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!