Monday, February 29, 2016

Happy Leap Year

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!  Happy Leap Day! And Good bye Meteorological winter!

How about that weather yesterday?  We all wanted to spend every minute of the day outside!  Spring must be coming.  The crocus are blooming!  Daffodils and tulips have pushed through the ground and are getting taller each day.  Trees are budding. And, of course mud!  Spring on the farm means mud everywhere.  With the recent rain, most everywhere on farm is mushy.  I have to say not as muddy as past years, but mud is mud.  With the dogs enjoying the warm weather, Farmer Don and I spend lots of time each day wiping paws, and legs and bellies, before anyone is allowed back in the house.  Although our dogs love to romp in the mud, at least neither of them finds a need to roll in it.

I posted a few pictures on our blog ( and our facebook page of yesterday.  I had planned to take more pictures, but the batteries in my camera died.  So, you will have to trust me when I say, Farmer Don spent his time yesterday getting our seeding house and nursery in working order.  It won’t be long before we start seeding our early greens.  This year we are experimenting with putting a wood stove in the nursery with hopes of keeping this previously unheated greenhouse above freezing, even during the cool spring nights.

As eager as we are to get our hands in the soil and start getting transplants going, we have learned from the past to know, for us, on our farm, this is way too early to start plants.  There will still be way too many night time temperatures way below freezing and even with our new woodstove installed, we fear very cold nights will still result in frosted transplants.  So we spend our time on farm projects.  We will be clearing some fence rows this week.  Our farm has lots of old hedge rows between our fields.  In some instances these untended areas benefit a farm by providing habitat for beneficial insects and birds and by acting as a windbreak.  However some of our untended fence rows are causing more problems than benefits.  We have areas which are actually providing too much shade to some of our plots and other areas serve as the perfect habitat for groundhogs.  Any of you who have followed us from year to year know that groundhogs are always a problem on our farm.  Each year we lose quite a few crops to groundhogs.  Probably our worst groundhog battle was several years ago when the groundhogs got under our protective row covers and ate close to 1000 broccoli plants!  We are hoping that by removing the fence rows we will be removing the cozy protected environments of our groundhog families and they will move on or at least be more visible to predators.

Our CSA sign ups really jumped in the last few weeks.  Thanks to all who have signed up!  Your CSA dollars are already at work.  Farmer Don has ordered quite a few supplies for this season.  Our peas and onion seeds have been ordered and were delivered last week.  We are currently working on our big seed order for the season, with the hopes of ordering the bulk of our seed next week.  We work hard to source organic seed and if organic is not available, we always choose untreated and of course, non gmo seeds. 

Since we are seeing new members, I want take a bit of time to explain our CSA and our buying clubs.  First, as most of you know, our CSA is a full choice CSA.  This means you have the opportunity to choose your items each week.  We custom harvest your vegetables and deliver them to you.  But don’t worry, if you don’t choose you still get a box of produce each week, a farmer’s choice box.  Our CSA runs for 22 weeks, with week 1 being the first or second week of June, depending on how our crops are maturing.  We offer two add on shares for CSA members and a buying club option.  Members can purchase an egg share.  Eggs are from our pastured chickens and are delivered every other week for a total of 11 dozen eggs.  New this year, we are offering a chicken share.  Members purchasing a chicken share will receive 12 broilers and one stew hen during the regular CSA season.  Frozen chickens will be delivered approximately every 4 weeks.  Each delivery will consist of a whole chicken and 2 halfs.  On the final delivery (week 21) in addition to the two chickens, a stew hen will also be delivered.

We also offer two different buying clubs. One is a buying club only open to our CSA members. This CSA buying club allows members to purchase extra items to be delivered with their weekly boxes.  The CSA buying club requires a $50 deposit.   Your purchases are then be deducted from your deposit.  The second buying club we call the Winter Buying Club.  This buying club is open to anyone and is free to join, in other words no deposit is necessary.  With the winter buying club, you meet us at a designated site to pay for and pick up your selections.  We currently have winter buying club pick up sites in Dallas, Forty Fort, Mountain Top, Bloomsburg and on farm.   The winter buying club is still on winter break, so watch your email for when we may open up this buying club.  Please do not hesitate to contact if you need additional information or have questions.  We do still have eggs, chicken and pork for sale on farm.  If you are interested in picking any of these items up, please contact us so we can have your order ready.

Cooking and eating this winter has been a different experience for us.  Since I did not get many vegetables preserved and Farmer Don did not do a large winter greens planting, we have been forced to purchase produce from the grocery store, something we have not done in the recent past.  I have to say, I am impressed with the variety and to some extent the quality of vegetables available at the store.  We have been able to keep our refrigerator’s produce drawer stocked with kale, chard, bok choy and napa cabbage!  Of course purchasing these items has greatly increased our carbon foot print this winter, as most of these items are not grown locally and therefore are being trucked great distances to finally arrive on our dinner table.   Soon, hopefully very soon this will be changing and we will again be eating fresh locally grown produce from right here on Dancing Hen Farm.  I simply cannot wait!  What I would do right now for a sun warmed sungold tomato!!!!  Now that I have said the above about buying vegetables, I just realized tonight we had a homegrown meal.  Pork chops, homemade sauerkraut, baked sweets and locally frozen sweet corn!

Thanks to again to each of you for your support of not only our small family farm, but local agriculture. 

Spring in February

The last Sunday in February dawned mild and spring-like. A day to be spent slowing down to smell the flowers and enjoying some outside relaxation.

Spring flowers are already popping up here at the farm.
Rosie actually slowed down enough to smell them!

The warm sun had Rosie already seeking out some shade to relax in.

Farmer Phil and Shady decided to relax in the warm sunshine.
Phil taking a break to enjoy a "beer made from a root" as he likes to call his favorite root beer.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

February News

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!  Happy Valentine’s Day!

I looked at my flower beds last weekend, before the latest snow, and thought – “wow!  Spring is coming!”  The bulbs are growing and in some cases are almost an inch or more above the soil surface.  This made me formulate ideas for a “signs of spring” newsletter.  But, I took a step back and realized it is only the first part of February.  These signs I am seeing are most likely do to the goofy mild and snowless winter we have been experiencing.  In fact, as I type this newsletter, there is snow on the ground, the temperature outside is a balmy 10 and lows the weekend are predicted to be below zero.  So, yes, Mr. Groundhog there are plenty of weeks of winter left.  But, have you noticed how long the days are getting?  Now that, you cannot argue, means spring is coming!

On farm, we are still in rejuvenation mode.  Farmer Don and I spent a weekend at a Bed and Breakfast in Gettysburg in January.  We had an extremely relaxing time, but one entire day was spent in our room having our annual farm business meeting.  We did lots of brainstorming about what has historically worked for us and what we still struggle with.  There will be no grandiose changes for next year.  We have plans to really build our soil and possibly cut our production numbers a bit to focus on taking better care of what we have in the fields.  Most of you already know, we have added a poultry share to our CSA.  Depending on how successful the poultry share is, in the future we add a pork or mixed meat share to the CSA.  Our vegetable share will remain a full choice CSA, allowing members to choose exactly what they receive in their boxes each week.   We are hoping to expand our winter buying club somewhat by increasing delivery dates and products offered.  Our plans are to extend our season in the spring and into the fall and market this product, primarily, through our winter buying club.

Last week we made our annual pilgrimage to State College for the Pennsylvania Sustainable Agriculture Conference.  This conference is a premier event in the sustainable agriculture community.  We gather, each year, with literally thousands of like-minded producers and consumers to attend lectures and workshops and to exchange ideas.  It really is a special conference and Farmer Don and I return home each year energized and excited to be sustaining our small farm for future generations.  For us, and for many farm families, this conference is our main vacation for the year.  Not only do we enjoy the educational and motivational presentations, but we kick back a bit and visit with many friends whom we only see during these few days each February.  At this year’s conference, we both attended workshops on soil health and we had the opportunity to hear fermentation guru Sandor Katz speak.

Speaking of the conference and fermentation.  We came home with a fermentation crock!  There is a large fundraising auction at the conference each year and we had the winning bid on the crock.  I seriously could not be more excited, as I have been dreaming of owning one of these crocks for years!  It is a German style crock with a lid and gutter for water to keep the air from entering the fermentation chamber.  We returned home from the conference late Saturday night and Sunday we put a batch of sauerkraut!  Stay tuned for how it turns out.

We are still busy in the kitchen making dog food!  But, have also been making some really good people food as well.  The other week we made delicious pulled pork and decided rather than serve it on a bun we topped a baked sweet potato with this tangy pork.  If you have never tried pulled pork on a baked sweet, I would highly recommend it!  I think we have found a new favorite way to prepare pork shoulders.

I want to personally thank everyone who has signed up and sent us payment for the 2016 CSA.  As I have said in the past, we are always humbled not only by the number of people who return to our CSA every year, but also by how many new names we see each year.  We do still have spots available for 2016, but please be aware that we will be capping membership this year and memberships are reserved by when we receive your payment.  If you have questions about the CSA or our farm in general, please do not hesitate to contact us.

We do not have a date for our next buying club delivery.  Please watch your email for announcements.  We do have eggs, pork and chicken available for on farm pick up.  If you are interested in picking up product on farm, please email us and so we can have the items in our cooler for you.

Farmer Don will be placing his seed order in the next few weeks.  He is always looking for feedback on crops our CSA members and customers would like to see us grow.  If you would like to provide some suggestions, please email us.  We are considering a greater variety of snap beans and increasing our production of shelling peas. 

I think I have babbled long enough here.  The sun has come up and it is time to move onto the next chore.

Thanks again to each of you for your support.  We are excited to, once again, get growing, for you, our community.