Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Happy New Year!

Greetings and Happy New Year from Dancing Hen Farm!

Hopefully everyone enjoyed the mild November and December.  Last night brought a bit of winter with some snow and sleet and temperatures are to be in the 30’s over the New Year holiday.  But, the long range forecast is for warmer than usual temperatures next week.  We are not complaining, at least not yet, here on farm.  Our greens are still surviving under cover and like everyone we are thankful for lower utility bills.  I have to admit, the mud is starting to wear on me a bit and being a bit of a worrier, I am worried about the effect this mild weather will have on our farm ecosystem. 

This time of year, when we open up our CSA for sign up, is always rewarding for Farmer Don and I.  It is so nice to see so many new and returning members signing up for next season’s CSA.  Thank you to everyone who has signed up and remitted payment for a CSA share.  If you have not yet signed up, there is still time to take advantage of our early bird discount of $30.   The early bird discount expires January 31.  We also offer a returning member discount of $20.  The returning member discount does not expire.  We utilize these early memberships to help us raise funds for farm supplies.  Our supplier offers a fairly large discount for orders placed during the winter months and without this early support we would be unable to take advantage of this offer. 

We are excited to be offering a new addition to our CSA.  This year we will be offering a chicken share.  This is an add-on share to our main vegetable shares.  Members purchasing chicken shares will receive chicken 6 times during the main csa season.  Each delivery will include one full chicken and two halves.  In addition, you will receive a stew hen with the last chicken delivery. 

Please watch your email for the continuation of our winter buying club.  If the weather holds, we should still have greens to harvest.  Our chickens are still laying, so we should also have eggs, in addition to chicken and pork to offer.  This winter buying club is separate from the buying club associated with our CSA.  To participate in the winter buying club, you will need to sign into our website and purchase a free winter buying club share.  As always, if you have questions, please contact us. 

In our kitchen, Farmer Don has been the chef recently.  We received some new cookbooks for Christmas and he has already been making recipes from them.  Last night he made some delicious parmesan encrusted pork chops, roasted potatoes and spicy sweet and sour sautéed cabbage.  We generally have a roast chicken once a week.  The chicken bones are then utilized to make a broth base for some soup or stew.  We are, of course, planning a traditional pork with sauerkraut for New Year’s Day.  Pork and sauerkraut is one of my favorite meals!!!
With so many new faces signing up on our website, I thought I would again remind everyone of our internet presence.  I am sure most everyone has found our website at www.dancinghenfarm.com.  In addition we also have a farm facebook page ( https://www.facebook.com/Dancing-Hen-Farm-111155465564952/ ),  a blog (http://dancinghenfarmcsa.blogspot.com/ ) and a pinterest site (https://www.pinterest.com/dancinghencsa/ ).    I try to update facebook and the blog regularly.  Pinterest is a bit of a work in progress and is one of my projects for this winter.

Time to give this newsletter to Farmer Don for a proof read.  Welcome new members and thank you to everyone for your support.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Buying Club open and CSA Registration starting.

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!  Happy Spring?  I mean Winter? 

Our buying club is open this week.  Ordering in underway now, and will end at 5 am Thursday morning.  This will be our last delivery for the year.  Watch your email for winter deliveries.  Farmer Don has purchased in some produce from area farms this week, including sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, chard and onions.  All veggies are grown organically.  We also have turnip greens, mustard, Asian greens and braising mix from our farm.  If you are looking to do some holiday baking, our chickens are still laying and we have plenty of farm fresh eggs available.  Our apple orchard pork has been very popular and cuts are starting sell out.  We also have half and whole chickens available.  As always, if you have questions concerning the buying club, please see our website or contact us at the farm.  This will be the last buying club of this year.

Registration for our 2016 CSA is now open!  We are offering early bird and returning member discounts.  Early bird discounts of $30 are available to anyone registering and paying by December 31, 2015.  The returning member discount is $20 and can be redeemed by all renewing members, regardless of when they sign up.  As with previous years, we will have 3 delivery options and two vegetable share sizes.  Our base price for shares starts with pick up at our farm in Stillwater, Pa.  Then there are one time delivery fees added to this base price if you choose to pick up at a central pick up site ($50) or have your share delivered to your home ($125).   Dancing Hen Farm is a full choice CSA with all CSA members able to choose the vegetables they receive each week in their box.  Our CSA runs for 22 weeks, from approximately June 1 to November 1.  In addition to vegetable shares, we also offer several add on share types, including egg shares and new this year, a chicken share.  CSA members are also able to participate in a CSA buying club.  This buying club is separate from our winter buying club and requires a $50 deposit.  Purchases are deducted from your deposit and delivered with your shares.  Please see our website or contact the farm for more details.

How about this spring weather?  Forsythia and dandelions are actually blooming!  And my flower bulbs are trying to poke their heads up.  We have not checked our garlic, but I am sure it is growing as well.   But, a change is on the way.  High temperatures are predicted in the 30’s this weekend.  However, Farmer Don tells me this cool down is short lived with warmer weather returning again next week.  I am not complaining about the warm weather.  I actually am kind of enjoying it.  But, it is so very odd to not be wearing a coat outside in December in Pennsylvania!

On farm, we are still in clean up mode, although this weather makes us itchy to start planting seeds!  This year we did not plant our large unheated greenhouse for the winter and in the next few weeks we will remove the plastic from this structure.  This will expose the soil inside this greenhouse to the weather.  The soil will freeze (hopefully!) and be exposed to rain and snow.  Although we will miss the early spring greens, removing the plastic will help to reduce disease and insect pressure and rejuvenate this otherwise protected soil.  We are also getting our supply lists together for next year.  Seed catalogs are rolling in and we are already pouring over them comparing varieties and prices.  We try not to over order seeds, but it is so tempting to order one of everything!

I almost forgot!  Other farm news includes the purchase of a new delivery van.  Our new delivery vehicle is a shiny black minivan.   For the last half of this season, we rented a minivan for deliveries and found it more than large enough for our needs.  We are gradually starting to downsize our farm operation and a large gas guzzling cargo van was just way more vehicle than we need.   Our biggest challenge was finding a used minivan within our price range and with low miles.   The internet has really changed how we shop for cars!  Farmer Don was finding vehicles all over the east coast.  Thankfully we located this vehicle near Scranton.

With this I will end this newsletter.  Thank you to everyone for your support this last year.  Take time to enjoy the magic of the holiday season! 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Buying Club is open with deliveries December 11 and 12

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!

The buying club is open this week.  Ordering is now open and will close 5 am Thursday morning.  Deliveries will be Friday and Saturday.  Please see our website or contact us at the farm if you need more information.

Our apple orchard pork is selling quickly.  We have already sold out of roasts.  In addition we have placed a hold on pork chop sales.  Pork chops are always one of our most popular cuts and the last few weeks we have sold a large number of chops.  Before we can offer any more for sale, we need to make sure our inventory is accurate and up to date. 

We continue to have a good supply of eggs and chicken available on the buying club.  Currently, you are able to purchase up to 5 dozen eggs on the buying club.  If you are in need of more than 5 dozen, please contact us, at the farm, and we will do our best to fill your order.   

The fog in our area has been really amazing the past few mornings.  So very thick, with dangerously low visibility.  In addition the cool morning temperatures causes the fog to freeze on surfaces, including trees, grass, and wires.  Unfortunately it can also freeze on the roads, so be careful driving if you are experiencing this fog locally, in your area.  On farm, this frozen fogs creates such a beautifully eerie scene!  I posted some pictures on facebook and on our blog (www.dancinghenfarmcsa.blogspot.com). 

Farmer Don (and myself to a limited extent) have been taking advantage of this mild fall and early winter to enjoy some time in the woods.  Hiking is one of Don’s favorite activities and we are blessed to live in an area with miles of wonderful trails to enjoy.   I have a couple of new pictures to post and will try to do so later tonight.

Please watch your email for the announcement of the opening of 2016 CSA registration.  This year we will again be offering early bird and returning member discounts.  As with past years, you will be able to add an egg share, if you desire.  We are excited to this year be offering a new chicken share.  These chickens are raised on pasture on our farm.  If you purchase a chicken share, you will receive chicken 6 times during the CSA season, or every 4 weeks.  Each delivery will include one whole broiler and two halves and on the final delivery you will also receive a stew hen.  All chicken will be delivered frozen in a cooler separate from your vegetable box.  As always, if you have questions, please contact the farm.

It is getting late and I still have a long list of household chores to do before bed, so I will bid you all “good night”.  Be safe, be well and thank you once again for supporting our small farm.

Frozen Fog

We have been waking up to a foggy farm the past few mornings.  The thick fog combined with below freezing temperatures cause the fog to freeze on everything creating some beautifully eerie farm scenes.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Images from Week 22's Harvest

Week 22 Harvest

Farmer Don and his girls harvesting greens

Fall Production

Farmer Don spinning greens before packing

Farmer Phil's "to do" list

Greens ready for portioning

CSA Week 22 Newletter

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm.  Welcome to Week 22 of our CSA.  This is the last week of the 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 2015.  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, Forty Fort and Mountain Top.  You can pick up on farm as well, any time after 4 on Friday or anytime on Saturday or Sunday.  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.

Yesterday was our annual running of the pigs here on farm.  Our pigs spend their summer high on the hill above our farm.  Each fall we are faced with the challenge of moving these now large hogs off the hill and into our barn.  Some years the run goes smoothly, other years not so.  This was one of the not so smoothly years.  These pigs have been unusually ornery all season and they really decided to express their independence yesterday.  Eventually they ended up in the barn, but I am not sure wrestling pigs was an activity our volunteers expected.  Thank you to Mike, Joyce, Phil, Matt and Kirk for your help.  Without you, I am sure the pigs would still be in the orchard! 

Planning for the 2016 CSA is underway and registration should open in the next week or so.  Please watch your email.  As I have indicated, we are making some changes to for next year.  First and foremost we will be limiting our CSA membership this year to 75 members.  Memberships are reserved once payment is received.  We are changing on farm pick up day from Thursday to Tuesday.  Our base CSA price, for pick up on farm, and our price for shares delivered to a central pick up site will remain the same.  We will however be increasing the price for home delivery and for egg shares.  We will also be consolidating some of our delivery sites.   New this year will be a chicken share.  Chickens will be delivered once a month for the CSA season, with a total of 6 deliveries.  Each delivery, you will receive 2 chickens, one whole and 2 halves.  In addition, twice during the season (most likely in June and November) you will receive a stew hen.  Details, including pricing and delivery location changes, will be announced in an upcoming newsletter and will be posted to our website.  As with past years, we will be offering an early bird discount and a returning member discount for 2016.

Pork. Our own Apple Orchard Pork should be available on our buying club around December 1, if not earlier.  This year all ham and bacon will be cured using a nitrate free cure.  We still have a very limited amount of bulk/freezer pork available.  If you are interested in bulk pork, please contacted us.  Bulk Pork should also be available around December 1, if not before.

I’m not sure if anyone watches WNEP’s Home and Backyard, but last week our friends at The Blind Pig Kitchen in Bloomsburg were featured.  The Blind Pig is a relatively new farm to table restaurant in Bloomsburg.  Owners Sarah and Toby are committed to sourcing their ingredients from local farms and producers.  This includes purchasing CSA shares from us here at Dancing Hen Farm.  Here is a link to the Home and Backyard segment. http://wnep.com/2015/11/07/the-blind-pig-recipe-stuffed-chicken-breast-with-chanterelles-and-leeks/

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 or on the farm.

So, I sign off for the CSA season, but I will continue to send 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 (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dancing-Hen-Farm/111155465564952) and to our blog (http://www.dancinghenfarmcsa.blogspot.com/). 

Be safe, be well and enjoy those veggies. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Blind Pig Kitchen

The Blind Pig Kitchen in Bloomsburg was featured on WNEP's Home and Backyard.  The Blind Pig is a true farm to table restaurant, only sourcing products from local farms and producers.  For more information see Blind Pig's website (www.blindpigkitchen.com).  And  be sure to check out the clip from WNEP:


Thursday, November 5, 2015

CSA Week 21 Newsletter

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm and welcome to CSA Week 21.  Week 21 is an egg week.  Hopefully everyone is enjoying this week’s boxes.

The 2015 Dancing Hen Farm CSA is rapidly coming to an end.  Next week is week 22 and therefore our last week.  We will be back to the drop sites in the weeks following the last week to pick up boxes, so please plan to leave your share boxes at a drop site.

Haven’t the last few days been beautiful?  Temperatures in the 70’s in November, what’s not to like?  Farmer Don was working in shorts today.   He has uncovered our crops under plastic and they are flourishing in this nice weather.  I do have to admit, we were complaining a bit about it being hot outside!  Hopefully we will remember this day come January, when the high for the day is in the teens!  The forecast, however, is predicting that over the weekend and into next week, we will have more seasonal temperatures, but nothing too cold. 

Before I forget, I need to give some more details on our apple orchard pork.  Our prices for bulk or freezer pork will be 4.50 per pound hanging weight.  Hanging weight is the weight 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.   We have opted to have ham and bacon cured this year with a nitrate free cure.  Curing of the hams and bacon, as well as seasoning of the sausage is included in the price per pound.  There will be an additional charge if you would like scrapple ($15 per hog) or lard ($75 for a 5 gal bucket) included with your purchase.   If you have reserved pork, we will be contacting you very soon to confirm your order.  If you have not yet reserved pork, but would like to, please contact the farm as soon as possible, as our pigs are leaving the farm early next week.  We anticipate orders to be ready towards the end of this month or the beginning of December. 

As long as I am talking about pork.  People interested in purchasing individual cuts of pork will have the opportunity to do so through our winter buying club.  As with the bulk pork, these cuts should be available on the buying club in 3 or 4 weeks.  Please watch your email for details.

And as long as I am talking about the buying club.  Are you interested in continuing to receive vegetables once the CSA ends or ordering pork or chicken?  Consider joining our winter buying club.  It is free to sign up, but you will need to log into our website and “purchase” a winter buying club share.  The winter buying club is a pay as you go program.  We deliver buying club orders to Bloomsburg on Friday evenings and to Dallas, Forty Fort and Mountain Top on Saturday.  You can also pick up your order on farm after 4 pm on Friday, or any time on Saturday or Sunday.   You will pay for your order (cash or check) when you pick up your order. 

On next week’s availability you will continue to see an assortment of winter squash available, as well as cooking greens.  Our mustard greens look really beautiful right now, as do our turnip greens and Asian greens.   Of course all these greens are great added to stir frys, braised with garlic and olive oil or added to soups.  Raw mustard greens have a sharp spicy flavor, similar to horseradish.  Farmer Don likes to add raw mustard greens to salads.  You can also create a wrap sandwich using mustard leaves as a grain free wrap.  To make the leaves more pliable for wrapping, you can blanch them (dip in boiling water) briefly or simply allow them to sit out on a paper towel until they wilt.  Also worth mentioning is that the heat from the mustard green will mellow slightly with cooking.  I really enjoy cooked greens with a fried or poached egg.  Recently, I came across this recipe for a fried egg sandwich with mustard greens.  http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/fried-egg-sandwich-with-canadian-bacon-and-mustard-greens-recipe.html

Another recipe, I don’t think I have mentioned yet this season, is what we call “Don’s soup”.  This is a really easy and filling soup for a cool fall or winter supper.  I guess a more descriptive title would be “greens and tortellini soup”.  I think at one point I may have had a recipe, but now we just make the soup as follows.  Add a bit of olive oil or butter to your soup pot and saute some diced onions, garlic and carrots.  Once these veggies are tender add several quarts of stock (chicken or vegetable) and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add tortellini and cook until the tortellini is not quite tender (6 or 7 minutes?).  Next add chopped greens (kale, mustard, turnip, chard, etc – your choice) and continuing cooking for several minutes until the greens are tender and tortellini is cooked through.  Once everything is cooked, stir in some crushed red pepper.  Ladle into bowls and top with grated parmesan cheese.

Farmer Don and I want to again thank each of you, our community members, for your support and patience during this CSA season.  As most of you know, we faced many challenges during this growing season.  It truly has been you, our community, which has kept us farming this season.  On farm, we are ready for the slower pace of winter.  Ready to reflect, regroup and re-energize. 

We have already been planning for 2016.  Registration for our 2016 CSA will open up soon.  We do have a few changes planned for 2016, so watch your email for details.

The dogs are eagerly staring at me waiting for their nighttime walk, so I will wrap things up.  Have a great week!

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

CSA Week 20 Newsletter

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!  Welcome to Week 20 of our CSA!  Week 20 is not an egg week.  Our CSA is 22 weeks long, so there are 2 more weeks after this week.

WOW!  Only 2 weeks remaining in our CSA season.  This has been one of our more challenging years and I again want to thank all of you, our community, for your understanding and support.  I must admit we are anxious for this season to be behind us.  But, we are already starting to plan for 2016.   Watch your emails for some exciting changes, as we continue to strive to make our farm sustainable, for the environment, for our community and for our family.

This week, in the sky, we witnessed another full moon, the Hunter Moon.  It was large and beautiful Monday night.  However, the clouds last night kept it from shining so bright.   Right now the clouds have brought the rain.  We are expecting rain and wind most of the day from the remains of Hurricane Patricia.  It is still dry, so we can use this soaking rain.  I am thinking the wind will bring down many of the leaves remaining on the trees, so perhaps our fall color show will be coming to an end.

Yesterday, Farmer Don was in planting mode as he tried to beat today’s predicted rain.  Yes, planting.  He finished planting the majority of our garlic crop for next season and planted cover crops in some of our fields.  Garlic is one of the unique crops on a vegetable farm that is planted in the fall for harvest the following summer.   He also cleaned out our chicken coop and worked the chicken litter into some of our fields.  Although our laying hens are free range, they still return to the barn at night to roost and this area needs cleaning out on a regular basis.  Our soil really does represent the foundation of our farm and we try to do what we can to preserve and improve it.  In an organic system this means utilizing cover crops and compost to build soil tilth and fertility.

Currently growing in our fields are some beautiful greens.  The mixed Asian Greens are really nice right now.  This mix includes Vitamin Green, Bok Choy, and tatsoi and is perfect for a base for a stir fry or for simple braised greens.  This mix should continue to be available through the remainder of the CSA.  Kale and Chard should also continue to be available well into the fall.  We are also harvesting some beautiful turnip greens right now.  Turnip greens are loaded with nutrition and can be handled and cooked as you would any cooking green.  We are happy to say that next week we will be adding a customer favorite of arugula to our choice list. 

We have these greens protected from the frost with low tunnels.  Low tunnels are temporary mini greenhouses we construct, over our plants, using wire hoops and plastic.  These simple structures will hopefully allow us to offer greens into the winter through our buying club.   In the past we have utilized a large unheated greenhouse for winter and early spring production.  This year we have decided to take this greenhouse out of production.  In the next few weeks we will be removing the plastic from the structure.  This will allow the soil inside the greenhouse to be exposed to the full force of winter, including the low temperature and precipitation.  Our goal for removing the plastic, is to decrease our pest and disease pressure in the greenhouse and improve our soil fertility.  We will be replacing the plastic early next spring and the greenhouse will be replanted for next season’s production. 

Winter squash should also be available for the remainder of the CSA and into the fall for buying club.  Winter squash are really versatile, holding up nicely for roasting, baking or soups or stews.  Stuffed winter squash is a fall and holiday favorite on farm.  Farmer Don makes delicious stuffed acorn squash from a recipe in an older cookbook we often use.  Unfortunately, I have been unable to find a good duplicate on the internet.  However, while searching for this recipe, I came across a great site offering a basic formula for stuffing any winter squash.  For me this site is perfect, as I can mix and match ingredients I have on hand.  Here is the link  http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-stuffed-roasted-squash-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-101662   Another fall go to recipe for us, Butternut Harvest Stew, is from one of our favorite seasonal cookbook (Simply in Season).  This recipe features pork, butternut squash and apples and I was able to find the recipe online.  https://graceseedsministry.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/butternut-harvest-stew.pdf 

As long as I am posting and talking about recipes, I will bring up our pinterest site.  Yes, the farm has a pinterest site.  Unfortunately, I have not been updating it much lately.  Life, computer problems, the list of excuse is endless, but let’s just say pinterest has not been a priority this summer!  Once the days get even shorter, the temperatures colder and the snow begins to fly, I am planning on making this site more active.  Mostly I will be posting links to recipes, but there are also some pictures of the farm posted and information on books you will find in our farm library.  Here is the link to our pinterest site:  https://www.pinterest.com/dancinghencsa/

For us, farmers markets are over for the season.  I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who visited us at market.  We enjoy doing markets, as they give us the opportunity to meet and talk with our customers.  We will be extending our market (and CSA) season utilizing our winter buying club.  We have added a Mountain Top drop site to our buying club.  Winter buying club members order online using our website and pick up their orders the following weekend.  For details, contact the farm or visit our website.

Well, it is still raining and blowing here on farm.  Farmer Don and the dogs are in from chores.  Well, I should be honest.  Farmer Don and Rosie are in from doing chores.  Shady opted out of chores and decided instead to take a nap on Farmer Don’s chair!  In any event, it is time to show Farmer Don this newsletter and get it emailed out to everyone.
Have a great week and enjoy your veggies!

Sunday afternoon view.

Sunday afternoon view from the upper field.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Week 19 CSA Newsletter

Greetings farm Dancing Hen Farm and Welcome to CSA Week 19.  This is an egg week. After this week there are 3 more weeks remaining in the 2015 season.

Yes, I have to start with the weather!  Crazy!  Here on farm we were in the low twenty’s over the weekend and now we have been in the 70’s the past few days.  I am not complaining.  I actually love the diversity of Pennsylvania’s weather.  And who can complain about beautiful warms days in October!   However, the bad news is that over the weekend we did have a hard freeze on farm.  This means, almost all of our summer crops were killed.  Sadly (and un-expectantly) we lost some cherry tomato plants in our unheated greenhouse.  We have not yet totally winterized our greenhouses and the temperatures just dipped too low for the tomatoes.  But, in reality, it is the middle of October, time for the summer growing season to come to an end.  Time to transition to greens and storage crops.

One of my favorite crops this time of year are sweet potatoes.  I cannot resist a baked sweet potato!  I also find that sweets pair really well with any cooking greens.  And if you have not tried sweet potato fries, you will not be disappointed.  One recipe I have talked about in the past is Sweet Potatoes, Apples and Braising greens.  This recipe does create a number of dirty dishes, but the flavor combinations makes the extra cleanup well worth it.  I usually slice my apples a bit smaller, tend to cube the sweets and don’t think I have ever added the parsley.  You can literally use any cooking green you have available.  http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Sweet-Potatoes-Apples-and-Braising-Greens-240487

Our kitchen has been a bit busier lately.  Over the weekend we made a really nice pork roast with fennel.  With the roast we made baked sweet potatoes (of course!) and greens braised with garlic and red pepper flakes.  Farmer Don also made one of his favorite summer time treats, fresh pico de gallo.  This may be the last batch of the season, so we are savoring it!  

This coming weekend I am hoping to actually do some canning.  Our pepper harvest has been really bountiful this season, so I will be canning some.  Peppers, being a low acid vegetable, can only be canned using a pressure canner.  I have a pressure canner, but I am not certain plain canned peppers is a product we would use.  Therefore I will be marinating and pickling them to create an acidic product which can be water bath canned.  In the past I have always frozen peppers, so this will be my first attempt at preserving peppers this way.  Wish me luck.  I will keep you posted on how they turn out.  I most likely will also freeze peppers for use in chili, soups and stews.

I want to take a bit of space in this newsletter to thank our site hosts.  These site hosts are volunteers who allow us to use their businesses and homes to distribute our weekly share boxes.   They store our share boxes each week and assist CSA members with the occasional delivery related problem.  Many of these people and sites have been involved with our farm since the very first year and we are grateful for their support.  Our thanks go out to the staff at Bloom Naturally at both the Bloomsburg and Danville stores.  Thanks to Meredith and Chris Coopola our site hosts in Riverside.  Thank you to Dr. Maria and the entire staff at the Whole Life Center for Life in Drums.  Thank you to the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Wilkes Barre and Guy and Adrieena for helping us with a downtown Wilkes Barre drop site.  Thanks to Corrine and the entire staff of Balance Yoga for hosting our Forty Fort drop site.  And last, but not least.  Thank you Judy and Misericordia University for hosting our Dallas drop site.  If you see any of these individuals, please take a minute to thank them for the great job they do for us. 

Our winter buying club has started.  This buying club is separate from our CSA.  Right now we are offering pickups Friday evenings in Bloomsburg, Saturday mornings in Dallas and Forty Fort and on farm pick up Friday evenings or anytime on Saturday.  Once the Mountain Top Farmers Market ends, we will be adding a pick up site in Mountain Top.  We are hoping to continue this buying club for the next few months. If you have questions about this buying club, please contact us at the farm.

We currently have a nice supply of pastured chicken available.  Chicken is available for purchase through our CSA buying club and our winter buying club.  You can also purchase chicken (and eggs) on farm.  Please call or email us first if you wish to purchase on farm, so we can be sure we have items available in our cooler for you.  This year’s chickens have been some of the best we have ever raised.  Very consistent in size (4 to 6 pounds) and very moist and tasty!  We offer whole and half chickens for sale.  As I have said before, if you have not tried pasture raised chicken, I would encourage you to do so.  You may never buy organic chicken from the grocery store again! 

Speaking of meat.  Our pigs are still eating, sleeping and foraging in our old apple orchard.  We were worried, with the cooler temperatures that we would need to move them off the hill and into the barn, in order to keep them watered and provide them more sheltered.  However, these warmer days, and the warmer days forecast, have allowed to keep them on pasture.  They do have a “house” and brush area for shelter and thanks to the warm up, non-frozen water.  This year’s pork should be available in late November or early December.  If you are interested in purchasing bulk (freezer) pork from us, and have not already done so, please email us so we can add you to our list and reserve pork for you.  If you are interested in buying individual cuts of pork, these will be available through the winter buying club in late November or early December.  Watch your email for details!

On Sunday, Farmer Don will be at the Mountain Top Market.  In addition to vegetables, he will have a supply of eggs, a good supply of chicken and a limited supply of pork.  I think the weather is to be a bit chilly, but not as frigid as last week.  If you come to market, stop by and say hello to Farmer Don.  Also be sure to ask him about our buying club and future pick up site in Mountain Top.

Another gentle reminder to please return your share boxes, so we can reuse them.  These boxes, at 1.75 to over 2.00 each, represent a substantial expense for the farm and we trying to get by without purchasing more this season. 
Thanks again to each of you, our members and friends of the farm.  Without your support we would not be able to do what we do. We would not be able to sustainably farm this hilly bit of land we call Dancing Hen Farm, our home.

So long for this week.  “be safe, be well and enjoy those veggies”.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Week 18 CSA Newsletter

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!  Welcome to CSA Week 18.  Week 18 is not an egg week.  After this week, there are 4 more weeks of CSA.  The countdown has begun!

So, is everyone ready for the cool down this weekend?  We are scrambling to get tender crops harvested and covered.  We are expecting lows in the 20’s here on farm. That indicates we could get a freeze and not just a frost.  A freeze means many of our summer crops will be done.  Any tomatoes or peppers left on the vine will freeze.  Greens, however, should be fine.  In fact many of the greens, such as kale, improve in flavor with freezing temperatures.

What does all this mean for the next four weeks of CSA?  You will see a sharp decline in the availability of some crops, such as tomatoes.  I am thinking basil, even with row cover, will be done for the season.  We should be fairly good with peppers for a few weeks, as some are under protection in our greenhouse.  Boxes will be filled more and more with greens and storage crops, such as winter squash and potatoes.  In the next week or so, we should see some new greens making an appearance.  We have a nice seeding of arugula, as well as plantings of turnip greens and Asian greens.  Watch for the cooking greens to become available as a nice fall stir fry mix.

The other day one of my sisters and I were reminiscing about fall and our childhood and the subject of monkey apples came up.  Monkey apples or hedge apples are the brain looking fruit of the Osage orange tree.    Legend tells us these fruits are good for insect repellant in the home.  We never tried this growing up, as we were too busy squashing them.  On our drive to church each week, there was a large hedge apple tree and our family played a driving game of trying to hit the monkey apples with the car tires.   My Mother was a master at squashing these brain looking fruits.  My sister and I were never as good at lining up the tires just right to make a monkey apple pancake on the road.  We grew up in southern Pennsylvania and it was not uncommon to come across fallen hedge apples along the roads in the fall.  Here in the northern part of the state, we don’t see these fruits, perhaps they are not hardy enough for our agricultural zone?   For us this means our driving game now involves black walnuts, rather than monkey apples.  Walnuts, being smaller, are even harder to hit, but there seem to more of them on the road under the trees, so the odds are better.  Walnuts, of course, don’t squash as nicely as monkey apples!  If you decide to take up this fruit squashing game, please stay on your own side of the road!

In the kitchen, last night, Farmer Don made our traditional chicken bag and tag feast.  On chicken day, CSA member Jason volunteers to help us bag and weigh each chicken and traditionally we feast that day, as well.  Yesterday was chicken day, so last night Farmer Don roasted several chickens and made a nice side dish of greens and winter vegetables.  The chickens were rubbed with salt, pepper and poultry seasoning (a nice herb mix from our neighbor’s at the Farm at Stonybrook) and then roasted low and slow in the oven.  I love how roasting a chicken makes the house smell!  For the side dish, he first cooked the winter vegetables (red potatoes, sweet potatoes and winter squash) in a bit of butter and water.  When these veggies were soft he added the greens and allowed them to cook.  He finished the dish with a bit of salt, pepper, garlic and red pepper flakes.  Don likes to add red pepper and garlic to food late in the cooking process.  He says red pepper added too soon will become bitter and he likes the added kick of garlic which has not been mellowed by longer cooking times. 

Speaking of cooking.  We have an ample supply of peppers right now.  Stuffed peppers might be just the item for a dinner next week.  For the most part, I stuff peppers with a very traditional rice, ground beef and tomato sauce mixture.  Here is a recipe from a CSA farm in New Jersey which is very close to my version.  I usually do not add cheese.  http://stonyhillcsa.blogspot.com/2014/07/stuffed-peppers.html  My life, before Farmer Don, included being a vegetarian.  I still crave simple meatless meals made with garden fresh vegetables and whole grains.  Vegetarian stuffed peppers are easy enough.  I generally use brown rice, some type of bean and some type of green as the base.  The combinations of beans, grains, greens and spices are endless.  Here is a meatless recipe utilizing black beans and quinoa.  http://www.vegetariantimes.com/recipe/quinoa-stuffed-peppers-2/  Remember you can use chard in place of spinach in any recipe. 

Last Saturday was the last Back Mountain market for this season.  Thanks to everyone who supports us in the Back Mountain.  This market has become one of our favorites!  We are hoping to continue to attend the Mountain Top market for the next two weeks, possibly longer, depending on the weather.  The Mountain Top market is a newer market and is on Sundays in the Crestwood High School parking lot.  We will also be starting up our winter buying club in the next couple of weeks.  Watch your emails for details on when buying club deliveries will begin.

Thanks again for each of you support of our farm.  And in the words of Farmer Don: “be safe, be well and enjoy those veggies”.

Friday, October 9, 2015

CSA Week 17 Newsletter

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm and Welcome to CSA Week 17.  Week 17 is an egg week.  And yes, finally a newsletter!

First let me apologize for not sending out a newsletter for week 16.   Last weekend’s rain wreaked havoc on both our phone and our internet service.  You don’t realize how much you depend on this connectivity until you need to go several days without.  We are now back up and running, at least until the next rain storm!  (also, please accept my apology for this week’s newsletter being so late……)

Don’t you just love fall?  These recent cooler nights and warm days are perfect to me.  We have also had some rain, which the farm greatly appreciates.  But, I have to admit, it is the fall sun I enjoy.  The trees are starting to change and they just sparkle in the sunshine.  This fall, so far, has actually been relatively mild.  We have not had a frost yet and certainly not a freeze.  In our area, we generally experience a light frost sometime in September, with a hard freeze occurring towards the middle or end of October.  I know the colder temperatures are coming.  For us, the winter months are a time for rest, reflect and rejuvenation, for both us and our fields.  And for planning.

We have already started planning for next year.  Farmer Don and I spend much of our time together discussing the farm and plans for the future.  In the next few months we will be taking a hard look at this growing season and begin planning for next year.  This season has been, to quote Farmer Don, filled with many opportunities.  I fear it will be difficult for us to look at things objectively.   But, we will persevere and we will do our best to look at things objectively.  We will make our lists and plot our plan for 2016, our 9 CSA season.    Watch your email for details coming soon.

However, our 2015 CSA is not over yet.  This is Week 17, so after this week, we have 5 more weeks of delivery.  As I am sure you have already observed, we have started our transition away from summer crops.  We are filling boxes with winter squash, potatoes, and greens.  This trend will continue for the next 5 weeks.  We are still harvesting tomatoes, but our plants are starting to decline and we anticipate tomato season is quickly coming to an end.  Our peppers are looking good right now.  Some are still a bit small, but others have sized up nicely and are starting to show some color.  We are planning on digging our own sweet potatoes this week.  Our sweet potatoes are not cured.  Lack of curing does not affect their taste or nutrition, it simply means they will not store for long periods of time.  We will also be offering sweet potato vines as an item.  Unlike regular potatoes, sweet potatoes are not members of the nightshade family and therefore their greens are edible.  Cook the vines as you would any cooking green.

Along with tomato season, market season is also starting to wind down.  We will be at both the Back Mountain and the Mountain Top markets this week.  This is the last Back Mountain market.  At both markets we will be running a special on our pasture raised chickens.  For this week only we will be discounting our chickens by 50 cents per pound.  This sale price is only valid this week and only available for pick up at market.  If you need directions to market, please contact us at the farm.

With markets coming to an end, our winter buying club will be starting up soon.  This winter buying club is separate from our CSA (and CSA buying club).  Membership in the Winter Buying Club is free and does not require a deposit.  Members order through our website and then meet us at a designated time and place to pay for and pick up their orders.  If you wish to participate in this buying club, you will need to visit our website (www.dancinghefarm.com), create an account and “purchase” a free winter buying club membership.  We are in the process of adding a pick up site in Mountain Top.  Again we will be sending out an email when this new pick up site becomes active on our website.

A quick reminder, to please return your share boxes.   We re-use these waxed produce boxes, as well as any green “berry boxes” and egg cartons.  Speaking of egg cartons, the farm can always use egg cartons.  Any of these items can be given to us at market, returned to your site host or left on your porch, if you are home delivery member. 

Our kitchen is still very quiet.  We have been trying to take advantage of the last of the tomatoes.  This means lots of tomato salads, fresh pasta sauce, chili made with fresh tomatoes and of course Bacon, tomato and lettuce sandwiches.  This is the first season in a very long time that I have not done any canning, preserving or freezing.  It will be strange this winter not to be able to go to the pantry and pull out a jar of our own tomatoes, or salsa or applesauce.   But, there is always next year and hopefully it will not only be bountiful and but also filled with good health!!! 

Well it is getting late, the dogs are begging for a last walk before bed and I still have dinner dishes to wash.  So, have a great week.  “be safe, be well and enjoy those veggies”….  And don’t forget to visit market this weekend for some pastured chicken!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Week 15 CSA Newletter

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!  Welcome to Fall!  I hope everyone is enjoying their Week 15 boxes. Week 15 is an egg week.

Sorry this newsletter is a bit late getting out.  I had a minor setback this week, but am once again back home and hopefully continuing to move forward.  Thanks again to everyone for their support!   So many times it is our family combined with our community which keeps Don and I both keep moving forward.

I had plans to welcome Autumn with this newsletter, but Wednesday came and went and no newsletter.  But, we can still say welcome to the new season.  I hope some of you were able to celebrate and welcome this solstice.   I really love the change of the seasons.  Don and I spent several years living in Florida and I think I missed Fall the most.  I can remember looking out the window of our air conditioned apartment and noticing how long the shadows were and thinking “oh it looks like a beautiful fall day”.  Only to open the door and be slapped in the face by heat and humidity!  One of Don’s goals when we were in Florida was to wear shorts every day.  I think he accomplished that goal, although our second winter there, brought some of the coldest temperatures ever recorded, with a fairly hard freeze as far south as West Palm Beach and snow showers in Orlando.  That year, we visited Disney World with some family members and all of those beautiful tall palm trees were frosted.  The tops of the palms were dead and hanging over.  I am fairly certain they recovered, but that year they provided a visual reminder not only of the chilly temperatures, but also that these majestic trees are not native to the Orlando area. 

Our weather here in Stillwater has been warm and dry recently.  We could really use a couple of days of steady rain.  The forecast is calling for some possible showers this week, but nothing really measurable.  Of course the clouds are to move in tomorrow, Sunday night, just in time for the lunar eclipse.  This is a total lunar eclipse and it seems the peak eclipse will begin a little after 10 pm, although I have seen some reports saying it will not be total until 11 pm.  This full moon is also a supermoon, so it will be large and reportedly should turn redish during the eclipse.  Even with the threat of clouds, I will definitely be outside tomorrow night with my eyes to the sky!

Let’s see.  On farm.  Once again, I am a bit out of touch, as I don’t have my “farm legs” under me quite yet.  I do know we are still harvesting tomatoes!  In the lower field, which the dogs and I tour daily, I do see some nice greens, chard, collards, radish, and kale.  I have toured our large high tunnel, greenhouse, and can say our tomatoes are about done in this location.  In the next week or so, these tomatoes will be pulled out and replaced with greens, lettuces and cooking greens.  We also have some large plantings of winter greens for field production this year.  These plantings in the field will be tucked under plastic and will hopefully be ready for fall and early spring harvest.  We have yet to dig our sweet potatoes, but we did bring in some sweets from Landisdale Farm for next week’s pack. 

Time to once again start talking a bit about our buying clubs, as they often create a bit of confusion.  We actually have two buying clubs.  One is a buying club only open to our CSA members and is currently open for CSA members, with a buying club deposit, to order from.  Your order will be delivered with your CSA share.  The second buying club is our “winter buying club”.  This buying club does not require a deposit and is open to everyone.  With the winter buying club, you will still need to visit our website, register, and “purchase” a free winter buying club share.  Winter buying club members meet us at a designated time and location to pay for and pick up their purchases.  We anticipate the winter buying club to start once our farm markets end.  Please watch your email for buying club news.  We are planning a new pick up site in Mountain Top this year; again watch your email for details. As always, if you have questions or need assistance with the website, please do not hesitate to contact us at the farm.

In the kitchen, things have been fairly quiet this summer.  Unfortunately, Farmer Don and I both spent a lot of time off farm and therefore ate way too many meals filled with non-farm foods.  It is sad to say, but, we are just now getting back into the swing of eating what we produce.  Recently we have been really focusing on chicken.  I cannot say enough about pasture raised chicken.  If you have never eaten chicken raised on pasture, I would encourage you to give it a try.  You will find moist flavorful chicken and may never eat a store bought organically raised chicken again.  We have half and whole chickens available, but there are other farms in the area who do sell different cuts of pastured chicken, including boneless breasts.  Our chickens are large this year and we find that one chicken easily gives Don and I, two, if not three, meals.   In fact I am planning chicken salad sandwiches for dinner tonight with some leftover chicken!   I like to make a curried chicken salad, adding some dried cranberries, finely chopped apples, and a bit of curry powder. 

Farmer Don and Farmer Phil are at the farm market in Dallas today.  Hopefully, if you were at market, you stopped in and said hello.  We will also be at the Mountain Top market tomorrow, Sunday.  Stop by and sample some of our tomatoes.  Farmer Don likes to have several varieties ready for sampling.  If you sample tomatoes, be sure to let him know which ones you like best, so we can be sure to plant those next year.

You all know the routine by now.  Market talk means the newsletter is coming to an end.  Thanks you again to each of you for your support of our small farm.  As I have said before, it is you, our community, which allow to farm our rocky, hilly land sustainably.  And, of course, as farmer Don would say, “be safe, be well and enjoy those veggies”.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Week 14 CSA Newsletter

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm.  Welcome to Week 14.  Week 14 is NOT an egg week.  Happy Constitution Day!

Fall, one of my favorite seasons.  Cool nights and warm days.  I do believe the leaves are slowly starting to change color.  The days are definitely starting to get shorter.  Last night I took the dogs for a walk around 7:30 and by the time we got back to the house the sun was down and darkness was almost upon us.  The shorter days are the downside to fall.  As the sun falls in the sky and the day length shortens, our crops grow and ripen slower and slower.

Speaking of ripening.  We have our fingers crossed that our last planting of eggplant will ripen.  They are growing and maturing oh so slowly – frost may get to them before we have harvestable fruit!  Our tomatoes are still going strong, although we are starting to see some disease, as is expected this late in the season.  Greens are still growing and being picked.  We have peppers in the field and are trying to hold off a bit on harvest to allow them to gain some size and color. 

We are busy still doing some late season planting.  These plants will go in our unheated greenhouse and as well as in our fields.  Those in the fields will be covered with plastic for late fall and early spring harvest.  In the past we have had greens to harvest until almost Christmas and then in early March everything starts growing again and we can do more harvest of the overwintered plants.  It always amazes me that plants can withstand the cold winter and start growing again early spring!

A note on last week’s pack.  We do occasionally have to make substitutions of items on your pick list. This was evident last week for those of you who chose spaghetti squash.  Our harvested spaghetti squash is stored in our barn.  When Farmer Don went to collect what he needed for pack on Monday he found that these squash had not stored well.  Many were already rotten and others were starting to exhibit some suspicious spots.  Rather than try and sort through them, he made the decision to not give any out.  Therefore anyone who ordered spaghetti squash received butternut squash in its place.  We apologize if you had a menu for the week based on spaghetti squash and we hope you can use and enjoy the butternut. 

New on this week’s availability, look for additional winter squash, including pie pumpkins and butternut squash.  In the near future look for sweet potatoes.  We will dig our sweet potatoes first and will later purchase some from our friends at Landisdale Farm.  Just a side note, we do not cure our sweet potatoes, so they will not store and will need to be used quickly.   Landisdale, on the other hand, have the correct facilities to cure their sweets and theirs will store for months.  We will also be offering bulk cases of Landisdale Farm sweet potatoes.  Watch your email for information on purchasing a case of sweets to enjoy all winter long!

I have some good farm news!  The past few days I have been seeing monarch butterflies!  This is exciting as their populations have been falling in recent years.  In fact last year, I don’t think I saw any, no adults or larvae.  Last year I walked to one of our upper fields daily to observe a patch of milkweed.  Milkweed is the food source for Monarch caterpillars, but did not see even on caterpillar.  I have not been checking our milkweed this year, but am encouraged to be seeing adults as they start their yearly migration south. 

Farmer Don reports it was great to be back at market!  He came back both Saturday and Sunday excited to have been able to once again be behind the table meeting customers and talking sustainable food production.  He even got to pass out heirloom tomato samples, one of his favorite market activities!  He will again be at the Back Mountain Market in Dallas on Saturday and the Mountain Top Market on Sunday.  If you happen to be at either market, be sure to stop by and say hello! 

You know what market talk means.  The end to another newsletter!  Until next week, in the words of Farmer Don, be safe, be well and enjoy those veggies!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Week 13 CSA Newsletter

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm and Welcome to CSA Week 13.  Week 13 is an egg week.

Yes, you guessed correctly.  I am home!  After a lengthy hospital stay, I am finally home and in healing and recovery mode.  Thanks to everyone for their healing thoughts, prayers and energies and thanks for all the kind emails, cards and notes. It is nice to know our farm community is so caring.  Thanks also to Farmer Matt and Farmer Joyce for not only supporting Don and I, but for also working hard to keep the farm together while Farmer Don and I were dealing with doctors and hospitals.  So, if you see Farmer Matt at market or on deliveries, please give him an extra thank you for watching over the farm while Farmer Don was frantically driving back and forth from Philly trying to balance supporting me and running a farm. 

Wasn’t today’s rain beautiful?  And wow, did we need the rain!  I forgot how relaxing and welcoming a rainy day can be.  We do have an irrigation system, but irrigation just does not compare to a nice soaking rain.   I think the entire farm was doing a happy dance today in the rain!  I even saw the chickens out enjoying the showers.  

Since I haven’t been on farm for so many weeks, I am a bit out of touch with what is happening in the fields.  I do see lots and lots of beautiful tomatoes being harvested.  Our sungolds are starting to wind down, but we are still harvesting some beautiful slicing, heirloom, paste and mixed cherries.  The large purplish cherry tomatoes are black cherries and are one of my favorite.  We have started harvesting winter squash and they have already started going out in boxes.  New for week 14 are shelling beans.  Shelling beans are basically dry beans which have not been dried.  They have a rich creamy texture, do not need to be soaked before cooking and will cook in a less time than dry beans.  You will however need to shell them to remove the bean from the pod.  Cooked shelling beans pair well with tomatoes in a salad dressed with a simple herb vinaigrette.  Shelling beans also turn a basic greens and bean recipe into a fresh treat. 

We will again be offering bulk apple orchard pork for sale this fall.  We anticipate this year’s pork to be available in late October or early November.   Bulk pork will be sold by the half or whole pig.  Your meat will be processed, cut and wrapped at a USDA certified butcher.  This year we will be offering nitrate free ham and bacon products.  As with last year, we will also be offering individual cuts of pork at markets and through our winter buying club.  Please watch our newsletters for more information on our pork.

Speaking of protein, we do still have chickens available.  Our chickens are raised on our organically managed pastures, with their feed supplemented with certified organic grains.  Chickens are available as halves or wholes and can be purchased through our buying club or picked up at one of the farmers markets we attend.

Speaking of farmers markets, Farmer Don will be back at market this weekend and he is excited to see everyone.  He and Farmer Phil will be at the Back Mountain Market on Saturday from 9 to 2.  Farmer Don will also be back at the Mountain Market this week on Sunday from 9 to 1.  We will have salad mix, tomatoes, pastured chicken, a limited number eggs and limited cuts of apple orchard pork.  If you go to either market, please be sure to stop by and say hello to Farmer Don.

Please have a great week and enjoy your veggies!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

CSA Week 8 Newsletter

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm and Welcome to Week 8.  Hopefully everyone is enjoying their boxes.  Week 8 is NOT an egg week.

Haven’t the last few days been beautiful?  Warm and sunny during the day and cool at night for good sleep!  It is almost as if you can already feel fall in the air.  The days are getting shorter, the golden rod is blooming, the shadows are getting longer and now the nights are getting cooler.  We were 49 at the farm this morning!  That is cool.  Too cool to ripen our tomatoes!

Speaking of tomatoes.  Our sungolds are really going strong now.  And they are still as sweet as ever.  We have started harvesting some slicing tomatoes and our heirlooms are starting to ripen as well.  We have even been eating BLT’s here on farm!!!  Farmer Don does harvest some of the larger tomatoes a bit under ripe.  This is to prevent them from cracking on the vine.  If your tomatoes seem a bit under ripe, please allow them to sit on your kitchen counter for a few days.

As long as we are talking tomatoes.  Is anyone in the mood to make some sauce?  We have bulk paste/roma tomatoes for sale.  They are from a neighbor’s farm and are certified organic.  We are offering 25 pound boxes for $30.  They can be ordered on our CSA buying club or picked up at market this weekend.  If you plan to pick up at market, please email us so we can reserve a box for you.

New this week are apples.  These are apples from our own apple trees.  Please note, these apples are from trees which have not been sprayed with anything for at least 40 years.  For this reason, these apples are not perfect.  We like to call them “ugly apples” and you may need to cut out some scabby or wormy areas.  But, never fear, they really, really taste good!  If you are looking for a perfect apple, you may want to pass on these.  We should be buying in some no-spray or low spray apples later in the season, which will be more perfect.

For all our okra fans. Our okra is looking good and about to flower, so we anticipate to be adding okra to our availability in the next week or so.  We are also starting to harvest our second planting of Asian greens, with tatsoi being the first to become available.  Our salad greens are looking really good and we have added a spicy salad mix to the availability.  Spicy salad mix is our standard salad mix with mustard greens added for a bit of a bite.  We will begin harvesting our winter squash soon.  Spaghetti squash should be the first to appear on the availability list, as it does not need to be cured.  The other winter squash will spend a bit of time curing in one of greenhouses and then will become available.

A quick reminder.  Ordering for the CSA starts at 6 pm on Thursdays and ends at 6 pm on Sundays.  If you do not order, you will still get a farmer’s choice box of veggies.  Farmer’s choice boxes are custom packed by Farmer Don.  Sometimes Farmer’s choice boxes will feature items which either are sold out or not available on our choice list.  Farmer Don works hard to estimate his harvest almost a week in advance.  For this reason he tends to err on the side of caution and underestimate what he thinks will be ready for harvest.  If harvest is greater than predicted, these items will appear in the Farmer’s choice box.  If you try to select your items late on Sunday and find availability very limited, you may want to gamble on a farmer’s choice box that week.

Farmer Don will continue to attend 2 markets this weekend.  He will be at the Back Mountain Memorial Library market on Saturday.  This market is now on the grounds of the Dallas elementary school.  On Sunday he will be at the Mountain Top market.  This market is held on the grounds of the Crestwood High School.  Please stop by and say hello!

Since the newsletter is already late getting out, I won’t get too wordy and will end here.  Have a great week!

Friday, July 31, 2015

CSA Week 7 Newsletter

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!  I hope everyone is enjoying their Week 7 CSA boxes.  Week 7 is an egg week, so if you purchased an egg share, you should have received eggs in your box this week.  Please also remember that the half dozen eggs available as a choice item for the CSA are in addition to your egg share.

Sorry this newsletter is getting out a bit late.  This was a very busy week on farm.  The beginning of the week brought some unexpected personal issues and then we had a visit from some family members midweek.  We love to have visitors on farm.  This week we welcomed my uncle and two of my cousins.  Our families were very close when I was growing up, so it was great to catch up with everyone and reminisce a bit.  This was the first my uncle and one of my cousins had been here.  I think their biggest impression of the farm was that we have too many chickens and here I was worried about all the weeds!!!

Tonight is a full moon, a Full Blue Moon.  Blue Moon because this is the second full moon in July.  The first happening on July 2.  We have not had a Blue Moon since 2012 and knowing Don and I we probably talked about it in 2012!  According to the Farmer’s Almanac, this moon is also known as a Full Buck Moon or a Thunder Moon.  Be sure to take a step out on the porch and enjoy tonight’s moon.  I just find full moons so magical.  I love how bright they make the nighttime landscape.  Just don’t try what I used to try in my younger years – driving without the lights.  Yeah, probably not one of my smartest moves.  Don was never very pleased with me if he were a passenger in my car during my night vision experiments!

Nope, I am not going to talk about the weather!

But, I am going to talk just a bit about late blight, another of my favorite topics!  Late blight is spreading very quickly in the states around us.  Many of the NY counties bordering PA are now positive for the disease.  Farmer Don is worried enough that he began a copper spraying program this week on our tomatoes.  We have our fingers crossed, as our heirlooms are just now starting to exhibit the slightest bit of color.  As I have said in past newsletters, I am sure I will be talking late blight again before the season closes.

For the most part our fields are looking really good.  Our lettuce has finally started to grow and so far the deer seem to be keeping away from it.  In the next week farmer Don will do one last harvest from our greenhouse cucumbers.  These plants will be pulled up and this bed will be replanted.   The winter squash is doing very well.  Fruit is already sizing up nicely and we are looking for a nice winter squash harvest this year.  Spaghetti squash will be the first to appear in your boxes, followed, most likely, by delicate squash.  Speaking of squash; it is definitely summer squash and zucchini season.  We even have neighbors sneaking some into our walk in cooler!  Our first summer squash planting is done and we are now harvesting from plantings 2 and 3.  Our 4th planting is quite large and is already starting to produce some fruit.  We will most likely plant a 5th and final small planting of summer squash and hope for a mild fall!  Beans and greens continue to go out and continue to be rotationally planted.  We are still harvesting all the basils, as well as limited numbers of other herbs.  Farmer Don is gearing up for the last hurrah in the seed house.  We like to shut the seed house down in August and do a final push to get everything in the ground for fall harvest.  This year we are again hoping to extend our season with some low tunnels in our fields and plantings in our solar heated greenhouse.

Wow!  Speaking of August.  Happy August.  It does not seem possible that tomorrow is August 1.  Soon we will be sending the kids back to school and I will be talking about apples.  And there is golden rod blooming along our road already, a sure sign we are on the way to fall.

Speaking of apples.  Our trees are loaded with fruit this year.  As many of you know we have a very old, very un-manicured apple orchard on our property.  For the most part we do not even know what varieties are growing.  We have been told by neighbors it has be 30 or 40 years since these trees were in production.  We feel confident saying the trees are at least 50 years old, if not older.  We will be offering these apples to our CSA members.  We call them ugly apples, as they have not received any spray in the last 30 or 40 years and they therefore may have some disease or insect damage.    They may be ugly, but they are really tasty!  Watch for them to appear on the choice list in the next month or so, as some of our varieties seem to be early maturing.

Our kitchen seems to be fairly boring right now. Tonight, as I type this newsletter, farmer Don is busy making a chicken and summer vegetable stew to be served over rice.  We have also been using lots and lots of summer squash!  Zucchini is one vegetable I do not try and preserve.  We just eat and eat and eat it while it is in season.  We really love to grill zucchini.  I also often simply saute it, either plain or with some onion, garlic and pepper.  Throw in some sungolds and serve over pasta for a meal.  Growing up my Mom always made a sausage, zucchini, tomato, and pasta dish.  I am sure there is a recipe somewhere for this dish, but it is really simple to make.  Start by browning some sausage in a large fry pan or dutch oven with a lid.  While the sausage browns, get the water boiling for the pasta (my Mom always used elbow macaroni, I use whatever short pasta I have in the pantry).   Drain the cooked sausage, if necessary.  If desired, add chopped onion, pepper and garlic to the pan and allow the onion to soften.  When the onions are soft, add some Italian seasoning and the chopped or sliced zucchini to the pan and put the lid on.  Allow the veggies to cook until the zucchini is just about done.  Next, add chopped tomatoes (or a can of tomatoes) to the pan, replace the lid and allow everything to finish cooking.  Finally stir the cooked pasta into the veggies.  Serve in large bowls topped with parmesan cheese.  Add a fresh salad and some warmed bread and you have a feast!

On Saturday Farmer Don and Farmer Phil will be at the Back Mountain Library Market from 9 to 2.  This market is now at the Dallas Elementary School.  On Sunday, Farmer Don will be at the Mountain Top Farmers Market at the Crestwood High School.  At both markets we will have our usual supply of eggs, chicken, pork and organically grown veggies.  Look for lots of summer squash!, sungolds, and greens on the table.  If you come by market, please be sure to stop by our table and say hello.  Farmer Don loves to meet CSA members and friends of our farm.

It sounds like our dinner is ready, so I am off to eat.  Have a great week!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

2015 CSA Week 6 Newsletter

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!  Welcome to Week 6 of our CSA.  Week 6 is NOT an egg week.

What would a newsletter be if I didn’t talk about the weather?  And wow, the heat has been on lately!  But it is summer and we do live in Pennsylvania, so heat and humidity are to be expected in July.  This kind of heat for us on the farm brings on its own set of challenges.   Animals are very vulnerable during these heat waves.  We need to check chickens and pigs multiple times a day to be certain they have water.  We try to encourage our dogs to remain in the house during the real heat of the afternoon.   Rosie, this year, has discovered how cooling a dip in the pond can be.  Often during the hottest days you will see her heading off across the yard, only to return dripping wet.  She has yet to really swim, but loves to wade in up to her neck.  Shady, our other dog, hunts frogs in the pond.  Frog hunting, Shady style, involves standing perfectly still in ankle deep water staring down a frog.  She will literally inch her nose closer and closer to the frog, until she is almost touching it.   Of course, when the frog jumps the game is over.  I have never seen her try and catch one of the frogs, once one jumps away, she just moves on until she finds another to stare down. 

Speaking of the pond, like Rosie, Farmer Don also likes to cool off in the pond.  We often spend a bit of time in the evenings by the pond with the dogs.  Farmer Don jumps off the dock a few times to cool down, Shady hunts frogs, and Rosie searches for the perfect fetching stick.  Our pond does not have fish, but does have a lively frog population, as well as turtles and water snakes.  Not being a fan of water snakes or snapping turtles, I generally spend our pond time safely seated in a chair on the bank! 

We had a few storms move through this afternoon and evening and I am waiting for the predicted cool down.  Tomorrow is to be absolutely beautiful!  I am planning on doing laundry and Farmer Don is planning on planting, planting and planting.  The push is always on to get things planted.  The fields are due for another round of salad and cooking greens and some more beans.   We will continue to harvest greens and beans through the season.  In the fields both summer and winter squash plantings are looking good.  We should have a nice supply of summer squash through the summer and our winter squash is already fruiting.  We will most likely have spaghetti squash going out first.  We are starting to harvest our greenhouse grown sungold tomatoes, just as our greenhouse grown cucumbers come to an end.  Field grown tomatoes and cucumbers are growing nicely and should be ready for harvest in several weeks.  Our peppers are starting to grow and with any luck, they also will be ready for harvest in the coming weeks. 

This weekend we will be attending two farmers markets.  On Saturday, from 9 to 2, Farmers Don and Phil will be at the Back Mountain Library Market.  This market is now at the Dallas Elementary School.  On Sunday, Farmer Don (and maybe Farmer Phil) will be at the Mountain Top Farmers Market.  This market is from 9 to 2 and is in the parking lot of the Crestwood High School.  If you visit either of these markets, please stop by our table and say hello.  Farmer Don really enjoys meeting our CSA members!  At both markets we will be selling free range eggs, pastured chicken, apple orchard pork and organically grown vegetables.  Our eggs sell out fast, so if you are looking for eggs, be sure to get to market early.   Our laying hens have free range of our organically managed farm and are also fed certified organic grains.  This year’s meat chickens are some of the best we have ever produced.  Our first two batches have been 4 to 6 pound birds.  We offer both whole and half broiler chickens.  Our chickens are raised on pasture, with their grass diet supplemented with certified organic grains.

Well, time for me to print this newsletter for Farmer Don to proof read and then move on to making supper.  Tonight we are having sausage sliders and cherry tomato and cucumber salad.  I will most likely also cook some kale or green beans, which ever are harvested and in the cooler.

Have a great week!

Packing Boxes.

Ready to start packing

The wall of boxes

Farmer Don organizing the pack line

Shady the Supervisor

Summer Squash

No explanation needed!

Half dozen eggs are one of our CSA choice items.