Wednesday, September 16, 2020

2020 Week 13 Newsletter


Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!

Welcome to Week 13 of our CSA.  Week 13 is an egg week.  After this week's delivery there are 5 weeks remaining in the 2020 CSA.

It seems we are getting some fall weather and may even see some frost before this week ends.  We have had a low of 37 the past two mornings, with even cooler temperatures predicted over the weekend.  Can you believe we are experiencing cloudy weather due to the fires out west? That is almost unbelievable to me!  Of course we are counting our blessings that we are only dealing with some hazy cloudy skies from these devastating fires.  Such horrible destruction!  Destruction of nature, property and unfortunately lives.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to those dealing with these seemingly never ending fires.

As the weather cools, you will also see the crops in your CSA boxes change.  Look for more greens, more winter squash, beets, hopefully some carrots and fennel.  Farmer Don has a nice stand of spinach started, unfortunately it seems to be a favorite of both the deer and groundhogs on farm.  With any luck we will get a bit of a harvest off this bed.

It is with great sadness I have to tell everyone of the loss of a true keeper of our farm.  Our beloved Border Collie, Rosemary, crossed over the rainbow bridge this week.  We knew she was sick, but we did not expect her to decline so quickly.  Rosie lived life to the fullest and we so loved having her as part of our farm family.  She came to live with us, barely 8 weeks old, a fluffy bundle of black and white with the cutest beauty mark on her nose.  Rose was determined to rule us and rule the farm and she did just that.  Such a sensitive pup, she always knew when you needed a hug and would come to you and try to crawl into your lap.  At that point you often forgot why you were sad, as now you were focused on fending off Rose!  She greeted visitors with a wormy wiggle and kiss on the face or a bop on the nose if you weren't paying attention.  As anyone who visited the farm knew, Rosie was obsessed with playing fetch and once you threw the first ball you had a playmate for life, well at least until you snuck into your car and left!  Rose loved farm crop walks, car rides, hunting frogs, her Frisbee and nightly lap time.  As I write this, so many Rosie stories are popping into my head, she really was a huge part of this farm and our family.  I had planned to share these Rosie Stories with my readers.  But, instead, I just want to say "Ro Ro you are dearly missed and "Woo Woo" until we meet again my friend!"

On this sad note, I want to, as usual, thank everyone for your kind gentle support of us and our farm. 

Be safe, be well and enjoy those veggies.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

2020 Week 12 CSA Newsletter


Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm! 

Welcome to Week 12 of our CSA.  Week 12 is not an egg week.  After this week's delivery there are 6 weeks remaining in our 2020 CSA.

Even though we still are getting some warm temperatures, I can feel the change of seasons in the air.  Days are shorter, night time temperatures are getting cooler.   Hard to believe how quickly September is slipping away.  Soon I will be mentioning the "F" word - frost that is.  We generally get a light frost towards the end of September and our killing frost usually follows sometime in October.  I am anxious to see how this summer's drought affects the leaf show this fall.  We are seeing some trees already losing their leaves without ever changing color, but a few trees are already starting to show some color.

So a surprise was delivered to me the other day - a new camera!  Thanks to one of my sisters.  So does this mean I now have a hobby?  Well, I do have task - learning to use this new fancy camera.  I have not used any camera other than a point and shoot for many years.  Things are gradually coming back to me, but I am still as farmer Don would say "busy learning on the learning curve".  But, I have been having fun.  I have a zoom lens for it, so recently I have had the zoom attached and am trying to take some pictures of birds at our feeders.  Unfortunately I am finding I may not have the patience for avian photography!  But I do have a good pictures of a blue jay, of Shady, of Shady's paw and of farmer Don walking down from the barn.  So hopefully I will get some pictures I can actually post for all to see.

I am not sure if I have touched on Social Media yet this season?  But as long as I am posting "for all to see", this is a good time to let you know about some of our public pages.  We do have a facebook page where I post pictures and some farm news.   I also have a blog where I post our newsletters and also pictures of the farm.   I did have a pinterest  site, but have not been keeping it updated.  I am trying to figure out an instagram  account without a smart phone.  I have an account, but have posted nothing to it?  That is about as far as I go with Social Media, so if you are online check out our sites!

In the fields we have started to harvest winter squash.  Last week we had butternut squash available.  I like to use Butternuts to make a pork, apple and butternut stew from the Simply in Season cookbook.  This recipe was a favorite of my Mom's when she lived with us, so I am surrounded by good memories whenever I make it.  Some of the problem with butternut squash is peeling, seeding and cooking it.  These squash are hard and often hard to handle.  I usually get Farmer Don to cut the beast in quarters for me and then I scoop the seeds, peel and cube it.  If I don't need cubes or diced squash I cheat and cook the squash whole.  I poke some holes in the skin, put it in a shallow pan with a bit of water and roast it in the oven.  It will take an hour of more for the squash to soften, but once easily poked with a fork or knife, remove it from the oven and allow to cool.  Once cool enough to handle, cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds, peel off the skin and add the flesh to your soup pot.  This week I think Farmer Don will be harvesting Spaghetti Squash, so get your recipes ready.  Spaghetti Squash is a winter squash, but not nearly as tough to handle as our friend the butternut.  I like to use a spaghetti squash recipe I have made for years, a casserole recipe from one of the older Moosewood Cookbooks.

The canning kitchen is officially open.  I canned tomatoes the other week and my sister and I froze sweet corn this week.  I also boiled some of the spent cobs to make some yummy corn stock for use in soups this winter.  We may still try to do some tomato sauce, but my sister and her family have a small vacation coming up and then with social distancing following their travels, we may run out of time for canning.  But, we will do applesauce once they are out of self imposed quarantine!

The cooking kitchen is also open.  I tend to eat a lot of eggs - eggs and potatoes, eggs and greens, etc.  Eggs are quick nutritious meal for us!  And we are also starting to move into soup season.  Last night I made a tortellini soup; a bit of a variation of a green soup we make.  Basically it was a chicken broth and tomato based soup with garlic, eggplant and tortellini.  Farmer Don ate two bowls, so I guess it passed his taste test!  Farmer Don came home from market the other week with mushrooms and made a really delicious mushroom risotto.  Life is good when the kitchen is producing nutritious and delicious food!

Ok, it is getting late, I still don't have supper started and Shady has started to bark for her dinner.  I need to print this newsletter for Farmer Don to proof and then get it posted and sent out later tonight.

As always, thank you to each of your continued support of our farm. 

Be safe, be well and enjoy those veggies!

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

2020 CSA Week 11 Newsletter


Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!

Welcome to Week 11 of our 2020 CSA.  Week 11 is an egg week.

Clouds!  The farm has been in the clouds for the last few days!  The real meteorological clouds!  I have been joking with my family members that we have slipped right from summer into a winter pattern.  Think January or February when it seems to be cloudy every day!  I know we will still have warm sunny days this fall, but it has been a noticeable change in our weather.  Starting last night and continuing into today we have been getting some really nice showers.  Just what our farm and our neighboring farms need.  Probably too late for the corn and soybean growers, but we still need the rain to bring up our water table and to help get us through the winter months. 

So, I need to start this email with some additional thanks to the behind the scene people who have made the 2020 CSA season a reality.

First I want to thank all the people who volunteered early in Don's treatment to help clean up the farm, help take care of our chickens and for visiting with Don when he was in the hospital.  I especially want to thank his sister Gail.  I know I have thanked her in the past, but she seriously needs to be thanked multiple times!  Gail left a warm and sunny Florida to visit in the early spring of Pennsylvania.  We were still getting cold temperatures and snow!  Gail helped with transportation, moral support, our dogs and even did chicken chores for us.  She basically became an honorary farmer here at Dancing Hen Farm.  I don't know how we would have made it those first few weeks without her support.  Thank you Farmer Gail!

I also need to thank Lori.  Lori has been with us a number of years and works one evening a week helping to pack your CSA boxes.  This year her time with us was short, as her other job at Bloomsburg University started early this year.  Thanks Lori, what can I say other than you are now part of the family!

The other day I swore we had a chinchilla on farm!  Yes you read that right a chinchilla!  Rest assured it is not that unbelievable that we would have a chinchilla show up on farm.  Some people do keep them as pets and unfortunately our farm ( and most farms!) become the target for the disposal of unwanted pets.  We have acquired multiple animals this way, including a dog, cats, a rooster and even a cow!  So you can see why, when I saw this strange creature hanging out under our birdfeeders I thought chinchilla!  Ok, so maybe you don't see it, but bear with me.  I got the binoculars out to get a good view of the animal.  So, you guessed, it was not a chinchilla!  But, I still could not determine what it could be.  I was secretly worried it could be a giant rat!  But nope -- thankfully!  Then it climbed a tree and hung out where I could get a better view.  I was finally able to determine it was a tailless squirrel!  Just to assure you I have not lost my mind, several other people have reported seeing this squirrel.  It seems to do ok, hopping along in the grass and climbing trees even without being able to "swish his bushy tail".

Our canning kitchen officially opened the other week.  I canned some slicing tomatoes.  I can these in quart jars using a hot water bath canner to process them.  And I have to tell you many of these tomatoes came from Farmer Phil and his family's garden.  And I am proud to say all my jars sealed!!!  This week we will be freezing sweet corn.  Freezing sweet corn will bring back memories of growing up when my family and some of my relatives would gather to freeze hundreds of ears at a time!  Funny, because I do not remember eating that much corn growing up!  Later in September we will make some tomato sauce, hopefully paste tomatoes will still be available and not blighted by this cool rainy weather.  Tomato sauce will be followed by applesauce.   My sister and I have been working on perfecting a mix of apple varieties to get a really good tasting unsweetened apple sauce.  Peeling all the apples is a huge chore - but so worth it when you crack open a jar for Christmas Dinner!  Or just as a treat in January.

In the fields Farmer Don is finishing up for the 2020 growing season.  He has planted some late season greens and is planning on pulling the tomatoes from our high tunnel and replanting it with greens or carrots to overwinter.  We should begin harvesting winter squash soon.  Greens should continue to be available and hopefully tomatoes will hold on for a few more weeks.  Peppers are looking good and we are close to harvesting some tomatillos.  Thanks again for your support and understanding during this difficult and trying growing season.

So this is proving to be one of my longer newsletters, I should stop here, allow you to rest your eyes. 

Please say a thanks to the powers that be for providing us with this much needed beautiful rain! 

And always, we will be forever thankful to each of you for your support of us, our farm and local agriculture.  Buy Fresh, Buy Local!  And please remember not to drop your pet chinchillas at the local farm!

Be safe, Be well and Enjoy those veggies.  

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Week 10 Newsletter


Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!

Welcome to Week 10 of our 2020 CSA.  Week 10 is not an egg week.  Week 10 is a chicken share week, so if you have purchased a chicken share, don't forget to pick up your chicken.

It seems fall is over and we are back to the heat and humidity of summer.  We had a nice, but short, shower here the other night, but we are still really in need of rain.  The landscape is suddenly appearing more brown then green.  Our neighbor's fields of corn and soybeans seem especially hard hit.  We are seeing already turning brown and soybeans almost appear to be shriveling in the fields.

So many of you will be familiar with this newsletter.  This is the annual "thank you" newsletter.  When Farmer Don and I take a bit of time to thanks everyone who makes Dancing Hen Farm possible.

How can I write this newsletter with talking about Farmer Phil?  Many of know Farmer Phil as he has worked for us for a number of years and has become Farmer Don's right hand man.  On Tuesdays, Farmer Phil can be found heading up our pack and wash station.  He portions and weighs product for the CSA and manages boxes for us.  Farmer Phil also is our delivery assistant and spends most of Wednesday in the van with Farmer Don.  He spends Saturdays at the Back Mountain Farm Market, where he waits on customers, assists Farmer Don with sales and even sells some of his family farms' produce.  Farmer Don tells me Phil has quite a following at market.  If you see Phil, be sure to say hello and thank you!

We have several others who work on farm to keep us running smoothly.  Joyce, Farmer Phil's Mom, works on pack days and has become our head herb harvester.  She also helps Farmer Phil in the pack house and helps both Don and I with transportation to doctor's appointments.  New to the farm this year is Susan.  Susan has been volunteering to come out and help Farmer Don on her days off.  Susan helps in the fields, helps with animals and rumor has it she is Rosie's favorite visitor.  Thanks to Jason, who does farm projects for Farmer Don and helps with bagging chickens for delivery.  Jason often has one or both of sons with him on farm to help as well.  We also want to send a thank you out to our neighbor Dave.  Early in the season Dave mowed many of our overgrown fields and this summer he has kept our large lawn mowed.  I also want to thank all our friends and family who organized work days this spring to help us clean up the farm.  If you know or see any of these individuals, please say thank you to them for helping grow and produce your food.

A huge thank you needs to go out to our site hosts.  These individuals offer up their businesses for our use to drop boxes.  Thanks to the Sonya and all the employees at Crestwood Pharmacy.  Thanks to Gwen and the artists at Verve Vertu Art Studio.  Thanks to Corrine and her staff at Balance Yoga.  And last, but not least, thank you to the employees at Bloom Naturally in Bloomsburg.  Please take a minute to thank these site hosts!

And finally.  I want to thank all of you, our friends, members and family of the farm.  Thank you for your continued support of our farm and of us.  The kind words, cards and the notes and drawings left in share boxes bring a smile to our faces!  It is you, our community who makes this all possible.

With that I will close - be safe, be well and enjoy the veggies.



Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Week 9 Newsletter

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!

Welcome to Week 9 of our 2020 CSA.  Week 9 is an egg week.  Next Week 10 will be a chicken week.  So, if you purchased a chicken share you will be getting chicken on Wednesday, August 26th.

Such beautiful weather we have been having!  It almost feels like fall, but the calendar says August, so we know there is more heat and humidity to come.  But for now our windows are open and we are enjoying this cooler weather.  Have you noticed Mother Nature is starting to tell us fall is on its way?  The days have gotten noticeably shorter and the other day I heard the distinctive honk of Canadian Geese flying over the farm.  The hawks which nest in the tall pines across from the house seem to have moved on and I haven't seen the Rose-breasted Grosbeaks recently.  I have noticed some leaves starting to change color, but I am not certain if this is season or drought related. 

In the fields we are slowly transitioning to fall as well.  You can look for more greens becoming available as the weeks go by and we should begin harvesting winter squash soon.  Unless we get a very early frost, we should also have summer crops continuing, including tomatoes, peppers and string beans.  Farmer Don tells me our okra is finally starting to set fruit and he anticipates small numbers being available for Week 10.  We continue to watch our broccoli closely and the plants are large and beautiful, but still no heads being formed.  Cucumbers have been slow to set fruit as well and we are uncertain what the future harvest will be. 

As most of you know, each year we raise pigs in our abandoned apple orchard.  Over the years, I have really learned to like pigs.  Each year our small herd of pigs seems to have a unique personality.  We feed the pigs seconds produce from the farm and this year's pigs really like greens.  They also seem to really like taking a stroll and we have been struggling with getting our fencing set so they cannot escape.  This was very evident the other morning.

Farmer Don and I were watching the morning news while finishing our second cups of coffee and discussing the day when our phone rang.  An early morning phone call is often not a good sign.  This particular morning it was our neighbors.  It seems eight of our pigs were happily rooting around in their front yard.  Not a good call at all!  Farmer Don put on his boots and he and the dogs headed out across the field to fetch the pigs.  Rosie, our Border Collie, who is bred to herd and gather animals, took one look at the pigs, decided chaos was about to happen and retreated quickly to the safety of our porch.  Shady, our mixed breed, typical farm dog, showed her loyalty to Farmer Don and stayed close to his side, ready and willing to help.  Lucky for us the pigs seem to have bonded with Farmer Don and he was able to basically lead them, with the help of Shady and our neighbors back to their fenced area.  Now when the pigs go for what seems to be their daily stroll, Farmer Don carries a pan and stick with him.  He beats on the pan with the stick and the pigs follow him back home.  A bit like the Pig Pied Piper.  Rosie stills feels her role in pig herding is to watch from the safety of the porch. And Shady, our pig herder, eagerly helps Farmer Don by bringing up the rear and making sure the pigs continue to move along.  So if you visit our farm, don't be surprised if you see a pig parade being led by Farmer Don and his pan drum, with Shady bringing up the rear.

The sun is setting, supper is over and I need to finish the newsletter and move on to cleaning up the kitchen. 

As always, thank you for your continued support of us and our small sustainable family farm.

Be safe, be well and enjoy those veggies.  (and this cooler weather!)

Pigs resting up for a stroll!

Thursday, August 13, 2020

2020 Week 8 Newsletter


Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!

Welcome to Week 8 of our CSA.  Week 8 is not an egg week.  Ordering for Week 9 is now underway.

Pennsylvania weather this summer is even more diverse than ever.  On farm we are in dire need of rain, in spite of receiving over an inch and a half of rain from Tropical Storm Isaias.  However some areas very close to us received over three inches of rain last Friday morning when a strong thunderstorm swept through the area.  And areas in Southeastern Pennsylvania are experiencing almost daily severe thunderstorms and flash flood warnings.  This is in addition to the eight plus inches of rain some of these areas received from Isaias.

The dry weather on farm has been really good for one weed, oops I mean crop, which is growing beautifully here on farm.  Purslane.  Farmer Don claims we are growing the best purslane we have had in years.  Purslane is a very interesting plant which most of you would recognize.  It looks a bit like a jade plant and loves dry weather.  Purslane is also a bit of a nutritional powerhouse.  It is one of the few plant sources for the heart healthy Omega-3 fatty acids we hear so much about and is rich in potassium, magnesium and Vitamin A.  Purslane has a tart flavor and the leaves and tender parts of the stems are a good addition to salads or can be added to soups.  Purslane pairs very well with cucumbers in traditional cucumber yogurt salad.

As I think many of you know, I was a raised in a family where summertime activities (including eating!) revolved around a large vegetable garden.  My sisters and I all have continued this tradition.  This year my one sister claims her garden has become a sci-fi horror film.  What?  She tells me she has huge green worms with a horn for a tail devouring her tomato and pepper plants.  Whenever I call to talk with her, Farmer Phil, tells me his Mom out "picking worms".  She diligently exams her plants several times a day and picks off any hornworms and feeds them to the chickens.  Yes, my sister's garden has been invaded by tomato hornworms.  Don't tell my sister, but I actually kind of like hornworms.  They are a magnificent large green caterpillar with a prominent horn for a tail.  The adult of the hornworms are actually hawk or hummingbird moths.  See why I say I kind of like hornworms?  How can you not like hummingbird moths and giant green caterpillars!  Ok, ok, because they are so large, the caterpillars can be very destructive, eating an entire branch of a mature tomato plant in one night.  If you find your garden invaded by hornworms, the best defense really is hand picking them.  But if you see a hornworm with what appears to be white oval projectiles attached to its body, don't kill it.  These white projectiles are actually really tiny parasitoid wasp cocoons.  These wasps are good guys and once they emerge from their cocoons, they will find other hornworms to invade.  A biological control example at its finest! 

Sorry, I have once again slipped into Entomologist mode! 

Thankfully we are not seeing the defoliation on our tomatoes that my sister is and therefore, tomatoes should continue to be available.  Peppers are starting to be available.  We do not have summer squash or zucchini right now for harvest, but we have more planted and with any luck we will be able to harvest from these plants before the season ends.  Cabbage should be coming on soon.  And believe it or not fall crops, including winter squash, will be available before too long.  Not veggies, but you will also see pullet eggs on this week's choice.  Pullet eggs are smaller, but are often prized by bakers.

Ok, this is getting long and the hour is getting late.  Time to start to unwind for the evening.

As always thank you for your continued support of our farm and local sustainable agriculture.

Be safe, be well and enjoy those veggies.

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.