Sunday, July 31, 2016

2016 CSA Week 8 Newsletter

Greetings and welcome to Dancing Hen Farm CSA Week 8.  Week 8 is NOT and egg week.

This week we welcome August and we say good bye to Farmer Matt.  Monday is the first day of August and Friday is Farmer Matt's last day.  Farmer Matt has accepted a more permanent position at another farm in the area.  Rumor has it he will soon be trimming a lot of Christmas trees!  If you see Matt on deliveries this week, be sure to thank him for his help!  Farmer Matt you will be greatly missed here on farm, by the farmers and the puppies!  Don't be a stranger Matt!

We have been getting some much needed rain lately.  Saturday afternoon brought some heavy downpours, but also several hours of a nice soaking rain.  The weather looks to be cooling off a bit this week.  It will be nice to throw open the windows and air out the house!
In the harvest basket this week is our first pickings of eggplant and green beans.  As always, these first harvests are generally very small, with a much larger harvest coming in the next few weeks.  Escarole was another new item on the list this week.  We continue to harvest some beautiful salad mix and this week we are harvesting a large bed of butter head lettuce.  Chard, kale, squash and cucumbers also continue to produce.  This is probably our last large cucumber harvest, as this first planting is about done. 

In the fields, our field grown tomatoes are looking good.  They are setting fruit and the field grown cherry tomatoes are starting to slowly ripen.  Our third, and final, planting of summer squash is looking good and we anticipate having a good supply of squash for a number of weeks.  Tomatillos are looking really good.  They have set fruit and we will wait for the husks to fill before harvesting.  We have started to plant our fall crops, with our greens and winter squash planted and looking good.
Unless I am at Forks Farm Market, Saturdays are a very peaceful day for me.  I get caught up on housework and the dogs and I do animal chores.  Yesterday was a good on-farm day for me.  Rose and I watered and fed the broiler chickens, enjoying the view from our upper field.  Shady joined us, as we made our way up to the pigs.  The pigs are always an entertaining stop and yesterday was no exception.  The minute I turned on the hose they came running for a shower and a fresh mud bath.  I tried giving them some zucchini, but it seems they have had their fill of zucchini.  They opted to line up shoulder to shoulder and eat grass instead.  It amazes me how much vegetation our pigs eat.  I smiled as I watched our pigs, so relaxed and seemingly happy.  It saddens me to think so many pigs are raised confined, inside large swine barns.  I understand agriculture and I understand farmers everywhere are just trying to make ends meet and feed people.  But, I am so thankful our pigs are happy, outdoor pigs; free to eat plant, root in the dirt and play in their mud pond.  Yesterday, I also took the camera for a ride around the farm.  My hope was to get some pictures of happy pigs, but the pigs had retired to their hedgerow for an afternoon nap!  The dogs and the vegetables were more cooperative about getting their pictures taken.

Farmer Don asked me to be sure to let everyone know, we will no longer be attending the Pittston Farmers Market.  We are sorry for any inconvenience this may cause.  Please visit us at one of our other markets.  Every Saturday we are in Dallas at the Back Mountain Library Farmers Market and every Sunday we are at the Mountain Top Market.  On the 2nd and 4th Saturday we will be at Forks Farm Market in Orangeville.  As always, our products are also available for pick up on farm.  If you would like to pick items up on farm, please either call or email a few days in advance so we can have your order harvested and ready for you.
Today is Sunday and the hours are slowly ticking away.  Rosie has been patiently waiting for a walk and I have long list of house chores I am trying to get done.  I best get moving!

Have a great week!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Rolling Doggies!

Freezing Blackberries

Ready to pick and eat!

Ready to freeze.

Off Farm Activities Spring 2016

Pearl watching over her goats at Crystal Brook Farm.

Our college friend Farmer Annie's farm, Crystal Brook Farm

The goats

Farmer Don and Farmer Annie.


Farmers Phil and Don celebrated their birthdays with a trip to see the Phillies.

Farmer Phil at the game.

Rosie and Shady visiting their cousins.

Monday, July 25, 2016

2016 Week 7 Newsletter

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!  Welcome to CSA Week 7.  This is an egg week.

I hope everyone is surviving the heat and everyone survived today's storms.  Here on farm we received 1.75 inches, some wind and a bit of hail, but nothing too extreme.  Again, we are happy to get this much needed rain, although a steady gentle rain is really what our plants need right now.
On farm, Farmer Don is "pushing a lot of water", as he says.  This has been a hot, dry growing season.  A growing season which makes us so happy we invested in an irrigation system.  "Pushing water" means. he is running our irrigation system each and every night to keep plants watered and roots cool.  Our soil is very well drained, which is good when we get 1.75 inches of rain in less than 2 hours!  But during these dry growing years, our fields dry out very quickly and our plants begin to show signs of stress, making irrigation a must. 

Not only do our plants need extra water during dry summers, but so do our animals.  Chickens are checked 3 to 4 times a day to assure they always have fresh water.  Our pigs not only need water to drink, but they also need water in their wallow, or pool, as we call it.  Pigs need this wallow, or mud hole, to help regulate their body temperature and keep cool.  Our pigs really love the  mud and water.  As soon as they hear the hose start to run they coming charging.  It is so much fun to watch them come sprinting across the field and literally jump into the fresh mud and splash and roll around.  They are so happy! 

In the fields, our peas are most definitely done for the season.  We are continuing to harvest zucchini and cucumbers, as well as cooking and salad greens.  Green beans are continuing to size up and should appear in boxes soon.  Field grown tomatoes are looking really good, flowering and setting fruit.  Likewise with our eggplant.  Farmer Don is trying to keep the lettuce going through the heat.  As mentioned above he is keeping the lettuce roots cool with irrigation water.  As a result, our salad mix is really beautiful (and tasty!) right now.  For all the okra fans, we spent some time weeding the okra last week, so hopefully this will allow it to continue to grow and soon we will be harvesting okra.  

We also have a bumper crop of purslane this year.  We do not plant purslane, but instead forage for it.  It is collected from our organically managed fields.  Purslane is an interesting plants, almost a succulent (think jade plants) and has a slightly sour taste.  Purslane is extremely nutritious.  It is high in Vitamin A and C and is one of the few plant sources of Omega-3 fatty acids.  Saute purslane, add it to scrambled eggs or add it raw to salads.  Here is a nice article about purslane.

I want to take a moment to thank everyone who braved the heat this weekend to come out to farmers markets.  The heat had our veggies wilting on the table and ourselves wilting behind the table.  But, you our supporters, insured we still had a great market weekend.  Speaking of markets.  We are continuing to attend the Pittston market on Tuesdays, the Back Mountain Library Market on Saturdays and the Mountain Top Market Sundays.  Please if you attend market, stop by and say hello!

Over the weekend, I spotted a huge head of bibb lettuce in one of our fields.  So, yesterday, armed with a sharp knife, I harvested it for dinner.  I used the tender leaves to make lettuce wraps.  Rather than going the traditional Asian route for the filling, I used cumin and chili powder to spice up some sausage and veggies.  I then topped the lettuce tacos with some grated cheese and chopped tomatoes.  I must say they were beautiful!  But, they were next to impossible to eat.  We ended up eating them with a fork and knife.  So, basically my beautiful lettuce wraps became a taco salad!  Still very tasty, but not quite what I was going for! 

Well, it is Monday night again and Farmer Don is busy packing tomorrow's CSA boxes.  I need to, once again, head down to the pack line and see if my help is needed.  So, until next week.  "be safe, be well and enjoy those veggies"  And stay cool!

Monday, July 18, 2016

2016 CSA Week 6 Newsletter

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!  Welcome to CSA Week 6.  This is NOT an egg week. 

Hot days and hot nights have been the norm around here recently.  I think it was a bit cooler this morning, but this afternoon brought the heat right back.  It looks as though we will have a cool down the middle of this week and then hot and steamy again in time for next weekend.  Saturday, storms blew through the farm and we received over an inch of very needed rain.  An inch of slow, steady, soaking rain would have been preferred, but we are thankful for any rain we get.  This is a dry year for us and we are so fortunate to have the ability to irrigate.  And our irrigation system has been working overtime recently as we keep fields watered and plant roots cool. 

Farmer Don's war on weeds continued this week with a big project around the pond.  We have always kept part of the pond bank mowed and left the rest more natural.  However, recently, we had been, once again, losing chickens to a predator.  The signs and symptoms of these attacks seemed to be a bit different than our usual predator, which we think is a raccoon.  Last weekend I was enjoying some pond time with the dogs when I spotted a weasel along the edge of the pond.  Now we are thinking the weasel is killing chickens and eating eggs!  With some mowing and weed eating, the pond has been reclaimed, as Farmer Don says.  Hopefully the lack of cover will make the weasel not as comfortable. 

In the fields, we are continuing to harvest summer squash and cucumbers.  Patty pan and eight ball zucchini will appear in some of our summer squash mixes this week.  Lettuce, chard and kale also continue to produce.  Our field grown tomatoes are looking really good and Farmers Don and Matt finished staking them this week.  Tomatillos and tomatoes are blooming and beginning to set fruit.  Our pepper plants are finally starting to become established and are growing nicely.  The next item to appear on the available list will most likely be escarole.  Escarole is the green in Italian Wedding soup or as my Mother liked it, with hot bacon dressing.  Green snap beans have tiny beans on the plants and we are waiting patiently for them to size up for harvest.  Our eggplants are looking healthy.  We have uncovered them and the Asian eggplant are beginning to flower.  This week is most likely the last week for peas.  We harvested our garlic last week and it is curing in the barn.  Farmer Don feels this is some of our best garlic.  Look for garlic to appear on the availability in the next few weeks.

We try to keep a variety of different herbs on the availability each week.  Most of these are harvest from a kitchen herb garden we have planted near the house.  We do have field plantings of basil, cilantro and dill.  We should be harvesting from these soon.  We often do not bring herbs to the markets we attend.  If you are a market customer and would like some fresh cut herbs, please email the farm and we will do our best to fill your request.

Speaking of markets, we will again be at the Pittston Farmers market on Tuesday, the Back Mountain Market on Saturday and the Mountain Top Market on Sunday.  This Saturday is also a Forks Farm Market, so you can also find us at Forks this week as well.  Please consider coming to one of these markets.  Support us and our fellow farmers.  If you visit, be sure to stop by our table, say "hello" and "shake the hand that grows your food".

In the kitchen this week, we have been avoiding the oven so as not to heat the house up anymore.  Salmon packets on the grill are one of our favorites.  We do a filet per packet and add whatever veggies we have in the fridge and top with a drizzle of olive oil and a bit of lemon juice or balsamic vinegar.  The veggies this week were squash, peas, chard and scallions.  I also usually add some fresh herbs, with purple basil, lemon basil, dill or lemon balm being favorites.  Speaking of herbs, another of my favorite summertime treats is fresh brewed iced tea.  To the tea I add a handful of herbs (mint, lemon balm, lavender, etc) and sometimes a bit of honey.  So refreshing, over ice, on a hot summer day. 

Since we are in the midst of zucchini and summer squash season, I thought I would pass on some recipes and cooking ideas.  I think most of us know zucchini is really nice grilled.  Zucchini can also be eaten raw in salads.  I have an old Moosewood Cafe cookbook with a zucchini salad recipe.  It is a simple recipe, involving julienning the zucchini and adding some fine chopped scallions and peppers (if available).  The prepared veggies are then tossed with a simple herb vinaigrette.  Tonight we are having one of my Mom's favorite ways of preparing zucchini.  I never remember her following a recipe, but it is a fairly easy dish.  Brown sausage in a Dutch oven or large frying pan.  Drain excess fat if necessary and add chopped onion, garlic  and some mixed Italian herbs to the pan.  Once the onions have softened, add cubed zucchini.  When the zucchini is getting close to being cooked, add some canned or fresh tomatoes to the mix.  Continue cooking, allowing any excess moisture to reduce if necessary.  My Mother usually added cooked elbow macaroni to this dish as well.  Top with grated parmesan cheese.  In recent years, I have also been making zoodles, or zucchini noodles.  I use a mandolin slicer, but you can also use a spiral slicer or test your knife skills and hand slice them.  Zoodles can be topped with a variety of sauces, including a simple tomato meat sauce, any variety of pesto, grated cheese or curry sauces. 

Before I end, I need to send a reminder out to our members who have arranged to pay for their shares using a payment plan.  Your second installments are NOW overdue.  The next (or third) payment will be due around the first of August.  Thank you for your cooperation on this!

For any of our members and farm friends who are on social media, the farm has a facebook page, a pinterest page and a blog!  I post farm updates, these newsletters and pictures to our facebook page ( and to our blog (  Please follow along!

It is Monday again, which means harvest and pack day.  I should head down to the pack line and see if my help is need for portioning.  So, until next week.....

Be sure to look to the sky tomorrow, as Tuesday is a full moon.  A full Buck or Thunder Moon.   

Monday, July 11, 2016

2016 CSA Week 5 Newsletter

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm.  Welcome to CSA Week 5.  Week 5 IS an egg week.  Week 5 IS also a chicken share week.

What a glorious Monday.  Cooler temperatures, lower humidity, beautiful blue skies.  Monday is our big harvest day here on farm.  The farm was buzzing with activity earlier as crops were brought in, given a quick rinse and placed in our walk in cooler.  After they have cooled a bit we weigh and/or portion them.  Later tonight, Farmer Don will pack your share boxes with these same vegetables.

The weatherman is telling me that these pleasant temperatures will be short lived.  The heat of summer is to start back tomorrow, with highs near 90 until at least the middle of next week.  Summer in Pennsylvania!
On farm, the fields are starting to look full.  Lettuce is sizing up nicely and we should be offering more salad mix soon.  Chard continues to produce and our Red Russian kale is growing out of its earlier flea beetle damage.  This is most likely the last week for peas.  We may have a continued small harvest, but peas do not like the heat.  Our snap/green beans are finally flowering and we should have our first harvest in a couple of weeks.  Our first planting of summer squash continues to produce, although not as prolifically as we had anticipated.  Our next planting of summer squash is fruiting and we should be harvesting here within a week or two.  Look for eight ball zucchini and patty pan squash coming from this second planting.  As with the squash, our cucumbers are coming along slowly.  This weekend's harvest was a bit more than we had anticipate, so hopefully harvest amounts will continue to look good.  New potatoes should also be making an appearance soon.  Farmer Don checks them weekly and they are very close to being a good size for harvest.  Eggplant is looking really great, but again has several weeks until harvest.
Believe it or not, we are already starting to plant for fall harvest.  Last week we planted winter squash.  This week we will be busy in the seed house seeding fall greens, broccoli, kohlrabi, rutabaga and more!.  These crops will be planted in the fields mid to late August for fall harvest.  Kind of crazy that we will be seeding fall crops in 90 degree weather!  The heat does pose a challenge in our seed house.  We use a shade cloth over the plastic to keep the seed trays a bit cooler and we water frequently to promote germination.  Without the shade cloth temperatures quickly reach 100 plus degrees and these fall crops do not like to germinate or grow in that kind of heat.

Market season is in full swing for us.  In addition to our 100 member CSA, we are attending 4 markets this season.  We have added the Pittston market to our schedule and we will be back at Forks Farm this season.  We will also be returning to the Back Mountain Library Market and the Mountain Top Market.  Those of you who follow us may remember that our plan for this year was to simplify things and downsize.  I am not sure what happened to that plan?!  But, please visit us at market.  We love to meet our customers! 

We had visitors this weekend.  My nephew and his family are in the area camping and they stopped in on Sunday to meet our pigs.  I had fun driving the boys around on the buggy, getting them to taste veggies picked right from the field.  The peas went over fine, but the purslane, well, let's just say perhaps purslane is an acquired taste!  They helped me pick squash and had fun spraying the pigs with the hose.  Pigs are always a big hit with visitors.  Pigs are very curious and always come to the fence looking for a handout.  And they absolutely love to get a shower from the hose!

I have to  admit our kitchen has not been overly inspirational recently.  We are cooking and eating from the farm, but no great recipes or ways of preparing items.  Simply prepared meats and sauted or grilled veggies have been the norm.  I will mention a bit on beets.  I have never been one to use beets raw in salads, although I have eaten them that way and find them delicious.  I like to keep cooked beets in the fridge and add them sliced to the top of our green salads.  And, of course, in my family, who could resist my Mom's pickled beets!  And, don't forget "red beet eggs", the hard boiled eggs pickled with the beets.  Here is a recipe one of our members sent us for a beet salad.  I haven't tried it yet, but it does look delicious!  Those of you who have been following us for awhile know that Don and I are both fans of Deborah Madison and we own a number of her cookbooks.  One of our favorite beet recipes comes from her Vegetarian Suppers cookbook.  The recipe is "Beet and Tomato Ragout with Twice Baked Goat Cheese Souffles".  Here is a weblink to a recipe which seems to be fairly close to the one in the book.  I will admit the recipe is a bit complicated for me, but Farmer Don has not problems with it, although he does save it for special occasions.

So morning became afternoon and now afternoon has become evening and night.  It is so hard for me to find a long enough chunk of time to simply type these newsletters in one setting!  Also, suddenly, I am not so sure today was so cool and comfortable as I had expected this morning.  Farmer Don is busy packing your CSA boxes.  I need to head down to our pack line and make sure all is well.  Which means I will be ending this week's rambles.

Thanks again for your support of our farm.  Be safe, be well, and enjoy the veggies (and eggs and chicken!)  And please remember to come out and see us at a local farmers markets.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

2016 Week 4 CSA Newsletter

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm.  Welcome to CSA Week 4!  This is NOT an egg week.  Next week (July 12) will be a chicken week.  Happy Independence Day!

Ordering for the CSA is now open and will close at 6 pm on Sunday.  New this week are onions and some cherry tomatoes from our Amish neighbors.  As many of you know, we do sometimes buy in product.  When we buy in product, we purchase from neighbors who share in our passion for organic and sustainable farming.

The weather, yes I am back to talking about the weather.  The weather word of the week, here on farm is rain, lots of rain.  I will admit it has been a dry summer, but we really did not need 3 inches of rain in less than an hour!  But, that is what we received Tuesday afternoon.  The fields fared well, some muddy conditions, but no real issues.  Unless, of course, you consider, that Wednesday Farmer Don tried to bury the tractor in one of the muddier areas.  Thankfully he was able to keep moving and we didn't need to call on a neighbor to pull him free.  Our road, on the other hand did not fare so well.  The ditch once again overflowed its banks and flooded our yard and washed out the road.  We got a bit of water in the cellar from this flash flood, but other than an annoyance factor, all is well here and we are drying out.
On farm, we continue to plant and weed.  This week, on Thursday, Farmer Don and Ken worked hard to clean up in and around our hoop houses (unheated greenhouses).  The beds in these houses are now being solarized and should be ready for planting in the next few weeks.  When we solarize the soil, we place plastic over beds causing the sun to heat the soil beneath the plastic to high temperatures, thus killing weeds and pests in those planting beds.  We will be putting plastic back on our greenhouses and planting shorter season crops inside.  Then in a 4 to 6 weeks, beds will be replanted with crops for winter and believe it or not early spring 2017 crops.

Our fields, in general, are looking good.  The first planting of summer squash is producing nicely and our second planting is beginning to flower.  Cucumber harvest was a bit lower than anticipated this week, but Farmer Don is expecting a larger harvest next week.  Greens are continuing to be harvested.  Snap beans should be flowering next week and beans will follow a couple of weeks after flowers.  Our first planting of potatoes are flowering and we should have new potatoes available soon.  Farmer Don peaked under a plant last week and the potatoes are still a bit small, so he is allowing them to size up a bit before he starts to harvest.  I will admit, we sampled the potatoes he dug for dinner and they were tasty! 

We continue to share our harvest, not only with you, our farm members, but also with the farm's population of deer, groundhogs and rabbits!  This year we are seeing significant loss from deer and many of our Asian greens fell victim to the groundhogs.  But we persevere, replanting crops and walking the dogs around our fields to keep the animals away, at least while to dogs are out.  With the losses we are seeing due to deer, we feel it may be time for some deer fencing.  Fencing our fields is a challenge.  Our farm is hilly and therefore we have multiple small plots scattered throughout our farm.  We will need to decide if it is more cost effective to fence the entire farm or individual production plots.  Unfortunately, fencing to exclude deer is not as simple as fencing to keep farm animals in.  Deer can easily jump a six foot high fence, so standard fence needs to be close to eight feet tall to exclude deer.  Another option for deer fencing is install a five or six foot fence, but angle the fence outward.  We will keep you posted on our deer fence decisions, as few things on farm are as disheartening as finding a beautiful bed of chard or lettuce grazed off at ground level!
Wow!  Market season has begun with a flurry!  We will be attending quite a few markets this coming week.  Tomorrow, Sunday, July 3, we will be at the Mountain Top Market at the Crestwood High School.  The Mountain Top Rotary Club is really focusing on building this market and are adding a number of vendors this year.  On Tuesday, July 5, we will at the Pittston Farmers Market.  This is an established market, but a new market for us.  Finally on Saturday July 9, we will be at the Back Mountain Memorial Library Market in Dallas and at Forks Farm Market in Orangeville.  This week is the opening day for the markets in Mountain Top, Dallas and Pittston. We should have a good supply of chicken, eggs, pork and vegetables.  If you are out and about on any of these days, please consider stopping by one of the markets, meet the farmer and pick up some fresh locally produced foods.
As always summer in the kitchen, for us, is focused on what we are harvesting.  We tend to eat fairly simply, meat, veggies and a salad for most dinners and leftovers or eggs for lunch.  Farmer Don did make a really delicious rice dish last weekend.  It was baked brown rice with peas and mint, topped with goat cheese.  It was based on a recipe from our Cook's Illustrated Cookbook and unfortunately I cannot add a link to the recipe, as the site requires you to have a membership.  The original recipe called for frozen peas and feta, but we had fresh peas and goat cheese on hand, so Farmer Don used these items.
CSA members, please remember to return you share boxes, berry boxes and egg cartons to your pick up site.  Being able to reuse these items greatly reduces our costs and our environmental footprint. 
It's summer and it's Saturday and the sun is shining.  Time to tackle the huge list of household and farm chores needing awaiting me.  But, Farmer Don just came in from morning chores, so first I think we will enjoy some greens and eggs!

Be Safe, be well, enjoy those veggies and have a safe holiday!