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Column: Sustainable Steps, April 16, 2013

1. Don’t mess
with Mother Nature

It is lambing time at Sunnyfield Farm and that means less sleep for me. In just the past 12 hours I have had eight lambs born on top of the previous 15 lambs; it is a hectic time for me. I get up once a night during this three- to four-week process.

After doing this for 12 years you would think I would learn. One of my ewes lost her lamb. Now some mothers have a hard time with this, while others just move on without a second thought. This mother was having a difficult time and continued looking for the lost lamb. Two hours later, I was back checking on the sheep and another mother had given birth to twins and the ewe who had lost her lamb was trying to take them. I stepped in to try and settle things down, but felt myself feeling really bad for the ewe who lost her lamb. I decided that the mother with the twins should be willing to part with one, so I grabbed one when she wasn’t looking and passed it to the foster mother and watched her lick and talk to this lamb in her throaty mother sheep “baaing,” thinking this is so perfect — when in the blink of an eye I found myself on my hands and knees sinking into the mud. The true mother had rammed me from behind to let me know that this was unacceptable. She gathered up her twins and took off for a place as far away from me as possible. I realized, I should not have messed with Mother Nature.

In my nighttime lamb watch, to get back to sleep I try to read in the hopes of getting drifting off quickly. One such read was an interview with Dr, William Davis, the best-selling author of “Wheat Belly.” He says that modern wheat is at the heart of many health problems, even whole grain. We have hybridized wheat so much and tried to make it conform to human needs — high yields and dwarf sizing, plus many other things. He also says modern wheat is not the product of genetic modification, but is the product of techniques that are actually far worse, something called mutagenesis. A lot of his writing did indeed put me to sleep, but it also made me realize that we really don’t know where we will end up when we mess with Mother Nature.

2. Good food from good neighbors

Coming up on May 4 is Greenerborough in downtown Peterborough. For those of you who have never attended, I highly recommend going. It is a lot of fun and highly educational for farmers and backyard gardeners and for anyone who eats. There will be many workshops and speakers. The keynote speaker at 1 p.m. in Bass Hall is Dr. Kathi Beratan. She will talk about the different paths our food takes from farm to fork, and about the work she is doing with Antioch University on a community-based food system plan here in Peterborough.

3. Spring greens
and maple syrup

Things are picking up for local farmers with high tunnels or greenhouses. We just enjoyed our first spinach of the year. If you visit your closest farmers market, you will find many new green offerings. As well as spinach arugula, tatsoi and early lettuce. From everything I have heard, it was a very good year for maple syrup. So find your closest farmers market, and pick up fresh greens, maple syrup and maybe even find a CSA to join.

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

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