Friday, March 27, 2009
Preserving a Massachusetts way of life
At the Conservation Coffee March 10, reported in the Mosquito March 20, Great Brook Farm State Park Supervisor Steve Carlin mentioned a planned new dairy barn, saying, “I hope budgeting will come through. We want Great Brook to remain a working dairy farm.” Tamma and Mark Duffy have operated the dairy farm at Great Brook Farm for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for the past 22 years, accommodating 80,000 to 110,000 visitors every year. Is it now in jeopardy?
In a phone call to the Duffys I learned that they have spent the past three years visiting and inspecting modern, up-to-date dairy farms, as they made plans for building a new barn. “We need a new barn, one that is labor efficient, sustainable, and energy efficient in today’s world,” said Mark Duffy. “The old barn does not allow for many of the proper modern agriculture practices to be implemented,” he added. “The new barn is designed to hold 120 cows, which is today’s average-size dairy farm with a modern milking facility. A new barn is necessary for us to maintain a financially viable farm.”
Over the past several weeks the Duffys have been hearing from the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) that the state may not have sufficient funds to proceed with the long-planned construction of the new up-to-date barn. Not replacing the antiquated barn, the newest section of which was built at the end of WWII, would be detrimental to the future of farming in Carlisle, believes Duffy. “The existing barn does not properly accommodate tours which are conducted by the park interpreter five days a week,” he explained. “It does not have enough floor space to allow the public to see and hear where fresh, local and wholesome milk truly comes from, and how it gets from the farm to your table every day.” Problems managing the manure produced by the animals in the old barn could be corrected by a new barn manure storage system, added Duffy.
As reported in an article entitled “Top Spots to Live” in last weekend’s Boston Globe Magazine, Carlisle is the “Top for Nature Lovers,” explaining – “It is the very definition of small-town New England, with plenty of red barns, white church steeples, and low stone walls dotting the rolling hillside.” I urge Carlisle citizens to help the Duffys, and future farmers who follow them, to remain as successful stewards of the land, tilling the soil, planting and harvesting crops on 250 acres of local agricultural land. This is an invaluable educational resource available to the schools and to the families of Massachusetts who visit Great Brook Farm and contributes to Carlisle’s rural character.
We need to keep agriculture alive in Massachusetts. There are only 176 dairy farms left in the state, and those that have survived have updated their facilities and produced more milk by milking more cows. To support the project, write to Commissioner Rick Sullivan, Department of Conservation and Recreation, 251 Causeway Street, Suite 600, Boston, MA 021144-2104 (or e-mail: email@example.com) and State Representative Cory Atkins (rep.CoryAtkins@hou.state.ma.us, requesting the allocation of funds for constructing the already designed and scheduled barn at Great Brook. This project also is “shovel ready” and should qualify for federal stimulus money. ∆, State Senator Susan Fargo (
Before we moved to Carlisle we had no idea just how crowded a place it really is. At first sight, circa 1988, the FRS steeple glowing in the warmth of a summer evening’s “golden hour,” the place seemed almost deserted. A couple of years later, bicycling with the kids up the dirt track of Estabrook Road from Concord, we did, briefly, notice the mosquitoes drafting immediately behind us. But Estabrook Woods seemed a gone-to-seed oasis, populated at most by ghosts of the 18th century.
We really hadn’t a clue.
The birds were the first giveaway. The house came with a wonderful feeder contraption that hung from an improvised, pulley-mounted clothes line. We quickly discovered that the feeder required refilling. Frequently. Soon we discovered it was time to visit Erikson Grain Mill for another 50-pound bag of birdseed. And again. As our eyes grew accustomed, we saw beyond the bird feeder – flickers, rock doves, orioles, wood thrush, hawks and, one day, a pileated woodpecker. Carlisle was only about 16 miles from our prior apartment in Arlington, but a world away.
We had, of course, seen the deer in the deep snow of an unusually late winter, when our sellers put out hay at the bottom of the clearing. We had not appreciated, however, that they weren’t necessarily all that quiet when moving through the woods in the summer night when the windows are open. Nor how many there were. Ditto with the cottontails who would appear, as if from nowhere, in the headlights of the car swinging into the driveway.
So far, so cute and cuddly. As the years went by, the coyotes came, in packs, their movement across lots disclosed by the red-blue shift in their howls. The signs about missing cats and small dogs began to appear. Then came the bears. Well, this required a new kind of planning. Best to visit the dump regularly. Better stop using the screened porch as a walk-in refrigerator, except in the depths of hibernation season, and better let the birds fend for themselves, so as not to have a stash of birdseed / bearchow outside the house.
About the same time we learned we had bears for neighbors, we discovered we had tenants. A large family of garter snakes took up residence in the toolshed. This was both fascinating and repelling. Particularly when they poked their little heads out, under the closed door, first one, then two, three, four, to see if the coast was clear before hugging the foundation wall tight as they moved off to the lawn and woods for the day. We cleaned out the toolshed and they moved on. That fall, as the weather grew cold, squirrels got into the expanded ridge vent of the house. They have a summer place somewhere else, when the vent space grows too hot for comfort. And they are as curious about us as we are about them. To the point that they come down from the roof to look in the windows at the “downstairs” tenants. We keep meaning to close the vent ends with hardware cloth.
So, we have largely come to terms with not merely the diversity, but the density of life in Carlisle. Still, a Carlisle cougar? There goes the neighborhood.
© 2009 The