One of the driving principles of permaculture is the capture and storage of runoff. Slow, Spread and Sink. By building beds level on contours, water is not allowed to just run down the path of least resistance ending up pooling where there is already too much or just running down the street. Holding the water behind swales allows it to spread across the garden and sink into the ground. These garden beds use the principles of Hugelkultur developed by Sepp Holzer in Austria. We trench the beds and take waste sticks and logs and bury them at the bottom with lots of compost from the cattle, pigs and chicken. As the woody material slowly decomposes it not only provides nutrients to the plants above but also stores water. The beds will be planted not only with food plants but also with herbs that extract and hold mineral nutrients like comfrey and herbs that attract beneficial insects. By balancing the pest and predatory insects damage can be kept to a minimum.
Permaculture is a design system that takes its cues from nature to solve problems and grow food. In our region, nature wants to return disturbed land to forest. In the mid 19th century, about 70% of Massachusetts was cleared of trees. Now about 62% is forested and that is with about 44 acres/day being developed. To get back to being forested, the land goes through an ecological succession of stages from being field or just disturbed land to forest. Permaculture attempts to arrest that succession at a stage or stages in order to produce food. These successional stages are much more stable than the open land was. This means that it is much easier to maintain. Current farming practices rely on holding the land open by the use of chemicals and large amounts of energy. Growing monoculture with large rows of bare soil is the most difficult to maintain. Nature desperately wants to fill in those open areas with plants which we usually refer to as weeds. Anyone who has ever had a garden knows how fast the weeds come in. So permaculture just beats the weeds to it. The design system utilizes this enthusiasm by planting food plants, generally perennial, instead of allowing opportunistic weeds to just invade. The figure below illustrates the multiple levels that can be utilized. By utilizing an integrated system such as this with plenty of niches for beneficial insects, we can control the pests that generally plague a garden. I will be posting as the permaculture plan develops. I welcome anyone interested in learning more to contact me. email@example.com
The Breakneck Hill Cow Fund has taken a big step towards self-sufficiency. We applied for and have just received a permit to sell beef from the farm. Our 100 % grass-fed cows are taken to one of the two USDA certified processors in Massachusetts where they are made into various cuts of beef and packaged. The beef is frozen and then picked up and transfered to our freezer which is monitored for quality assurance by checking the temperature about every other day. The beef will be sold frozen so there is no handling except to put it in and take it out of the freezer. Our cows are truly local. They are born here and eat locally grown forage on our 30 acre pasture leased from the Town of Southborough. In the winter, they eat hay, locally sourced from three farms within 10 miles, Country Corner Farm in Sherborn, Glen Rock Farm in Westborough and Tufts Vet School farm. They spend they’re lives doing what cows are suppose to do, eating grass. No hormones, no antibiotics.
When you compare that to what is in the supermarket, those cows may be born on range but at weaning (about 6 months) they go to a feed lot where they eat a diet of mostly grain and live in horrific conditions. So bad that they are given low dose antibiotics to prevent disease. Their feed is high energy input grains subsidized by taxpayer through the Farm Bill. These grains require fertilizers with huge carbon footprints. Nitrogen in the form of ammonium nitrate, requires 3-5% of the worlds natural gas to make. The energy contained in its chemical bonds is demonstrated by the explosions at the West Texas plant that makes it last year and the Oklahoma City bombing. Phosphorus is strip mined from only a few places in the world. One being Florida, northeast of Tampa. It causes severe environments problems including radioactive materials in the waste. At the current mining rates, many of these places will run out in our lifetimes. The final main ingredient, potassium, is also a product of mining some many thousands of feet below the surface. Besides the huge energy input involved in fertilizer, millions of tons of of pesticides are sprayed on these crops. And because these crops require huge amounts of water, massive irrigation systems are built and run to provide water.
The average distance food travels to Massachusetts is about 1500 miles. We hope to at least make a little dent in this unsustainable system. If you are interested in purchasing beef of have any questions please contact me at 508-330-7216 or PaulBourdon1719@gmail.com
Breakneck Hill Farm is committed to food security and food access for under served communities. People who live in the inner city and use food pantries have little access to quality grass fed beef. We are currently setting up a relationship with the 12 Baptist Church in Roxbury http://tbcboston.org/tbc/food-pantry-ministry-2/. We contacted their food pantry and Anna and Daryl came out to the farm on Sunday to pick up 100 lbs of donated ground beef to distribute on Tuesday. Our 4H club will also be collecting food for donation to the church food pantry. Anyone interested in donating non-perishable food items can drop them off most evenings or contact Paul Bourdon at 508-330-7216. We also hope to host a girl scout troop from the church in the spring.
Our relationship with the Department of Youth Services continued with a visit on a beautiful November Friday. Four boys from Boston who have never seen a farm before came to Breakneck Hill Farm for a tour. We started out with a visit to the Milking Devon cattle and then visited the chickens and pigs. We talked about how cows and sheep are able to eat grass because of their four stomaches and how pigs are omnivores like us. We then went and visited the herd of Belted Galloways in the Community Garden. We went out into the orchard and were able to collect a couple of bags of apples to feed the cows. Finally, we ended the visit by taking Exeter, our Milking Devon bull calf out on a halter. These experiences are taken for granted by suburban kids. Some of these young men had never seen a cow before. Its amazing to see young people who are growing up in very difficult, stressful and violent situations act like they’re kids here. They seem to feel safe here. Unfortunately, the kids in this program will return to the same difficult environment when they finish their stay in Grafton. My vision for this farm is to eventually have a relationship with an inner city program where the kids can come out here and experience the farm on an ongoing basis. I also hope we can also have an ongoing relationship with a food pantry, where we donate our grass-fed beef to people who couldn’t afford it even if they had access.