Beekeeping at Osgood Farm

Jessi McCarty, President of the Beekeeping Club and current Osgood Pond Semester student:

I have always been fascinated with the art of beekeeping since I discovered dilapidated hives in my Uncles neighbor’s driveway. This sparked a four-year journey until I caught my first swarm at 15 years old. Fast forward to the birth of the Club at Paul Smiths College with the help of a class and some friends. The combination of a Politics of the Environment class that started the path to starting a club and then the help of interested friends is what helped get the club on its feet. It wasn’t easy but we navigated our way through the proper outlets to get permission and funding to start two hives at the Osgood Farm sight.

Cody Kautzman, Vice-President of the Beekeeping Club:

My fellow officers, Jessi McCarty and Kyle Gleichauf started the beekeeping club in 2016, my freshman year. Our president, Jessi McCarty has been beekeeping since he was 15, and one late night discussion that kept us up until 8 a.m., lead to this topic. We discussed starting a beekeeping club, without thinking this crazy late night idea would go anywhere. We then passed the idea onto our friend Kyle Gleichauf, who also showed interests. From here we found more students with interest, and thus the Paul Smiths College Beekeeping Association was born. I knew nothing about beekeeping when we started this project. Since then I have learned so much about beekeeping, met other new people with an interest in beekeeping, and plan to have bee hives at my own home someday. This project grew bigger than we ever expected and is continuing to grow. I have learned so much, and continue to learn about beekeeping through the great experiences and opportunities provided by beekeeping club.

This project was supported by a grant from the Campus Sustainability Fund.


How to Make Strawberry Jam

How to Make Your Own Strawberry Jam

By: Sara Dougherty

“Strawberry fields forever.” I have fond memories of harvesting strawberries in the summertime. Each year, they are a treat that nobody should miss out on! While these little red fruits are very tasty to eat fresh, some of you may be wondering if there is a way to make this delicious snack last longer. Since I can remember, my grandmother has always made her famous strawberry jam in the summer. Every year after the harvest, it was up to my sisters and I to help her in the kitchen. As I write to you today, there sits a jar of this legendary spread in my refrigerator waiting for tomorrow’s toast! Making jam was always a wonderful way for I, as a little girl, to spend time with my family. I never realized how influential these moments would be until reflecting later on in my life.

Jams are a great way for everyone to benefit from the readily available joy of eating berries year round! Here at Osgood, we are actually fortunate enough to have this wonderful plant as a wild edible variety that naturally grows around our garden. Strawberries grow low to the ground and oftentimes are a bright red that stand out from their surrounding green foliage. Strawberries wear their seeds on the skin of the fruit. This is one of the key identifying characteristics of the berry that you should look for when harvesting. Although cultivated strawberries tend to produce not only bigger fruits but a larger yield, the wild version at Osgood, in my opinion is sweeter than anything store bought. These strawberries, although different from your typical farmed berry, still make for a delectable jam component. Due to their size, my grandma often would have us add a few of the small wild berries to a mixed berry jam. This was a great way to ensure she incorporated both her farmed berries with the ones she harvested in the fields.

Obviously, before being able to make jam, you have to collect your berries! Once you’ve harvested your fruit, you want to make sure you have about 3 pounds; this will amount to roughly 5 cups of crushed strawberries. My grandmother always used 8 oz. canning jars and although there are many ways to can food, she swears by the “water bath” canning method. We’d first start by preparing the boiling water canner. Grandma always heated the jars in a simmering bath but never let them get to a boil. It was my sister’s job to make sure while the jars set, to wash the lids and bands in soapy water. After we prepped our jars, grandma would pull out a large metal saucepan to begin combining our ingredients in. She’d add our 5 cups of mushed strawberries in with ¼ cup of lemon juice. Sometimes she’d make a lemony strawberry jam, which meant adding the grated zest of a lemon to the mushed berries. While this mixture sat in the saucepan, my grandmother would slowly stir in the 6 tbsp. of pectin. After all was added, the strawberry soup was brought to a full rolling boil that was then stirred constantly by yours truly. Once we got the mixture to a boil, my grandmother would add in four cups of cane sugar. Often times ingredients lists nowadays call for more sugar than that so use your best judgment and know your pallet. Once the sugar was poured in, I would stir everything until I saw that all the sugar was dissolved into the concoction. Bringing everything again to an aggressive boil would then follow this.

My grandma Shirley would take over at this point to remove the saucepan from the heat. I remember her sometimes having to skim off a small top layer of foam, but this didn’t always form with each batch. The next step was for my sister and I to ladle the hot jam into our warmed jars. My grandmother always stressed that we needed to leave space in the jar at the top, only about a ¼ inch of headspace. After filling each jar, we’d wipe down the rim, center our lids onto the jar and apply our bands until they were nice and tight. After we had each jar full of the strawberry mixture, we’d then watch my grandmother put each jar into the boiling water canner for about 10 minutes. After sitting in the hot water, the jars would be removed and cooled. After all is said and cleaned up, make sure to recheck your lids after 24 hours to insure that they aren’t flexing up and down when the center is pressed.

My grandmother got so good at making her traditional strawberry jam, that every year she’d try making new flavors of it. One year we tried making a vanilla strawberry jam which was by far one of my favorites. Through trial and error, we ended up learning that it tastes a lot better if you use a vanilla bean instead of the vanilla extract. Another type of strawberry jam my grandmother makes is what she calls her tangy strawberry jam. This includes balsamic vinegar as a secret ingredient. Sorry gram! This jam is our favorite to use with savory dishes or even on a delicious piece of homemade bread. Needless to say, there are plenty of variations to the traditional strawberry jam and there is bound to be one that fits your fancy. If you are interested in learning more about canning your produce, feel free to get in touch with us through our blog! There are always fun ways for us to all join hands and enjoy the fruits of our labor together. If you haven’t already, why not start canning today? Happy Gardening!

Garden Pests

Gardening in these warm months often times brings people an abundance of joy. But there are some aspects to gardening that try our patience. One of those variables, that often times show up unexpected, are pests! There are a whole slew of garden pests that we commonly see here in the North Country but at Osgood Farm, we are dealing with the infamous Colorado potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata)! I often hear the question, “Where do they even come from!?” Well, the Colorado potato beetle adults overwinter in gardens, field margins, hedgerows, wind breaks, and you guessed it, potato fields! These little buggers become active in the spring, but for the Adirondacks, spring can mean a lot of things. Best to just keep an eye out for these pests about the same time that the potato plant breaks ground.

When identifying a pest problem within your garden, it’s most important to be able to properly identify the insects that may be causing the damage. Many gardeners can identify pest damage in one of two ways; you either are lucky enough to see the insect and squash it or you can observe the damage that has been done to your plants. Thankfully, as many of you probably know, the Colorado potato beetle is relatively easy to identify. They have an orange prothorax, which is the area located behind the head of the insect, and yellowish wing covers with black stripes.

Often times, gardeners will find the eggs which are bright orange, oval clusters found on the underside of your potato leaves. Before the potato beetle reaches full maturity, you may see some larvae that are red with black heads. These larvae change color as they age but can still be easily seen due to the two rows of spots on either side of their bodies. If not dealt with readily, by mid-summer, all stages of the Colorado potato beetles, eggs, and larvae can be present.

Here at Osgood Farm, chemical sprays are not an option for us. Where possible, we have been setting pest traps and barriers, using biological controls, and we are hoping to avoid having to use an organic spray. Treating for this specific type of insect can prove difficult. Due to the over-use and mismanagement of insecticides, the Colorado potato beetle has become known for its widespread insecticide resistance. This is why, here at Osgood, we are constantly looking for new and alternative ways to combat our pest problems and we hope that our viewers try and do the same!”

Discing … and Manure!

Tractors are a great instrument to use on your farm but they won’t provide you with the same satisfaction, love, and entertainment like a team of draft horses will. And if you’re ever lucky enough to work with our school’s Canadian draft horse team, Lady and Fee, this holds especially true. These two girls have provided Paul Smith’s College with many years of work and fun. This year, at Osgood Farm, Lady and Fee were used to disc our small garden plot for the second year in a row. This process, although once very commonly done with horses, is more often done with machinery in today’s agricultural practices. For our small scale gardening, these two horses are worth their weight in gold! To this day, Lady and Fee have been used to help prepare our garden beds by plowing, harrowing, and discing.

At Osgood Farm we are striving to limit our fossil fuel consumption. The use of tractors, tillers, and other machines that run on petroleum products pollute the air we breathe, are expensive, and loud. We appreciate the work that tractors do… just not the impact they have on our bodies and the earth. The school’s horses are self-repairing, are powered by the sun, and bring us great joy when working with them; a wonderful alternative to the norm of today’s farmers! Lady and Fee are the new face of Paul Smith’s sustainability and are helping make Osgood Farm a greener, safer place to grow food. Using Paul Smith’s draft horse team, helps Osgood Farm stick to our mantra, “Powered by the sun, people, and horse power!

Oh, the joys of poop!

Specifically, horse poop! Here at Osgood Farm we are putting our team of Canadian Draft Horses to work. We refer to our manure as not only the solid waste that Lady and Fee release, but their liquid waste, and the bedding we use to capture it too. This lovely concoction consists of our sawdust bedding from the school’s woodworking shop, spoiled hay, and other sources of carbon-rich materials which we use to help fertilize our gardens. This “waste,” as many would call it, is far from wasted here at Osgood Farm. The horse manure is not only full of carbon but it is also very nitrogen-rich which helps provide our plants with the nutrient base they need to successfully grow.

After composting, this manure turns into a beautiful, odor-free soil additive that we often refer to as “black-gold.” Manure composts very easily and since last fall we’ve been stock piling our compost bins full of it! When taking an in depth look at horse manure, we find that it tends to be lower in nutrients like phosphorus and potassium. Although this may not be suitable for growing some types of plants, horse manure is great for helping us start our nitrogen-hungry crops like the potatoes, garlic, tomatoes, and peppers. We also like to put it down on our strawberries but I’ve heard through the grape vine that whipped cream and sugar taste better!

Happy gardening!

Hey-Hi-Hello! My name is Sara Dougherty. I’m a recent graduate of Paul Smith’s College and this summer I am working as an Osgood Farm Staff member and as the Assistant Horse Barn Manager. I’m a red-tick coonhound enthusiast, bagpiper, and recoverer of lost things. Often times you can find me around campus harvesting mushrooms, driving the school’s draft horse team, or tending to our school gardens!

Work on Osgood Farm

By Christian Blue

One of the main reasons I chose to attend Paul Smith’s College is its reputation for hands on learning and application of skills learned in the classroom. Nowhere is this hands-on learning implemented more than at the Osgood Farm site. In early July, I volunteered to work one day a week at the Osgood Farm site. Having experience in such things as working in gardens, raising farm animals, and other such homesteading skills, I thought this would be the perfect project to spend some time on. And indeed it was!

The site highlights many of the wonderful features so passionately taught about in the classrooms of Paul Smith’s College. As a recent graduate with a major in Natural Resources Sustainability, The farm is the perfect place to implement the sustainability and homesteading concepts I learned in my time at PSC. The garden at the farm features mostly plant varieties well-suited to the cool weather and sandy soils of the Adirondacks. Kale, squash, potato’s, Swiss chard, onions, and several other species flourish in the meticulously weeded ground. The garden is protected from hungry critters by an electric fence powered by the sun instead of traditional fossil fuels.

Overlooking the garden are three yurts, round dwellings constructed from wood, wool insulation, and fabric tarps. The yurts (and other features on the site) are the product of the hard work of Bethany Garretson. Under Bethany’s supervision, the site is being transformed from a piece of earth to a model in sustainability and homesteading. Also on the site sits an old barn. Constructed in the earliest days of the college, the barn is on the list of future projects and improvements for the site. While currently housing several farming implements and wood for other projects, the hope is that soon the barn will be updated and used to educated visitors on both the history of the site and current projects.

Among other ideas for the future were finishing the outdoor kitchen that will look over Osgood Pond, building portable chicken coops to control the grass and produce eggs, cultivating crops grown by the original homesteaders many decades ago, and about anything else that can help PSC students and the community lean about traditional skills and sustainability. In short, the site is a place where the skills and concepts taught at Paul Smith’s College are being applied. The place where one trades their textbooks and pencils for a shovel and pitchfork.

I have greatly enjoyed my time working on the farm and no doubt will continue to enjoy it in the future! Regardless of if it is weeding the garden, cleaning the yurts, or constructing portable chicken coops, the work is hard but rewarding … as long as you don’t mind getting a bit of dirt on your hands!

If the tedium of the great indoors ever becomes too much to bear, and you get the desire to trade paper cuts for calluses on your hands, make your way out to the Osgood Farm site, where there is plenty of work to be done and plenty of room for new ideas!