You Don’t Know What You Have Till It’s Gone

Our farmhouse is in Harvard, but many people don’t know that our apple orchard is in Boxborough. We were recently told by a neighbor about a proposed zoning overlay district in Boxborough that would change the zoning of our farm as well as adversely affect our neighbors in Harvard, Boxborough and surrounding towns.

The proposed overlay district comprises 371 acres and will enable the Lincoln Property Company to build four warehouses, 1,020,000 square feet. These four giant ‘cubes’ would cover twenty-three acres of formerly forested land within several thousand feet of our property.

Elizabeth Brook feeds the large wetlands area that flows around our orchard, and into the 500+ acres of Delaney Conservation area. In the last two weeks we have had two sightings of a bald eagle flying over the orchard and Elizabeth Brook wetlands. This proposed development would massively disturb this fragile ecosystem and threaten the aquifer that feeds our wells.

Great Blue Returned on the Spring Equinox

Great Blue Returned on the Spring Equinox

Many of you who have been reading my blog know of the struggle I have faced in growing organic apples over the last few years. Climate change is one factor, but I recently learned of another issue when I attended the Holistic Apple Grower’s Meeting in Western Massachusetts earlier this year. A new fungus, Marssonina Leaf Blotch, causes apple leaf defoliation in apples when a fungicide is not sprayed throughout the growing season. Arriving in this country from Asia, it first appeared in the western part of the country, defoliating thousands of acres of aspens in Utah, but is now in New England. Orchards spray fungicides for scab, the fungal disease most serious for apple growers in New England where the summer weather is often warm and wet. Organic growers have less choice in sprays to control this disease, so I made the hard decision a year ago to remove our Macintosh trees, known to growers as scab magnets. Right after the trees came down, friends joined me to graft one hundred rootstocks with scab resistant apples. These one-year-old saplings grew well in our hoop house for the year and are ready to be planted.

The disappearance of the gnarly Macintosh trees in the first few rows of the orchard caused neighbors to wonder if we were cutting down the entire orchard. I assured people we were not giving up. I have shared my lessons and strivings in growing organic apples, but none-the-less have continued to remain faithful to the trees and the land that have nourished me since I moved here in 2001.

Giving up on the earth, our government, or any issue that is challenging doesn’t solve anything. We have to do the work and stand by our convictions. Liberty Property Company’s build might take ten years, and who is to say that in twenty years, these warehouses won’t be obsolete as everything will be drop-shipped. Tax revenue is an important consideration for all of our communities, but in preserving our towns’ rural nature, its conservation lands, farmland, wildlife, clean water and night sky we make sure that our town remains a desirable place to live and that our property values stay high. Warehouses will not serve the local community, and in fact will cause a serious disruption to our way of life.

Tree Crotch.jpg

Many Boxborough residents heard for the first time about the proposed changes to their bylaw only recently. It seems that there has been a quiet, but legal effort to slip this bylaw change through Town Meeting by highlighting the ‘gifts’ to the town, but not mentioning the warehouses. If you know anyone in Boxborough, please make sure they know about this change in their bylaws coming up for a vote at Town Meeting in May.

I look at the wetlands and the orchard now with a new set of eyes. The runoff into the wetlands might mean we can no longer irrigate. Boxborough neighbors say that with the twenty-acre solar panel array, phase one of Liberty Realty’s development plans, they hear Route 495 in their homes even with the windows closed. More traffic sound reflecting off twenty-three acres of roofs will certainly eclipse the twangs of red-winged blackbirds, chirps of robins and bluebirds, honks of geese, and squawks of herons. And it will be impossible to hear the apple trees. “They can speak, trees . . .” says the 14th century poet, Hafiz in his poem, An Apple Tree Was Concerned.

An apple tree was concerned 
about a late frost and losing its gifts 
that would help feed a poor family close by. 

Can't the clouds be generous with what falls from them? 
Can't the sun ration itself with precision? 

They can speak, trees, 
they can say the sweetest things

but it takes special ears to hear them,
ears that have listened to people
with great care. 

My daughter, Ariel, picking Honey Crisp Apples in 2017

My daughter, Ariel, picking Honey Crisp Apples in 2017

We face choices everyday about how we use the earth’s limited resources.

Let us choose wisely.

Cutting Off a Leg

I started writing a follow-up to the blog, All about Art, from two weeks ago in which I unintentionally wrote about six women artists and did not mention one man. I thought about the fact that this would never happen in an issue of ARTnews or Art Forum, despite the work of the Guerilla Girls, a nonprofit organization that since the early 1980s has been raising awareness of the lack of equal representation of women artists in major art museums and galleries. Then I proceeded to write about some of the male artists exhibiting at Old Frog Pond Farm this fall.

Where I Get My Water , Ray Ciemny 

Where I Get My Water, Ray Ciemny 

Ray's piece is a commentary on the scarcity of clean water for many people on our planet. Made of scrap steel and rubble, the girders were salvaged from the old Fitch’s Bridge above the Nashua River in Groton, MA.

Then I changed my mind, because it is the opening of apple picking and I felt I should write about the beautiful diversity of apples ripening in the orchard.

Then I had a dream where I had to cut off the lower half of my leg.

Cutting off one’s leg is a major life altering event. In my dream, I wasn’t upset about it, but was calmly trying to decide when would be the right time to do it. I wasn’t considering the challenges or the healing or the rehabilitation—it was a dream after all, a symbol.

Losing a leg in a dream is fairly easy to analyze. Our legs are what we stand on, what supports us, and having two legs gives us balance. To dream that I was about to cut off a significant part of one leg seems to indicate that something in my life is out of balance. Or is it a way to take control of what is out of control? Or, maybe, I saw myself as split in two, two legs, and was trying to become one. I agree, there are other, better ways to make myself whole, but my unconscious did find the imagery to express itself and get my attention.

When I wake up with an image from a dream that is very clear, I like to contemplate and write about it. This cut off my leg dream was giving me a clear signal of the need for radical change, though what exactly it refers to remains opaque.

I could be anticipating the craziness of harvest time. Yellow, red, green, scarlet, and striped fruit orbs weigh down the flexible apple branches. There is an abundance of ripe fruit out in the orchard, but there is an angst that comes with it. Apple-picking time is when both my husband, Blase, and I feel like we have absolutely no control over any moment of our lives. We interact with hundreds and hundreds of people, through emails, phone calls, and complete strangers knocking at the back door. You might call it the downside of success, and sometimes it feels overwhelming.

It’s also possible that I was disturbed by Freedom Baird’s haunting sculptural installation, Graft. She has used the cavity from a once twin-trunked oak tree and created a prosthesis of sorts.  

Graft , Freedom Baird       Photo:Robert Hesse

Graft, Freedom Baird       Photo:Robert Hesse

Freedom Baird writes,

Like so many I’m preoccupied with environmental stewardship (this preoccupation has ratcheted up to acidic alarm under a Trump administration). Recently I’ve been experimenting with ways to catalyze a reconsideration of humans’ relationship to the “natural” world. Specifically, I’ve been inventing objects that push against the construct that man and nature are separate. Projects have included synthesizing plastic utensils from food, grafting milled lumber onto a living tree, designing prosthetic limbs for amputated trees. . .

I’ve been horrified by recent government proposals to cut back the boundaries of protected land. Specifically, the acreage around the Bears Hill National Monument in Utah that President Obama protected honoring the request of tribal nations before he left office. It’s enough to make anyone who cares about our environment feel out of control.

But the truth is the next seven weeks are much too busy for me to spend time thinking about other places and possibilities. Dream or no dream, I need to focus on what is right in front of me. I need to have two feet firmly on the ground.