Regeneration of the Land

fiddleheads by Gavin ScottIt can be daunting reading all the various studies and reports coming out about what’s happening to the land, air, and waters around the world. What can we do in our little part of it? We can build resiliency into our land.

For instance, landscaping for proper drainage can help, if that’s an issue where you are. The heavier rains we’ve been getting while the ground is still frozen has led Lyle and I to look at what we can do to improve drainage in the land between our house and barn, and the little river that flows across our property. We examined the lay of the land, saw how a rise created by an old pile of wood chips at one place was diverting water straight into the middle of our field. So we’ll be lowering that rise as well as creating a swale to divert heavy rains into the river.

Forest gardens are another tool. An oversimplification, but essentially this is a system for mimicking the many layers of the forest, from upper and lower story trees down to ground cover and root plants. With thoughtful application, you can include perennial food sources, improve the soil, invite bees and other insects and birds, create wind breaks, stabilize river banks if needed, and more. Even if you’re not interested in gardening, if there are woods on your land you may want to look at ways to help it be healthier.

Forest gardening is compatible with regenerative gardening — no-till gardening and re-building the soil instead of tearing it up every year and disturbing the mycelium (mushroom) network that helps to move nutrients in the soil. More farmers have been changing over to regenerative farming over time, and one hopes that more will continue to do so, as the current general model of mono crops combined with chemical herbicides and pesticides is destroying our precious soil. Whatever we can do in our own yards though, will also help if enough of us are working to make a change.

Part of all of that is broadening the variety of plants we grow — the weather any given year can be very hard on some plants, so if the tomatoes fail, hopefully something else will do well. In the particular case of tomatoes, by the way, if we continue to have rainier summers, folks will want to consider growing tomatoes in planters on tables or some part of your land that has exceptionally good drainage. Learning how water moves on your land is very important, for plants and of course buildings.

It’s a lot to learn about and to do, but interested persons don’t have to do it all at once! Observe, plan, then figure out what order to do things and do it one thing at a time and eventually you’ll get there! You may not have to buy everything either — do you know about the seed catalog at Belding Memorial Library? There’s one at UMass Amherst’s library, too. I got Willow sticks from three friends, and some Paw Paw seedlings from another friend this year, so keep in mind that your community may be able to help.

If you’d like some other folks to talk to, in Ashfield there are options! There are the Master Gardeners, various knowledgeable folks around town, and a new group, Ashfield WREN.

Ashfield WREN (Wild-Craft, Regeneration and Ecological Nurturing) is a group where people can share their knowledge, ask questions, get book recommendations, possibly find resources, and more. Gavin Scott is the lead for Ashfield WREN. I and Arianna A. Collins are involved, among other folks. We have a Facebook page: We hope to have workshops, presentations, talks, maybe walks in the woods, etc., going forward.

We live in a beautiful place, here in Ashfield. Let’s do what we can to help it continue to be our home and haven, and may that beauty and resiliency grow and be an inspiration to others in the world to do the same.


Written by Heather Gray.
This article appears in the May 2019 edition of the Ashfield News.


Just Say No to Plastic Straws

We understand. We really do. Straws are fun; convenient; and we use them in every beverage. Who knew that these seemingly benign modern conveniences are also hazards and dangerous? The PLASTIC straw is a particularly sneaky, insidious hazard to life, as we know it. Consider the following facts:

  1. In the US alone, we consume over 500 million straws per day
  2. We (yes, you) use these straws for about 20 minutes, and then toss them.
  3. Plastic is NOT It breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces. Think plastic particles in food – ingested by fish, animals, and humans.
  4. Plastic makes up 90% of all trash floating in the ocean.
  5. Most plastic contains polypropylene and BPA. This can leak chemicals into liquids and is linked to obesity, on-set puberty, and some cancers.

What can you and your kids do?

  • Simply request “NO STRAW” at any restaurant, including fast food places.
  • For small children – use sippy cups; Juice boxes and plastic straws can be replaced by simply pouring juice or liquid into reusable cups with reusable straws.
  • Buy paper straws, easily found at stores: Target; Walmart; Stop & Shop; Big Y and online.
  • Use straws made out of bamboo, steel, reusable plastic, even glass.
  • .Carry your own bottle, with straws built into the design
  • Take your own juice and beverages with you and your kids, wherever you go. Plan it; pack it.
  • Watch the movie: “Bag It: is your life too plastic? ( )
  • Take the pledge:
  • Do your own research: ;
  • Biodegradable straws at The Ashfield Lake House
    Biodegradable straws at The Ashfield Lake House

    Some people absolutely need straws (certain ability challenges; very young children) – we can help support a better approach so those who need to sip, can do so, with confidence and commitment to a better, healthier environment.

Grateful to our community of recyclers.

This article was writen by Share the Warmth committee member Carol J. Lebold.



Container Gardens

With the start of summer many of us have gardens underway. It’s a good time to consider second plantings of salad greens like spinach, lettuce and arugula. The first planting may be ready to bolt. My friend Robin Crowningshield showed me how she keeps the same row of lettuce going all summer by making a tent over the row with shade cloth and metal hoops. This keeps the greens from going to seed and she harvests by lifting the cloth on one side and clipping off the leaves needed for salads.

Successive plantings of string beans, radishes, kale or any crop with a shorter growing time can be put in now.

Sometimes it’s difficult to get to the garden due to work or physical limitations.  Consider the container garden to meet your needs. You can grow almost anything right on your porch, steps, outside back door or windowsill.

There is no need to travel to a garden spot or perform strenuous work turning soil or weeding long rows.  Sun and shade problems can be alleviated because the container can be placed wherever the light is best.  The containers can also be brought inside when the weather turns cold next Fall. Soil problems of being too compacted, contain insect eggs and weeds or having toxins in the dirt can be overcome with a potting mix. The colorful pots used add color to your porch.

Climbing plants such as peas, cucumbers and pole beans can use porch posts for support. If you have kids or grandkids gardening in containers gives you a wonderful activity to work on together and kids love seeing the progress of the plants as they produce leaves and then vegetables.

Shallow containers that hold 1 gallon of soil are good for salad greens, radishes, spinach, chives and other herbs. Medium depth containers that hold 2 to 3 gallons of soil are good for green beans, swiss chard, broccoli and cherry tomatoes. Large containers of 3 to 5 gallons can grow standard tomatoes, kale, cucumbers and zucchini. You may find a variety of containers around your home, just be sure there are drainage holes in the bottom. Place rocks in the bottom then sand and then soil.

Water frequently, or depending on rain fall, so that soil doesn’t dry out.  Putting compost on the top of the soil helps retain moisture. Fertilize once a month with a top dressing of decomposed manure or Miracle Grow.

Some of the best web sites to visit for container gardens are:

University of Illinois


University of Illinois

University of Tennessee

Container Vegetable Gardening



– Grow Vegetables in Containers


– Container Gardening


– Vegetable Gardening in Containers



“Container Gardens” by Share The Warmth member Jamie Young

Uncategorized, Winter Weatherization

Tips for Winter Weatherization part 1: Windows

Here are a few tips for making your windows more efficient this winter: First of all, lock your windows. This will force them to fit as tightly as possible at the top, middle, and bottom of your double-hung windows, and all around your crank-out windows. Second, ensure that your storm windows are closed, with all the glass panels in the winter position. Third, check for a flexible-edge sealing strip at the top, middle and bottom of double-hung windows, and add V-seal if needed. Ask about V-seal at Ashfield Hardware. Fourth, feel free to seal all around the window sashes with good old rope caulk putty. It is easy to remove in spring. Fifth, be sure to have at least two layers between you and the outside. You can add interior plastic film as a second or third layer, and the plastic is perfectly transparent Finally, be sure that air is not leaking around the entire window assembly. Fill gaps around the casings and at corners. Another note about windows is to consider closing draperies or curtains at night, especially if you are sitting near the window. Ordinary non-insulated curtains can reduce the radiant heat transfer from you to the cold, dark outdoors.