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   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. 

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:

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.

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.  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.  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 (, 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!