Saturday, June 25, 2016

2016 Week 3 CSA Newsletter

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm.  Welcome to CSA Week 3.  This IS an egg week.

CSA members can choose their items from 6 pm on Thursday until 6 pm on Sunday.  This year we seem to have quite a few early birds, those individuals who make their selections soon after the ordering window opens.  If you forget to order, do not worry, Farmer Don will pack you a farmer’s choice box.  Sometimes, if many items are sold out when you sign on, you may make out better with a farmer’s choice box.  Farmer Don estimates harvest numbers 5 or 6 days prior to harvest.  Predicting yields is not an easy task and he often under estimates our yields.  So, there may be more of an item available then we first anticipated.  For instance this week our cucumber and squash harvest appear to be much more plentiful then we originally thought. These items may appear in our farmer’s choice box this week.

I am writing this newsletter sitting by the pond.  Pond time is a bit of a regular afternoon activity here on farm.  Farmer Don swims and we reflect on the day and week.
This week we have had lots of animal activity here on farm.
Our second batch of meat birds arrived and they are settled into the brooder, their nursery.  The first batch of meat birds are on pasture, enjoying the fresh air, sunshine, grass and bugs.  This week also saw the arrival of another flock of laying hens.  These hens are pullets or teenage hens and were raised on pasture in Lancaster County.  In a month or so they will start laying eggs and will be in full egg laying production for next summer.

Pigs also arrived this week.  They will spend the summer and early fall high on the hill in our apple orchard.  The pigs love the orchard.  They have nice shade and lots of vegetation to root up and eat.  By fall they will have dropping apples to eat.   Each day they receive treats from the vegetable fields and have already learned the farmers bring the treats and run for the fence when we approach.

Sticking with the animal theme.  Rosie, our border collie, experienced her annual encounter with a skunk.   After several treatments with a skunk off potion and some bubble baths, her presence finally doesn’t make our eyes water!  But, if you pick up on farm, beware, Rosie is still a bit stinky.

Unfortunately, not all animals on farm are even as friendly as the skunk.  We are once again dealing with a chicken predator and deer and groundhogs eating our crops.  We now have our chicken coops wrapped in electric fence in an attempt to keep our chickens safe.  This tactic worked for several weeks, but this week, we again had some laying hens killed.  So, now we have expanded the fence and have moved chickens into a more secure coop.  Keep your fingers crossed that we can keep our hens safe.  Equally as depressing as chicken predators are our friendly produce eaters.  A walk through our fields shows extensive damage to some crops.  The deer seem to prefer chard, beet tops and lettuce.  They also have taken the top out of our peas and have really grazed down our cover crop areas.  The groundhogs, on the other hand prefer our kale and Asian greens.  A groundhog family managed to eat several hundred feet of bok choy and Chinese cabbage.  Thankfully Rosie has been harassing the groundhogs and I know for a fact some of the babies will not be back.

The farm, as always, is busy.  I can finally say we have all of our summer crops planted.  Peppers and eggplant were planted last week.  Our second planting of summer squash is in and our third planting has been seeded in the greenhouse and will be planted out in a few weeks.  Rotations of greens and beans are in full swing.  Our winter squash is waiting to be planted in the field, as soon as we have beds prepared.   Our peas are still producing nicely and we are beginning to harvest some nice cucumbers.  We continue to harvest summer squash and our lower chard bed has survived the deer attack and is looking good. 

In the kitchen, we are continuing with our field to table cooking theme.  Farmer Don and I both really enjoy sitting down to a meal made up entirely of Dancing Hen Farm products.  Last night was a simple meal of grilled zucchini, pork chops and a cucumber salad.  Grilled zucchini is a real farm favorite.  Brush the squash with a bit of olive oil or marinate it in some Italian dressing, then grille and sprinkle it with a bit of parmesan cheese.  The cucumber salad we enjoy is dressed with a simple homemade oil and vinegar dressing.  My Mom made the very best oil and vinegar dressing.  The recipe was never written down and none of us have ever been able to replicate it.  Every summer Mom would make 7 day pickles for us to enjoy over the winter.  One of the secret ingredients in her dressing was some juice from these pickles.  Even with the addition of pickle juice, I still cannot get the dressing right!  My nephew Keith is working hard to figure out the recipe, if he does, hopefully he will write it down and I will be sure to share it!

This is a Forks market week.  Since you are receiving this newsletter after market, I will thank all who stopped by and said hello!  Our other markets start up in July.  With July starting on Friday, that mean markets are starting.  Stay tuned for dates and times.  We will be returning to the Back Mountain Market, the Mountain Top market and new this year the Pittston market 

Ok, time to end yet another newsletter.  As always, thanks to each of you for your continued support.  And from Farmer Don:  “Be safe, be well and enjoy those veggies.”

Thursday, June 16, 2016

2016 Week 2 CSA Newsletter

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!  Welcome to Week 2.  This is NOT an egg week.  Ordering opened at 6 pm Thursday and closes at 6 pm Sunday.  Deliveries are on Tuesday.

I have to admit the weather has been fairly uneventful recently.  Or maybe I am just not remembering?  Today's rain was nice and needed.  Although we have irrigation here on farm, there is nothing like a nice soaking rain.  This week, on Monday, we celebrate the Summer Solstice.  The summer solstice brings the longest day length of the season.  Monday night is also a full moon, so even the night will seem light!  Time to get out and enjoy summer! 

New to your CSA choice this week are peas, tomatoes and scallions.  Yes, tomatoes!  Our Amish neighbor is already starting to harvest some early tomatoes out of his greenhouse and we were able to purchase some from him for our members to enjoy.  These are certified organic tomatoes.  Being the first of the harvest, they may still be small and a bit green.  Allow them to ripen a bit on your counter before you use them.  Dancing Hen Farm tomatoes are quite a few weeks from harvest.  The peas are ours and are starting to come on strong.  Currently we are harvesting snow and snap peas, with shelling peas a bit later in June.  These first harvest of peas, so sweet and tender are one of my favorite seasonal veggies!  Both snow and snap peas are, as my Mother would say, "pea pods".  Meaning, no need to shell them, eat the pods!  We also have a spicy salad mix on the choice this week.  Spicy salad mix, is a mix of lettuces and mustard greens.  Of everything we grow, spicy salad mix is one of Farmer Don's favorites.  The mustard greens adds an almost horse radish flavor to the mix. 

One of my favorite ways to prepare peas uses several items we are harvesting.  I like to saute the peas with garlic scapes and a bit of thyme.  Simply mince the scapes, saute them briefly in some oil, add the peas with some fresh thyme and continue to cook until the peas become tender, but still maintain their bright green color.  Peas can also be added raw to salads.  Or eaten right out of the pint box on the way home from your CSA pick up site! 

In the coming weeks, you should see cucumbers fairly soon and our first harvest of new red potatoes.  Both of these crops are flowering nicely and it won't be long before we begin to harvest.  Greens, cooking and salad, will continue to be available.  Our first planting of green beans are looking good, but have not flowered yet, so it will be a few weeks before they are making beans and ready for harvest.  The first planting of summer squash is continuing to produce and our second planting is in the ground and should be producing soon.  We will continue to have a variety of herbs available throughout the season. 

People often ask Farmer Don and I how to prepare different veggies which we grow.  We both love to cook (and eat!) and have our own favorite vegetables and favorite ways to prepare them.  We also have a nice library of cookbooks.  Although we are not vegetarians, we are big fans of Deborah Madison.  Our library contains many of her books with Vegetable Literacy  being a farm favorite.  Alice Waters also has also authored some great cookbooks, including The Art of Simple Food II.  In this cookbook, Waters focuses on vegetables, fruits and herbs.  We find both of these cookbooks filled with fairly simple recipes which really highlight the vegetables. 

For CSA buying club members, you will see chicken and quite a bit of pork on the list.  Both of these meats are raised here, on farm, on our pastures.  The bacon and ham are cured with a nitrate free cure.  We are also offering Alaskan salmon from our friends at Wild for Salmon.  In addition you will see mixed dried herbs available.  These herb mixes are from a neighboring farm and are a staple in our kitchen.  With the addition of some coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, these herb mixes make wonderful rubs for your favorite meats.  We will be adding additional items to the buying club as the season continues.

A quick note, concerning reduce and reuse.  We try hard to reduce our contribution to landfills and reduce our carbon footprint.  One way we do this is by, whenever possible, reusing packaging from your weekly shares.  As you all know, we reuse the wax produce boxes your shares are packed in.  We also reuse the green berry boxes items are portioned into and clean dozen sized egg cartons.  Any of these items can be returned to your pick up site for us to pick up.

In closing I want to wish all the Dads out there a Happy Father's Day!

And as Farmer Don would say:  "be safe, be well and enjoy those veggies".

Friday, June 10, 2016

2016 CSA Week 1 Newsletter

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm.  Welcome to Week 1 of the 2016 CSA.  This is an egg week and this is a chicken share week.

We are in the midst of ordering for the first CSA delivery for 2016.  Deliveries will be on Tuesday, June 14th.  The window to order opened yesterday, Thursday, and closes at 6 pm on Sunday.  Please be aware that items are available on a first come first serve basis and some items are in limited supply.  This ( and every odd week going forward) is an egg week.  If you purchased an egg share, you should receive eggs in your box this week.  If you purchased 2 egg shares, we generally give you one dozen each week.  This is also a chicken share week.  If you purchased a chicken share, your chicken will be in a separate cooler at your drop site.  Please bring a cooler or bags with you to carry your chicken home in.  Leave the cooler at the drop site for us to pick up an reuse.  And, if you placed a buying club order, your buying club order will either be in your CSA box or in a separate cooler.  All CSA boxes and all items in the coolers will be labeled with your name.
We do still have a few shares available for this season.  Please contact the farm if you are interested.

Yep, time to talk about the weather again.  It has been really crazy lately!  Freezing temperatures and sleet less than a month ago, followed by the dog days of summer in May and now fall in June.  And crazy stormy skies.  On Wednesday, it was sunny and raining at the house and the sky was black and stormy looking at the barn, but no rain.  Yesterday I hung laundry on the line and of course the wind brought down the line.  Thanks to Farmer Don for picking the not quite dry clothes up off the ground!  But, as I hung the wash out, this crazy weather year was so evident.  In the same load of clothes, I had long underwear, wool socks, shorts and a swim suit!!
As always this time of year, we are busy on farm.  Farmer Don has declared "War on Weeds", so, lately lots of mowing, weed eating, cultivating and hand pulling of weeds has been happening.  Weeds are a never ending project on our farm!  Between weeding and the rain drops we have also been busy planting, planting and planting some more.  Soon all of our summer crops (tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, etc) will be planted.  And as always we continue with our rotation of beans and greens.  We are happy to be harvesting squash. Greens continue to size up and rotations continue to be planted.  The hope is to harvest greens throughout the season.  Our beets are looking good and hopefully the deer will not eat them before the roots size up.  Snow and Snap peas are blooming and making peas.  Look for peas next week!  The first planting of red potatoes is also looking good and our first planting of cucumbers are blooming and growing nicely.  Cucumbers and potatoes should be available in a few weeks.

In the kitchen we continue with our version of Dancing Hen Farm's field to table.  Last night for supper we had a nice steak topped with chard and a side of sauted summer squash.  Here is a link to the steak and chard recipe (,50040 ).  Of course, we used green garlic.  I brought back some childhood memories by preparing the squash as my Mother always did.  Saute some thin sliced onion in a bit of butter or oil.  Then add the thin sliced squash, lots of black pepper and either some chicken stock or some water and a bouillon cube.  Put the lid on and allow the squash to steam in the broth until tender.  I have to confess, growing up we ate zucchini and summer squash a lot and this was my Mom's favorite  way of preparing it and it often by mid-summer I did not look forward to zucchini for supper again!

The sun is up, breakfast is over, Farmers Don and Matt are already harvesting for Forks Farm Market tomorrow and I have a load of laundry ready to hang out.  Laundry, like pulling weeds, is a never ending task on this farm!  So, I will end this newsletter.  If you are a CSA member, please watch for an email coming your way with additional CSA information, including drop site details.

Thanks again for everyone's support of our small family farm.  And as Farmer Don would say: "be safe, be well and enjoy those veggies".

Thursday, June 2, 2016

June Heat and Farm News

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm.  We hope everyone had a very happy Memorial Day.

Yep, summer is here in full swing.  Hard to believe that just about 2 weeks ago we had temperatures low enough to cause freeze damage to our field and greenhouse grown plants.  Now we are struggling to keep our spinach from going to seed and the dogs and Farmer Don are swimming in the pond most every night.
We are two weeks away from the start of our 2016 CSA.  Our first delivery will be Tuesday, June 14.  If you have signed up for a share, please watch your email for another communication in the next few days confirming the status of your account.  If you have not yet signed up, but are interested in becoming a CSA member, we do have a few spots remaining.  Please go to our website and sign up as soon as possible, as we do require payment prior to the first delivery.

This crazy cold then hot weather has our crops not performing as we would expect.  We had anticipated having peas to harvest for our first csa pack, but they have just started to flower, so it will be a few weeks before we have peas.  Our summer squash, on the other hand, is ahead of our harvest prediction and it looks like we will have a small harvest of squash to offer to members on Week 1.  Thanks to some hard weeding work from our farmers and helpers, we have a beautiful stand of Swiss Chard.  If we can keep the deer away from this bed, chard should also be available for Week 1.  Other cooking greens, salad greens and radishes are also looking great.  Scallions are sizing up nicely and our garlic is starting to produce scapes.
The farm is still buzzing with activity as we push to get fields prepped and planted.  With the danger of frost gone (hopefully!), we are starting to plant warm season crops, including tomatoes.  We are continuing to seed rotational plantings of cooking and salad greens.  This seeding will continue through August and then our seeding will be closed down for the season.  This week we will be seeding winter squash and pumpkins in the seed house and beans in the fields.

New on farm are babies everywhere!  This time of year is very difficult for me, as many of these babies are not friends of the farm.  It is so hard to see that beautiful fawn born in our orchard as a ravenous chard and lettuce eating machine, but it is.  It is barely a week old and Farmer Don caught Mommy deer leading baby down the farm road right towards the chard bed!  So the push to get Mom to relocate baby is on.  Generally enough activity from us and the dogs will cause most Mothers to move their young to a quieter location.  Earlier in the spring we had a groundhog family under one of our sheds.  The babies were so curious and so much fun to watch.  Like the fawn, it is hard to imagine these cute little babies eating hundreds of broccoli or kale plants in one day.  Rosie, our border collie, has already helped us with the ground hogs.  Mommy got tired of her family constantly being harassed and moved everyone to another location, hopefully not to a fence row near our kale or broccoli beds!  On a positive note our baby peeps are growing nicely in the brooder and will be moved out to pasture soon.  Like most babies, baby chickens are so cute, little puffs of yellow feathers!.  Cute, until they become annoying chickens hanging out on my porch or digging up my flower and herb beds!

The other week, Farmer Don and I spent a rare couple of days away from the farm.  We spent the weekend outside of Boston on a farm of a college friend of ours.  Annie now owns and operates a goat dairy.  She milks around 45 goats twice a day and turns all of this milk into some of the most delicious chevre I have ever tasted.  Farmer Don is threatening to sign up for a "cheese of the month club".  He is also threatening to get a few dairy goats!  It was a real treat to get away, spend some time with an old friend and see Ann's efficient operation.  And I have to thank Farmer Matt for watching over our farm and making our getaway possible.

In the kitchen, with the warmer than warm weather, we are trying hard to avoid using the oven and are cooking more and more on the grill and stove top.  Dancing Hen Farm chicken is still a favorite meal on farm.  Generally once a week, I cook a whole chicken on the grill.  I cook the chicken low and slow over indirect heat.  This chicken easily gives us 2 to 3 meals for the week.  We have chicken dinner the day I cook the  chicken and then the leftover meat is used in a variety of meals.  Tonight we had chicken and asparagus on toast with white sauce.  Probably one of our last meals of asparagus for the season.  Tomorrow we will have chicken sandwiches for lunch.  Over the weekend we cooked several pork shoulders on the grill for pulled pork served at a family picnic on Sunday.  Again, indirect heat and low temperatures produced some tender, great tasting Dancing Hen Farm pork. 

Let's see.  I covered the weather, the csa and the farm, time to move on.  The sun is shining brightly - looks like another beautiful day for field work.