“Too Perfect To Pass Up”!

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CONCORD — Harvesting asparagus is back-breaking work. “There’s a lot of up and down, moving down the row,” says Lise Holdorf of Barrett’s Mill Farm as she and business partner Melissa Maxwell and assistant grower Rachel Klepner stoop to cut the green spears about an inch or two above the ground. Their white buckets fill with asparagus still warm from their soil cradle. They’ll repeat this early morning routine every day through mid-June until the field is picked clean.

Holdorf, 35, and Maxwell, 33, have operated Barrett’s Mill Farm for a year. Holdorf was raised here, Maxwell in Connecticut. They have a five-year lease from the Town of Concord and live in the farmhouse on the land. In order to make the finances work, they’re in the fields six long days a week and do occasional odd jobs on Sundays.

Asparagus is a perennial crop that Barrett’s Mill — and the town — is well known for. “This farm, in particular, has sandy, well-drained soil that is great for asparagus and strawberries,” says Maxwell. Local restaurant 80 Thoreau makes good use of the flavorful spears on its menus. Co-owner and general manager Ian Calhoun, who lives down the road from the farm, stops by a few mornings each week to buy asparagus for the restaurant. “It’s exciting to see a couple of younger farmers take over stewardship of the land,” he says.

“The beginning of June is when [the farm] takes off,” says Maxwell. Strawberries ripen, along with radishes, salad greens, sugar snaps, beets, and herbs. The farm’s Community Supported Agriculture starts on June 9. For the 20-week season, members can fill up a tote bag with harvested vegetables and also venture into the pick-your-own fields to rustle up some strawberries and additional veggies. The farm’s Barrett’s Bucks program, says Holdorf, “is a smaller commitment and you don’t have to come every week.” (Bucks cost $275 for an equivalent farm store credit; a CSA share is $660.)

The farm became available after former owner Patrick McGrath died in 2012. The town bought the century-old farmstead and in December 2013 requested proposals from farmers who wanted to lease the property. Included are approximately 12 tillable acres, a residence, greenhouse, farm stand, and barn. The women’s business plan was chosen by the town and in March 2014, the two moved in, Holdorf with her husband, Matt Conroy, a high school teacher, and baby daughter Cyra.

Holdorf was happy to return to the town where she grew up. “It was too perfect to pass up,” she says. Maxwell had been looking for a farm for a number of years. “It’s unique in this area to find something that could support two people, she says. The women had worked together for a half-dozen years at Appleton Farms in Ipswich.

With a full year under their belts, the duo is expanding the planted fields from 4 to 6 acres. “We started small,” says Holdorf, adding that they benefited from lots of helping hands. “The neighbors and farming community in town all supported us,” says Maxwell. In addition to the 50 or so vegetables and herbs they grew last season, this year they’ll be harvesting strawberries, garlic (scapes will be available mid-June, the bulbs in the fall), cipollini onions, red onions, and a mini broccoli variety called Happy Rich.

As women farmers, Holdorf and Maxwell are in good company. According to the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, female farmers represent 32 percent of all principal operators in the state. That’s more than double the 14 percent of women principal operators nationwide, according to 2012 data. The disparity is due mostly to the abundance of small farms in the Bay State — there are over 7,700 farms, many of which are just a few acres in size — as compared to mega operations in other regions.

The Barrett’s Mill lease costs the women $1,400 per month, which includes the farm land, buildings, and residence. The duo invested their own money in used tractors and implements as well as tools and supplies to build tables for a greenhouse and farm stand. Before they moved in, the Concord Housing Foundation had raised funds for renovations to the farmhouse and to convert it into a two-family home to accommodate two farmers. “It’s in excellent condition and a good place for a family to live,” says Holdorf.

The farmers made a small profit in the first year. “We did a careful budget over the winter,” says Holdorf, which allowed them to hire one full-time grower and four part-time field and farm stand workers for spring and summer. “This year we’re hoping for long-term sustainable income for us,” she says.

In Concord, both Macone Farm and First Root Farm are owned by women. Susan Macone, 64, has run what was her family farm since the early 1980s. “We do everything the old-fashioned way,” she says, growing award-winning tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash, green beans, and other vegetables. She sells her produce at the neighboring Brigham Farm Stand.

First Root owner Laura Sackton, 29, grew up in nearby Lexington and currently manages 4-plus acres with Cheryl Nunes. They grow about 40 different vegetables, most of which are sold to 225 CSA members. Sackton, who cofounded the farm in 2009, says, “A lot of young people who didn’t grow up on farms are being drawn to farming.” For her, the satisfaction comes with “being outside and the hands-on, always changing work.” The young farmer speaks highly of Concord as a place to set down roots. “It has a supportive agricultural community and people are excited to buy local food.”

Concord also has a vivid history. Directly across the road from Barrett’s Mill Farm sits the old, brown and weathered Colonel James Barrett House, part of the Minute Man National Historical Park. The colonel (and his home) played a key role in the first battle — and first victory — of the Revolutionary War on April 19, 1775. After Paul Revere warned of the British Redcoats’ advance, the story goes that Barrett’s sons buried the Colonial militia’s weapons and munitions in the fields around the house to hide them from the British.

While the land is old, the Barrett’s Mill farmers are new and as dedicated as their forebears. With every planting (and plowing and weeding and harvest), they’re hoping the soil will be fruitful for at least another 100 years.

BARRETT’S MILL FARM

449 Barrett’s Mill Road, Concord, 978-254-5609, www.barrettsmillfarm.com

in Boston Globe,Wednesday June 3, 2015 by Lisa Zwern

Woodstone in May

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This is where we are now with Woodstone. House is being wired,plumbing going in,heat and so on….porches to east and west going on,barn is really coming together and very cool…..new apple trees being planted…..cupola is in the background of the first photo-about to be put up on top of barn this weekend…..

Verona-Another City of Love in Italy

 

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Straddling the Adige river in Veneto, northern Italy, you will find Verona  which has approximately 265,000 inhabitants. It is the second largest city municipality in the region and the third of northeast Italy. It is one of the main tourist destinations in northern Italy, owing to its artistic heritage, several annual fairs, shows, and operas, such as the lyrical season in the Arena, the ancient amphitheater built by the Romans.

Three of Shakespeare’s plays are set in Verona: Romeo and Juliet, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, and The Taming of the Shrew.

Piazza Delle Erbe(above) is a good place to start a visit to Verona. Originally the Roman Forum, the rectangular piazza is in the heart of the historic center and is surrounded by beautiful medieval buildings and towers. In the middle is a 14th century fountain with a Roman statue.
This is Verona’s market square- where vendors come to slice and sell whatever’s in season. People have gathered here since Roman times, when this was a forum. The whale’s rib, hanging from an archway for 500 years, was a souvenir brought home from the Orient by spice traders. Today Piazza Erbe is for the locals, who start their evening with anaperitivo here. It’s a trendy scene, as young Veronans fill the bars to enjoy their refreshing spritzdrinks, olives, and chips.

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Verona’s Roman Arena is the third largest in Italy (after the Roman Colosseum and the arena in Capua). Built in the 1st century and still retaining most of the original stone, the arena holds up to 25,000 spectators. Since 1913 it has been the venue for a prestigious opera festival and a top setting for other theatrical performances. Although part of the seating is in bright orange and red chairs, it’s easy to imagine the original look of the amphitheater.

 

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Ancient Romans considered Verona an ideal resting spot before crossing the Alps so the city has a wealth of Roman ruins. Corso Porta Borsari was the main drag of Roman Verona. A stroll here makes for a fun, ancient scavenger hunt. Remnants of the town’s illustrious past — chips of Roman columns, medieval reliefs, fine old facades, and fossils in marble — are scattered among modern-day fancy shop windows.

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Verona’s most popular site is the balcony said to be Juliet’s in Romeo and Juliet. The house said to be Juliet’s house is in a courtyard off Via Capello. You can see the balcony and the bronze statue of Juliet for free .The 13th century house is a good example of Gothic architecture and inside is a museum with period furniture. Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet made Verona a household word. Locals marvel that each year, about 1,600 Japanese tour groups break their Venice-to-Milan ride for an hour-long stop in Verona just to stand in a courtyard. The House of Juliet, where the real-life Cappello family once lived, is a crass and throbbing mob scene. The tiny, admittedly romantic courtyard is a spectacle in itself, with visitors from all over the world posing on the almost believable balcony and taking snapshots of each other rubbing Juliet’s bronze breast, hoping to get lucky in love.(this is supposed to happen within 7 years!)

Gobble, Gobble~!

 

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Here are some last minute ideas for your Thanksgiving table-all pretty easy to accomplish.Have fun with pumpkins,cranberries,corn -fill containers with them or sprinkle them on the table….magnolia leaves and bittersweet can add a lot too…I also love my collection of pilgrims,turkeys-get them all out every year….fun to start with kids!

The Apple Never Falls Far From The Moved Tree

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There were 5 apple trees that had been planted about 50 years ago on the property. We had Onyx Construction (who is doing all of the landscape work,stone walls and site work) take a look at the 5 trees and they determined that 3 of them were worth moving-the new driveway is going exactly where the trees had been located.

The days before the move were very interesting-they really spent a long time very carefully digging around the roots,watering and then finally one day they were up in the air flying to their new location. That was in July and they seem to be fine-hopefully they will all make it and be in their new home at least another 50 years.

Lots of Ways To Give Thanks

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Bittersweet, pumpkins, feathers, sunflowers,grasses, leaves-so much of what you can use is right in your backyard-have fun and be creative! (All of these were made by friends,family and me)

Thanksgiving Planning

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Sadly I am JUST starting to think about how to decorate my table for Thanksgiving this year. I looked back to pictures I took last year for some inspiration…I love putting the flowers in a clear vase loaded with cranberries (they don’t get mushy for a week)…all receive a chocolate turkey…..sprinkling corn (just buy popcorn) and Lindt chocolates wrapped in gold make a pretty filler…