake is one of the greatest things about Weston.  I have long believed this since ‘discovering’ it during my third year as a Weston resident. Driving by the farm one warm May day, I decided to enter the long driveway to poke around  and see what the wooden farm stand, and the fields, were all about. A tall, thin man with a long beard was there, hoeing a field. It was a wonderful sight for my Wyoming-raised eyes that ached for familiar scenes of farmers working their fields.

“Hi. Do you work here?” I asked, naively.

“Sort of,” the man answered, with a bit of a grin.

Little did I know that I had just met Brian Donahue, a co-founder of Land’s Sake, an internationally known academic and a champion of suburban farming and forestry programs, of which Land’s Sake was a national model.

And little did I know that Land’s Sake would forever change my life.

Now, eight years later, I am honored to serve as Board Chair of this great organization and to work for the Land’s Sake community.  As a mom, a customer, and a volunteer, I can attest to the many impacts that this land, and the people who work on and for it, have made on my family. Whether it’s stopping by the farmstand on a steamy July day for fresh basil and carrots for dinner, or watching my children frolic in the farm and forests that Land’s Sake staff help maintain, the memories we’ve made are fresh and powerful. I have grown attached to this part of our town in a way that I never expected.

Land’s Sake is a place, a model of sustainability, a community of dedicated citizens that value open space, working landscapes, and community involvement. It is a source of healthy local food, a proud steward of forests, an inspirational teacher to children and adults. It is a board of leaders and a hardworking, talented staff, it is the tired hands of volunteers that give of their time, and the smiles of children that depart their buses and discover where their food comes from. Land’s Sake is all of this, and much more.

Interestingly, as our roots grow deeper in Weston and my kids experience more of the farm and forests, I find that Land’s Sake keeps on affecting my family in new and memorable ways. My oldest son, a 4th grader, decided to ‘try’ the After School Explorers program just last week. He’s always enjoyed being outside, but I’ve been careful not to inundate him with too many farm-related outings—not to push the agenda, if you know what I mean.

After one day of sign painting, planting, watering, playing, learning, and doing valuable outdoor work, the sports nut fell in love with Land’s Sake on his own, much to my surprise. He now has the Land’s Sake “bug,” and has returned to the farm as often as his program will allow. Thanks to Doug and Geeta, our dedicated education staff, and the magic of the land that sits in the geographic center of Weston, my son has been turned on to science, farming, and community service in a new way. Here, in his words, is the proof.

Mom: What made you interested in the After School Explorers program?

Lukas: My mom told me about it and I wanted to give it a try.

Mom: What did you think of the first day? What did you do?

Lukas: We planted some seeds in the education garden and took a tour of Land’s Sake. We did Name games, had snack, and met the nice teachers.

Mom: What is the favorite project that you’ve done in your last four visits?

Lukas: My favorite thing about it is that I bring something special home to my mom each time, such as a bouquet of various things around the farm, a cup of worms from the Norway maple, blossoms from the Norway maple, and rhubarb. I liked to paint signs for the education garden, work with other kids, and be around the farm.

Mom: How does the After School Explorers program compare to other sports or music activities?

Lukas: I like it the same amount and it’s different from other sports because we walk around a lot outside in nature.

Mom: What else would you like to say about the after school program?

Lukas: I would really recommend it to someone who likes to be outdoors and in nature a lot.

So there you have it. A new generation of smitten Land’s Sakers are sprouting up before our eyes. Our job, as parents, Westonites, and Land’s Sake supporters is to ensure that this story continues. Through your support as a member, donor, or parent that enrolls your child in the after school or Summer Programs, you can help this community gem keep on giving. And that way, when you or your child are at the farm, you too will be part of its community and its special history.

– Alyson Muzilla, Board Chair

Check out our New Education Garden

Team Maple

After spending all day Friday in the maple sweat lodge that we call the Sugar Shack, I am afraid that maple season is drawing to an end, and as a farmer often does throughout the year, I feel slightly thwarted by nature.  As most of New England eagerly awaits the increasing number of nights that are above freezing, I have been dreading them, as the maple trees rush toward budding and the end of the season’s sap production. We started off the maple season with chilly days, and the trees were slow to respond to the coming of spring.  Suddenly, we have this past week of balmy nights with no sap flows; somewhere in those few short weeks between, we had a couple of magical days where the sap literally flew out of the trees.  If you broke the tip of a branch, the sap was even forced to flow out the broken bud! What a marvel of nature that is the sugar maple.

This is my first maple season as a farmer. I came into this position of authority over the Sugar Shack with two weekends of “vacation” maple sugaring up at a family member’s sugar bush in Vermont. I say “vacation” because any maple sugaring that involves a hot tub is surely a pleasurable weekend more than a true training experience. This February, I received a quick overview on the operations of Land’s Sake’s Sugar Shack and was left to my own devices…my own forgetful devices. Thank goodness we have a staff of amazing people with varying degrees of experience in maple and all very willing to answer my questions at all hours (Thanks, Doug). To kick off the boiling season, I got the fire roaring in the evaporator and cleared Dave to go get himself some morning coffee, while I tended the fire and sap levels. Since I had forgotten to get vegetable oil, Dave was happy to swing by the store on his way back. Unfortunately, I was a little too good at making big fire fast, which made for big boil fast, which resulted in what I deemed the “foam monster” emerging from the rear pan, grasping at me with bubbly arms and hissing in satisfaction. I panicked. Like kryptonite to Superman, fat is the only way to defeat the “foam monster” of maple, and I was fresh out. I tried to gently comb the foam down, expecting a purring submission, but no such luck. I called Dave and politely asked him to “Hurry!”. Upon his arrival, I was able to break the surface tension of the monster, and since then, I have yet to sight it again. It was just testing me on my first day and, realizing my competence and vigilance, has retired for another year.

The rhythm of the sugar shack is one I can appreciate, as a creature that really loves a routine that I can master and then repeat mindlessly. You would think that a twelve hour day in the Sugar Shack with only two draws and two bottlings would be a day of empty spaces, with time to ponder the upcoming farm season and time to get “stuff” done. Lists, guides, planning, blogs, reading…I had big plans to get all these things accomplished while a captive audience to the evaporator. However, maple season has its own rules about consistency and constancy and quickly turns into a full-time job. Check the fire, push it back, add wood to one side, check the levels in the pans, adjust the float valves, check the levels in the sap tanks, estimate the length of boil until the next draw, check the temperature gauges, skim the foam, rinse out supplies, check the fire, push it back, add wood to the other side, check the levels, draw off, rinse the filters, check the temperature, and so on. Suddenly, the rhythm shifts at 219 degrees and a flurry of new activity kicks in involving bottles and caps, sticky gloves, damp clothes, occasional cracked glass, spills, and attempts to get the last dregs out of the finishing pan and into our mouths. Yes, as you may have suspected, the perks to tending the sugaring process happens to be endless syrup gleanings. I have planned my trip to the dentist this spring accordingly.

 

After completing my first year as Assistant Farm Manager at Land’s Sake, I feel that maple sugaring is definitely the task we undertake that is truly a team effort, a task that unites Farm, Forestry, and Education and links us to the greater Weston community. At Land’s Sake, we all have a to-do list that extends beyond the hours of the day, but when the sap is flowing, we are all on Team Maple. I feel that maple season is the team-building “retreat” every organization needs. We practice maple-themed communication and coordination, sacrifice and support, and frustration and camaraderie. Every day of maple brings new wonders, melting snowdrifts, steamy vistas, the sweetest scent in the world (in my humble opinion), ever-shifting, glowing embers, and my stunningly handsome dog sunning himself, to name a few. I have thoroughly enjoyed the season of maple sugaring, and I feel that I only need another ten seasons before I reach the level of expertise that a nearby farmer has attained, where she is rumored to be able to hear when the maple is at proper syrup density. How amazing is that? For now, it appears that nature may be shutting off the taps, and I turn toward the thawing fields to see what else nature has to bring this year.

Hope to see you all at the Sugaring Off Festival next Saturday, March 26th, from 9 til 1 at the Bill McElwain Sugar Shack at the Weston Middle School! Come for pancakes, sugar-on-snow, bluegrass, maple tours, and of course, our “Weston-famous” maple syrup.

 Stephanie

Assistant Farm Manager and Maple Production Manager

Signs of Spring

Merely a month ago, the world looked a lot different than it does today.  Our sugar house was fully engulfed in drifts, our logging crew was trudging through waist deep snow, and spring seemed very very far away. For those of us who love a good old-fashioned New England winter, this year certainly didn’t disappoint.

But as I write this entry, its 49 degrees and drizzling, the last piles of snow are quickly fading away, and spring seems just around the corner (9 days to be exact). With the warmer weather, you may have noticed the sudden appearance of maple buckets on trees around Weston, followed by groups of local middle schoolers rushing to collect as much as they can (without spilling it all over themselves).

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During maple season, keeping up with the flow of sap can certainly be a challenge and we rely heavily on the help of Green Power students and community volunteers.  A big thank you is due to everyone who has helped with tapping trees and collecting sap over the last month.  If you haven’t been able to join us let, not to worry, there are several more weeks of sap collecting.  If you are interesting in helping out, please email me at dave@landssake.org and I will add you to our volunteer email list.

And don’t forget – Saturday, March 26th is our annual Sugaring Off Festival, featuring a live band, tours of the sugar house, maple syrup sales, sugar on snow treats, and of course LOTS OF PANCAKES!  The event runs from 9am to 1pm at the Bill McElwain Sugar House, which is located behind the parking lot at the Weston Middle School (456 Wellesley St. Weston, MA)

– Dave Quinn, Land’s Sake.