Cows and Farm in Peril

Written by Paul on March 1st, 2015

CowsHill15Sep13bThe Breakneck Hill Cow Fund is a 501(c) 3 non-profit and has had a license agreement with the town of Southborough Conservation Commission for the past 10 years to graze the herd of cattle on about 30 acres of pasture on the Breakneck Hill Conservation Land. The Stewardship committee was form (ironically) to administer a grant to restore the conservation land from invasive plants. The Stewardship committee, chaired by Jim Gorss, is proposing a plan which will make the continuation of herd virtually impossible. If you care about the cows and preserving agriculture in Southborough please attend the Conservation meeting March 12th at 7:30 (Town Hall) or email the conservation commission administrator, Beth Rosenbloom at:




Neptune dumps another foot+

Written by Paul on February 17th, 2015

Cows were dealing with another snow storm. Measured about 42 inches on the ground. Never seen that before.









Juno Dumps about 3 feet of Snow on the Farm

Written by Paul on January 28th, 2015

The winter has been pretty easy until yesterday. Its weather like this, 11 degreesF, -1 wind chill and 3 feet of snow,  that makes me think of the immortal words of Thomas Paine:

“These are the times that try men’s souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman”.

One of the Southborough revolutionary war soldier’s died of exposure and starvation at Valley Forge so how bad can this be?

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Continued Work on Water Management and Energy Conservation

Written by Paul on January 3rd, 2015

Permaculture is all about multifunction and managing resources. We have been trying to reduce the exposure of the house to the prevailing winds from the north and west in order to increase our energy conservation. To do this we insulated the foundation wall with 2 inch polystyrene and back filled it. Some backfill was brought in locally but much was generated on site by clearing material that was blocking drainage around the barns and the soil removed from the mulch basin in the front yard. One resource that has been generated by the pigs are stones, the bane of the New England farmer. The pigs dig up rocks incessantly.

PigPaddockStonesThe rocks are collected by hand and used to create drainage along the foundation so water does not pool there.






Here the stones are used on the north wall of the front porch so water drains away from the wall and into the mulch basin below.









The stones are covered with a plastic sheet and then a layer of sand. Finally, the sand is covered in wood chips, free from the local municipal dump and contoured to create a swale away from the house that also feeds into the mulch basin.









Previously, most of the water from the roof and around the house was a problem that had to be directed away and into the street. Now it will be used to grow food. Permaculture is all about making use of the resources at hand. Breakneck Hill Farm continues to move not just toward sustainability but positive impact.



Redirecting Water Runoff

Written by Kendall Sweeney on December 5th, 2014


Permaculture is all about structures, plants and animals serving multiple functions. The goal is to integrate each aspect of the farm to create synergy. As fall draws to a close, the newest addition to the permaculture environment is a stone lined culvert.

This was dug and filled with stones tilled from the soil by the pigs. When it rains, or when snow melts, water drains down this culvert into the mulch basin in the front yard. A mulch basin is a pit or trench that is filled with organic materials like leaves, sticks and wood chips. Runoff is collected in it and absorbed into both the soil and the organic material. This both holds the water allowing it to absorb into the ground but also limits evaporation so the moisture is retained long after the runoff stops. By constructing the mulch basin around the blueberry patch, the water will be available to the plants during dry periods. The most exciting part about the drainage system is that the water will carry nutrients from the cow’s winter pasture to the blueberry patch where it can feed both the blueberries and the microorganisms that create healthy soil.


A Little Goes a Long Way, A Multi-Purpose Plant

Written by Kendall Sweeney on October 24th, 2014

A new plant we are growing this year is called Comfrey. The word comfrey is Latin in origin and means “to grow together”.

Comfrey is known to be used as a medicinal herb. However, in permaculture its real value is as a mineral accumulator. Comfrey is very high in vitamins and has the ability to extract macro and micro-nutrient minerals from the soil. In some places, its used as the main forage for animals because of its fast growth rate.


Breakneck Hill Cow Fund Farm Day Sunday, November 9th

Written by rdevlin on October 23rd, 2014








11:30am-Cow Pie Contest
Our most exciting and competitive fund raiser of the year!
Help us purchase winter hay to feed Southborough’s Belted Galloways by buying a square for $20. Enjoy apple cider, treats and cute farm animals as you cheer the cow to drop its brown gold on your winning square

12pm-Family Hike
Enjoy the wildlife and beautiful summit views!
Approximately 1 mile of rolling trails. Learn about the history of
the Breakneck Hill Conservation Land, it’s restoration and management. (walking shoes encouraged)

Event to be held at the Community Gardens at the Breakneck Hill
Conservation Land, Breakneck Hill Road

Questions or for more information on the BHCF please visit our
or contact Laurie


Not Even the Waste Goes to Waste

Written by Kendall Sweeney on October 21st, 2014


The pigs are fed a balanced grain ration but also derive much of their food from foraging for acorns and bugs. However, the pigs complete the nutrient cycle by eating garden waste. When vegetables from the garden have insect damage or are over ripe they are given to the pigs. They get a healthy dose of kale, chard, squash, lettuce and especially tomatoes. We arranged their paddock this year so it shares a fence with the garden making it easy to throw the food into where they can get it.


Rotational Grazing: Helping the Environment One Paddock at a Time

Written by Kendall Sweeney on October 6th, 2014

Rotational Grazing is a process where livestock are strategically moved to fresh paddocks, or partitioned pasture areas. This process allows resting periods in between rotations that help maintain the health of forage and allows vegetation in previously grazed pastures to regenerate. Rotational grazing discourages competition from weeds and undesirable plant species that often invade when forage is overgrazed and weakened. Rotational grazing allows for a longer grazing season, as well as providing improved nutrient distribution.

The Breakneck Hill Cow Fund is managing the conservation land pasture in just this way. We currently have 9 paddocks the cows are rotated through. The cows are moved to a new paddock only when that paddock is ready. Because of extended dry periods we have resorted to feeding hay during the summer when the pasture forage has been too slow to regrow and while the soil on the pasture is thin and rocky, very rocky, we believe that we will eventually build soil with high carbon content that will be resilient to the long periods of dry weather we have been experiencing. One byproduct of this system is the sequestration of carbon from the atmosphere stably in the soil. This system on a large scale could be a major solution to our climate crisis.

Middlesex County 4H Fair

Written by Paul on August 25th, 2014

Southborough Science and Agriculture 4H Club was represented by Ian Bourdon, here driving our oxen Henry and Peter. IanOxen2014