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Sustainable steps

A View from the Farm

Walks with chickens

Some of my readers may know and others may not, but I ran into some serious health issues this summer, serious enough to require major surgery. Being on the 20th floor of Massachusetts General Hospital, while it is an incredible view of Beacon Hill, is a far cry from my life here at the farm. As I slowly recover, I am reminded of other reasons why farming is a much-needed component in life. As well as having the large flock at the farm, I have a small flock of chickens at my house for eggs and recuperation benefits. Not only are fresh eggs from free-range chickens excellent for my health, but the chickens themselves were constant cheerleaders to my progress. One of the only activities I can do is walk. As I gained strength, I progressed from the house to doing circles in my driveway. My chickens would follow — all 9 of them. They would match my slow, painful strides with little chicken steps all the while scratching the dirt, eating bugs and keeping up a constant encouraging clucking. To be honest, it wasn’t always because we were best friends; it often had to do with the fact that we were all dependent on my husband, Dan, and, while he made sure I ate, he would often forget to bring home chicken grain, so our walks were often filled with the high hopes on the part of the chickens that somewhere on my person I had food to share with them. I did start emptying the cupboards of stale cereal, bread heels, etc., so it became a reason to walk and get outside. I enjoyed it and the chickens did also. My point here is that not only is having a small flock of chickens good for fresh from the nest eggs, having chickens around is good for the soul. I think more households should have the basic chicken flock for food and sanity.

It takes a village

When we lose a person on the farm, things get tough. Because of the ever-changing aspect of farming, days can change in the blink of an eye. Cows get out, and time that wasn’t meant for chasing, them is lost. A person is sick and somebody else needs to do the work of two. When I realized that I would be unable to work for quite a while, I knew we would need some help. I was very touched and relieved at the help being offered by everyone. A farm is a lot of work by those that run it and it is, I believe, also a community effort to keep it going for the long-term. Many thanks to all who have jumped in to clean the barn, take on more work, worked quickly to see that we got extra help here at the farm, and continue to bring me food while others are doing my job. Sunnyfield Farm has become an important part of the community and the community is an important part of Sunnyfield Farm. Thank you all!

Locavore challenge

I am not sure I like the word “locavore,” but its meaning is more commonly understood now, so I will use it. Many locavore groups have formed across the country. They have different names and different rules, and different definitions of local. One of the main themes, though, seems to be the “locavore challenge,” in which the group pledges to eat only local for a certain time frame, be it one day, one week or a whole month. I think, even if done for a day, it is eye-opening and a good learning experience. So I will issue a challenge here to any who care to take me up on it: Go locavore for a day, week or month. Find local food at your local grocers, or farmstand and prepare yourself a meal from all local food. If you are not into cooking, find yourself a local food dinner to support. The Cornucopia Project has it’s annual harvest dinner on Aug. 24 and always has an impressive amount of local foods. The Peterborough Agricultural Commission will be doing yet another Wednesday night dinner on Aug. 28 at the old Fremont Farm. The Harrisville General Store has also started up their monthly dinners again. There are a multitude of options to taking on the locavore challenge, so just do it!

Ruth Holmes is one of the principal farmers at Sunnyfield Farm, a nonprofit community farm in Peterborough.

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