Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Happy Memorial Day!

Happy Memorial Day, one day late, from Dancing Hen Farm!

The buying club opened this morning.  As always, deliveries will be Friday and Saturday.  This week we are running a special on end, end of season potatoes.  These are no-spray potatoes from a neighbor and friend of ours.  They have been stored in his root cellar and have remained firm and delicious.  We continue to have a good supply proteins available.  Including eggs, pork, chicken and grassfed beef. 

Speaking of buying clubs, I want to take a moment to explain our buying clubs.  We have two buying clubs.  One is our "winter" buying club".  This buying club is free to join and deliveries are made to a designated spot on Friday night or Saturday morning.  We accept cash or check when you pick up your order.  The second buying club is for our CSA members only.  With the CSA buying club, your order is delivered with your CSA box.  The CSA buying club requires a $50 deposit and your purchases are deducted from this $50.  If you are a CSA member and wish to participate in both buying clubs, you will need to sign up for both clubs.  Please also note, with both of these options, we need to activate you in our database before you can order.  For this reason, you will not immediately be able to order upon signing up.  If you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

As long as we are talking about the CSA.  We do still have some remaining memberships available for 2015.  Our new drop site in Bear Creek, Luzerne County, has now been added, so, if you can now sign up to pick up your share at the Bear Creek Association Clubhouse.  As we announced in last week's newsletter, Farmer Don has determined Week 1 for this season's CSA will be the week of June 15.  The CSA runs for 22 weeks regardless of the start date and all members choose exactly what they receive in their box each week.  Watch your email for details concerning Week 1. 

Mark your calendars!  Sunday, May 31, is our annual Open House from 1 to 3.  Farmer Don will be giving a farm tour starting at 1:30.  Everyone is welcome!!  Please stop by, visit the farm, meet the farmers, meet the animals and see how we grow your food.  Everyone who attends will get one dozen of our free range eggs!  Please remember you are visiting a farm, so wear shoes/clothes you don't mind getting wet or muddy!  We also have two friendly farm dogs.  Shady and Rosie.  Shady is  an older mixed breed and does bark.   Rose is a younger Border Collie, she is a bit shy, but does jump. 

This weekend was a busy one for us.  We hosted a family reunion, of sorts, for Farmer Don's family.  It is always good to spend holidays surround by family!  The weather warmed up enough on Sunday to make it a perfect day to be outside.  This was the first time some of Don's cousin had been to the farm, so of course, a farm tour was in order.  We worked hard to serve Dancing Hen Farm food at the picnic.  Our menu consisted of curried chicken salad, pulled pork, deviled eggs, kale salad and an orzo/asparagus salad.  As always we made lots and lots of food, so we have lots and lots of leftovers!  Not a problem when you feed the farm crew lunch every day!!

On farm we are hoping to finally be out of the frost danger.  We again had frost several nights last week.  We have most likely lost our first planting of green beans.  Farmer Don knew he was really pushing the weather window by planting these beans so early and we have another, slightly later, planting in another field which seems fine so no real worries.  We also got a bit of damage on some summer squash  where the leaves were touching the row cover.  Everything else fared well, thanks to Farmers Don and Matt working hard to get covers on things.  The cucumbers in our greenhouse look beautiful and some plants are flowering and already have baby cucumbers on them.  We are thinking we may very well have cucumbers for week 1 of our CSA!  We will be spending this week planting, planting and planting some more.  This is our super busy time of year, as we scramble to get all of our main summer crops in the ground.  Now we just need some rain to help things grow!  We are so thankful for our irrigation system, but irrigation just does not compare to a nice soaking rain.

Ok, time to get this newsletter emailed and posted and time for me to get busy with my next project.  Until next week....   

Saturday, May 23, 2015

It is time for our annual open house!  Next Sunday, May 31, from 1 to 3.  Everyone is welcome, CSA members, friends, family..... We hope to see you there. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Farm News

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!

The buying club IS open this week!  Ordering began this morning and deliveries will be Friday and Saturday.  Look for some beautiful fresh cut herbs and a bit of greens on the list, as well as lots of protein.  Our first harvests of arugula and turnip greens made the list this week, as well as a tender young braising mix consisting of Chinese cabbage, bok choy, kale and other early spring cooking greens.  We continue to have a good supply of eggs, apple orchard pork and pastured chicken available and our friends and neighbors at Stillwater Fields Farm are supplying us with some delicious grass fed beef.

We have once again been dealing with summer like heat and humidity, with a cool down later this week.  I am seeing predicted overnight lows in the upper 30's by the end of the week!  Looks like we will be watching the weather closely and could be doing the row cover shuffle again this week.  Last week most of our crops fared well under their covers.  We did get a bit of frost damage on our early planting of beans, but we expect them to grow out of the damage. 

Last night we took a crop walk to get a good look at how our earliest plantings are doing.  We peaked under the row covers and it was nice to see beautiful stands of arugula and turnip greens .  We also have bok choy, Chinese cabbage, kale, chard and mustard growing nicely.  Most plants are still small, but looking healthy and well established.  Our first plantings of summer squash and beans are also small, but well established and growing nicely.  The early planted potatoes are looking beautiful and our peas are moving along nicely. 

This year Farmer Don is experimenting with a super early planting of cucumbers in one of our unheated greenhouses and wow, those plants look great!  It is amazing how quickly they seem to be growing.  I walk through this greenhouse daily and I can actually see them getting bigger every day.  They will be trellised this week and hopefully we will have our first cucumber harvest in the next several weeks.  Maybe by Week 2 of our CSA!

For the past few years we have been working to establish some perennial herb beds on the farm and it is nice to see some vigorous early growth on these plants.  We have beautifully established beds of oregano, sage, lemon thyme, and pineapple mint.  In addition, we have several huge lovage plants. Lovage is sometime called cutting celery and makes a nice substitute for celery.  Here is an article featuring lovage, including recipes, from the Wall Street Journal a few years ago. http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887324866904578515731301003910

As long as I am talking recipes and cooking.  Turnip greens.  Turnip greens are loaded with good phytochemicals and vitamins, including calcium.  This variety of turnip we planted is known for its greens and we will most likely not be harvesting turnips from this plot.  The turnip greens we are harvesting right now are very young and tender and will not require the long cooking times often associated with cooked greens.  Saute them as you would any green, with a bit of olive oil and garlic.  Watch your pan carefully, as they will cook very quickly.  These young turnip greens are also good in any massaged kale salad recipe you have. 

This Saturday Farmer Don will be at Forks Farm Market.  He will have lots of cut herbs, some greens and transplants for sale.  The weather looks beautiful for another great market day!  Stop by early for the best selection!  If you are placing a buying club order this week and would prefer to pick up at market, send us an email and we will gladly have your box available at our table.  As always, if you are at market, please stop by our table and say hello to Farmer Don.

We will be opening our farm to visitors on Sunday, May 31 from 1 to 3 pm.  Everyone is welcome!  Come on by, see where your food is being grown and meet the farmers.  Farmer Don will be conducting a farm tour at 1:30.  We are hoping to open our nursery for transplant sales that day as well.   If you plan to attend, be sure to wear comfortable clothes and shoes and be prepared for the sun.  We do have two farm dogs who are very much a part of our farm family.  Shady and Rosie are friendly, but will bark when you arrive and have been known to jump on people. 

We still have CSA memberships available for the 2015 season.  CSA news includes the announcement of our 2015 start date and the addition of a new drop site.  We are excited to announce that we are adding a drop site in the Bear Creek area of Luzerne County.  This site will be at the Bear Creek Association Clubhouse, directly across from the Bear Creek Cafe.  We will be adding  this pick up site to our website in the next day or so.  As for our start date, Farmer Don has been evaluating what we have planted and what we will have to harvest in the coming weeks.  This year, as was the case last year, he has decided to delay the start of our CSA.  Week one for the CSA will be the week of June 15 and our final week, week 22, will be the second week of November.  Another long cold winter delayed our ability get into our fields and therefore delayed our early spring plantings.  Farmer Don believes strongly in having a nice selection of vegetables for week one and he feels the week of June 15 will allow for that.  Please watch your email for additional details.

We have a new addition to our farm.  The rooster fairies visited over the weekend and delivered, well  most likely dropped, a new rooster at the farm.  Sunday morning, while doing chores, Farmer Don discovered a small, mostly white, young rooster hanging out with our newest flock of hens.  He has been named Black Tail, or BT for short.  BT is bit shy and is still trying to figure out his new surroundings.  We hope he blends well with our established flocks of chickens, including the two roosters we already have!  We will gladly take care of him, but dropped animals are not often a welcomed at farms by other farm animals or by farmers.

As always, thank you for your continued support of small family farms and local agriculture.  Have a happy and safe holiday weekend.

Until next week.......

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Hello from a very windy Dancing Hen Farm!

Yes, the buying club is open this week!  Ordering has already begun and deliveries will be Friday evening to Bloomsburg and Saturday morning to Dallas and Forty Fort.  On farm orders are available anytime  after 4 pm Friday or all day Saturday.  We are featuring protein this week, free range eggs, pastured chicken, apple orchard pork and Stillwater Fields beef.  Our stew hens are once again on special this week.  The heat of the last couple of weeks has not treated our early spring greens well, most have gone to seed.  This means greens will be off the buying club list for a few weeks.

It is hard to believe after these summer like temperatures, but, we are once again prepping for a possible cold evening.  We do not expect frost, but we have too much planted to risk it.  The lows  tomorrow night are forecast to be it the upper 30's and we will cover most of our crops with row cover blankets to protect them.  Speaking of weather, we really need rain.  I am thinking we will get some this coming weekend, but we need a couple of days of a good soaking rain.  Our soil is dry and we are already running our irrigation.  Unless the weather pattern changes, I think this year we may be very thankful for irrigation.

On farm we are still in planting mode.  Trying to get lots and lots seeded and planted as our season start rapidly approaches.  This afternoon Farmers Don and Matt were forced to open our second nursery to house seedlings, not unusual for this time of year, but always exciting to see so many seedlings started.  Our large unheated greenhouse/ high tunnel is slowly getting planted with summer crops.  We already have some tomatoes and cucumbers growing in this tunnel.  In the next few weeks it will fill with tomatoes.  Our first planting of arugula and turnip greens look great in the field, as does our first planting of Asian greens, kale and chard.  Peas are up and slowly growing and our early planting of summer squash is starting to leaf out.

On May 31, we will be hosting an open house on farm from 1 to 3.  All are welcome!  Farmer Don will be conducting a farm tour starting at 1:30.  We should will also have transplants for sale.  So come on by, see the farm, "shake the hand that feeds you", meet other friends of the farm and pick up some transplants for your home garden.

Have a great week!  And thanks once again to each of you your continued support of local foods.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Happy Summer in May!

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm! 

And welcome to summer?  Seems we have skipped over spring and moved directly into summer with these recent warmer than warm temperatures.  This nice weather has us really scrambling to get field work and planting accomplished.  As Farmer Don says, we are like a gerbil on the wheel as we try and get this months and last month's task accomplished.  Speaking of weather, we really need some rain.  Our fields are really dry, making us thankful for our irrigation system. 

The buying club is open this week and ordering has already begun.  Once again we will have limited amounts of salad mix, spinach and some young baby radishes.  We still have chicken, eggs and pork available as well.  Grass fed beef from our neighbor's farm is back on availability.  We have added grass fed steaks.  Local eating at its best - a grilled grass fed steak paired with a fresh green salad!

This week, we are again running a buying club special, offering our stewing hens at a discounted rate of 8 dollars each (down from 10).  With summer fast approaching this is the perfect time to make some chicken stock for the freezer.  I am trying out a new recipe for a curried chicken salad this week using meat from a recently cook stew hen.  If we like the results, I will share the recipe in a later newsletter.  For now, I will paste my recipe for cooking a stew hen at the end of the newsletter.

Speaking of chickens, it was been a busy week on farm for our chickens.  Our first batch of broilers are now on pasture.  These chickens spend their first few weeks of life under heat lamps in an area in our barn.  Yesterday was their big day as they moved from the brooder to some freshly mowed grass.  Within minutes of their move, they were running around in the sun and fresh air and eating grass. 

This Saturday Farmer Don and Farmer Phil will be at Forks Farm Market from 10 to 2.  At this market we will be featuring our transplants.  As I have said before, Forks Farm is a really nice producer only market.  The market takes place on farm, with many local vendors.  The weather looks beautiful on Saturday, I would encourage you to come visit Forks Farm and pick up some locally produced foods!  Information, including directions can be found on their website (www.forksfarmmarket.com)

Speaking of transplants.  Hopefully next week we will be adding transplants to our buying club.  If you would like Farmer Don to start specific plants for you, please contact us at the farm and we will do our best to work with you.  Our tomato transplants are just starting to break the soil, so it will be a few weeks before they are ready for sale and planting.  Again, if you would like specific tomato transplants, please contact us at the farm.  Farmer Don grows a nice variety of heirloom and hybrid tomatoes and we usually have extras from our farm starts for sale.

Mark your calendars!  We will be having a farm open house on May 31st from 1 to 3 pm, with a farm tour starting at 1:30.  This is a great opportunity for you to "shake the hand that feeds you".  Come by meet the farmers, meet the animals and see where you food is being produced.  Watch your email for more details in the coming weeks.

We are proud to have our farm products in several restaurants in Bloomsburg.  Since its opening, Baker's Guild on Center Street has been serving Dancing Hen Farm products.  Baker's Guild is open daily for breakfast and lunch.  Now our friends Sarah and Toby are opening a farm to table restaurant on Iron Street.  Their restaurant, The Blind Pig Kitchen, will be open Wednesday through Sunday from 5 to 9 pm to start.  The Blind Pig's grand opening is this Friday, May 8.  The Blind Pig has been a vendor, serving ready to eat foods,  at Forks Farm since last season, so many of you may have already sampled their delicious dishes.  And last, but not least, our vegetables will also be featured at the Inn at Turkey Hill this season.  The Inn's Farmhouse restaurant is open daily from 5:30 to 8:30. 

Another quick reminder concerning the CSA.  We do still have a few openings for the 2015 season.  Remember all members choose the items they receive in their box each week.  We are anticipating deliveries to start the first week of June.  As we get further into the month of May we will contact you with an exact start date.  Regardless of the start date, our CSA will run for 22 weeks.  If you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at the farm.

It seems I have been writing for long enough!  The growing season must be under way, for me to have so much to talk about.

Thanks again to each of you for your support of our small family farm and local agriculture.

Farmer Don and Joan

And Stew Hen 101

There are many ways to cook a stew hen. Here is Dancing Hen Farm's rendition. 

Place a thawed stewing hen (cut up, if you would like) in a large stock pot with enough cold water to cover the bird and 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar. Allow the chicken to sit in the cold water for 30 mins to an hour. Next, add to the pot, a large quartered onion, 2-3 coarsely chopped carrots, several stalks of chopped celery (include the leaves!), a few cloves of garlic, a bunch of fresh parsley (if available) and some thyme. Note that the vinegar does not change the taste of the broth, but, helps extract minerals from the bones, increasing the nutrient content of your broth. 

Bring the pot to a boil and carefully skim off any foam that rises to the surface of the pot. Turn the heat down and allow pot to slowly simmer for 10 or 12 hours. After simmering, allow pot to cool slightly and pour contents through a fine strainer or cheese cloth. Once the bones and meat have cooled enough to handle, remove meat from the bones. Discard the cooked vegetables and cleaned bones. Allow broth to cool and skim off any excess fat. Broth can be used for soups or stews or in any recipe calling for chicken broth. Broth will keep in jars in the refrigerator for several days or in the freezer for several months. 

Stewing hens tend not to be very meaty, so don't be surprised if you end up with a small amount meat. The meat can be added back to the broth for soups or stews or saved and used for chicken salad, tacos, etc.