Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Helping Mommy with the plants.


Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!

Welcome to Week 18 of our 2020 CSA.  This is the final delivery for this year's CSA.  Last week, Week 17 was an egg week.  This week, Week 18, is not an egg week. 

A special note to Chicken Share Members:  We will be in touch with you personally to talk about the final delivery.  Our last batch of chickens have not sized up yet, so we were unable to deliver them with this week's final CSA delivery.  Stay tuned for further updates.

Sorry for missing last week's newsletter.  Life got a bit complicated last week and I honestly did not have the opportunity to sit down and even scribble out a short newsletter.  And I have to confess, I was secretly hoping Farmer Don would return as newsletter author for the end of this season.  But, it seems you are stuck with the Farmer's wife again.

After some cool temperatures over the weekend, it looks like warm weather is returning for a few days.  We bottomed out at 26 this weekend, so now our growing season is officially over.  Today is a beautiful spring/early summer day, only it is October!   Time to savor every sunny warm day and save up this feeling for those long grey winter days still to come.

Life with Dilly Bean continues to be a daily adventure here at Dancing Hen Farm.  This week she managed to drink Farmer Don's coffee!  And Farmer Don couldn't understand why she was a wild woman that morning!  And now she knows any mug or glass has a treat for Dilly and the possibility of a giant Dilly mess to be made.  And now we know all glassware needs to be kept well out of Dilly's reach.  We are learning most everything needs to be kept well out of Dilly's reach!  Last night while Farmer Don was packing boxes she managed to steal a dozen eggs and smash them all over the floor.  For this trick Dilly was rewarded with a squirt from the hose and a puppy time out.  Eggs are a precious commodity here on farm, so Dilly's little devilish deed meant Farmer Don had to head to the chicken house before sunrise and gather another dozen eggs for pack.  One of our customer's has Dilly to thank for a really fresh dozen eggs.

As I have done in other newsletters this year, I want to again thank everyone for the support.  2020 has not been an easy year for us or the farm.  It has been so nice to know we have such a supportive community rallying around our farm.  So thanks to each of you for your support, your understanding and your compassion. 

Please watch your email for the start up of our fall/winter buying club.  For now, Farmers Don and Phil will be at the Back Mountain Market at the Dallas High School starting at 9 am.  We will have eggs, some veggies and pastured pork for purchase.

I will continue to keep everyone updated on farm activities, but not as frequently as our summer weekly newsletters.

Thank you again and in the words of Farmer Don: "be safe, be well and enjoy those veggies".


Saturday, October 10, 2020

2020 CSA Week 16 Newsletter

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!

Welcome to Week 16 and a half of our CSA.  Week 16 was not an egg week. After last week's delivery there are 2 weeks remaining in our 2020 CSA.

The weather has been really beautiful lately!  Well, beautiful in the sense of nice fall days, but the lack of rain is not a good thing.  We are hoping that Tropical Storm Delta will bring us some soaking showers on Monday.  We need several days of soaking rain to even start to replenish our deficient water table, but even one day with rain will be a welcome sight. 

I have to apologize for this newsletter being so late.  I had been so proud of myself this season and getting newsletters sent out in a timely fashion.  But, that was before a Canine Terrorist moved to Dancing Hen Farm.  This little brown and black terrorist has teeth as sharp as needles and nails sharper than our barn cats!  Yes, Dilly is settling in and true to puppy form is ruling the farm right now.  Silly Dilly evokes images of a goofy little puppy full of puppy cuteness.  Oh she has plenty of puppy cuteness, but this cuteness is intermixed with a hyper active energy level which rivals an Irish Setter I grew up with. 

The other morning, while I was still upstairs getting dressed for the day, I could hear Farmer Don having a round with our little devil, err I mean angel!  Farmer Don is one of the most patient people I know, so if he was raising his voice, something was up.  When I made it down the steps, I found newspapers strewn from one end of the house to the other.  It seems Dilly found our wooden box of papers for recycling.  She decided the best game in town was to grab an entire section and run with it, allowing it to flutter and flap behind her like angel wings!  She would then stop and chew on the paper a bit, making spitballs any teenage boy would be jealous of.  As Farmer Don cleaned up spitball messes, she would dart back to the box, grab another section to start the game again.  The more Farmer Don said "no", the wider Dilly's grin got and the faster she ran with her angel wings.  So much for positive reinforcement training!  We managed to corner her and gave her a time out!  That paper box has been in the same spot for years and neither Rose or Shady were ever even curious about it!  Needless to say Dilly is keeping us busy.  Right now Dilly is laying innocently enough on my foot chewing her kong, only I know from experience, it is only a matter of minutes before she moves from chewing her kong to chewing my foot!

In the kitchen, Farmer Don has been using up tomatoes to make large batches of pico de gallo.  This fresh salsa is a true seasonal item and always a farm favorite.  I just need to watch that he doesn't make it too hot!  We have plans to make some sauerkraut soon.  I miss having fresh lacto fermented foods to eat.  Farmer Don and I both need to build up our gut health, so the sauerkraut will be a good start.  My sister and I also still have plans for some applesauce canning this fall.  Applesauce is a favorite between our two houses.  Speaking of apples, Farmer Don and I also need to make some apple crisp!  Another favorite!  Farmer Don likes his crisp with ice cream, but I like mine with just a bit of milk.  Apple crisp with milk was often how we ate apple crisp when I was growing up.

Between chasing a new puppy, we are still finding time to prepare for the upcoming winter.  I have been getting plants ready to bring inside to overwinter and Farmer Don has been shutting down irrigation systems and harvesting the last of our fall crops.  We are ready for the slower pace of fall and winter.  Hopefully the slower pace will allow for some rejuvenation of our energies and also allow some time for puppy training. 

So, I will end here with a vow to get this newsletter out before Sunday.  It may be late Saturday night, but it WILL be before Sunday!

Thanks again to everyone for their continued support!

Be safe, be well and enjoy those veggies!


Tuesday, September 29, 2020


Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!  Welcome to autumn, Welcome October and Welcome new farm member Dilly Bean!

Welcome to Week 15 of our CSA.  After this week's delivery there are 3 weeks remaining in our CSA.  Week 15 is an egg week.  This week is also a Chicken Delivery week, so please remember to pick up your chicken at your drop site.

We are finally getting a bit of rain here on farm.  Saturday's rain was a bit of a surprise. Farmer Don was at the Back Mountain Market and did not expect and therefore was not prepared for rain,  but he is not complaining.  Rain is a welcome sight this year! The forecast is for possible significant rain today and tonight.  This rain is too late for our summer crops and too late for our neighbors' corn and soybean crops.  However any rain will help with replenishing our water table. 

Can you believe we are welcoming October this week?  And have you noticed the trees are starting to change.  Almost overnight there are bursts of red and gold!  Farmer Don and I like to observe the local microclimates this time of year.  For instance the trees in Bloomsburg and Berwick are not nearly as far along as those up here in Northern Columbia and I am sure further north the colors are really getting brilliant!  We are hoping to maybe take a little drive this week and do some leaf peeping.  However, our new farm member, may keep us closer to home!

So never, ever did I think this soon after losing both our girls would I be writing about bringing a new puppy into our family.  But, that is exactly what I am doing!

We were not certain we were ready for another dog, but then Silly Dilly Bean stole our heart.  She was an owner surrender to a veterinary hospital.  Dilly is a 3 month old small mixed breed, we are still trying to determine the mix?  One thing for certain, she is all puppy!  We have not had a puppy on farm for quite some time and that puppy was Rosie.  Being a Border Collie, Rosie had her own unique way of being a puppy.  But, Dilly is very much a typical puppy.  Full of energy and sass.  Dilly is slowly learning her name and to potty outside.  She still does not understand why she can't chew up the afghan on the couch or our shoes.   Dilly loves to steal things and run around trying to get us to chase her.  We try not to play her game, but sometimes we do not have a choice.  Today, she stole a bottle of cooking oil off a shelf in the kitchen and came running through the living room with it.  I envisioned a large oil spill on the rug and then a squirmy puppy getting saturated with oil and running throughout the house!  Luckily Farmer Don was able to wrestle the bottle from her before she put a hole in the bottle with her razor sharp puppy teeth and before the lid popped off!  Dilly will definitely be keeping us busy and I am sure I will have many more Dilly stories to share with everyone!  I want to thank Ashley and all the staff at the Sunbury Animal Hospital for taking such good care of Dilly.  The care, love and training she received at this facility is very evident. 

The slower pace of fall and winter is starting to take over the farm.  Soon, all of our fields will be empty of crops.  Animal chores will, of course, continue.  We have one more batch of meat birds finishing now and we still have our pigs in the orchard.  With the pigs need for a daily walk around the neighborhood, they have not gained weight as quickly as we had hoped.  Therefore we don't anticipate them going to market until sometime in November.  If you are interested in freezer pork meat, please contact us at the farm for details.  

I want to take a moment to thank everyone for your support over the deaths of Shady and Rosie.  The cards and messages we received made us realize we and the farm, have built a good community of people.  As Farmer Don always says the CSA (and the farm in general) is about community.

With that I will end for this week.  Please, be well, be safe and enjoy those veggies! 

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

2020 CSA Week 14 Newsletter


Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!

Welcome to Week 14 or our 2020 CSA.  Week 14 is not an egg week.  After this week's delivery there are 4 weeks remaining in our CSA.  Next week will be a chicken week, so don't forget to bring your cooler to your pick up site.

And suddenly it was Fall!  Here on farm we have had temperatures below freezing the past 4 mornings, including 2 mornings with temperatures in the 20's.  This means our summer growing season has pretty much come to an end.  We have been working very closely with 3 other farms this season and like us they lost most of their summer crops to these cold temperatures.  Some crops are protected under row covers and plastic, so we are hoping to continue to bring in limited harvests of a few select crops.  These cold morning temperatures are almost a month earlier than predicted.  This week you will see some substitutions due to crop loss from the freeze.  Most notably, cherry tomato season has ended for 2020.  Our plants and our cooperative growers' plants were all killed by the freeze and none of us had the time or man power to harvest prior to the cold temperatures.  Some tomatoes were harvested prior to the frost and are in cool storage, so hopefully some of these will continue to be available.  So, we are again asking for your patience as we continue navigate this challenging growing season.  As I have said in the past this has by far been our most difficult production year.  What does this mean to the CSA?  You will see a sharp drop in the variety of crops available as we will be forced to scramble to fill boxes with cold hardy greens and storage crops.  As Farmer Don often says, "Mother Nature bats last".   Thank you for your understanding and patience.

Never ever did I imagine I would be writing two good bye newsletters on back to back weeks, but that is the reality of this past week.

It is with great sadness that I have to tell you about the loss of another true keeper of our farm.  This week our beloved dog, Shady, followed her sister and crossed over the rainbow bridge.  Like Rose, we knew Shady was ill, but she had been doing really well the past month.  It is almost as if she held on to support us and Rosie.   Shortly after we moved to this farm, Shady appeared at our house on one fall day as a stray.  We tried to locate her family, but it soon became evident she was a member of our family.  As my Mom used to say "Shady chose you!".  Shady was our happy dog, happy just to be with us, laying at our feet or with her head resting in our lap.  Shady really loved the farm and the farm loved Shady.  She loved to hunt frogs in our pond.  To Shady, hunting frogs consisted of staring them down.  But, most of all, Shady loved Farmer Don and faithfully followed him around for farm chores and field work.  She soon learned she could ride on the seat of our buggie and she and Farmer Don could often be seen enjoying a crop "walk" with Shady safely tucked onto the seat next to Farmer Don.  As with Rose there are so many Shady stories I could share and many I have shared over the years.  Instead, I will simply say "Shady Marie Magillicutty the farm is just not the same without you, you are missed greatly.  Please look after your sister and may it forever be "Shady's din din time".  Until we meet again my love."

So on this sad note, we are trying to move on with our 2020 season.  Times have certainly changed this past year and as I am sure many of you will agree, we are more than ready for a better 2021!

Thank you again for your support and understanding.  All of you are a part of our farm family and you are helping us heal and move forward.

Be safe be will and enjoy those veggies.


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.