Tuesday, February 13, 2018

News and Buying Club is Open for this weekend.

Hi Friends!
It is nice to touch base with our community once again! Thoughts, prayers and well wishes really helped us through a rough stretch there. After a ten day hospital run, we have Joan back home and starting to feel somewhat better. Just to be home means so much. Still a long road to go as we push for a healthier life. Thank you for all the support out there, it meant and means the world to us!
So, with the boss home and feeling better, the farmer has opened the buying club for orders this weekend, Friday Feb. 16th and Saturday Feb. 17th. Hopefully the weather will cooperate and allow us to deliver the goods.
Around the farm we are starting to feel the need to get up and going. The seed house is up and running, the germination chamber is full and excitement is building for the 2018 growing season. Many vegetables growing in the seed house right now, including scallions, lettuce, spinach, kale, celery, parsley with more kale and broccoli in the warm germination chamber. As a bonus, many cut flower varieties are in the germination chamber also, had some seeds so we'll give the flowers a run. Two weeks and we'll be into March, a big month for growers, a month that can be spring like or winter like such as last year with the big snow dump in the middle of the month. Oh well, just a wait and see situation. In the mean time we learn from our issues last winter to improve systems this winter. Always learning, always changing, always growing!
Another thanks to everyone who has signed up for 2018 CSA. I will be adding the early sign up members to the website soon. But in the mean time, thanks again for the support, tell your friends, Dancing Hen Farm is open for 2018 sign ups and come out and say hi at our buying club sites.
BE WELL FRIENDS!
Farmer Don

CSA is Open Alive and Well

Hi Friends!
Just a quick couple of notes here. Number one - thank you to all our friends who have signed up for 2018 and are continuing the journey into sustainable agriculture with us! Knowledge and experience grow each year we are able to share the harvest with our friends and supporters! As I've said many time in the past, we couldn't do it with out you!!
Speaking of knowledge, I'm off to Hershey next week for the annual Fruit and Growers Convention. Many applicable workshops and of learning to be had. Looking forward to catching up with some of my grower friends and sharing notes and ideas to keep the wheels rolling.
The farm is enjoying the break from the really cold weather a few weeks back. This has allowed us to start up the seed house. Had to tweak the germination chamber a little, and will continue to do this until I'm really happy with the system, but boy it's fun these sunny days to be out in the "farmer Don man cave" with seeds, warm soil, barn cats, the dogs coming and going, bluegrass on the juke box, and dreams of fresh veggies around the corner. Next up is get one of the seed tables set up so farmer Joan and farmer Don can play some cards out in the cave.
And also I need to send a thanks out to all the support Farmer Joan has received from our community in the past few weeks. Can't say how much this means to us here on the farm to know we're not alone as we go through a small rough patch. Keep your good vibes, prayers and well wishes coming our way as we can feel these raise us up in tough times. Again, friends it's all about community!! And from us, love, hugs and good wishes are bouncing back to all of you! Be well!
Finally, I can announce that we are up and running for 2018 CSA sign ups. Right now early bird discounts end on the 31st but I may extend this into February. Gotta consult with the brains behind the organization to get her approval!
Time to poach some salmon and put it over some salad, simple dinner but good. Chicken fried rice worked well last nice, and hey we have some nice chicken ready to go so stay in touch with the buying club.
Thanks again for the support, be well,
Farmer Don

Sunday, January 28, 2018

2018 CSA is OPEN, Alive and Well!

Hi Friends!
Just a quick couple of notes here. Number one - thank you to all our friends who have signed up for 2018 and are continuing the journey into sustainable agriculture with us! Knowledge and experience grow each year we are able to share the harvest with our friends and supporters! As I've said many time in the past, we couldn't do it with out you!!
Speaking of knowledge, I'm off to Hershey next week for the annual Fruit and Growers Convention. Many applicable workshops and of learning to be had. Looking forward to catching up with some of my grower friends and sharing notes and ideas to keep the wheels rolling.
The farm is enjoying the break from the really cold weather a few weeks back. This has allowed us to start up the seed house. Had to tweak the germination chamber a little, and will continue to do this until I'm really happy with the system, but boy it's fun these sunny days to be out in the "farmer Don man cave" with seeds, warm soil, barn cats, the dogs coming and going, bluegrass on the juke box, and dreams of fresh veggies around the corner. Next up is get one of the seed tables set up so farmer Joan and farmer Don can play some cards out in the cave.
And also I need to send a thanks out to all the support Farmer Joan has received from our community in the past few weeks. Can't say how much this means to us here on the farm to know we're not alone as we go through a small rough patch. Keep your good vibes, prayers and well wishes coming our way as we can feel these raise us up in tough times. Again, friends it's all about community!! And from us, love, hugs and good wishes are bouncing back to all of you! Be well!
Finally, I can announce that we are up and running for 2018 CSA sign ups. Right now early bird discounts end on the 31st but I may extend this into February. Gotta consult with the brains behind the organization to get her approval!
Time to poach some salmon and put it over some salad, simple dinner but good. Chicken fried rice worked well last nice, and hey we have some nice chicken ready to go so stay in touch with the buying club.
Thanks again for the support, be well,
Farmer Don

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Final Fall CSA delivery and Buying Club News

Greetings from a cold and windy Dancing Hen Farm!
 
CSA Members:  Tuesday's delivery, Week 8, was the final delivery for our Fall CSA.  Week 8 was not an egg week.  Thanks to each of you for your support!

Winter Buying Club:  We will be delivering for the winter buying club this weekend.  Ordering is now open and ends tomorrow, Thursday, morning at 5 am.  This will be the last buying club delivery until after the New Year.

This weekend we will also be doing a market at The Whole Life Center for Health on Route 309 in Drums from 1 to 4 pm.  Farmer Don will be there selling some organic produce, pasture raised chicken, apple orchard pork and CSA Shares for 2018.  If the weather allows he will also be grilling and handing out samples.  We will be discounting our 2018 CSA memberships for this market only.  If you pay in full (on Saturday, at the Whole Life Center) you will receive a $50 discount!  This is on top of our early bird discount and returning member discounts.  We will donate $25 of each discount to the Valley Food Pantry.  Come on by on Saturday, learn about the Whole Life Center, say hello to Farmer Don and pick up some locally produced goods.

It looks like cold weather has arrived!  On farm, we have only received a dusting of snow, but today the temperature is struggling to reach the 20's and the wind is howling.  But, a quick check of the weather shows, temperatures returning to the 40's by the beginning of next week.  It is hard to believe that in just about a week we will be celebrating the Winter Solstice.  The Winter Solstice is marked by the shortest day of the year, but more importantly is also means days will start getting longer!  Yes, longer!  I know there are many, many weeks of winter weather and snow still ahead for this winter, but longer days already brings joy and hope for an early spring.

On farm, we are preparing for the holidays.  Our Christmas tree is up and decorated and the house gets more festive each day.  Our Christmas tends to be very low key, quiet time at home.  This week brought our annual hanging of the barn wreath.  Thanks to Stacy, this year, for her wreath building talent!  Farmer Don has started baking cookies, chocolate chip, of course.  Unfortunately he needs to bake them frequently, as one batch tends to only last a few days in our house! 

We will be announcing the opening of our 2018 CSA in the next week.  For 2018 we will be offering a Summer Season Share of 20 weeks.  Add on egg and chicken shares will also be available.  We will be limiting the number of CSA shares available this year to 75 members.  Egg and chicken shares  and buying club options will also be limited.  Please note:  Memberships are reserved in order by which payment is received.  Watch your email for 2018 CSA registration opening and details.
I want to take a bit of time to talk about our buying club options, as this is a bit confusing.  We offer 2 different buying clubs.  One is our Winter Buying Club.  This is a stand alone buying club and is free to join and no deposit is required.  With this buying club, you will need to purchase a free Buyer's Club membership and you will need to place your order online using our website.  We meet members with orders at a designated spot and designated time on Friday night or Saturday depending on the location.  Orders are paid for at the time of pick up.  Our other buying club is offered to CSA members.  This CSA buying club is offered to allow CSA members to purchase additional items to be delivered with their weekly boxes.  The CSA buying club does require a deposit.  Your orders will be deducted from this deposit.  As always, if you have questions concerning the buying clubs, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Farmer Don has, once again, been the resident chef. Over the weekend he made a really delicious pork roast with sauerkraut.  Pork and sauerkraut is one of my favorite meals, so it is always a  winner for me. Even if he did serve it with roasted, rather than mashed potatoes!  We will repeat this meal for a traditional New Year's Day meal.  We once again have chicken to eat. For most of the season we had been sold out of chicken and this included the extra chicken we produced for ourselves!  It is nice to bring chicken back into our rotation of proteins.  There is nothing like a Sunday dinner of roast chicken!

Well, the hours is getting late and my creative juices are succumbing to sleep, so I need to end this newsletter and move on to a cup of herbal tea and bed.
  

Be well, be safe and have a joyous holiday season.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Fall CSA Week 7 Newsletter

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!  We hope everyone had a very Happy Thanksgiving!

I apologize for not being on top of newsletters recently. 

CSA members:  This is week 7.  Week 7 is an egg week.  There is ONE week remaining in our 8 week Fall/Winter CSA.

Winter Buying Club Members:  There will be NO buying club delivery this weekend.  Currently our plans are to resume deliveries next week.

Farmer Don and I spent a quiet Thanksgiving on farm.  We had an invitation to travel a bit south of here and join my nephew and his family for dinner.  However farm chores kept us close to home.  We still have a batch of meat birds on pasture which are requiring quite a bit of attention to keep them in food and water.  We did take time during our meal to be thankful that most of the food we were enjoying was produced on our farm or neighboring farms.  We have so much to be thankful for, including easy access to locally produced, nutrient dense food.

Here on farm we are slowly shifting to winter mode.  This week we will shut our irrigation down until next spring.  We had already drained most of the system, but some of the buried lines to the greenhouses and lower fields have remained open.  With cooler temperatures predicted for this weekend, we will need to drain and shut down the entire system to prevent freezing of our pump and above ground outlets.  This will increase our workload as we will now have to haul water from the house to keep plants and animals watered.  Speaking of animals, the shorter days and cooler temperatures have caused our chickens to decrease their egg production.  Our barn cats, on the other hand, have increased their production. Their production of fur that is!  Two of our barn cats have long hair and it always amazes me how much fluffier they become during the winter. Come spring this same fluff will fall off in big clumps.
 
This past weekend Farmer Don and I spent a few hours planning for next season.  We are finalizing our plans for the 2018 CSA.  It is hard to believe this will be our 11th year of production on this farm.  We are still (and probably always will be) tweaking systems.  And, again this year, we will make some changes to our CSA.  This past season, we tried a slightly new approach to our CSA.  We shortened our main/summer CSA and added an extended Fall CSA.  We feel our fall harvest has been a mixed level of success.  Although storage crops are looking good, many of our greens did not survive a hard early November freeze.  For this reason, we are going back to a slightly longer Summer CSA, with, at this time, no commitment for a Fall season.  Later in the summer or early fall of next year we will make a final decision on extending the CSA.  In addition, we will be limiting the CSA to 75 members and we will be limiting the number of egg shares we sell.  Watch for an upcoming email announcing details for our 2018 season and when registration can begin.

In the kitchen, I am making a bit of an early New Year's resolution.  I am committed to making bone broths on a regular basis.  For years, I saved all of our bones and vegetable scraps to make broth and I always had a supply of homemade broth in the fridge and in the freezer.  Recently, I have gotten out of this habit.  But, when I cooked down our turkey carcass and tasted the delicious nutrient packed broth, I knew I needed to put the stock pot to use more often!

Speaking of the kitchen, the dishes are not washing themselves!  I will end this newsletter and here and move onto getting the kitchen in order.

Thanks, once again for everyone's support and please watch your email for details of our 2018 season.



Monday, November 13, 2017

Fall Week 4 Newsletter and Buying Club Open

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!

CSA Members:  This is Week 4 of our Fall CSA.  Week 4 is not an egg week.  Thank you for your patience with last week's ordering.  Last Thursday was a hectic one here on farm.  More on this below.

Buying Club Members:  The buying club will be open for deliveries this weekend.  We should have eggs, veggies, chicken and 2017 Dancing Hen Farm Apple Orchard Pork is now available.  Ordering begins tomorrow, Tuesday, morning at 5 am and ends Thursday morning at 5 am.

The weather first, of course.  The end of last week brought "January in November" to Pennsylvania, including our farm.  The lowest temperature, for us, was Saturday morning when we awoke to a low of 12.  Not bad, considering we had mentally prepared for single digit lows!  I am not sure a vegetable farmer can ever physically prepare for temperatures in the single digits, but mentally we were prepared to lose most everything in our fields and even our unheated greenhouse.  As we expected, we did lose our sungold tomatoes in the greenhouse, but not a bad sungold season, considering we were picking them up until the first week of November!  We were able to cover some of our field grown greens and were pleasantly surprised to find that many survived.  We also were able to harvest and store other greens and some celery.  What this means to our members, is that greens will continue to be available in smaller quantities.

Last Thursday was a crazy day on farm!  As we were scrambling to harvest and cover what was left in our fields, another annual Dancing Hen Farm was also occurring.  The annual running of the pigs.  Those who have followed us for years know that each summer our pigs spend their days high on a hill in an apple orchard.  They have a great life, lounging under the trees, eating fallen apples, rooting for bugs and roots, and wallowing in their personal mud hole.  Each fall we move (or run) the pigs from the apple orchard down to the barn.  Every group of pigs has a slightly different dynamic and therefore some years the running is easier than other years.  This year the pigs were not completely cooperative, but we did get them to the barn without too many issues.  However the real issues were only beginning.  On farm, Thursday was a day of drizzle and rain, resulting in wet grass and mud.  These wet conditions caused the livestock trailer (and its truck) to become stuck in our yard.  After multiple attempts involving winches, tractors and trucks, the trailer was still stuck.  Finally it was decided we would try Plan B (or was that Plan D or J or maybe even M?) and the trailer was moved downhill across the yard and out onto the road.  It was then backed down a firmer path and a corral was built using gates and vehicles between the barn and the trailer and the pigs were pushed onto the trailer.  And the mud bogging began again!  Yep, trailer stuck!  One truck stuck and another truck sliding sideways towards the greenhouse.  Finally trucks were used to pull other trucks, quiet returned to the farm and the pigs were on their way!  I want to personally thank everyone who helped us this year -- it was muddy, wet and frustrating, but the mission was accomplished! 

Most years the running of the pigs represents a slowing of farm activity.  We start to slowly transition into winter mode. This year that is not the case. We are slowing down a bit, but our Fall CSA is keeping us quite busy.  The Fall CSA is about half the size of our Summer CSA, but Farmer Don is doing all the harvest and pack for the Fall CSA himself.  We also are experimenting with a late batch of pastured chickens, so we still have animals in the fields needing care.  With the recent turn of weather to winter, we turned off our irrigation to avoid frozen pipes and now all water for the chickens (broilers and egg layers) must be hauled from the house (and chicken waters thawed when temperatures are too low).  We are thinking the winter slowing will happen around the New Year!

Speaking of the New Year.  We will be opening registration for our 2018 CSA soon.  Watch your email for an announcement in the next few weeks.  As with past years, we anticipate offering returning member discounts and early bird discount for members registering and paying for their shares before the first of the year.  Again, watch for an upcoming email with discount details.  Egg shares and chicken shares will also be available for 2018.

I want to take a moment for a bit of a public service announcement.  I know I have talked about this in the past, but I want to revisit the topic.  Please if you have a pet or animal which you do not wish to take care of, do not drop these animals at rural properties thinking they will be taken care of.  Realize that most farms and country properties have all the animals and pets they need or can support.  Also realize that you could be jeopardizing the animals you are dropping.  Kittens, for example, are extremely vulnerable to being attacked (and yes killed) by other cats, dogs, or hawks.  Most animals become territorial and introducing new animals is often not an easy or pleasant process.  Please spay and neuter your pets to avoid unwanted kittens and puppies.
 
Ok this newsletter is getting a bit long.  I type everything into Word and then cut and paste it to our website and blog.  I like to keep newsletters under 2 pages in the Word document and this one is fast approaching and about to go over 2 pages!  For that reason, I will end here!


Have a great week.  Thanks for your continued support!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Fall Week 3 Newsletter and Buying Club Open

Greetings from a snowy Dancing Hen Farm!
CSA members:  This is Week 3 of our Winter CSA.  Week 3 is an egg week.
Buying Club members:  Buying club ordering is NOW open for deliveries this weekend.  Ordering closes at 5 am on Thursday morning.  Look for chicken, eggs, and some veggies on the list this week. 
Looks like a change is in the air.  Today the farm experienced the first snow of the season, with some light accumulation of the white stuff on the grass.  This weekend temperatures are predicted to be around 10.  We will not be surprised to see single digit lows here!  That is a bit cold for the first week of November.  What does that mean for the farm and our crops?  I would say tomato season has officially ended.  Generally our unheated greenhouse will offer protection for tomatoes with temperatures in the mid to upper twenties.  Ten will most definitely bring an end to our sungolds.  Storage crops, for the most part have been harvested and are being stored inside at cellar temperatures, so these crops will be fine.  Farmer Don will spend the next few days covering our greens with row cover and plastic. We have our fingers crossed that the greens will survive, but a lot will depend on how low the temperatures actually fall.  Unfortunately the warm temperatures recently have plants still growing and this will make them more susceptible to freezing.  Stay tuned to next week's newsletter to see how our crops fared.
Farmer Don and I will be missing the sungold tomatoes! We have gotten used to having them around for snacking and adding to salads.  I have to admit it has seemed strange to be picking tomatoes in November!  And I also have to admit, I am ready for some cooler temperatures.  Of course, I may be looking for a return of warmer temperatures come Saturday morning!
As this growing season winds down, we are already planning for our 2018 season.    Currently we are getting ready to open registration for our 2018 CSA.  Please watch your email for when registration will open.  We do anticipate offering an early bird discount again this year.  For us, shorter days and cooler temperatures signal a time for re-energizing.  In the next few months Farmer Don and I will have our annual farm business meeting.  We try to combine this meeting with a shot vacation of sorts, by spending a rare weekend off farm.  Being away from the farm means we are away from distractions and can focus on evaluating this past season and planning for next season.  And the weekend away is not all business, we do take a bit of time to relax.

Sorry for another short newsletter, but it is getting late and I still have not adjusted to the time change, bed is calling me.   Until next week - be safe and be well.