Tuesday, August 30, 2016

2016 CSA Week 12 Newsletter

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!  Welcome to Week 12 of our CSA.  Week 12 is NOT an egg week.

Sorry for the delay in getting this newsletter out to everyone.  Time really got away from me this week.  I do hope everyone is enjoying their boxes!  I also want to give everyone a heads up that next week (Week 13) will be a chicken week.  If you purchased a chicken share, don't forget to look for your chicken in the cooler at your drop site.

As we drift into the second half of our CSA, I do believe I feel fall in the air.  This morning even felt a bit chilly!  The days are definitely getting shorter.  It is now 8 pm and already dark and this morning when I left the dogs out at 5:30, I put the porch light on for them.  The barn and tree swallows seem to have already migrated from the farm for their southern winter homes and the flowers in our wild areas are changing from white Queen Anne's lace to brilliant yellow Golden Rod.  This weekend at market, I noticed the fruit vendors' tables are starting to be filled with more and more apples.  I am not complaining, as I do think fall is my favorite season.

Speaking of fall, I am happy to say I am also seeing lots of butterflies on farm this fall.  This included quite a few Monarchs.  For the past couple of years, I saw very few if any Monarch butterflies.  Let's hope we have left enough diversity in our landscapes that these magnificent insects will survive.
However fall is not the season we are actually celebrating on farm right now.  We are celebrating tomato season!  You will be seeing lots and lots of different tomatoes in your boxes in the coming weeks.  We will continue to harvest right up until frost.  Our heirlooms are ripening well right now.  Remember heirlooms are called "ugly tomatoes" for a reason.  Do not expect the heirlooms to be a perfectly shaped tomatoes and don't expect them to be without blemishes.  Although I think heirloom tomatoes are beautiful, their real claim to fame is their taste!  If you read the descriptions in the seed catalogs, you would think they were selling wine and not tomato seeds!  If you are at one of the markets we attend, stop by our table and ask Farmer Don for some samples.  He loves to do tomato tastings!  Speaking of taste, we are continuing to harvest sungold tomatoes.  Sungold tomatoes are orange/yellow sweet cherry tomatoes; a real farm favorite.  We are also starting to harvest some grape and paste tomatoes.  Something I want to mention again about our tomatoes is the bluish residue you may see on some.  This is an organic copper spray we use to control fungus on our crops.  Farmer Don is determined to not lose our tomato crop to late blight this year, so he is spraying copper every couple of weeks.  Sorry for any inconvenience this may be causing.

Speaking of tomatoes.  Are there any canners out there?  We will be offering bulk tomatoes through our buying club.  The first available will be some certified organic paste tomatoes from our Amish neighbors.  Please see the buying club or contact us at the farm if you are interested.  If you are not a CSA buying club member, you can pick up pre-ordered bulk tomatoes at one of our markets or here on farm. 

In the kitchen, what else would we be focusing meals around, but, tomatoes!  This time of year, I eat tomatoes for breakfast, lunch and dinner!  A simple tomato sandwich (bread and tomato!) for breakfast, grilled cheese and tomato for lunch ( I like mine with sharp cheese and open face, under the broiler) and always, always tomatoes some way as a salad for dinner. Growing up, my family ate a lot of tomatoes.  Often we simply had sliced tomatoes as our salad.  Heirlooms are especially nice served as simple sliced tomatoes.  Add some fresh basil and a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar for a special treat.   A favorite salad from my childhood and now a favorite on farm, features sungold tomatoes.  No recipe here - halve a pint of sungolds, add some thinly sliced onion and pepper and dress with a simple red wine vinaigrette.  You can save the dressing in your fridge for a week or so and add more tomatoes (or cucumbers) each night.  Tomatoes also pair wonderfully with pasta.  Another farm favorite, pasta with fresh, no cook sauce, also doesn't really require a recipe.  Simply chopped a variety of tomatoes and place them in a large bowl.  To the chopped tomatoes add some fresh herbs, minced garlic, salt and some olive oil.  Cover the bowl and allow the tomato mixture to sit for about 20 or 30 minutes.  I usually get the tomatoes ready first and then start the water to boil for the pasta.  Once the pasta is cooked and drained, I consider the sauce done.  Add the pasta and some parmesan cheese to the tomatoes, stir to combine, serve and enjoy!  Tonight for supper we had another farm tomato favorite, BLT's, and again, no need for a recipe.  Ok, enough about tomato meals, well at least for this week!

A quick reminder concerning share boxes.  Thank you to everyone for so diligently returning your boxes.  Did you know our boxes fold flat for storage?  As many of you know, some of our drop sites have limited space for our boxes.  Please when you pick up your share from these sites, fold you box and stack it neatly in the spot designated for boxes.
I also want to remind everyone that in addition to our website, we also have an online blog and a facebook site.  I post some farm updates and pictures to both of these sites and post newsletters to our blog.  Find our blog at http://dancinghenfarmcsa.blogspot.com/  And if you are on facebook, please visit and like our page at https://www.facebook.com/Dancing-Hen-Farm-111155465564952/

It is getting late, let me get a copy of this printed for Farmer Don and then email and posted for all our members and friends.  Have a great week!  Be safe and enjoy the veggies.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

2016 CSA Week 11 Newsletter

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm.  Welcome to Week 11, the halfway point of our CSA.  Week 11 is an EGG week.

It is Sunday afternoon and the rain is pouring from the sky.  We are actually enjoying a rainy afternoon on farm.  I am, obviously, working on the newsletter and farmer Don is catching up on paperwork.  While Farmer Don was at Mountain Top Market this morning, my sister and I froze 100 ears of sweet corn.  Having an extra pair of hands made the task go quickly.  We also had fun reminiscing about freezing and canning growing up.  As we bagged our corn for the freezer and decided we would not need to freeze more this season, we were amazed that our family would often freeze 250, 300 or even 500 ears of corn!  WOW that is a lot of corn, even for a family of 6!  For me, another benefit of freezing corn is corn stock.  I have my stock pot on the stove right now, boiling some of the leftover cobs.  Corn stock is great to use when making risotto or as a base for soup or chowder.

As I mentioned above, we are at the halfway point our CSA.  What better time to say thanks to the many people who help us share the harvest?

On farm, we have several people who play a huge role in keeping our fields planted, maintained and harvested, in addition to helping us assure our animals are cared for.  Although Farmer Matt has moved on with his farming career, every crop we are harvesting right now is done because of Matt's hard work earlier in the season.  Thank you Farmer Matt!  All those tomatoes you planted and staked are starting to ripen and go out in share boxes!  We also have several part time people helping us in the fields this year.  First, Amanda.  Amanda volunteered several years on farm and this year has returned to work part time.  Lydia is another returning worker.  Many of you know Lydia from our Back Mountain Market stand.  Lydia also helps out on farm several days a week.  And Jason, sure shot Jason (you will have to ask him about that!).  Jason has been volunteering on farm for several years and is our "jack of all trades" and expert chicken bagger.  Ken is a new, very hard working, volunteer this year, working one day or so a week.  Thank you Amanda, Lydia, Jason and Ken!  On harvest day and also in our seed house, you will find Farmer Phil and Joyce working hard.  Many of you know Farmer Phil from market.  Phil is our expert scale man and spends most of Monday weighing and portioning the items members receive in their boxes each week.  Joyce helps on Mondays with harvest and also spends some time seeding and weeding.  Thank you Farmer Phil and Joyce!

We also want to sage a HUGE Thank you to all our CSA site hosts.  Our site hosts coordinate our drop sites and act as a liaison between the farm and our CSA members.  These individuals are our farm cheerleaders.  They graciously allow us to use their businesses or homes to help us share the harvest.  Please, if you seen any of our site hosts, thank them for their support of our farm, your farm.

And, of course, a big thanks to each of you; our farm members, customers and friends.  As I have said before, without your support, we would not be able to sustain our small farm. 

In the fields, our field grown tomatoes are starting to ripen.  You will see sungold and heirloom tomatoes available in the coming weeks.  We will also begin harvesting fennel soon.  Our chard and kale continue to look good.  The lettuce will enjoy this week's slightly cooler weather.  Our final planting of cucumbers and squash look great and we will be harvesting from these new plantings soon.  Basil loved the recent hot weather and our other herbs will continue to be available in small numbers.  Our latest planting of green beans is looking beautiful and we are excited to get a good harvest off of these plants.  We also have some soup beans planted and we are hoping they will have time to mature before the frost sets in.  Much of our broccoli fell victim to one of our resident groundhogs, but we are hoping to have a very small harvest in the next few weeks.  We continue to plant greens, cooking and salad.  We also have a large seeding of rutabaga to be planted in the next week or so.  Our fall root crops will be seeded soon, as well as some direct seeded cooler weather crops, such as arugula.

A quick trip to the kitchen and then I will let everyone rest their eyes!

A member recently emailed me about using our chard to make a pot of beans and greens.  This email made me realize I had yet to talk about this simple, yet delicious dish.  Beans and greens is very much a go to meal here on farm.  Traditionally, I believe this dish is made with cannellini beans and escarole, but can be made with any bean and any green.  Canned or previously cooked and frozen beans make this a quick mid week supper.  Generally, I start by sautéing some garlic and onion in olive oil in a dutch oven.  I add whatever greens I have on hand and a bit of stock or water.  I let the greens cook until wilted, but still bright green.  Next stir I stir in some red pepper flakes and the cooked beans.  Allow to continue cooking until the beans are heated.  Serve as a meal with some crusty artisan bread or use as a side dish.  I also sometimes add more broth to this dish to make a quick soup.

If you are a member of our CSA buying club option, you will begin to see some extra items available.  Farmer Don will be adding extra greens to this availability soon.  We also have a lead on some organic bulk roma or paste tomatoes.  If you are interested in these sauce tomatoes, please watch the buying club or contact the farm for information.

Time to sign off, allow Farmer Don to proof read this and move onto my next task.  Be safe, be well, enjoy the veggies and don't forget to return your boxes!

Monday, August 15, 2016

2016 CSA Week 10 Newsletter

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm.  Welcome to CSA Week 10, one week shy of the half way point.  This is NOT an egg week.

Summer.  We seem to be caught in the grips of summer.  Heat, humidity and almost daily thunder storms have become the norm.  I do think today was not quite as oppressive as the past few days have been.  And the forecast is for some cooler and drier weather coming our way Wednesday and into next week.  Even with the hot weather, I do see some signs of fall!  Yes, fall.  Have you noticed the days are getting shorter?  I already have seen goldenrod blooming.  Soon I will be writing about changing leaves and frost!

A few notes about some items in your boxes this week.  We really like to work with our friends and neighbors to share the harvest.  The beautiful corn and peppers are from our next door neighbors.  They are transitioning their farm to an organic operation and these products are no spray.  We also offered a very limited number of carrots and cabbage this week.  These items, along with some greens, came to us by way of Farmer Neil.  Some of you may remember Farmer Neil.  Neil worked for us for several years.  He now has his own small operation specializing in log grown mushrooms and organic vegetables.  Nothing please Farmer Don more than a past employee using the knowledge gained at Dancing Hen Farm to grow their own vegetables!

On farm, the big news is tomatoes.  It is officially sungold season!  Sungolds, those ever so sweet orange, cherry tomatoes.  A true favorite here on farm.  In fact, all of our field grown tomatoes are finally starting to ripen.  Our kale and chard also continue to look good.  The kale has grown out of its early flea beetle damage and we are harvesting both Red Russian, a flat leaf kale, and the more traditional curly kale.  Our salad mix continues to produce.  Zucchini and summer squash are going strong.  We should be digging another bed of potatoes shortly.  Okra is slowly growing and we are eagerly awaiting a good flush of okra in the coming weeks.  Our second planting of cucumbers is very close to producing and we have our fingers crossed for some broccoli we have planted.

In the kitchen, we are continuing to cook on the stove top and the grill to avoid heating up the house with the oven.  But, I have to confess.  I have used the oven to roast some cherry tomatoes.  To me roasting these small tomatoes really brings out their flavor.  I simply coat them with some olive oil and a bit of salt and pop them in a hot oven.  Once they start to burst and shrivel; they are done.  I like to use these roasted tomatoes (along with all the juices from the pan!) with some fresh basil as a pasta topping.  At least one night a week, we have a large salad for dinner.  The base of the salad is our salad mix and we add all sorts of chopped vegetables and top it all with some type of protein.  This week our protein was poached salmon portions, but, most weeks we use leftover meat from a previous meal.

I am fairly certain boxes are packed for tomorrow morning's deliveries.  It is getting late, time to wind down for today and plan for tomorrow.  Thank you again for your support not only of our farm, but of all local small farmers.

Monday, August 8, 2016

2016 CSA Week 9 Newsletter

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm.  Welcome to Week 9 of the CSA.  Week 9 is an EGG week.  Week 9 is also a CHICKEN share week.

Sometimes I really do not know where the time goes!  Here it is Monday night already and I am just now getting a minute to sit down and write this newsletter.  I cannot complain, because, for me, keeping busy is a good thing.  Now if I could just somehow find an extra day in each week!
August arrived a bit cooler.  Cooler is a relative term.  I am just happy for the daily temperatures to be out of the 90's.  And even happier to have the air conditioners shut off and the windows open.  It looks like the beginning of this week will be sunny and dry.  Perfect weather for ripening our field grown tomatoes!  Although it once again appears the heat and humidity will be making a return by the end of the week, with daytime temperatures predicted in the 90's and overnight lows near 70.

Our field grown tomatoes have been very slow to ripen this year.  We are finally starting to see some ripening and have started picking sungolds.  Watch for heirloom tomatoes to begin ripening in the next few weeks.  As with every year, we are battling a bit of disease in our field grown tomatoes.  Farmer Don has sprayed some copper on them to fight the fungal diseases.  Copper is an organic approved fungicide and is one of the few sprays we use here on farm.  If you notice some blue residue on your tomatoes, this is the copper.  We try to wash and wipe down tomatoes before they go out to our customers, but sometimes we do miss some areas. 

For several weeks now the farm has been serenaded by hawks.  I am convinced they have a nest across the road, up behind our house.  Today the calls were even louder and seemed to be originating around the willow tree by our lower field.  Sure enough, around lunch time, Rosie and I spotted a large hawk soaring over our lower field.  Diverse farms, such as ours, have a real love hate relationship with hawks.  As vegetable farmers, hawks are really nice to have around the farm.  They help to control many of the smaller creatures which tend to wreak havoc with our crops.  And personally, I love watching them glide and soar with the wind!  However, as chicken farmers, hawks are very much the enemy.  We have watched hawks take down chickens very close to us, our dogs, our house and our barn.  I have been working on training Rosie to respond to the hawks' cries.  She already does a really good job at responding to a chicken's distress call and seems to know to look up for a hawk.  She will chase after the hawk, if present, and I like to think she is chasing it away.  My goal is to get her to chase the hawk (based on hearing it) before it has its eyes (and talons) set on a chicken.  Speaking of hawks and chickens.  Our chickens are actually smarter when it comes to hawks than you might think.  If they see the shadow of a large bird flying over, they run for cover.  Literally, they run under the nearest bush and hide.  Now, I am not saying we still don't lose our share of chickens to hawks, but I find it interesting to watch the chickens' behavior.  I often wonder how they learned this?

In the fields.  I have already talked about the anticipated ripening (and harvest) or our field grown tomatoes.  New to pack this week, were tomatillos.  Our salad greens continue to look good, as do our cooking greens.  Kale, chard and lettuces should be available for the remainder of the season.  We are harvesting our second planting of beans.  We have had some issues with beans this year.  Our first planting was lost to the deer and this second planting was also hit hard by the deer.  The harvest numbers are small and we apologize for this.  Please be patient, we have more beans planted and we are working to keep the deer and ground hogs away from it.  Summer squash continues to produce, including patty pan and eight ball zucchini.  Our first planting of cucumbers is finally done.  We have another smaller planting of cucumbers which will be ready in a few weeks.   Beets are done until later in the fall.  We are continuing to dig red potatoes.  Okra is slowly setting fruit and should be available in a week or so.  Our peppers are setting fruit and hopefully we will have a small harvest in a few weeks, followed by a larger harvest prior to frost.

In the kitchen, I am waiting patiently for some tomatillos, so I can make one of my favorite recipes,  roasted tomatillo bread salad.  Here is a link to the basic recipe.  http://www.tucsoncsa.org/2009/07/tomatillo-bread-salad/  I generally roast the tomatillos in the oven, being sure to save all the juices.  Other than freezing some berries, I have not started canning and freezing yet this summer.  I wanted to make some easy freezer pickles and hopefully we will have some extra cucumbers from the next planting for me.  I also have plans for zucchini relish and, of course canned tomatoes.  Farmer Don will probably want me to make some salsa, as well.  I generally freeze green beans, but will have to wait and see how our next planting does.  We will buy in some sweet corn to freeze and some apples to make into applesauce, as well.  Stay tuned for how my canning and freezing progresses! 

Well, you all know, it is Monday night, which means Farmer Don is packing tomorrow's boxes.  I need to make my way down to our pack line and see if he needs help.  So, I will say "until next week".