A Praying Mantis (Aurelia’s brother?)

We’ve found many types of insects out in our fields. Earlier in the season, we saw mostly the vegetable eating pests, like aphids, cabbage worms, and horn worms. But now the good guys that eat the pests, are around en force. This praying mantis was protecting our tomato plants today.

The mantis reminds me of our garden’s name. “Aurelia” was the name Hannah, our Field Leader, gave to a mantis that lived on her garden cart last summer – for over 3 months – while she zoomed around the Mass Horticultural Society’s Gardens at Elm Bank supervising everything in her role Senior Horticulturalist. The name Aurelia’s Garden is about the symbolism we learned from the mantis and our intention to work to restore balance to our inequitable food system.

Photo by Kathy Martin

As Hannah describes, “The summer the mantis took up residence with me was one of my most hectic times. I was running all over – I tore my Achilles but had to keep going. When the mantis showed up on my garden cart I started driving more slowly. [I learned] about the symbolism behind a praying mantis choosing to enter a person’s life. The Mantis tells us to slow down, to practice patience and mindfulness, to move and act with more intention and less reaction, and to find balance in life. It was a good lesson for me and for others I worked with.

“When our newly formed team first began trying to find a piece of land for Aurelia’s Garden, we looked in the Sudbury Valley Trustees area. The land is beautiful, and we set our hearts on that immediately. We went to the site one day to walk the field. While there, we found a praying mantis egg case with the late afternoon, winter sun, shining on it. It seemed like a moment of clarity – a moment in time that heartened us all.

“So, the name Aurelia’s Garden is not really about a praying mantis – it’s about hope and balance. The name Aurelia’s Garden is symbolic of our intention to work to to work with hope and passion to restore balance to our inequitable food system.”

Tomatoes!!

All these tomatoes! We have three 60-foot rows – 132 plants – at least a dozen varieties. They are all from seedlings our volunteers have grown at home. Our favorite this year might be Mountain Rouge, a delicious AAS Winner. It’s a large beefsteak-type tomato, red, with very high productivity, and disease resistance. One to grow again next year.

Photos by Kathy Martin

The fancy tomato in the last two photos is a beautiful new AAS Winner called Buffalo Sun. The fruits are huge and beautifully colored with red, orange, and yellow. Another one of our favorites!

Our First Harvest!!

It was so exciting to pick our first vegetables from our Wayland field. We picked cabbage, eggplants, and basil, packed it into boxes, and then delivered it to Open Table in Maynard.

Photo by Hannah Traggis
Photo by Rob Slattery of Open Table

Open Table makes and delivers community meals and also has a fresh market food pantry. We are very pleased to have partnered with them and will be bringing all of our produce to them.

“Plowing” Our Field

Photo by Hannah Traggis.

Today we “plowed” our 100 x 100 foot fenced off garden area. That’s almost a quarter acre. It was a lot of work with a little rented rototiller!!! But now it’s looking good and we can think about planting our seedlings soon. We can also think about getting a nice tractor to do this plowing next year!!

This is me, Kathy, and my husband Steve in the picture. Steve did all the tilling! I tried, but… I couldn’t.

Installing Our Electric Deer Fence

Of course this area is just filled with deer. SO, our first work day was to set up an electric fence.

We used a 3-dimensional method, where three electric tapes are strung on two different fence spaced 3 feet apart. The outermost fence is a short one with tape at 30 inches high, the inner fence has tape at 5 ft and about 8 inches. This fence works well because deer have poor depth perception and the multiple bands of tape at different heights and depths confuses them. Along with the electric shock, this keeps them out of the field.

We have about a 10 minute walk along a conservation trail and through another field. A good deal of our fence project was just transporting materials. Eighty metal fence posts are heavy!

We fenced off a 100 by 100 ft square pretty much in the middle of the large field. Our plan is to use this area to grow crops, moving it’s location year-year and will keep the rest of the field under cover crops.

Our New Field

Photo by Kathy Martin

Aurelia’s Garden’s new field is a beautiful 1.5 acre space in Wayland! It was previously farmed for the past 13 years and is currently covered with a nice cover crop of rye grass. It is surrounded by tall oak and maple forests. What a space! We are very thankful to the owner of the land who is so generously letting us farm it as a donation mini-farm. We are looking forward to breaking soon – once we get our electric deer fence up and running.