Thursday, October 18, 2018

CSA Week 18 Newsletter

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!

It seems like forever since I have written a newsletter!  I diligently started one most every week, but never got them finished.  So here goes - another try.

CSA Members:  Boxes delivered on Tuesday were Week 17.  Week 17 was an egg week.  Ordering is not open for Week 18.  Week 18 is not an egg week.  After Tuesday's (10/23) delivery of Week 18 boxes, there are 2 weeks remaining in our 2018 CSA season.  


After several false starts, I think we can finally say Fall is here.  Today was windy and chilly and we have had a spotty, but hard frost in our fields.  This means our summer growing season has ended.  We did harvest some crops in anticipation of frost and those crops may remain available in limited numbers.  We do still have greens to harvest and storage crops available.  

Fall on our farm is a time for movement and transition.  In the past few weeks our animals have been on the move.  First Farmer Don "ran the pigs".  Each year we celebrate moving our pigs from the hill behind our greenhouse to our barn with an event we have named "the running of the pigs".  In the past this has been a community event with help coming from friends and neighbors.  This year Farmer Don decided to move the pigs himself and much to my surprise he led them to the barn with little fanfare.  So, our annual event may become "Framer Don's stroll with the pigs".  Stay tuned to see how next year's stroll goes!  

We also moved our turkeys onto grass.  These turkeys are Farmer Don's pet project.  This is our first attempt at raising turkeys and he is having quite the time nurturing them and trying to figure out their behavior.  We have raised chickens for a number of years and have gotten used to how chickens respond to things and in all honesty we thought the turkeys would just be larger chickens and in some ways they are.  But in other ways they are quite different.  For instance, the turkeys are very quiet and not as flighty as the chickens.  Chickens tend to run and scamper and squawk, but for the most part turkeys move more slowly and quietly.  We will have to let you know how our turkeys finish and they may become an annual project.  Not sure we will raise more than "for family", but only time will tell.

A couple of weeks ago Farmers Don, Phil and Joyce took some time off farm for some entertainment.  They hopped on a charter bus in Buckhorn destined for State College to see the Penn State Ohio State football game.  From what I hear they walked all over the parking area, saw some trophies and the band, met up with some old friends and unfortunately saw Penn State lose the game.  This is the second Penn State Ohio State game Farmers Don and Phil have been to and Penn State lost both games.  I don't want to say, but maybe our farmers are not bringing the Lions any luck?  

With our CSA coming to an end, I want to take a few minutes to talk about our Winter Buying Club.  The Winter Buying Club is a program we initially started to extend our season.  This is separate from our CSA buying club.  There is no fee to join the Winter Buying Club and it is a pay as you go system.  You will place an order, like you do for your CSA box.  Then you will meet us at a designated time and location to receive your order.  You make payment when you pick up your order.  Deliveries are Friday night to Bloomsburg, Saturday mornings to Back Mountain and Mountain Top and anytime after 4 on Fridays on farm.  You will need to log onto our website and "purchase" a free Winter Buying Club membership.  Please watch emails for when our buying club will start this season.

Well, the time is getting late and I need to send the dogs out for one last walk.  So, I will say, until next week.  Be safe, be well and enjoy your veggies.  And don't forget to count your blessings.

Farmers Day Off

Saturday, September 22, 2018

CSA Week 13 Newletter

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!

We hope everyone enjoyed their Week 13 boxes.  Ordering is now underway for Week 14 of our CSA.  After Tuesday's delivery, there are 6 weeks remaining in the CSA.  Week 14 is not an egg week.

With the fall equinox knocking on our door, today really feels like fall has arrived.  Cool and cloudy, just what the vegetable diseases ordered!  Every night the local news media seems to be interviewing another farmer who is talking about crop loss due to this year's challenging weather.  I notice the pumpkin fields near us are being harvested, but the plants are near dead from mildew.  This grower is bringing in a harvest, but from the looks of the plants and pumpkins, his harvest is most definitely smaller than he anticipated.  These are the same fields I watched being aerial sprayed with fungicides earlier in the summer.  Watching fields being sprayed by a helicopter is quite a sight and actually a bit scary!  These fields have a power line running down middle.  The pilot would swoop over the field and release the spray.  As he approached the power line, he would abruptly turn the helicopter what seemed to be straight, nose up and pop over the line, only to level it out on the other side.  Not only was this maneuver scary, but also the fact that these fields were being sprayed in the middle of the day, beside a busy road and very near houses with laundry hanging on the line and possibly even children playing in the yard!  I remember doing field work for the University of Florida, too many years ago to admit.  Our research plots were on large commercial farms and these growers utilized aerial application for most of their pesticide applications.  The pilots of these planes and helicopters would do a fly over the fields to look for workers and if they spotted anyone in the field, they would continue to circle, getting quite low over our heads, until we left the area.  It was nice to be warned, although a bit unnerving to have a plane or helicopter buzzing you so closely!  In our fields, thankfully, we don't have to worry about being chased out of the fields by aerial applicators! 

As with every year, our fields are a mix of some crops coming to an end and others growing nicely.  , Most of the summer crops have succumbed to disease and weeds.  But we have worked hard to get some plantings of greens going and they are looking good!!  Watch for these greens to become available in the next few weeks.  Mixed baby Asian greens should be available first, followed closely by some arugula.  The Asian greens will be young and tender and therefore can be eaten raw as a salad or lightly sauted or stir fried.  Winter squash varieties continue to be harvested.  Storage crops, including carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and cabbage, should continue to be available through the end of the season.

In our kitchen, last night, we most likely had the last of summer time staple, BLT's.  Although we had to modify the recipe a bit and make BKT's, substituting kale for lettuce. Those of you who know Farmer Phil know that his BLTs are made with bacon, lettuce and toast, as he does not like tomatoes.  He calls the sandwiches with tomato, BLTTs.  So I am thinking, according to Farmer Phil, we had BKTT's for dinner! 

Last week's newsletter talked about counting your blessings.  I do try to spend some time each day counting my blessings and during one of these meditations, I realized I forgot a huge blessing for our farm.  That blessing, is our CSA members and farm friends.  We are so blessed to have a great group of people who support us and our farm.  As I have said in the past, it is you, our community, who keeps up growing.

The clock is telling me Farmer Don will be home from market soon so I will end here.  Have a great week, enjoy the veggies and don't forget to count your blessings.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Week 12 CSA Newsletter

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!!

We hope everyone is enjoying their Week 12 boxes.  Week 12 was not an egg week.  Ordering for Week 13 is now underway and will end Sunday at 6 pm.  Week 13 will be a CHICKEN WEEK.  So, if you purchased a chicken share, please be sure to pick up your chicken with your vegetables next Tuesday.  After next Tuesday's Week 13 delivery, there are 7 weeks remaining in our CSA.

Rain!  Yep it is still raining!  But, as I have said before, time to count our blessings.  Sitting here watching the news coverage of the hurricane and my heart is breaking!  So thankful we are measuring our rain in inches and not in feet, like our friends to the south!  So thankful we are spending this evening in our home and not evacuating.  So thankful we are losing our tomatoes and not our home to the rain and storms.  I could go on...

In the fields, we are muddy!  And yes our tomatoes, unfortunately, are about done for the season, succumbing to disease brought on by this wet weather.  We still have some nice looking green cherry tomatoes on the vine and hopefully this weekend's dry sun will ripen them and keep them from splitting.  Snap beans are also a victim of the rain and are most likely done for the season, but our flat Italian beans are looking good.  Ground cherries are coming on strong.   As summer squash starts to slow a bit, we now have some winter squash available.  Our newly planted greens are up and growing and should be available soon.  We have started to harvest eggplant and hopefully, with a bit of luck, they should be available in greater numbers.

We have a few new additions on farm.  20 turkeys!  A spur of the moment decision, found Farmer Don ordering some turkey poults as an on farm experiment.  We have been raising pastured chickens for quite a while, but this is our first attempt at turkeys.  Right now the baby turkeys are in our barn under a heat lamp, but will eventually move to the field once they get a bit larger and have a few more feathers.  Stay tuned for, what I am sure will be some turkey adventures.  Let's hope the stories don't involve Rosie chasing turkeys around the farm.

The golden rod is blooming, the days are shorter and leaves are changing a bit.  Which means soup season has begun!  Farmer Don spent some time in the kitchen this week making two of my favorites, potato leek soup and a floating biscuit chili/stew.  The leeks were courtesy of Farmer Phil and the soup paired perfectly with grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches.  The chili was recipe found in Shannon Hayes' The Grassfed Gourmet.  I would recommend this book to anyone cooking/eating grassfed meats.  Shannon Hayes is a grass farmer, homemaker and homeschooler in New York State and is one of my favorite authors, bloggers and speakers.  Her website is

I need to wrap this up, as Farmer Don is ringing the dinner bell.  Tacos tonight made with Dancing Hen Farm ground pork.
Thanks, as always, for your support of our small family farm.  And remember to count your blessings.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

2018 CSA - Halfway notes from the Farmer

2018 CSA - Halfway notes from the Farmer
Fri, 31 Aug 2018
Hi Friends,
I'm taking a few minutes out of my market harvest day to share my thoughts with you as we move into the second half of our CSA season.
Number one, I want to thank everyone for all the support, thoughts and prayers sent our way as we worked to provide you with the first half harvest of what has been easily our most challenging season to date.
Number two, I want to reassure everyone we are working hard to have a successful second half of the season. (If Mother Nature will abide) As you all know we share the risk with you when it comes to sharing our harvest. We always do our best to provide you with the freshest, most nutritious vegetables we can, as well as animals raised in a natural environment. This past Tuesday, with the heat index well above 100 degrees , we seeded fall crops for future harvest. Today, I'm excited to see the damp conditions which will really help with germination. Our tomatoes, squash, cantalope and winter squash have all been affected by mildew. I'm hoping we will be able to harvest fruit prior to the plants' demise. The fruit on the vines look good, so I'm thinking a harvest will happen and continue. Lot's of okra coming on, so get ready for that. Also, my apologies to folks last week for the over call on tomatillos. I got excited to see the fruit, but most of the tommys hadn't filled the husk. But we do have lots to come, so get those salsa verde recipes out. Beans this year have been tough with the weather, but we do have a planting of Italian pole beans which look really nice. Maybe a week or two out. I really like our slicing tomatoes this year, nice round red tomatoes, Sorry to say though that our heirloom tomatoes got wiped out before they even had a chance to get going. We lost over 500 plants over night, the day after planting, to some sort of varmit. My spirit was broken seeing that, with no chance to replant as the timing would not work. But, as we always have we move on, can't dwell on the past. Play the hand you're dealt. Unfortunately you guys are along for the ride.
This week we have been contacted by some very disappointed members. We know the first half has been a struggle and again we are working hard to have a great second half. I will put it out there that if you are unhappy with your share, contact us. We'll do all we can to make right for you. Keep in mind we have ten more weeks of deliveries. Maybe September will turn out to be a beautiful month, that's what I'm feeling as we gear up for the fall.
So, time to wrap up and continue harvest. I'll jump off my soap box with one last thought that I always go back to and that is community. We are the Dancing Hen Farm community through thick and thin. We help each other in times of need, and right now support is what we need. Many, many folks have been affected much worse than us, but we;re feeling the struggle also. Give us your patience and understanding and your support will be rewarded. After this first half of the season, there's nothing left to do but smile, smile, smile....
Be well friends,
Farmer Don

Sunday, August 26, 2018

CSA Newsletter

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!  "Summertime and the living is easy".

CSA members:  Ordering for Tuesday's boxes ends tonight at 6 pm.  This is not an egg week.  We have reached the half way point of our CSA.

First let me apologize for being late getting the week's newsletter out.  I have no real excuse other than life.  Sometimes life seems to make the days fly by and other times one day seems like eternity.
Speaking of flying by.  Can you believe September is knocking on our door?  Schools are starting.  I am seeing lots of golden rod blooming.  The bees are aggressively looking for food.  The days are getting shorter and the mornings cooler.  Yes, fall is coming.  Soon we will pack away our shorts and get out the fleece and sweaters. 

Not ready for fall, not a problems here on farm.  We are still in summer harvest mode.  September tends to be one of our busiest months for harvest.  Summer crops, like zucchini, tomatoes and peppers are still producing well and by the end of the month fall greens and winter squash will be going strong.  Right now, other than crazy weed pressure, our farm is looking fairly good.  Tomatoes are producing nicely, although our plants are showing some disease.  We are harvesting off our last planting of summer squash.  The flat Italian pole beans are growing well and beginning to set tiny beans.  We have started harvesting peppers, okra and tomatillos.  Asian greens are being harvested and other greens are in the ground and we are patiently waiting for them to size up for harvest.

Not ready for fall, take 2.  It seems our weather is also not ready for fall.  The forecast is for hot muggies to return this week.  Highs in the 90's again!  Hopefully the return of the humidity will not bring the never ending rain we had a few weeks ago.  As everyone knows, the Benton area had devastating flooding and more soaking rains are very unwanted right now.  People are still out of their homes due to the water and many, many roads are closed and will most likely remain closed for quite some time.  Seeing the rocks, debris and destruction left behind by the flood waters really puts in perspective the force of this water.  Again, here, at Dancing Hen Farm, we consider ourselves quite lucky.  Other than a washed out road and having to detour a bit to come and go, we have little or no lasting damage.

This week Farmer Don found a surprise in the fields.  On Thursday he went out to harvest a vegetable for our supper and to do a final look at some plots before choice for our CSA members opened up.  And he found Brussels sprouts!  Yep, he came in with a small basket of sprouts for our dinner.  This was a huge find and surprise.  Our Brussels Sprouts were in a plot which was heavily damaged by deer this season.  The deer had actually walked down the row and eaten the top out of every plant.  But, it seems the deer did us a favor.  Something many grower do when growing Brussels Sprouts is to top the plants, or pinch the top, actively growing, part of each plant.  This topping forces the plant to form the round shoots we know as Brussels Sprouts.  So, in reality, we should be thanking, rather than cursing our deer population.  "Thank you deer for helping us grow a nice crop of Brussels Sprouts".  And yes, with some luck, we should have Brussels Sprouts on our choice list in the next few weeks, so get the recipes ready.

Let's see.  The wash is now hanging on the line, my coffee cup is empty and it is lunch time.  I am thinking this is a good time to wrap up the newsletter.

As always, thanks to each of you for your support of our small family farm and local sustainable farms.  Enjoy the veggies and have a great week.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

CSA Week 10 Newsletter

Greetings from soggy Dancing Hen Farm

First some information for our CSA members.  You will need to log on and pick items for Tuesday's box, since last week's picks are no longer valid.  This week will be an egg week and a CHICKEN week.  If you are getting a chicken share, please remember to look for a cooler at your drop site.  Your chicken will be inside the cooler.  Since we canceled last week's delivery, we will add one week to the end of our season to make up for this lost week.  Thank you for your understanding and patience with all of this.

So, I have decided this is the summer it rained, and rained and rained and rained and rained.....  And then it seem to rain again! 

Last Monday these rains were concentrated over our immediate area.  Flash floods raged through fields, yards, houses, and roads and eventually emptied into the Fishing Creek.  The creek then engulfed the town of Benton and charged on towards Bloomsburg.  Anything in the water's path was destroyed and swept along.  Driving around seeing the wide spread destruction and the force this water moved with is unbelievable.  Farmer Don and I feel quite blessed.  We did have a large volume of water running through the farm.  We do have some washouts on farm and on our road, got some water in our basement and lost our power, but compared to some areas, we have little to no lasting damage. 

To all our friends and neighbors dealing with flood waters, please know you are in our thoughts and prayers!  More showers are forecast for the next few days.  Let's hope they don't pack quite the inches of rain these last showers did.

Our fields are wet, very wet, but again we are blessed.  This time blessed to be farming rocky soil on a slope, so most of our fields dry out relatively quickly.  However all this rain, has brought us one of our most challenging growing seasons.  We have had problems getting into our fields to get things planted and once planted crops are not maturing as expected.  The weeds, however, are flourishing!  We are trying our best to get items to you.  We are harvesting some tomatoes right now and should continue to harvest until almost frost, as long as moisture loving diseases don't kill our plants.  Eggplant, peppers and okra are flowering and hopefully will set fruit soon.  Lettuce is growing slowly, as are cooking greens.  Speaking of greens, new this week are limited quantities of Asian greens, including bok choy.  We continue to harvest summer squash and our new planting of squash is coming along nicely.  Believe it or not we are still harvesting some cucumbers!  Beans are starting to mature, including green snap beans, wax beans and flat Dragon beans. 

Remember if you do not choose items for your weekly share, you will still receive a box, a farmer's choice box.  Farmer's choice boxes are sometimes a good bet if you find most of items are "sold out" on our pick list.  Farmer's choice boxes will receive some of our staples (potatoes, onions, etc), but may also includes items just starting to ripen, which are hard for Farmer Don to forecast harvest numbers for.  Farmer's Choice boxes may also include items which were available in greater numbers than Farmer Don predicted.  For instance, we may have more cherry tomatoes ready for harvest than anticipated.  You can also pick some of your items and allow Farmer Don to pick the rest when he packs your box.

Our kitchen has been quiet again, as most of Farmer Don's free time is spent dealing with opportunities as they arise on farm and I am still getting my strength back.  We have started some of our summer time  favorite traditions, including BLT's and Farmer Don's fresh pico de gallo.  Also, each weekend we cook chicken, which easily feeds us for 2, if not 3 meals.  This week we topped some pasta with leftover chicken combined with a quick sauce of sungolds and garlic.  I really like to either roast or quickly pan fry cherry tomatoes.  The quick heat, really intensifies their flavor!

Speaking of dinner and favorites, Farmer Don and the dogs just came in from the heat and tonight we are having BLT's, so I need to get the bacon cooking!

Until next week.  Be safe, be well, enjoy those veggies and don't forget to count your blessings.