Saturday, November 22, 2014

Frozen Farm News!

Greetings from a frozen Dancing Hen Farm!

Although the weather is predicted to be warmer for the next few days, the damage has already been done.  We and our plants were not ready for January temperatures in November!  We lost most of our greens, even those we had tucked under row cover or growing in our unheated greenhouses.  The kale should be fine.  It will be a bit limp to touch, but will still be oh so sweet and good to eat.

Thanks to all of our buying club members for your understanding and support as we deal with this unprecedented cold!  Some of the items in your most recent orders really showed the effects of the freezing temperatures and other items we were forced to leave off of your orders.

Speaking of the buying club, we will be continuing the buying club on a limited basis in December.  From our farm we will have chicken, eggs, pork and a limited amount of winter squash and kale available.  We will also be offering storage crops from our friends at Landisdale Farm.  These storage items will include Landisdale's famous sweet potatoes, onions, potatoes and hopefully some beets and carrots.  Watch your email for when the buying club is open again.

This cold weather has turned our basement into a greenhouse!  Our unheated plant nursery was full with beautiful transplants when the temperatures took the plunge.  Rather than lose flats and flats of plants, we moved them all into the basement.  These plants are to be planted in our unheated greenhouse.  Every fall we fill our unheated greenhouse with transplants, lettuce, kale, scallions, beet greens.  Once planted, we cover the plants with row cover and allow them to overwinter.  In late February, the days begin to get longer and the plants begin to grow again.  By March we are harvesting greens!  This year, the cold came a bit too early and the soil in our greenhouse is frozen solid!  It does freeze most years, but not in November!  We are hoping to get these plants planted Monday and Tuesday of this week and we will keep our fingers crossed that the weather will stay a bit warmer and they can become established before the next round of temperatures in the teens and single digits.

I also want to thank everyone who has already signed up for our 2015 CSA and for remitting their payments!  It is always so exciting for us to see so many new and returning members sign up for the next year's harvest!  As most of you know, we are now accepting memberships for the 2015 CSA season.  Our CSA runs for 22 weeks and starts around the first week of June.  We offer 2 share sizes and multiple pick-up and delivery options, including home delivery.  Everyone of our CSA members is able to choose exactly which items they receive in their boxes each week.  We also offer egg shares to CSA members.  If you have questions or would like additional information, please feel free to contact us at the farm.

Dinners this past week included a one pot meal Farmer Don made using ribs with roasted winter vegetables.  This was a recipe from the most recent issue of Mother Earth News and boy was it good!  I don't generally think of cooking ribs and serving them almost as part of a stew or soup, but I really would recommend this recipe.  We saved the leftover broth and I will use it to make a vegetable and sausage soup this week.  Here is a link to the recipe  I will keep you posted on how the soup turns out!

Speaking of winter vegetables.  We have these HUGE turnips growing randomly around the farm.  And when I say HUGE, they are HUGE.  Larger than softballs and pushing the size of a bowling ball!  When we first located them we laughed and joked about them and tried to determine where they came from.  We were certain, because of their size they would be strong tasting and woody.  The other week, I harvested one the bigger ones and presented it to Farmer Don.  He cut it open and proclaimed it beautiful!  I was still skeptical, convinced Farmer Don was again bonding with his vegetables a bit too much.  But, after I got done praising him for the rib and vegetable dish, he told me it contained half of his prized turnip!  I had to admit, the turnip was tasty, but I am not sure I can go as far as calling it beautiful!  So, if anyone is in the market for a basketball sized turnip, please contact the farm.

Thursday is Thanksgiving, that means this Tuesday is Forks Farm's Turkey Market.  This market runs from 1 to 6 pm and is always so much fun and very festive!  If you have the time, stop by and pick up some fixings for Thursday's feast.  Farmers Don, Phil and Neil will be behind our table.  Be sure to stop by and say hello!

You know the drill by now.  Once I talk about markets, the newsletter is drawing to an end.  Just in time, as I have two dogs starting to demand dinner!

From all of us here at Dancing Hen Farm, Happy Thanksgiving!  Be safe and be well!

Monday, November 17, 2014

News and Buying Club

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!

Our buying club will be open this week!  Ordering starts tomorrow (Tuesday 11/18 at 5 am) and closes Thursday (11/20) at 5am.  All orders need to be placed online.  If you have not already done so, you will need to register for a Free Winter Buying Club share.  Deliveries will be made to Bloom Naturally Friday night (5:30 to 6 pm)  and Dallas (10-10:30 am) and Forty Fort (11 to 11:30 am) on Saturday.

Yes, the weather, yes I need to say something about this weather.  COLD, that is the word!  The lows are being predicted in the mid to low teens the next few nights.  That is frigid for November!  And obviously not very conducive temperatures for growing vegetables!  Even with protective row covers, we may very well lose many of our plantings.  With more normal winter temperatures, we can harvest protected hardy greens into December.  Only time will tell how crops handle these temperatures and as Farmer Don always reminds us "Mother Nature bats last".

With that being said, a small disclaimer about our buying club selection.  We will do our absolute best to fulfill orders.  There is no reliable way to predict what will be harvestable on Friday.  Farmer Don has done his best to make our availability list reflect what he feels will survive these temperatures.  We may however need to make adjustments come Friday, our harvest day.  You may also see kale become slightly wilted.  This kale is still edible and will be very sweet, but the texture may be altered.

Pork!  Yes, our apple orchard pork will be on the buying club this week.  Look for cured bacon and ham; sweet rope and loose country sausage, chops, and roasts.  We will be selling these products by the pound and will not know final cost until we pack your order and weigh the exact item you are getting.  Farmer Don will list the price per pound in the description of the item and will give you an estimate of how much the pack will weigh.  However your online order total will only reflect .01 for any pork items.  We will have your actual order total when you pick up your order.  If you have questions about this, please contact us at the farm.

We continue to have chicken available as well.  Look for half and whole broiler chickens on the buying club.  Stew hens are also in good supply right now.  I cannot say enough about cooking a stew hen for some nutritious bone broth.  I put stew hens on to cook early in the morning and allow them to cook all day.  There is nothing to compare to coming in from the cold and smelling that simmering broth!  You can use your broth immediately, or refrigerate it of freeze it for later use.  Chicken broth can be canned as well, but you must use a pressure canner to safely can this low acid product.  My adventures with the pressure canner will have to wait for a later newsletter!  Let's just say, I have much better luck freezing broth!

We currently have plenty of eggs available for buying club members.  Stock up now for your holiday baking needs!

Speaking of eggs, we said good bye to one of our roosters this week.  Fancy Pants went to live with Jenn, Ed and family in Shavertown.  He was the rooster for our orchard flock of chickens.  We moved these chickens to the barn for the winter, but he still considered the orchard his home.  Every night he would make his way, alone, back up to the old coop and climb up onto a roost.  We were already worried about how he would interact with our other roosters and didn't want to see him spend a cold winter alone in the orchard.  Jenn and Ed were looking for a rooster for their backyard flock, so the other night Farmer Don picked Fancy off his roost, gently placed him in a box and delivered him to his new home.  He will be missed here, but we think he will be happy with his new small flock of hens.  Farmer Don told me Jenn and Ed's daughters were already taking pictures of him!

Next Tuesday (11/25) is one of my favorite farmer's markets, Fork Farm's Thanksgiving market.  The hours for this market are from 1 to 6 pm.  This is a festive fun market, with everyone shopping and getting ready for Thursday's feast.  We will be at market, but, as always, the weather will dictate what we have available.

Well, it seems my buying club newsletters area taking the same format as my CSA newsletters.  Talk about markets means time to end the newsletter!  So, I will end here!  Stay warm and thank you again for your support.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Week 22 - CSA Newsletter

Welcome to Week 22!  The last delivery for 2014 CSA!

First Farmer Don and I both want to thank each and every member for their support!  It is you, our community, our members and friends of the farm, who enable us to do what we do.  Thank you for allowing us to "share the harvest" with you!

Thank you also to all of our site hosts, our volunteers and our employees.  Without this support system we would not be able to do what we do.  The amount of work which goes on behind the scenes by these individuals is huge.  Their hard work makes it possible for us to get our vegetables, eggs, and chicken to all of you.

Our work and our sharing of the harvest is not over for 2014.  As with last year, we will again be offering a pay as you go winter buying club for as long as the weather allows us to harvest.  This buying club operates a bit differently than the buying club associated with our CSA.  First, we do not drop boxes at central pick up sites or at individual homes.  Instead, we meet customers at designated time, at a designated spot.  The window for ordering is a bit different as well.  Ordering opens on Tuesdays at 5 am and closes on Thursdays at 6 am.  Deliveries are made on Friday night to Bloomsburg and Saturday mornings to Dallas and Forty Fort.  You can pick up on farm as well, anytime after 4 or Friday or anytime on Saturday.  We are still working on establishing a Mountain Top location.  Ordering is currently open for this week's buying club, with deliveries this weekend.  To participate in the buying club, you will need to purchase a free buying club membership.  Also we need to activate your account before you can order.  I try to check the website regularly to activate individuals, but there will be a delay between registering for this option and being able to order.  As always, if you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

We are already planning for 2015.  2015 CSA registration is now open on our website.  We offer a returning member discount and an early bird discount.  To take advantage of the early bird discount, we need to receive payment by December 31, 2014.  As with this year, we will continue to be a full choice CSA.  All members will be able to sign onto our website and choose the exact items they receive in their boxes each week.  We will again offer egg shares, but will most likely be limiting the number of egg shares available.  We are debating a chicken share and will send out an email if and when this option is added. 

I will continue to sent out weekly emails as long as our buying club is operating and periodic emails after that.  If you want to keep up with farm news, we post regularly on facebook ( and to our blog ( 

Boxes!  We will make one last trip to our central pick up sites to collect boxes.  Please try and return any boxes to your pick up site.  We will also accept boxes at our buying club pick ups, the farm or at the Forks Farm Thanksgiving Market. 

Time to say good bye!  Watch your email for farm news!  And as always "be safe, be well and enjoy those veggies"

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

2015 CSA Registration is now open!

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!

Wow multiple communications in one week!  Sorry if I am overloading everyone's InBoxes.  I have a couple of quick farm announcements.

If you remember for the last few newsletters, I have been telling you I would sending out an email once 2015 registration was open.  Yes, you guessed it!  Our website has been updated and online registration for 2015 can begin.  Remember, all CSA members get to choose their items weekly and we offer 2 share sizes, an egg share and multiple drop sites.  As with previous years, we are offering a early sign up and returning member discount.

I also wanted to remind everyone our Winter Buying Club is not open for ordering.  Ordering will end tomorrow morning at 6 and deliveries will be made Friday and Saturday.  We once again have eggs on the buying club and we are featuring stewing hens this week.  This web page contains good information on bone broth and if you page down it has some nice instructions on cooking a stew hen.

As always, if you have questions or need additional information, please do not hesitate to contact us at the farm.

Thanks to each of you for your continued support.  Without you, our farm members and friends, we would not be able to continue to "share our harvest".

Farmer Don and Joan
Dancing Hen Farm

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Running of the Pigs

Tonight was the farm's annual Running of the Pigs!  

Our pigs spend the summer high on the hill in our old apple orchard.  All summer they relax in the shade of the old apple trees, eat fallen apples and root and dig as pigs love to do.  Then come fall, we are faced with the challenge of moving these, now large hogs, off the hill and into our barn.  So, we build a runway and with a silent prayer for success "run" the pigs to the barn.  Farmer Don, equipped with a bucket of feed and apples, starts down the runway first and calls his piggies to follow him.  We follow the pigs with a piece of outstretched plastic.  The pigs see the plastic as a wall, so they keep moving down the hill, rather then moving back to their familiar pasture.  This year was one of our best runs yet!  We need to thank our new neighbors, Mike, Joyce and Phil, for their help. The extra sets of hands were greatly appreciated!


Week 21 - CSA Newsletter

Welcome to Week 21!  Next week is our last CSA delivery season for the 2014 season. 

Today is another warm day and although cold and windy, the weekend temperatures were not nearly as cold as was predicted.  It looks as though another cold front is coming for next weekend, but still the low temperatures will not be horrible.  Most everything we have remaining in our fields will easily survive these temperatures.  That is good news for next week's harvest and future buying club harvests.

Speaking of the buying club.  As we did last year, we will be extending our harvest with a winter buying club.  The buying club will continue for as long as we have product to harvest.  Look for lots of greens!   We will also continue to have radishes, rutabaga and turnips available.  In addition, we will be buying in a few storage crops from our friends in Lebanon County, Landisdale Farm.  Landisdale is a certified organic operation and they grow some beautiful sweet potatoes!  We currently also sell our pastured, organically fed chickens through our buying club.  Soon we will be adding our apple orchard, as well.  Watch for more details about the buying club coming soon.  As I have said in past newsletters, we are considering adding a buying club pick up in Mountain Top. 

As most of you have seen, our harvest is heavy with greens this time of year.  Look for more greens going out next week.  Some of these greens, such as kale and mustard, get milder and even sweeter with the cooler temperatures.  Other greens, such as broccoli raab and chicory retain their bitter undertones.  As I have said in the past, try lightly boiling or steaming these greens first to tame the bitterness a bit.  I like to pair raab with some crisp fried or roasted potatoes.  Cook the potatoes while you are washing and blanching the raab.  I tend to cook the potatoes in the oven, as I have never had success with traditional fried potatoes.  (My Mother always told me I stirred them too much?)  Once your potatoes are roasted (or fried) and browned and crisp, add them to a saute pan with your blanched raab, olive oil and lots of garlic.  Stir to coat everything with the oil and garlic and cook until raab is the desired doneness.  A fried egg or two makes this a meal for me!

With fall underway and winter knocking at the door, our kitchen has turned in to soup central.  This time of year most of our soups revolve around chicken stock and greens.  One of Farmer Don's favorites is a soup featuring kale and tortellini.  Very simple, sauté some garlic and onions in olive oil, add a quart or two of chicken broth, kale and cheese tortellini.  Cook until the tortellini and kale are cooked and serve topped with fresh grated parmesan cheese.  We do make our own chicken broth using our own stewing hens.  Stewing hens are older hens and require a long cooking time and generally do not provide lots of meat, but do produce beautiful, tasty broth.   Speaking of stewing hens.  We have stewing hens available through our buying club. 

You should have received an email last week concerning our pork.  If you are interested in reserving pork, please email us.  All pork is on a first come, first serve basis and we have had a lot of interest.  In order to hold your pork we are asking for a small deposit.  ($50 for a half and $100 for a full).  If you have questions about purchasing pork, please email or call us.  All meat is custom cut and wrapped at a USDA certified butcher.  We often get asked about freezer space needed.  A half hog should easily fit into a 3 to 4 cubic foot freezer. 

We have been receiving quite a few inquiries concerning registration for next year's CSA.  We will be again offering early bird and returning member discounts.  As was the case with this year, all 2015 members will be choice members, so you will be able to pick the items you receive in your box each week.  Currently, we are working to get the 2015 registration up and running on our website.  Thanks to everyone for their patience on this!

Speaking of 2015.  We are already planning for next year.  This year we were back on the learning curve, as Farmer Don likes to say.  This was our first season to offer all members the ability to choose their items.  Thank you for your patience as we fine tune things and learn which items people really like and which items are not nearly as popular.  We will be using this year's harvest data to help us plan our planting schedules for next year.  We are always looking for input and feedback, so please feel free to email us with any suggestions or comments.

It's about that time.  Shady, the dog, is snoring loudly on the couch!  She knows she isn't supposed to be on the couch and besides, why is she inside on such a warm, beautiful, spring (oops I mean fall!) day?  Time to "encourage" her to move outside.  And time to wrap up this newsletter.

Be safe, be well and enjoy those veggies!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Apple Orchard Pork

Dancing Hen Farm's Apple Orchard Pastured Pork is now available for sale.  We will be selling whole and half hogs cut and wrapped at a USDA butcher.  At a later date, we will be selling individual cuts through our buying club.

Whole or Half:
The current price is $4.25 per pound, based on hanging weight, the step just before the meat is cut into roasts, chops, etc.  Some hogs are bigger than others.  Average hanging weight should be between 175 and 225 pounds.  Thus, half a hog would cost around $375 to $475 and a whole hog would be $750 to $950.  A half hog would put an average of 70 pounds of meat in your freezer and a whole hog around 140 pounds.  Curing of the hams and bacon and seasoning of the sausage is included in the price.

Due to limited quantities and expected demand, we will be taking orders on a first come/first serve basis, with a deposit to secure to your order.  ($50 deposit on a half pig, cut and packaged and $100 on a whole pig, cut and packaged.)

As always, thank you for your support of our farm and local agriculture.  If you have questions or need additional information, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Dancing Hen Farm