This was a tough week on the farm: our hens’ once plump-red combs are specked with telltale black spots of frostbite, we’ve coaxed more smoke than heat from our fussy wood-fired boiler, and facing day-after-day of lukewarm showers in a 50-degree farmhouse has made the depth of winter feel inescapable. I also had the genius idea of hauling our welding machine across the shop, and in the process transformed myself into a 90-year-old man by spraining my back. The damn welder is as unwieldy as a cardboard box filled with... Read the Rest →
The Plough and Stars Project is a year-long narrative by us - photojournalists Erik Jacobs and Dina Rudick - chronicling our family's attempt to become first generation farmers through The Farm School in Athol, Massachusetts. It is a weekly story, told in two parts - words and photos - about the challenges of living our values through life on the farm, the inspiration that sustains us and the lessons learned throughout. The first day of Farm School began on October 4th. You can start there or dive right into this week's post. Either way, please be sure to follow the 'more photos' link at the end of each post. Thanks for visiting!
This week: overnight lows of 7 degrees; daytime highs barely past freezing. This is prime weather for sitting in a warm room and thinking about our biggest crop—one that’s already in the ground and percolating under 5 inches of snow: Grass. You may think “rancher” when you drive by a field of cattle, but what you are really driving by is a grass farm. Come spring, when pastures break out in a lime-green five o’clock shadow, all animal-management orbits around strategic grazing schedules: they need to eat, but the grass... Read the Rest →
Before farm school, I ran a food pantry in South Boston that mainly serviced two nearby housing projects. Every two weeks, we distributed 10,000 pounds of food to nearly 1,000 people struggling to make ends meet. But for each person who regarded the pantry as a temporary stopgap measure, there were 20 others who were locked in a more structural poverty and for whom trips to pantries were as routine as trips to the grocery store. Though I felt of service, I couldn’t shake the feeling that our efforts were... Read the Rest →
Erik and I spent the better part of this week sitting on our butts – all in service of becoming smarter, more successful farmers. We were lucky enough snag two scholarships to the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture’s Young Farmers Conference in Pocantico Hills, NY – a three-day whirlwind of workshops ranging from BioChar to soil science to Field Songs to Slow Tools to cover crops. Our heads are full to the brim and I’m only now starting to sift through the information dump. Here are some of my... Read the Rest →
We’re six weeks into life at Maggie’s and already we’ve established steady working relationships with the all animals on our farm. We lead cows to fresh pasture daily and pull fresh eggs out from under broody hens. We try to our best to keep the peace with Mr. Marbles the pushy ram and I’ve even grown accustomed to the regular mouse fiestas inside my bedroom walls. But because we don’t have horses on this side of the farm, I have not yet had to confront a 15-year fear I’ve harbored... Read the Rest →
The other night, I dreamt I was seated in a fancy restaurant surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows and busy white-gloved waiters. Without even looking at the menu, a crushing fear came over me: I was a farmer and I couldn’t afford a thing. To make matters worse, I was seated with another farmer in the same pickle, except he was clearly insane. When he spoke I was panicked and wanted to get as far away as possible. In reality, half of the dream is bogus. In my awake life, I’d jump... Read the Rest →