Spring has sprung

By Marianthe Bickett '15

The middle of May means we are past the frost date and forging full-fledged into the growing season. Transplants that have been nurtured all spring inside the newly renovated environmental science lab are anxiously awaiting their more-permanent homes among the fertile soils of our tilled and mulched beds.

It’s a mad rush to plant all our multi-colored varieties of peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, beans, squash, cucumbers and watermelon in our expanded annual garden. This will be the first season we are planting a member of the melon family, and we are looking forward to the potential of sweet rewards come August. 

Our other new exciting project is our herd of sheep, which has grown to seven members with the addition of five Tunis sheep. They are cinnamon-colored, adorable, and fitting right in to their new home on campus.

Our three full-time co-op students Kiersten Savage ’16, Sam Cottle ’16, and Alexander Malangoni ’16, have been a great boon to the farm, especially while our farm manager Kat Christen is away.

Christen received a grant to travel to Ethiopia and help implement small-scale sustainable gardens to assist in areas where fresh food is difficult to access. She started two small practice beds at the Antioch Farm to demonstrate some of the techniques she planned to use while in Ethiopia, and shared with us some of the her different ideas of how to build soil fertility when biomass (excess leaves, compost, and manure) is not as available as it is here.

We will be excited to have her back on the farm soon!

We had a long, cold winter in the Midwest, which was reassuring compared to last year’s barely-freezing temperatures. The first day of spring in 2012 was more than 80 degrees, and it just got warmer from there.

I spent my first full-time co-op on the Antioch Farm, and there was no shortage of hot, sunny days all spring long. This year has been much more seasonal and rainy! We have rarely needed to get out our sprinklers with the frequent rainstorms. This is great for our crops, and also great for the weeds.

We’ve been spending a lot of time rescuing hidden baby plants from thistles, crabgrass, and ragweed. However, some “weeds” are medicinal and delicious. Kiersten Savage ’16 has been diligently providing loose tea for the students by harvesting and dehydrating our excess of stinging nettle and dandelion. Both are full of nutrients and good for detoxification—which is much needed in a college environment!

By this point in the season, we all have weird tan lines on our arms, bright sunburns on the back of our necks, scratches and insect bites everywhere, and permanent dirt under our fingernails. But we reap the benefits of these minor annoyances everyday when we sit down in the Antioch Kitchen to eat a pale-blue hard-boiled egg or a big green salad, knowing it came straight from our farm a few hours earlier.