Our second visit was to the Overlook Farm in Rutland, MA – and it was on account of this that I had signed up for the trip. Overlook Farm is a Heifer Farm – one of two in the US, the other in Arkansas. We were really lucky in that we had a young man who was a gardener there take us to tour the garden and show us the various techniques that they use to grow vegetables while at the same time being thoughtful about the environment. They do not til the ground. In order to avoid this they put down hay/straw to make walking paths between the rows so that none of the actual growing ground gets compressed. They plant a winter crop of oats once the crop has been harvested which dies back into the ground and composts for the next growing season. Chris also showed us a new technique they are trying this year to feed the soil and promote earth worm growth which is to put down sheets of cardboard and cover that with hay. By the time spring comes the cardboard has broken down – in the meantime it keeps the ground moist which is a happy climate for the worms. Chris then handed us off to a young woman whose specialty was education at the farm so she took us around to see various animals. We learned that Heifer is founded on 7 M principles….now let’s see if I can name them: manure (an easy one), material (e.g wool, eggs), muscle (larger animals who can carry), money (proceeds from the husbandry), motivation (you gotta get up and take care of your critters!), meat (duh, another REALLY easy one), and (ta da) milk.
After the animals we saw three parts of the Global Village. Here homes have been replicated after the manner of construction in other parts of the world along with gardens and landscaping that would be typical, as well as whatever animals they might raise there. We saw Peru, Guatemala, and Tibet. At the Tibet exhibit we saw both a winter home (it would be very cold there in winter) and a summer yurt. The yurt is made of cloth woven from yak hair – and I read a sign there that said it takes 200 pounds of yak hair to make a yurt…and one yak yields one pound of hair a year. Yikes.
Both of the young people that took us around are volunteers. Each was a college graduate, one from MD and one from MA. As volunteers they live on and work at the farm for a year – and in return get living quarters. We were astounded that they did not get board as well. It seems that all of the food, eggs, etc. produced on the farm goes to feed groups that come out to work the farm – for 3 days or a week. I presume that it is competitive to get one of the twenty-four volunteer resident slots as the work is likely highly favored on resumes for folks going into agriculture.
My friend and my brother Jay – the Curmudgeon – (and I have said before and will again say he
really is NOT a curmudgeon) had us vote on what animal to donate in honor of our two guides today. That money was to come out of what we paid him for traveling today. We’re giving a goat. He is a good soul, and today was a great day for “tripping.”
If you do not know about Heifer, or want to learn more please look them up at http://www.heifer.org/visit/overlook-farm And remember to consider Heifer for alternative gift giving – at Christmas, birthdays, or other reasons for celebration.
(for those with access to Face Book I will post an “album” of pix from today as soon as I have a