It seems we get drawn more and more to New Hampshire whenever we have a little time off or we need to decompress… This time it was Beth who suggested we head up for few days during Columbus Day weekend. Our initial intention was to hike with our son and his girlfriend while enjoying the Fall change of colors.
Since we came up with the idea at the last minute, we had a hard time finding accommodations in traditional and not so traditional places, I even looked into staying in a yurt, without much luck. Beth then remembered a website our son had recommended www.airbnb.com where you can find less known places to stay. She called me midday three days before our planned departure to ask me, “How would you like staying at an educational farm?”. I guess she already knew the answer, because immediately after I responded, she said “We are already booked”.
The name of the place is D Acres, and it is located in Dorchester, New Hampshire. It is a homestead developed and run on the basic principles of permaculture. The farm occupies a small section of a 200 acre property. It is surrounded by wilderness and has a fantastic view of the foothills of the White Mountains from several vantage points.
There are several buildings on the farm, the most prominent is the main house, that serves as a combination B&B-hostel and general meeting place for all guests.
This building also houses a great kitchen and dining hall, a library well stocked with books pertaining to farming, gardening, permaculture, sustainability and other related themes, a fully functional wood workshop, and of course a root cellar and produce storage facility. The farm is not off the grid, but it boasts solar photovoltaic panels, solar heat collectors, and other sensible technology to help it run efficiently leaving less of a footprint on the environment.
The other buildings on the property, although fully functional for their intended uses (greenhouses, chicken coop, temporary staff residence, outhouses, etc), are less conventional in looks and are happily decorated with hand painted signs and or sculptures.
The structures and equipment at D Acres are mostly built with locally sourced materials. True to the focus of the farm, they find use for commonly discarded items which they keep out of sight in a somewhat neat “Resource Pile” until needed.
In the farm they currently have 2 oxen that help with weed control in the developed area and with muscle power whenever needed.
They also have several pigs which are entrusted with plowing and preparing newly developed growing fields as they turn up the soil in their constant search for food.
During our visit, we had a chance to feed the pigs with several cases of vegetables that would no longer be sellable at the local supermarket, and with buckets of kitchen scraps collected in local restaurants. They were all out of chickens at present, as they will be starting a new flock soon, but they did have ducks in some of their ponds.
Their farming fields were certainly impressive, they are oriented to make best use of the vital resources, soil, water and sun. Tree stumps are left in the field to decay and in turn return nutrients to the ground, their presence is not inconvenient as the ground is only worked by hand with pitchforks.
Farming fields are heavily mulched with straw during the growing season to prevent weeds, control water and improve the soils. In the off season, the fields are planted with cover crops to further promote soil enrichment through natural processes of nitrogen fixation and composting.
Crops are rotated to maximize production, all crops are grown organically. The farm produces all of its vegetables (except for grains and oils), and all of their meat. Surplus are offered for sale locally.
The areas that are not dedicated to farming have been left in their natural state, with only a few well marked trails that loop around the forest and comeback to Base Camp, where visitors can elect to pitch a tent or hang a hammock.
The most amazing aspect of the farm is how at ease one feels immediately upon arrival. Josh and Regina really make sure everyone feels at home. The food is fantastic, and is served family style in a very cordial atmosphere. The kitchen is also shared with guests that chose to prepare their own meals.
There are just two house rules, no smoking, and no shoes upstairs. It is perhaps because of that that all guests feel compelled to maintain the harmony of the farm as if we were all invested in this great project. In future trips to NH we are most likely to stay again at D Acres, perhaps next time we can catch one of their educational programs, or get a chance to learn more about homesteading working side by side with them.
To learn more about D Acres Farm, visit their site at www.DAcres.org .