Wednesday, August 5, 2020

CSA Week 7 Newsletter

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!

Welcome to Week 7 of our CSA.  Week 7 is an egg week.  I wanted to take a moment to talk about substitutions.  Please remember that Farmer Don (and our associate farms this year) are making harvest predictions on crops almost a week before the crop is harvested for your CSA box.  Some times for reasons beyond the farmers control when we go to harvest the crop is just not ready.  Perhaps fruit did not mature as we had anticipated or maybe an insect or disease has destroyed the crop.  When this happens, Farmer Don is forced to make a substitution for the unavailable crop.  Your patience with this is greatly appreciated.  As I mentioned in the past, this growing year has been one of our most challenging on many levels.

I hate to say this, because I know our neighbors to the east and south of us did not fare as well with the recent tropical storm.  But, wasn't yesterday's rain beautiful!  Here on farm we received about an inch and a half of nice steady rain.  A very needed rain.  By evening, when the sun came out, I think I could hear all our crops collectively sighing over the relief this rain brought.  We feel blessed to have gotten this much needed rain.

We are hoping this rain will push along some of our crops which seem to not be maturing as we had hoped.  Look for a second harvest of string beans coming soon.  With the rain we are hoping cucumbers will be available in larger numbers soon and hopefully summer squash will continue to mature and be harvestable.  We are hoping the rain also will bring about some more harvestable eggplant.  Peppers are now being harvested and hopefully will be available for a number of weeks to come.  Lettuces and cooking greens should respond well to the moisture and cooler temperatures, so will continue to be available for CSA boxes and market.  Winter squash is in the ground and the plants are growing nicely.  We are watching the broccoli closely and hoping it forms some heads in the next few weeks.  A second planting of scallions should be available in a week or two.

"You need a hobby".  This is the latest prescription being handed down by several of my doctors.  I politely smile and say "yes", trying hard not to laugh.  Laugh, because for years my family and I joked that my hobby was cleaning the house and doing laundry!  I was working a full time off farm job and basically also working full time for Farmer Don.  My free time was spent on household chores.  And I didn't really see anything wrong with that!  However my life has changed a bit in the last year.  The doctors are correct, I am finding myself with spare time on my hands and I am having trouble adjusting to that.  So, at the doctors' suggestion, I have been contemplating hobbies.  I suggested cleaning out my closets.  This brought hysterical laughter from my family as they told me "hobbies are supposed to be enjoyable".  I told them I would really enjoy those clean closets!  They were not going for it. Continuing on the closet theme, I suggested getting my old work office switched from its current status as a walk in closet into a farm office.  Reactions to this suggestion didn't even warrant a laugh, just "a look".  Then I argued I do have some hobbies.  I preserve our harvest with canning, freezing and pickling and I have a nice houseplant collection and in the summer add potted herbs and flowers to this collection and I love to read.  At least no one disagreed these were hobbies, but everyone encouraged me to look for a new hobby.  I have thought about photography and have been researching upgrading my old 33 mm to a dSLR camera.  I have also considered crocheting and knitting, maybe finally getting started on the afghan I bought yarn for several years ago.  In reality, I still haven't decided on a new hobby or hobbies to add to my life.  But, those closets still need cleaned out! 

Our kitchen is still pretty quiet.  I haven't done too much preserving yet this year.  I am patiently awaiting the ripening of paste tomatoes so we can get started on our first sauce for the season.  And of course, it will be a few months before we start making applesauce, one of my favorites.  We brought an old reliable recipe out last week.  Kale, sausage and garlic roasted potatoes.  This is a recipe we make often and as the weather cools it will become a weekly item.  The nice thing about this recipe is any leftovers are great with eggs either as a hearty breakfast or another supper.  This recipe is from a favorite cookbooks, Serving up the Harvest by Andrea Chesman.  If you like cookbooks and you are not familiar with this one, I would suggest looking it up. 

Speaking of the kitchen, it is getting near suppertime.  I need to print this so Farmer Don and proof read it for me while we eat and hopefully I will get it emailed out to everyone this evening.

As always, thank you to everyone for your continued support of our small family farm and local sustainable agriculture.

Be safe, be well, and enjoy those veggies.


Thursday, July 30, 2020

Week 6 CSA Newsletter


Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm! 

Welcome to Week 6 of our 2020 CSA.  Week 6 is not an egg week.  Ordering for Week 7 is now open.  Thanks to everyone for treating their CSA boxes gently and returning them to us.  Please also remember to return the green pint and quart boxes for the farm to reuse.  And as always, if you have questions or concerns for us, please do not hesitate to contact us at the farm.

Welcome to August!  Can you believe it is already August!  Soon we will be talking fall.  I already think the days are noticeably shorter!

The weather for this summer has been hot and dry.  We had a couple of downpours Tuesday morning and some nice steady showers last night.  But what we really need is a good soaking rain.  The weather forecasters are saying Sunday may bring us a soaking rain.  We are dry here on Dancing Hen Farm, but we are counting our blessing as farms to our west are drought dry.  On a recent drive, we saw corn stunted and dying in fields and soybean plants wilting in the fields.  Without some rain soon, the harvest will be greatly reduced from these fields.  These farmers will therefore see not only a loss of income, but also a reduction in the amount of feed available to for their livestock this winter.  On a positive note, on some of these same drought stricken farms, we saw some beautiful hay being bailed and stored in barns.  So I am asking you, to keep your fingers crossed, say a collective prayer or do a rain dance, that Sunday brings us a nice soaking rain and some cooler temperatures.

The harvest of our summer crops is pushing into full swing.  Last week we saw our first eggplants hit CSA boxes.  We should have more eggplant in the coming weeks.  Peppers are near ripening and tomatoes and summer squash should continue to be available.  We are hoping to continue to make cooking greens available and with any luck (and some rain) lettuce should also continue to be harvested.  We have broccoli in the ground and after fending off a small groundhog attack it is now struggling to make heads.  We are hoping as the weather cools a bit the broccoli plants will react with some fruit.

In the next few weeks we are anticipating a real burst in our egg availability.  Unfortunately this spring we had a fox in our hen house and lost quite a number of laying hens to Mr or Mrs Fox feeding their babies.  Thanks to some helpful neighbors, we now have our chicken house on lock down!  Electric poultry netting now encases the house as well as an area of pasture and so far (knock on wood) we have not lost anyone to the fox.  In the meantime, Farmer Don got word of some pullets (teenage chickens) which were available from a friend of ours.  He arranged to pick up 150 pullets and they will be starting to lay any day now.  For a few weeks they will lay small eggs, but before we know it they will be laying one large brown egg a day.  So, look for more eggs on our buying club and available for sale at market.  Chickens by nature go inside their coop to roost each night and Farmer Don now shuts them up as an added protection against predators.  In the morning when Farmer Don goes up to open the coop door, he reports the chickens rush out in a big red wave.  If he doesn't quickly get out of the way he will have multiple chickens fly full speed into his head and face!  Not an enjoyable experience!

Farmer Don asked me to thank everyone for coming to market on Saturdays and saying hello.  He really enjoys catching up with our members and meeting new members.  As a reminder Farmer Don and Farmer Phil are at the Back Mountain Farmers Market every Saturday from 9 to 1.  This market is at the Dallas High School.  Come by on Saturday, support your local farmers and say hello to Farmers Don and Phil!

Our kitchen has been fairly quiet lately.  We are cooking lots of veggies, of course.  Farmer Don made Lion's Head meatballs this week.  Farmer Don loves meatballs and these are a favorite of his.  He uses a recipe he found in one of his favorite magazines, Cook's Illustrated.  It is an interesting recipe in that it calls for the pork to be worked with a stand mixer.  This is opposite of what I have always been told about making meatballs.  I was always told to handle the meat lightly or the meatballs will become dry and tough.  But, this recipe really does produce a large, tender and tasty meatball.  This week he served the meatballs with ramen noodles and kale, as we had both of these on hand.  Here is a link to a recipe which seems to be based on the Cook's Illustrated recipe.  https://lynnandruss.com/2019/12/21/here-me-roar/.  I didn't do any preserving this week and I have decided not to can peaches this year.  Instead I am hoping this fall to can extra applesauce.  Farmer Don and I eat more applesauce than canned peaches, so extra applesauce just makes more sense.

It is getting late and I need to start to unwind before bed.  Thanks again for all of your support.  We feel so very lucky to have so many friends and members of our farm.

So, in Farmer Don's words:  "be safe, be well and enjoy those veggies".

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

2020 CSA Week 5 Newsletter


Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm! 

Welcome to Week 5 of our 2020 CSA!  WEEK 5 IS A CHICKEN WEEK!!!  So, if you purchased a chicken share, please be sure to check for a cooler at your drop site.  Our site hosts are not able to store your chicken for you.  Week 5 is also an egg week.  Remember ordering for our CSA begins every Thursday at 6 pm and ends on Sunday at 6 pm.

So not much new on the weather front.  Hot and humid seems to be the theme.  We are dry here on farm and are hoping some of the forecasted showers for the next few days bring us some rain.  Recently the storms have been going around us.  I will get reports from neighbors less than 5 miles away receiving a quarter inch of rain, but here, we only got a few drops.  We have irrigation to most of our fields, but there is nothing like a good soaking rain to revive crops. 

Our fields continue to looks good.  Tomatoes are starting to come on as are cucumbers.  Summer squash and zucchini should continue to be available along with kale and chard.  We are working with an Amish grower friend of ours to obtain some eggplant and we are hoping his will be of harvest size by next week.  Our first planting of string beans is done and our second planting is not quite mature yet, so there may be a gap in bean availability.  We are lucky to be working with some certified naturally grown and certified organic farmers and the beautiful lettuce we have been putting in your boxes is from them.  We are hoping the leaf lettuce and possibly the romaine will continue to be available.

Last week I talked about our resident hummingbirds and this week I had a cool hummingbird moth visiting the flowers on our back porch.  These clearwing moths move and hover like a hummingbird as they drink nectar from flowers.  Another one of my favorite bugs!  Speaking of bugs.  I have some herb plantings around the house and many of the perennial herbs have been blooming.  I try to keep the blooms trimmed from the plants to encourage more vegetative growth.  But, this year when I went to trim the flowers off of the thyme and oregano, I couldn't bring myself to snip them off.  The number of bees and beneficial insects swarming around these flowers was amazing!  Large bumble bees, busy honey bees and the tiniest of wasps!  These tiny wasps are generally too tiny to cause any problems for humans, but they are very beneficial to the farmer.  These wasps often belong to species of wasps which actually parasitize and kill crop pests. 

Ok, I will stop ranting on and on about bugs!

Our kitchen has been fairly quiet recently.  Farmer Don is still not eating a lot, so when we cook we seem to have tons of leftovers and therefore our refrigerator seems to be constantly overflowing with leftovers.  And leftovers we must eat!  However I did have the first of one of my summertime favorites, an open faced tomato and grilled cheese sandwich.  I used a fresh loaf of crusty whole wheat bread Farmer Don picked up at the farmer's market, an heirloom tomato and some extra sharp cheddar.  WOW, how can you go wrong with those ingredients?  I also have been keeping a jar of pickled eggs and beets in the fridge again for a light lunch or a nice afternoon snack.  Recently I made a batch of my mother's bean salad and have been eating that all week as well.  I should have halved the recipe, since I am having to eat this myself and the recipe makes a ton!  I think I will be eating bean salad all month!

Don't forget Farmers Don and Phil are at the Back Mountain Memorial Library Farmers Market every Saturday.  The market is held at the Dallas High School.  They usually have Dancing Hen Farm Apple Orchard Pork, Pastured Chicken, free-range eggs and an assortment of vegetable available for sale.  If you go to market, please stop by our table and say hello!  The farmers love to meet our farm members!

Ok, it is getting late and I want to be certain I get this newsletter out before I turn in for the night.  So, in Farmer Don's words - "Be safe, Be Well and Enjoy those veggies!".  And I will add "stay cool out there".



Until next week.......

Thursday, July 16, 2020

CSA Week 4 Farm News


Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!

Welcome to Week 4 of our CSA.  Week 4 is not an egg week.  Hopefully everyone is enjoying their veggies!  And since I am late getting this newsletter out, Week 5 ordering is open!

As usual, some CSA notes to start the newsletter.  Please remember your CSA box is labeled with your name.  The name which you used when you registered for your 2020 share.  If there are any issues with your pick up site or your home delivery, please email us at the farm.  

You know by now that right about now in my newsletters, I talk about the weather.  Today brought a cool cloudy day to the farm, but before today we had a nice string of a couple of beautiful days.  Clear, with a nice breeze and cooling off a bit at night.  Perfect weather for me to spend time on our back porch watching nature and the goings on of the farm.  Also perfect weather for me to get some laundry done.  I like to hang my wash on the line and the threat of storms a week ago kept me from trusting my laundry would not get a second rinsing!  However, if the weather predictions are correct, it seems the hot and humids will be back by the weekend and into the first part of next week.  I cannot complain, this is summer in Pennsylvania!
 
Our fields are looking good, although as is usual for this time of year a bit weedy.  The first planting of beans is coming to an end, with our second planting growing nicely.  Peas are pretty much done for the year.  Zucchini and summer squash continue to be harvested.   We are starting to pick cucumbers.  We should continue have some nice kale available.  We are also bringing in some beautiful chard right now.  We are hoping to keep potatoes available for the duration of the season.  Peppers and eggplant have been planted and we are patiently waiting for them to produce fruit.  Again thank you for your patience as we work hard to get product to you  this season.

Farmer Don and I always feed the birds.  Year round since we moved to Dancing Hen Farm.  We enjoy watching them and notice the changes in species as the seasons move along.  This year, however, I have a new feeder, a hummingbird feeder.  I have had  a hummingbird feeder in the past, but never found the time to keep it clean.  After reading how dirty feeders can actually kill hummingbirds, I decided killing off hummingbirds kind of defeated the reason for having a feeder!  I threw the feeder out and the next year decided to plant more plants hummingbirds like.  This year I have a bit more time on my hands and decided it would be a good year to try a feeder again.  So, we found a simple feeder which seemed easy to take apart and clean.  And I have been loyally keeping the feeder clean and changing out the sugar water.   More importantly, we have really been enjoying watching the hummingbirds.  We have discovered that hummingbirds really do seem to eat a lot - either that or we have a whole flock of humming birds hanging out on farm!  We have also discovered that hummingbirds actually like to perch - perch when they eat, perch on my clothes line, or perch in nearby trees.  I have never observed them perching so much before, sometimes I am convinced Dancing Hen Farm hummingbirds must be extra tired and lazy!  Hummingbirds are also quite brazen, flying very close to us, often right at us!  They will eat from the feeder with us standing right beside it, seemingly unfazed by humans.  They are also quite territorial and will dive at  and chase each other if two try to eat from the feeder at the same time.  And I am reverting back to my childhood! When I was a little girl my Dad fed the squirrels and I named them, convinced I could tell them apart.  Now I am convinced I can identify some of the hummingbirds from each other.  At least I haven't started naming them -- yet!

Enough about hummingbirds -- on to the kitchen.

In the kitchen - preserving has begun.  With lots of beans coming in this week, I got out the blanching pot and started freezing.  Previously, this year, I froze some berries for use in our winter smoothies.  I am feeling a bit more energized this season, so maybe I will ramp up the preserving kitchen this summer?  I already know we will be canning tomato sauce and apple sauce.  We also have plans to can some peaches this year, if we can find peaches.  This was a hard season for peaches.  In my preserving dreams, I will also make zucchini relish, zucchini muffins to freeze, catsup, can some whole tomatoes, make a small batch of tomato relish and freeze corn.  And I need to dry some herbs this year, as my stock in the freezer is getting low.  I will keep you posted if any of my dreams become realities!

So it took me an extra day or two to actually sit down and write this newsletter and now it seems I can't stop going on and on!  So I will end here.  Thanks to everyone who actually read this to the end!
And as always thanks to each of you for your support of us, our farm and sustainable farming.

Be safe, be well, and enjoy those veggies




Thursday, July 9, 2020

2020 Week 3 CSA Newsletter


Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!
 
Welcome to Week 3 of our CSA!  Week 3 is an egg week! 

Some CSA notes to start the newsletter:  We have just purchased new boxes for our shares.  Boxes are a fairly large expenditure for us each season, so please treat them with care.  The new boxes are stiff and sometimes hard to work with.  So, rather than immediately pulling up on the top to open your box, please PUSH DOWN first to allow the tabs to release rather than tear.  The farm and our boxes thank you for your help with this!

It seems as though summer has arrived!  Lots of heat and humidity over the last week.  Yesterday brought some nice rain to the farm.  We had been missing many of the storms which popped up near us the last few days and we really needed some soaking rain.  And with Farmers Don and Phil out on deliveries, it was the perfect day for rain! 

Fields are looking good and filling up with plants.  String beans should continue to be available with numbers increasing.  Summer means zucchini and our zucchini is looking good, so get your recipes ready.  Unfortunately, lettuce does not like the heat and these hot summer days, so look for a lull in lettuce.  Harvests of beets and potatoes should continue.  Our kale is looking really good right now.

Speaking of kale, I always get a bit of a smile on my face when I think about kale.  When we first started to sell at farmer's markets, we spent a good deal of time educating our customers on kale.  Many people thought kale was simply a garnish, but the news media was telling everyone what a super food it was.  We learned quickly our customers were curious and needed to know that kale could be eaten, it was delicious, and that it was good for you.  We learned people were willing to try kale and we just needed to have some easy ways for them to prepare it.  I spent lots of time telling people about sauteing kale and making a farm favorite of roasted potatoes, kale and sausage.  What is funny is that suddenly, overnight suddenly, everyone at market wanted kale and we could not grow enough.  Customers not only were demanding kale, they were passing recipes on to us and even knew the difference between red Russian and curly kale!  About this time I was excited to learn about massaged kale salad.  I  would stand at our market table and enthusiastically tell people how to make it, how good it was and how massaging made the kale almost appear cooked.  Then I would learn most of our kale followers were already making these salads.  Now it seems kale's popularity has diminished and again quite suddenly, again almost overnight!  So my real question from all of this is "what is the next super food?".

We do try to eat in season here on farm.  Meaning we try to either eat what is being harvested or what I have been able to preserve from the previous year's harvest.  This means sometimes our winter menus are a bit limited, but summer time means lots of variety!  With lettuce in a bit of a heat lull, we will be relying on massaged kale salads now and soon tomato and cucumber salads.  The grill has been fired up and we are already eating grilled zucchini - a farm favorite.  With early beets being harvested, I have my summer jar of red beet pickled eggs in the fridge.  To me a pickled egg and some beets is a perfect afternoon snack!  I am hoping to pickle and can some beets this summer so I can make pickled eggs in the winter without relying on grocery store canned beets.  With string beans being harvested, I am hoping this weekend to make a batch of my Mother's bean salad.  Another nice dish to have marinating in the fridge for a quick snack or lunch.

This Saturday is the opening of the Back Mountain Farmers Market.  This market is held at the Dallas High School.  Market opens at 9am.  Many local farmers have lost outlets to sell their product due to the pandemic, so please come out and support the local economy by purchasing from local producers.  Farmers Don and Phil will be at market with lots of Apple Orchard Pork, Pasture raised chicken and veggies.
 
I want to take a little extra time to thank everyone for their support this season.  We are trying to get product to you, but, by far, this season has been one of our most challenging seasons yet.  Health issues are always hard to deal with, but trying to farm while healing poses an extra challenge.  Farmer Don is doing well and is slowly recuperating.  His throat is healing and he is now able to drink and eat small amounts of soft foods.  He is still fatigued and sometimes it breaks my heart to see how exhausted he is when he comes in for lunch or at the end of the day.  Farmer Don is strong and he is very committed to Dancing Hen Farm.  This commitment and his continual push forward keeps us all motivated and moving forward.  We are already planning for next year, a healthy year!

Ok, time to actually send this newsletter!

And as Farmer Don always says: "Be safe, be well and enjoy those veggies!"




Wednesday, July 1, 2020

2020 CSA Week 2 Newsletter


Greetings from Dancing  Hen Farm!  Happy Independence Day!!!

Welcome to Week 2 of our CSA.  Week 2 is not an egg week.

A few CSA logistics updates and then onto some farm news.  Delivery to central drop off sites are always guaranteed by 4 pm, but we want to give you our delivery schedule for this season in case you want to pick boxes up earlier.  Mountain Top boxes should be at the pharmacy after 10 am.  Boxes will be at the Dallas location after 11 am and to Balance Yoga, in Forty Fort after 12, noon.  We will have boxes to Bloom Naturally by 2 pm.  Remember if you are running late, please let your site host know.  Our sites are not able to hold your box for you. 

A quick word on boxes, green pint and quart boxes and egg cartons.  In an attempt to keep farm costs down, we do re-use these items.  Please leave them at your pick up site for us to collect when we deliver.

It does not seem possible that we are already celebrating July 4th!  It seems we have just recently started to get summer weather.  May and the first part of June were very cool and wet here on farm.  This delayed our planting quite a bit.  We also had a very late freeze this year.  We were lucky and although we lost some transplants in an unheated greenhouse, we did not suffer any real losses.  Other farmers in our area did not fare so well.  We have heard reports that the peaches in the area were hit very hard and some orchards are reporting close to a 100% loss.  That is a scary and hard loss for orchards to absorb! 

So the saga of my herb bed continues.  As some of you may remember, several years ago I had couple of snakes take of residence.  We even had some of members try and help us catch them!  They spent one season enjoying my herbs and had moved on by the next summer.  This summer in the same herb bed, even in the same location we have a groundhog!  Yes, a groundhog, basically right off the porch/patio!  We noticed it about a month ago and had the dogs watching the area for us and I was convinced it had moved on, tired of being harassed by the pooches.  But, just the other day, I was sitting, doing some work by the window and saw it perched on a log in that herb bed.  And this morning I saw it lumbering around in the yard not far from its herb house.  And unfortunately our dogs now seem to think this groundhog is part of the family! 

Our fields are starting to fill up and we are seeing, what we like to call some true summer crops beginning to ripen.  This week we picked our first summer squash of the season.  In the coming week, summer squash should be available for choice.  Peas are starting to slow and will be available in very limited numbers in the coming weeks.  We should continue to have greens, radishes and scallions available.  String beans, both yellow and green, are starting to reach maturity and will be available on and off for a number of weeks to come.  The tomatoes in our high tunnel are starting ripen and we should have tomatoes available, with cherries most likely being the first to ripen.  We continue to plant as weather and schedules allow.  Farmer Don is on the mend, but is still in recuperation mode, so we are happy to be working closely with some Amish friends/neighbors of ours to bring you some certified organic produce to supplement out harvest. 

Speaking of Farmer Don.  I am assuming most of you have been following along with his story this spring.  His treatments are finished I am happy to say he is getting his energy back.  I am truly amazed at how much he is already able to do on a daily basis on farm.  He still has some difficulty swallowing and speaking, but we have turned a corner and he is eating soft foods now and able to drink.  Thanks to everyone for your kind words, healing energies and prayers.  Life is good here on farm and we continue to enjoy every moment!

Ok, it is getting near suppertime and this newsletter is getting a bit wordy, so I will end things here.
As always, thanks to each of you for your continued support of our farm.  You, our farm community, make it possible to continue to farm this rocky hillside in a way which will help leave the earth a better place for future generations. 

Be safe, be well, and enjoy those veggies.


Farmer Don Rings the Bell!



Farmer Don rings the bell!  Treatments are over!  The regeneration begins!