Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Final Fall CSA delivery and Buying Club News

Greetings from a cold and windy Dancing Hen Farm!
CSA Members:  Tuesday's delivery, Week 8, was the final delivery for our Fall CSA.  Week 8 was not an egg week.  Thanks to each of you for your support!

Winter Buying Club:  We will be delivering for the winter buying club this weekend.  Ordering is now open and ends tomorrow, Thursday, morning at 5 am.  This will be the last buying club delivery until after the New Year.

This weekend we will also be doing a market at The Whole Life Center for Health on Route 309 in Drums from 1 to 4 pm.  Farmer Don will be there selling some organic produce, pasture raised chicken, apple orchard pork and CSA Shares for 2018.  If the weather allows he will also be grilling and handing out samples.  We will be discounting our 2018 CSA memberships for this market only.  If you pay in full (on Saturday, at the Whole Life Center) you will receive a $50 discount!  This is on top of our early bird discount and returning member discounts.  We will donate $25 of each discount to the Valley Food Pantry.  Come on by on Saturday, learn about the Whole Life Center, say hello to Farmer Don and pick up some locally produced goods.

It looks like cold weather has arrived!  On farm, we have only received a dusting of snow, but today the temperature is struggling to reach the 20's and the wind is howling.  But, a quick check of the weather shows, temperatures returning to the 40's by the beginning of next week.  It is hard to believe that in just about a week we will be celebrating the Winter Solstice.  The Winter Solstice is marked by the shortest day of the year, but more importantly is also means days will start getting longer!  Yes, longer!  I know there are many, many weeks of winter weather and snow still ahead for this winter, but longer days already brings joy and hope for an early spring.

On farm, we are preparing for the holidays.  Our Christmas tree is up and decorated and the house gets more festive each day.  Our Christmas tends to be very low key, quiet time at home.  This week brought our annual hanging of the barn wreath.  Thanks to Stacy, this year, for her wreath building talent!  Farmer Don has started baking cookies, chocolate chip, of course.  Unfortunately he needs to bake them frequently, as one batch tends to only last a few days in our house! 

We will be announcing the opening of our 2018 CSA in the next week.  For 2018 we will be offering a Summer Season Share of 20 weeks.  Add on egg and chicken shares will also be available.  We will be limiting the number of CSA shares available this year to 75 members.  Egg and chicken shares  and buying club options will also be limited.  Please note:  Memberships are reserved in order by which payment is received.  Watch your email for 2018 CSA registration opening and details.
I want to take a bit of time to talk about our buying club options, as this is a bit confusing.  We offer 2 different buying clubs.  One is our Winter Buying Club.  This is a stand alone buying club and is free to join and no deposit is required.  With this buying club, you will need to purchase a free Buyer's Club membership and you will need to place your order online using our website.  We meet members with orders at a designated spot and designated time on Friday night or Saturday depending on the location.  Orders are paid for at the time of pick up.  Our other buying club is offered to CSA members.  This CSA buying club is offered to allow CSA members to purchase additional items to be delivered with their weekly boxes.  The CSA buying club does require a deposit.  Your orders will be deducted from this deposit.  As always, if you have questions concerning the buying clubs, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Farmer Don has, once again, been the resident chef. Over the weekend he made a really delicious pork roast with sauerkraut.  Pork and sauerkraut is one of my favorite meals, so it is always a  winner for me. Even if he did serve it with roasted, rather than mashed potatoes!  We will repeat this meal for a traditional New Year's Day meal.  We once again have chicken to eat. For most of the season we had been sold out of chicken and this included the extra chicken we produced for ourselves!  It is nice to bring chicken back into our rotation of proteins.  There is nothing like a Sunday dinner of roast chicken!

Well, the hours is getting late and my creative juices are succumbing to sleep, so I need to end this newsletter and move on to a cup of herbal tea and bed.

Be well, be safe and have a joyous holiday season.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Fall CSA Week 7 Newsletter

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!  We hope everyone had a very Happy Thanksgiving!

I apologize for not being on top of newsletters recently. 

CSA members:  This is week 7.  Week 7 is an egg week.  There is ONE week remaining in our 8 week Fall/Winter CSA.

Winter Buying Club Members:  There will be NO buying club delivery this weekend.  Currently our plans are to resume deliveries next week.

Farmer Don and I spent a quiet Thanksgiving on farm.  We had an invitation to travel a bit south of here and join my nephew and his family for dinner.  However farm chores kept us close to home.  We still have a batch of meat birds on pasture which are requiring quite a bit of attention to keep them in food and water.  We did take time during our meal to be thankful that most of the food we were enjoying was produced on our farm or neighboring farms.  We have so much to be thankful for, including easy access to locally produced, nutrient dense food.

Here on farm we are slowly shifting to winter mode.  This week we will shut our irrigation down until next spring.  We had already drained most of the system, but some of the buried lines to the greenhouses and lower fields have remained open.  With cooler temperatures predicted for this weekend, we will need to drain and shut down the entire system to prevent freezing of our pump and above ground outlets.  This will increase our workload as we will now have to haul water from the house to keep plants and animals watered.  Speaking of animals, the shorter days and cooler temperatures have caused our chickens to decrease their egg production.  Our barn cats, on the other hand, have increased their production. Their production of fur that is!  Two of our barn cats have long hair and it always amazes me how much fluffier they become during the winter. Come spring this same fluff will fall off in big clumps.
This past weekend Farmer Don and I spent a few hours planning for next season.  We are finalizing our plans for the 2018 CSA.  It is hard to believe this will be our 11th year of production on this farm.  We are still (and probably always will be) tweaking systems.  And, again this year, we will make some changes to our CSA.  This past season, we tried a slightly new approach to our CSA.  We shortened our main/summer CSA and added an extended Fall CSA.  We feel our fall harvest has been a mixed level of success.  Although storage crops are looking good, many of our greens did not survive a hard early November freeze.  For this reason, we are going back to a slightly longer Summer CSA, with, at this time, no commitment for a Fall season.  Later in the summer or early fall of next year we will make a final decision on extending the CSA.  In addition, we will be limiting the CSA to 75 members and we will be limiting the number of egg shares we sell.  Watch for an upcoming email announcing details for our 2018 season and when registration can begin.

In the kitchen, I am making a bit of an early New Year's resolution.  I am committed to making bone broths on a regular basis.  For years, I saved all of our bones and vegetable scraps to make broth and I always had a supply of homemade broth in the fridge and in the freezer.  Recently, I have gotten out of this habit.  But, when I cooked down our turkey carcass and tasted the delicious nutrient packed broth, I knew I needed to put the stock pot to use more often!

Speaking of the kitchen, the dishes are not washing themselves!  I will end this newsletter and here and move onto getting the kitchen in order.

Thanks, once again for everyone's support and please watch your email for details of our 2018 season.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Fall Week 4 Newsletter and Buying Club Open

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!

CSA Members:  This is Week 4 of our Fall CSA.  Week 4 is not an egg week.  Thank you for your patience with last week's ordering.  Last Thursday was a hectic one here on farm.  More on this below.

Buying Club Members:  The buying club will be open for deliveries this weekend.  We should have eggs, veggies, chicken and 2017 Dancing Hen Farm Apple Orchard Pork is now available.  Ordering begins tomorrow, Tuesday, morning at 5 am and ends Thursday morning at 5 am.

The weather first, of course.  The end of last week brought "January in November" to Pennsylvania, including our farm.  The lowest temperature, for us, was Saturday morning when we awoke to a low of 12.  Not bad, considering we had mentally prepared for single digit lows!  I am not sure a vegetable farmer can ever physically prepare for temperatures in the single digits, but mentally we were prepared to lose most everything in our fields and even our unheated greenhouse.  As we expected, we did lose our sungold tomatoes in the greenhouse, but not a bad sungold season, considering we were picking them up until the first week of November!  We were able to cover some of our field grown greens and were pleasantly surprised to find that many survived.  We also were able to harvest and store other greens and some celery.  What this means to our members, is that greens will continue to be available in smaller quantities.

Last Thursday was a crazy day on farm!  As we were scrambling to harvest and cover what was left in our fields, another annual Dancing Hen Farm was also occurring.  The annual running of the pigs.  Those who have followed us for years know that each summer our pigs spend their days high on a hill in an apple orchard.  They have a great life, lounging under the trees, eating fallen apples, rooting for bugs and roots, and wallowing in their personal mud hole.  Each fall we move (or run) the pigs from the apple orchard down to the barn.  Every group of pigs has a slightly different dynamic and therefore some years the running is easier than other years.  This year the pigs were not completely cooperative, but we did get them to the barn without too many issues.  However the real issues were only beginning.  On farm, Thursday was a day of drizzle and rain, resulting in wet grass and mud.  These wet conditions caused the livestock trailer (and its truck) to become stuck in our yard.  After multiple attempts involving winches, tractors and trucks, the trailer was still stuck.  Finally it was decided we would try Plan B (or was that Plan D or J or maybe even M?) and the trailer was moved downhill across the yard and out onto the road.  It was then backed down a firmer path and a corral was built using gates and vehicles between the barn and the trailer and the pigs were pushed onto the trailer.  And the mud bogging began again!  Yep, trailer stuck!  One truck stuck and another truck sliding sideways towards the greenhouse.  Finally trucks were used to pull other trucks, quiet returned to the farm and the pigs were on their way!  I want to personally thank everyone who helped us this year -- it was muddy, wet and frustrating, but the mission was accomplished! 

Most years the running of the pigs represents a slowing of farm activity.  We start to slowly transition into winter mode. This year that is not the case. We are slowing down a bit, but our Fall CSA is keeping us quite busy.  The Fall CSA is about half the size of our Summer CSA, but Farmer Don is doing all the harvest and pack for the Fall CSA himself.  We also are experimenting with a late batch of pastured chickens, so we still have animals in the fields needing care.  With the recent turn of weather to winter, we turned off our irrigation to avoid frozen pipes and now all water for the chickens (broilers and egg layers) must be hauled from the house (and chicken waters thawed when temperatures are too low).  We are thinking the winter slowing will happen around the New Year!

Speaking of the New Year.  We will be opening registration for our 2018 CSA soon.  Watch your email for an announcement in the next few weeks.  As with past years, we anticipate offering returning member discounts and early bird discount for members registering and paying for their shares before the first of the year.  Again, watch for an upcoming email with discount details.  Egg shares and chicken shares will also be available for 2018.

I want to take a moment for a bit of a public service announcement.  I know I have talked about this in the past, but I want to revisit the topic.  Please if you have a pet or animal which you do not wish to take care of, do not drop these animals at rural properties thinking they will be taken care of.  Realize that most farms and country properties have all the animals and pets they need or can support.  Also realize that you could be jeopardizing the animals you are dropping.  Kittens, for example, are extremely vulnerable to being attacked (and yes killed) by other cats, dogs, or hawks.  Most animals become territorial and introducing new animals is often not an easy or pleasant process.  Please spay and neuter your pets to avoid unwanted kittens and puppies.
Ok this newsletter is getting a bit long.  I type everything into Word and then cut and paste it to our website and blog.  I like to keep newsletters under 2 pages in the Word document and this one is fast approaching and about to go over 2 pages!  For that reason, I will end here!

Have a great week.  Thanks for your continued support!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Fall Week 3 Newsletter and Buying Club Open

Greetings from a snowy Dancing Hen Farm!
CSA members:  This is Week 3 of our Winter CSA.  Week 3 is an egg week.
Buying Club members:  Buying club ordering is NOW open for deliveries this weekend.  Ordering closes at 5 am on Thursday morning.  Look for chicken, eggs, and some veggies on the list this week. 
Looks like a change is in the air.  Today the farm experienced the first snow of the season, with some light accumulation of the white stuff on the grass.  This weekend temperatures are predicted to be around 10.  We will not be surprised to see single digit lows here!  That is a bit cold for the first week of November.  What does that mean for the farm and our crops?  I would say tomato season has officially ended.  Generally our unheated greenhouse will offer protection for tomatoes with temperatures in the mid to upper twenties.  Ten will most definitely bring an end to our sungolds.  Storage crops, for the most part have been harvested and are being stored inside at cellar temperatures, so these crops will be fine.  Farmer Don will spend the next few days covering our greens with row cover and plastic. We have our fingers crossed that the greens will survive, but a lot will depend on how low the temperatures actually fall.  Unfortunately the warm temperatures recently have plants still growing and this will make them more susceptible to freezing.  Stay tuned to next week's newsletter to see how our crops fared.
Farmer Don and I will be missing the sungold tomatoes! We have gotten used to having them around for snacking and adding to salads.  I have to admit it has seemed strange to be picking tomatoes in November!  And I also have to admit, I am ready for some cooler temperatures.  Of course, I may be looking for a return of warmer temperatures come Saturday morning!
As this growing season winds down, we are already planning for our 2018 season.    Currently we are getting ready to open registration for our 2018 CSA.  Please watch your email for when registration will open.  We do anticipate offering an early bird discount again this year.  For us, shorter days and cooler temperatures signal a time for re-energizing.  In the next few months Farmer Don and I will have our annual farm business meeting.  We try to combine this meeting with a shot vacation of sorts, by spending a rare weekend off farm.  Being away from the farm means we are away from distractions and can focus on evaluating this past season and planning for next season.  And the weekend away is not all business, we do take a bit of time to relax.

Sorry for another short newsletter, but it is getting late and I still have not adjusted to the time change, bed is calling me.   Until next week - be safe and be well.   

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Fall Week 2 Newsletter and Buying Club Open

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!  Welcome to November!
Yesterday, Tuesday, CSA members received Week 2 boxes.  Week 2 is not an egg week.  There are 6 weeks remaining in our extended season CSA.
Our winter buying club is now open for ordering.  Ordering ends Thursday at 5 am and deliveries will be this weekend.  New on the buying club this week is a true seasonal favorite, fresh pressed cider.  We also have pastured chicken and eggs.  Pork is sold out for the season, with fresh pork being available the end of November.  And as always we have a variety of organically grown greens, root crops and storage vegetables available.
Our new item for this week are rutabagas.  The rutabaga, or Swedish turnip, is said to be the result of a cross between cabbage and turnips and it has been cultivated here for over 200 years.  Rutabagas are nutty and sweet with a mild turnip like flavor.  They are delicious roasted, or added to soups and stews.   In our kitchen, once we start harvesting rutabagas, we always mix rutabagas in with our mashed potatoes. This time of year we also make roasted vegetables often and we find a good mix to be rutabaga, beets, carrots, onions and potatoes.
On farm, we are still tightening up and preparing for cooler weather.  Some greenhouses are now covered in plastic and side and end walls have been erected.  These greenhouses are either planted with crops for winter and early spring harvest or will be heated beginning late winter for seedling production.  We will be removing the plastic from smaller greenhouses we use as nurseries for our seedlings.  These greenhouses will not be used until next spring and removing the plastic will prevent snow and ice from not only damaging the plastic, but also causing damage the houses structure.   Next week, we will be placing plastic over some of our field grown greens. This will allow us to harvest from these plots even after lower overnight temperatures.  All this winter and spring preparation and we are still harvesting greens and root crops! 
I will apologize now for this shortness of this newsletter.   Hopefully next week I can carve out some extra newsletter time.
For now, I will end by, as always thanking everyone for their continued support of our farm and local, sustainable agriculture.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Buying Club open this week!!!

Good Morning Dancing Hen Farm Winter Buying Club members!

The buying club is now open for ordering, for delivery this weekend!  Ordering will close Thursday morning at 6 am.  We deliver buying club orders to Bloomsburg on Friday nights in the parking lot at Bloom Naturally between 5:30 and 6 pm.  On Saturday we meet in Dallas (100 Lake Street), in the parking lot from 10 to 10:30 am.  We meet on Saturday from 11 to 11:30 at 900 Rutter Ave in Forty Fort.  This week only, Mountain Top orders will be available at the Mountain Farmers Market from 9 am to 1 pm.
Availability this week includes a fresh batch of Dancing Hen Farm pastured chicken, eggs, a variety of cooking greens, salad greens, winter squash, sweet potatoes, no spray apples, and limited cuts of our Apple Orchard pork.

As always, if you have questions for us or need additional information, please do not hesitate to contact us.

And as always, Thank You for your continued support of our farm and local sustainable agriculture. 

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Last Chicken Share for 2017 includes a Stew Hen

Tuesday, October 24, is the last chicken CSA share delivery of the 2017 season.  This delivery will include a stew hen.  Here is how Dancing Hen Farm cooks stew hens.

This is the last chicken share delivery of the season, so everyone is getting a bonus chicken.  A stew hen.  Stew hens real value is in the nutritious, rich broth they produce when cooked down.

There are many ways to cook a hen.   Here is Dancing Hen Farm's  rendition.
Placed  a thawed stewing hen (cut up, if you would like) in a large stock pot with enough cold water to cover the bird and 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar.  Allow the chicken to sit in the cold water for 30 mins to an hour.   Next, add to the pot, a large quartered onion, 2-3 coarsely chopped carrots, several stalks of chopped celery (include the leaves!), a few cloves of garlic, a bunch of fresh parsley (if available) and some thyme.  Note that the vinegar does not change the taste of the broth, but,  helps extract minerals from the bones, increasing the nutrient content of your broth. 

Bring the pot to a boil and carefully skim off any foam that rises to the surface of the pot.  Turn the heat down and allow pot to slowly simmer for 10 or 12 hours.   After simmering, allow pot to cool slightly and pour contents through a fine strainer or cheese cloth.   Once the bones and meat have cooled enough to handle, remove meat from the bones.  Discard the cooked vegetables and cleaned bones.  Allow broth to cool and skim off any excess fat.   Broth can be used for soups or stews or in any recipe calling for chicken broth.  Broth will keep in jars in the refrigerator for several days or in the freezer for several months.

Stewing hens tend not to be very meaty, so don't be surprised if you end up with a small amount meat.  The meat can be added back to the broth for soups or stews or saved and used for chicken salad, tacos, etc.

Fun at the game...

Farmers Don and Phil tailgating before the Penn State Michigan game.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Start of our Fall CSA

Dancing Hen Farm Fall/Winter CSA 2017 Week 1
Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!  Welcome to Dancing Hen Farm CSA!
You are receiving this email because you are a member of our 2017 Fall/Winter CSA.  In the next few days you will receive additional emails, including one with details for your specific pick up site and another newsletter.  Sorry for all the emails!  Once the season gets rolling you can generally expect one email a week, our weekly newsletter.
It is finally time. Our first Fall CSA delivery is Tuesday, October 24.  That means ordering starts today!  Ordering for Week 1 will begin today, October 19 at 6 pm and will end Sunday, October 22 at 6 pm. You will need to log into our website using your email and password you registered with, in order to make your selections. If you are having difficulty, please contact the farm. All items are available first come first serve! Happy picking!  If you forget to order, or chose not to order, you will still receive a box, a farmer's choice box.
Please note all CSA boxes will now be available on Tuesday.  We guarantee your box will be at our drop-site after 4 pm.  On farm CSA boxes are available on Tuesday, after 9 am.
Please note, WEEK 1 IS AN EGG WEEK.  This means if you signed up for an egg share, you will receive eggs in your box this week. 
There are a multitude of reasons we do what we do, but most important to us is to be able to share our harvest of nutrient dense vegetables with our community. Thanks to each of you for your support of our farm and local agriculture.

Be safe, be well and watch your inbox for site details and farm news!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Week 18 Newsletter

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm.  Welcome to Week 18 of our Summer/Main Season CSA.  Week 18 is the final vegetable delivery of the summer season.  So, if you did not sign up for a fall share, the box you received yesterday, Tuesday October 17, is your last veggie of the season.  Week 18 is not an egg week.  If you purchased a chicken share this year, you will have one final chicken delivery next CSA week on Tuesday, October 24.

Fall/Winter members:  The first fall delivery will be Tuesday, October 24.  That means the window to sign onto the website and pick the items for your box will begin on Thursday, October 19 at 6pm and close on Sunday, October 22 at 6 pm.  Fall members will be receiving a number of emails in the next day or two.  Thank you for your patience, as much of the information is a repeat of our summer info emails, but, we do have new members for fall.

Big news on farm were last night's low temperatures.  We recorded 27 at our weather station up above our barn, near our production fields, and 32 on our back porch.  27 means most of our summer crops were killed or had significant frost/freeze damage.  We were able to salvage beans and peppers by harvesting, but summer squash, okra, and basil are done for the season.  We will store the beans and peppers in our cooler and make them available to our fall members.  Farmer Don just reminded me the frost also killed many of the weeds -- something to really celebrate!  Also time to celebrate greens.  Many of the greens we grow love the cooler weather and will actually become sweeter with frost.

Monday  was a flurry of activity on farm.  Mondays are our big harvest and pack day for Tuesday's deliveries, so it is always a long day in the field and in the pack house.  However, yesterday was even busier as Farmer Don and Farmer Mike scrambled to put the end walls up on our large unheated greenhouse.  We still have some sungold tomatoes in this greenhouse and we are hoping to harvest from them for a few more weeks.  The end walls combined with the lower side walls, will give protection to the tomatoes until overnight temperatures fall into the mid to low 20's.  In addition to harvesting for pack and building end walls, we also were busy getting crops harvest and covered with row cover to protect them from the frost.
Farmers Markets are quickly coming to an end, which means we will be starting our winter buying club in the next few weeks.  Our winter buying club is separate from our CSA buying club.  The winter buying club is a "pay as you go" buying club and requires you meet us at a designated location (or on farm) on Saturday morning to pick up and pay for your items.  If you are interested in this buying club, you will need to log into our website and "purchase" a free winter buying club share.  Once we activate your account and open the buying club, you will be able to order items for pick up.  Please watch your email for announcements concerning the opening of the winter buying club.
Speaking of buying clubs (both the CSA and winter buying clubs).  In the next few weeks, you can expect to see eggs and chicken returning as items for sale.  And by the end of next month our Apple Orchard Pork will also be available.  If you are interested in bulk pork to fill your freezer, please contact the farm for details.

Our kitchen is quickly moving from the grill to the oven.  Last night for dinner we had, what we consider, a very summer like meal.  Chicken, roasted zucchini and roasted potatoes.  Generally we cook this entire meal on the grill, but with the shorter day lengths and cooler temperatures, we cooked the entire meal in the oven.  Last night's chicken was a real treat for us.  We have been sold out of chicken for most of the summer.  So not only have we not had chicken for sale, we also have not had chicken for our own use.  Soon we will have stew hens available, as well, and I cannot wait to replenish my chicken stock supply. 

Boxes.  With this being the last week for delivery, we are asking everyone to return boxes to your drop site so we can pick them up next week.

We are already reflecting on this season and planning for next season.  We may be finally adding some sheep to our production system and have plans to grow some additional crop varieties.  If you have ideas on crops you would like to see us grow, please send us an email.  As always This growing season has been filled with successes and challenges.  We have been happy with our late season bean harvest, our cucumbers, and swiss chard.  Tomatoes and peppers did well, but the cool wet summer delayed ripening and caused disease to establish.  I would say the weather and deer, as always, presented our biggest challenges.  The summer months arrived cool and wet and then our traditionally cooler fall months arrived hot and dry!  However, if Mother Nature had told us this was Her plan, we would have planted our fall crops for summer harvest and our summer crops for fall harvest!  As Farmer Don likes to say "Mother Nature always bats last".  For next year we are hoping to invest in some fencing and better row covers to deter our area's growing deer population. 

Thanks again to all of you for supporting our farm.  We hope everyone has enjoyed sharing the harvest with us. 

So, the sun is rising quickly, the morning coffee has me fully awake.  Time to end this newsletter.
Please watch your email for farm announcements.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Week 16 Newletter

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!  

First on the agenda:  announcements and dates.  The CSA boxes delivered on Tuesday, October 3, was Week 16 of our summer CSA.  Week 16 was not an egg week.  There are 2 weeks remaining in our Summer/Main season CSA.   This coming week, Week 17, will be the last egg week.  The last week for vegetable deliveries is October 17.  Chicken Share members:  You will receive your final chicken share delivery on Tuesday, October 24.  Fall/Winter share members.  We need to receive payment for your share prior to deliveries.  Week 1 of this 8 week, extended, season will be Tuesday, October 24 and will be an egg week.  

On to the weather.  Last week brought temperatures in the low 30's to the farm.  This means we were nipped by a light frost.  Most of our plantings were unaffected by this, however our summer squash and snap beans lost a few of their top leaves.  But, we do not expect harvest to be reduced.  Hard to believe we were dealing with frost less than a week ago, with temperatures back in the upper 70's and forecast to be in the low 80's this coming week.  Crazy weather!  Summer in October!  We are even experiencing the dry weather we usually see in the summer as well.  We do need rain.  Farmer Don tends not to put irrigation tubing down in fall/winter crops.  Our irrigation system is not frost-free, so we need to shut it down in the fall to prevent frozen pipes.  Generally this lack of irrigation does not pose a threat to our late season crops.  But this year that is not the case and these crops need water.  So, we are now watering  these fields by hand with a garden hose!  Not the most efficient way to deliver water to our crops, but hopefully we will pull them through this bit of a drought.  

On farm, other than doing the best we can to keep water to our crops, we are still in a bit of a transition.  We are still harvesting summer crops, including some tomatoes, summer squash and beans.  However, our fall crops are also being harvested, including greens, root crops and winter squash.  I anticipate heavier frost in the next week or two, which will officially bring an end to our summer harvest.  We are slowly putting some fields to rest for the winter.   This involves removal of crop residues, some minimal tillage and planting cover crops.  Cover  crops build organic matter in our soil and help keep nutrients available for our crops.  In the next week or so, we will be planting garlic for next year.  Garlic is one of the few crops grown which gets planted in the fall for harvest the following summer.  We are also getting crop planted fields ready for protection.  We will be building low tunnels over many of our crops to protect them from the cold temperatures sure to come in the next month or two.  Low tunnels are mini greenhouses build using bent pipes covered with plastic over top of row crops.  These temporary structures will protect our salad and cooking greens, allowing us to extend our harvest.

In the kitchen we are also anticipating cooler temperatures.  Every fall Farmer Don and I make at least two batches of sauerkraut.  We have a beautiful German fermenting crop which holds approximately 10 pounds of fermenting cabbage.  We feel cooler temperatures are better for the fermentation process, so we wait for a cool down.  We make a very traditional cabbage kraut, without adding caraway seeds or carrots.  We do ferment some other vegetables in addition to cabbage, including carrots and turnips. I will keep you posted on how our fall ferments progress.  Watch our buying club, as some of our sauerkraut may appear there.

Speaking of the kitchen and cooler temperatures, fall and winter also means the appearance of winter squash.  This year we will have delicata, acorn and butternut squash and small pie pumpkins.  Delicatas are a smaller, thinner skinned winter squash.  It is one of the few winter squash with edible skin.  We like to roast sliced delicata squash in a hot oven, coating with a bit of butter and maple syrup right before serving.  Acorn squash are good for stuffing.  Cut in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, fill with your favorite filling and bake.  On farm, we stuff these squash with a mixture of sausage, onions, garlic, rice and greens.  Butternut squash is a sweet winter squash and hold up well in soups and stews.  One of our favorite recipes for butternut squash comes from the cookbook "Simply in Season".  It is a pork stew with apples and butternut squash and oh so tasty.  I found a link online

Speaking of pork, come November, we will have Dancing Hen Farm Apple Orchard Pork available.  We sell our bulk pork by the half and whole and are now taking reservations.  Please contact the farm if you are interested in bulk pork.  A whole hog will yield 125 to 140 pounds of meat and will require at least a 7 cubic feet of freezer space for storage.  We will also have a limited amount of cuts available for purchase through our buying club.  

Farmers markets are starting to wind down for the season.  The last Back Mountain Market is October 14, so if you haven't made it to market yet this might be the Saturday to make a visit.  The Mountain Top Market is scheduled to go through October, depending on weather and availability of our products.

Hard to believe I started this newsletter hours ago!  I so easily get side tracked.  Now I will allow Farmer Don to proof read and hopefully get it sent out before I head to bed!

Until next week.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

A Radicchio Salad and Week 15 Newsletter

Greetings farm a cooler Dancing Hen Farm!  Welcome to Week 15 of our Summer/Main Season CSA.  There are 3 weeks remaining in this CSA.  Our new  Fall CSA will start immediately following our Summer CSA.  Week 15 IS an EGG week.

Wow!  What a difference 12 hours makes!  Last night when we went to bed it felt more like the end of July then September, with temperatures outside still in the 70's and the humidity high.  This morning we awoke to temperatures in the low 60's, lower humidity and cool breeze.  I am thinking our 90 degree days are over for 2017.  I will be honest, these past days of heat, humidity and no rain have been tough on Dancing Hen Farm.  Farmers and animals all have been moving a bit more slowly.  Everyone has been spending more time in the shade and drinking lots of water.  And believe it or not, some of our greens are showing signs of heat stress.  Who would have thought I would be talking about heat stress in plants this time of year?  It seems the gnats are the only thing loving this heat!  Perhaps we jinxed ourselves on the gnats?  We had just been saying we thought they were not as bad this summer.  Well, the past week or so, humans and dogs alike, have felt like the needed to be wrapped in mosquito netting just to step outside the house!  Let's hope the cooler temperatures put the gnats to rest!

Continuing with the heat.  Our fields are quite interesting and mixed right now.  I am not sure I remember a season where this late we were talking about summer crops continuing to grow, but that is what we are seeing this year.  Peppers and okra are actually pushing a new set of flowers!  I doubt the pepper flowers will mature into fruit, but okra develops fairly rapidly, so I have no doubt some of the okra flowers will produce okra.  Our late summer squash planting is looking good and we will continue to harvest from these plants until frost.  Tomatoes are winding down, as they are finally succumbing to disease.  Although, next week we are anticipating some nice plum tomatoes becoming available.  As much as I hate to admit it, Farmer Don won the bean debate.  It looks like we will get a harvest off of our beans which were topped by the deer.  The plants were able to recover from their pruning and beans will be available starting next week.  As with the squash, we should be able to harvest from these plants up until frost.   Our small planting of flat Italian beans are also looking good and will continue to be available in smaller numbers until frost. These flat beans were a bit of an experiment for us, hence the small planting.  They are a pole bean variety and we have them growing over one of our small hoop houses.  They seem to be doing well, and I think we have decided to continue to produce them next season.  Unlike our summer crops, our fall crops have not been nearly as happy with the recent heat wave and are starting to show some signs of heat stress. We have re-planted some of our greens to compensate and hopefully some of our fall root crops will be fine now that the temperatures are cooling.  Cauliflower and Broccoli do not like high temperatures and for that reason our quantity and quality on these crops has been lowered by the weather.  It is too late to re -plant these crops and we will do our best to harvest what we can.  Lettuce is looking good and our fall salad mix should remain available.  Loose leaf radicchio (a chicory) and a new escarole planting are looking good and these also should remain available.  This may be the last week for summer herbs, such as basil, as these herbs do not like cooler weather.

A bit more on radicchio and escarole.  Escarole is the green traditionally used in Italian wedding soup and this cooler weather, means soup season has begun.  Farmer Don is the Italian wedding soup chef in our house and for years he has used the recipe on the back of the orzo pasta box.  My Mother loved escarole, but being Pennsylvania Dutch, she preferred her escarole wilted with hot bacon dressing.  There never was a recipe for hot bacon dressing when I was growing up, my Mother and Grandmothers, "just made it".  Years later, when Don and I started sending out recipes to our customers, I found a recipe online, which after consulting with Mom, I determined was close to the dressing I grew up eating, although my Mom says she rarely added flour.  She felt the egg(s) thickened the dressing enough. Here is the link  .Oh yes, I was talking about radicchio and escarole, not my Mom's hot bacon dressing!  So, the radicchio Framer Don is growing is a cutting radicchio or chicory.  This means the harvested portions will be loose leaf and not a tight head.  Radicchio/chicory is a slightly bitter Italian green and can be used in a salad or cooked.  As with all greens, a quick steam or blanch will reduce some of the bitterness.  Radicchio pairs well with the sweetness of beet or fruits, such as pears.  Deborah Madison has a nice recipe for a radicchio salad recipe.  Farmer Don and I have made this recipe and usually do not have walnut oil on hand, so we substitute olive oil.   Here is another salad recipe I recently found and we may have to try it this week with beets and green bean available along with radicchio!

In our kitchen, we are still in summer mode.  As much as I want to start roasting meats and veggies in the oven, we are still primarily cooking on the grill and stove top.  Lots of our meals contain tomatoes and summer squash.  I usually do not preserve summer squash, so zucchini and its summer squash cousins are truly seasonal foods for us.  Therefore we eat lots and lots of summer squash when it is in season.  I do can tomatoes, but there is nothing like a fresh heirloom tomato!  We are still eating BLT's almost once a week and I often have a tomato or grilled cheese and tomato sandwich for lunch.  Last night, dinner was late, so we had a quick meal of pasta and veggies. The sauce consisted of sauted zucchini, yellow squash, chard, peppers and cherry tomatoes.  Garlic and fresh basil were added at the end and everything was topped with some grated cheese.  Simple, quick, but nothing can beat the fresh from the garden taste!
We do have a few spots available in our Fall CSA, although we are getting close to our capacity.  This CSA will run for 8 weeks immediately following our Summer CSA.  Membership in our CSA is reserved, once we receive payment.  We will need payment in full before the start of the Fall CSA.  Add on egg shares are also available for fall.  We also will have a limited amount of chicken and pork available through the CSA buying club.
Thanks to everyone who actually reads my newsletters.  Farmer Don comes home from market almost every weekend telling me he met another person who follows my newsletters.  Even if you are not on signed up with our website, I do post all of newsletters to our blog   I am still trying to convince Farmer Don to write a few newsletters before the season ends.  When we started the CSA, Farmer Don wrote all of the newsletters.  At that time, we did not email them, but, instead printed them and placed them in each member's box.  I was given the task of reading the Farmers handwriting and typing them in to our newsletter format each week.  I actually think I would prefer to write the newsletters then type them.  Farmer Don loves to use small scraps of paper and sometimes he would write and entire newsletter in tiny little script on a piece of scrap paper!  Oh the memories!

Oh how long this newsletter is getting.  I think I will wrap things up.  Thanks again to everyone for their support.  Enjoy this cooler, but beautiful, weather. And from Farmer Don: "be safe, be well and enjoy those veggies".

Thursday, September 21, 2017

A farm visitor and Week 14 Newsletter

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm.  Welcome to Week 14 of our Summer/Main Season CSA.  There are 4 weeks remaining in the Summer CSA.  Our new 8 week Fall/Winter CSA will begin immediately after the Summer CSA ends.  Week 14 is NOT and egg week.  Week 14 IS a Chicken Week.
The dog days of summer seem to have arrived in September this year.  Almost as if Mother Nature got her months mixed up, with cool August and now a hot September.
We are not complaining about the warm weather here on farm, as we have some late planted summer crops which are really enjoying this bit of a heat wave.  Our last planting of summer squash is looking beautiful and we should be harvesting off of these plants for several weeks, or until we get a hard frost.  We have a small planting of flat Italian green beans which also are starting to sizing up nicely.  We will have to see how the other beans recover from their deer attack.  We have our fingers crossed that our broccoli will size for harvest as well.  Lettuces are looking good, so salad mix should continue.  We should continue with small okra harvests and tomatillo harvests until a hard freeze.  Greens, including a nice planting of radicchio, are looking really good.  Our high tunnel (unheated greenhouse) is planted with fall and winter greens, including a beautiful bed of Asian greens to be harvested as a stir fry mix.
We had an unexpected visitor on farm this week.  Monday morning, just as everyone was gathering to begin harvesting, we spotted a large bald eagle perched in a lone apple tree in one of our pastures.  It sat there for quite awhile, as if it were watching over the farm.  Most likely watching over our chickens and contemplating its next meal!  We were convinced it was large enough to carry off a small child or one of our dogs.  Although eagles pose a real threat to our free range chickens, there was something quite magical about this beautiful bird perched high in a tree.  What a nice sight to start the morning with!
Several weeks ago, I had another beautiful and exciting, although maybe not quite as majestic, sighting.  We have quite a bit of wild milkweed growing on our farm and I make it point to stop and check them often for caterpillars, monarch butterfly caterpillars, to be exact.  In the ten plus years that we have owned this farm, I have rarely seen a monarch caterpillar, so I was quite excited to spot a late stage caterpillar on one my surveyed milkweed plants.   I was hopeful this year, as I have been seeing many more adult butterflies.  Maybe the monarch population is starting to rebound, just as the bald eagle population seems to be rebounding and perhaps both of these beauties will become regular visitors on our farm.
Ah, yes, from nature, to the kitchen!  We are still busy cooking on the grill.  Farmer Don is really excited to still be eating grilled zucchini -- one of his favorites.  Tonight we are having a grilled ham steak.  I like to grill pineapples alongside the ham steak.  Out of convenience, I often use canned pineapple and I like to marinate the steak in the juice the rings are packed in.  We also have been really enjoying our fall salad mix and are once again having salads nightly.  When we aren't having fall salad mix as our salad, we have been enjoying massaged mustard greens.  Very easy and really good alongside fish or grilled meats.  As with any massaged greens salad (think kale), start by placing cleaned greens in a bowl, sprinkle with some coarse salt and some olive oil.  Next, use your hands to massage the salt and oil into the mustard greens. When the mustard greens begin to wilt, they are ready to be dressed and served.  We like to dress this salad with a balsamic reduction.  And I like a sweeter dressing, so when I make balsamic reduction,  I mix one half cup of balsamic vinegar with 2 tablespoons of honey.  Bring the vinegar/honey mixture to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes to reduce the volume.  Allow the reduction to cool and drizzle atop individual servings of greens.  Extra reduction can be stored in the refrigerator.  Note: if you are not a fan of sweetness, you can eliminate or reduce the amount of honey.
It looks like another beautiful weekend for a farmers market. If you haven't visited your favorite farmers market this season, this weekend might be a good time to get out, support your local producers and shake the hand that grows your food.  Farmer Don and Farmer Phil will be at the Back Mountain Market on Saturday.  This market is at the Dallas Elementary School.  On Sunday, you can find Farmer Don at the Mountain Top Market, held at the Crestwood High School.  If you go to either of these markets, please stop by our table and say "hello".
In closing, I want to again, thank each of you, friends and members of our farm, for your support.  As I have often said, without your support, we would not be farming and preserving this rocky hillside we call home.  We need to preserve small family farms and to preserve small family farms, we need consumers willing to support these farms.  So, thank you for doing your part!

In Farmer Don's words:  "be safe, be well and enjoy those veggies" 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Week 13 Newsletter

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm.   This is Week 13 of our Summer/Main Season CSA.  Hopefully all our CSA members are enjoying their boxes.   Week 13 is an egg week.  There are 5 weeks remaining in our Summer CSA.   Next week, Week 14 is a chicken week.

And speaking of chicken.   We are happy to announce we will have a limited amount of chicken available at markets this weekend.  We will be at the Back Mountain Memorial Library market on Saturday.  This market is located at the Dallas Elementary School and is open from 9 to 2.  On Sunday, from 9 to 1,  we will be at the Mountain Top Farmers Market at Crestwood High School.   And speaking of markets.  Farmer Phil is back from vacation and will again have "Farmer Phil's produce" for sale at the Back Mountain Market. 
On farm, our harvest is slowly turning from summer crops to fall and winter crops.
First summer crops.  Our field grown tomatoes are coming to an end and will be available in only limited numbers from here on out.  The exception to this is sungold cherry tomatoes.  We have a nice bed of sungolds in our greenhouse which should continue to produce a fairly good supply of sungolds for a number of weeks.  Tomatillos should be available until frost kills the plants.  With warmer temperatures predicted this week, we are hopeful for a small, late season, harvest of cucumbers.  These vines have fruit on them and just need to size up a bit.  Likewise, we have a planting of a variety of summer squash we are still hoping to harvest from.  We had two large beds of purple, yellow and dragon beans planted, the plants were beautiful and were flowering and starting to set small beans.  Then, last week we noticed the plants looked a little odd.  With closer examination, we discovered deer had been in both beds and eaten the tops off of virtually all the plants.  Farmer Don has not given up these plants, but I fear we do not have enough frost free days for them to recover and produce beans.  The deer also ate several beds of sunflowers, so sunflowers will also only be available in limited quantities.  Can you tell deer are not our favorite animals on farm?  The other morning they were camped out in our yard eating fallen crab apples! 
And now cooler season crops.  Greens are looking good and you can expect greens to be in abundance for the remainder of the season.  We are harvesting baby mustard and turnip greens right now.  These greens are absolutely beautiful and are young and tender, requiring very little cooking.  Kale and Swiss Chard will continue to be available.  Salad greens will also continue to be harvested.  We are also harvesting some nice arugula right now, along with broccoli rabe.  Asian greens are planted and should be ready to soon. With so many greens being harvested, Farmer Don asked me to tell everyone about a book we use frequently for greens (Greens Glorious Greens by Johanna Albi and Catherine Walthers).   This book features 35 different greens, providing not only  recipes for each, but nutritional information, storage, and preparation information, as well.  We find the recipes fairly easy, but delicious!
More cooler season crops.  Winter squash is slowly starting to come in and Farmer Don will make the varieties available as they are harvested.  Carrots and Cabbage should also continue to be available, along with potatoes and onions.  We have been in touch with our neighbors for certified organic sweet potatoes and they are starting to harvest now.  Sweets like hot weather, so this cooler summer is making yields a bit less than in years past.  We have more salad radishes planted and hopefully they will mature and be ready for harvest before the end of the season.  Rutabaga, storage/winter radishes and turnips are planted and we are awaiting them to size up a bit before harvest.
As long as we are talking about cooler season crops, let me again mention that this year we are offering a limited number of fall/winter shares.  The fall/winter season will run for 8 weeks immediately following our summer season.  Egg shares are also available for purchase during our fall season.  Please note, we reserve your share when we receive payment.  Thanks to everyone who has already signed up!
In the kitchen, we continue to cook based on what we are harvesting.  Recently, I was looking for a  new recipe using tomatillos and I came across this Tomatillo soup recipe.  (  Farmer Don gave it a thumbs up, which means I can make it again.  I substituted our own spicy sausage for the chorizo, skipped the cheese and used all chicken stock, as Farmer Don was reluctant  to sacrifice one of his beers.  We also continue to eat around tomatoes - with BLT's and grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches being a stable in our diet this time of year. 
So, I started this newsletter late last night and now it is early morning.  Time to wrap things up and move on to the next task. 
Have a great week!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Week 12 Newsletter

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!  Welcome to Week 12 of our Summer/Main season CSA.  Hopefully all of our CSA members are enjoying their boxes.  Week 12 is not an egg week.
It seems like it has been raining for days!  Although I know it hasn't, since Monday was a beautiful day for harvest.  But, Sunday was a wash out and the rain started Tuesday afternoon and continued right through last night.  I am ready to dry out!  It is, however, fairly easy to keep our rains in perspective, by simply following any the news outlets.  Texas is still drying out from rain measuring in the feet and now Hurricane Irma is, literally, destroying entire islands and bearing down on Florida.  Yes, we are lucky to be in relatively dry Pennsylvania.  It is all a matter of perspective.
These cooler rainy days are helping some of our crops and bringing an end to others.  Greens, both salad and cooking, are growing well and enjoying the cooler temperatures.  Most of our summer crops, however, are not so happy.  We are continuing to harvest some beautiful tomatillos and our sungold tomatoes planted in our greenhouse look beautiful.  The majority of our tomato harvest, however, is quickly coming to an end and you can expect to see fewer and fewer tomatoes available.  Our final planting of snap beans look great and are flowering nicely and starting to produce beans. Hopefully the beans will mature before fall and frost really set in.  We have another summer squash planting and like the beans, we are hopeful for a harvest before frost.  Peppers are producing and we are watching our eggplants in hopes of a small harvest.
Our fields are just about completely planted for fall and winter harvest.  This week we are focusing on getting our greenhouse planted for fall.  We will allow the sungold tomatoes to continue to produce, but other crops planted in the greenhouse will be removed, these beds will be turned over and greens will be planted.  We are excited for a nice fall harvest of greens this year.
Speaking of fall we are six weeks away from the start of our new fall/winter CSA.  For fall we have full and part shares available and add on egg shares.  The fall share runs for 8 weeks and begins immediately following our summer/main season.  You do not need to be a member of our summer CSA to become a member of our fall CSA.  Registration is now open on our website for fall memberships.  As always, if you have questions or need additional information, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Continuing with our fall theme.  Fall, on farm, means more protein becomes available.  We will once again be offering apple orchard pork.  Freezer pork will be available by the half and whole.  In a few months, we will also have some individual cuts of pork available for sale through our buyers clubs and at markets.  Watch your email for more details on pork or email us with specific questions.  We have increased our production of chicken for this fall and soon we will, also, have some chicken available through our buyers club and markets.  Chicken has been in short supply this season!  For most of this season we have been sold out of chicken and Farmer Don and I are eagerly awaiting having chicken for our own dinner table soon!
Boxes!  Yes, boxes again!  First, thanks to everyone one who treats our boxes with care and returns them each week.  And then my usual reminder:  Please return your box to your pick up site! If we deliver you box to your house, please leave empty boxes and coolers on your porch for us to pick up.  As I have said in the past, we try hard to keep our operation sustainable.  By returning your box, not only are you helping us to be financially sustainable, but you are helping the environment by keeping these boxes out of our ever growing landfills in Pennsylvania.
Our kitchen has been fairly quiet recently.  I did freeze beans last weekend and still would like to find time to can some salsa verde.  My plans were for more tomatoes, but with our tomato harvest quickly coming to an end, I am thinking the sauce and tomatoes in the pantry now will have to last the winter.  I will still make and can some applesauce and of course, sauerkraut is still in the plans.  If I get really ambitious and somehow find an additional day in an upcoming week, I may also try and can some pickled beets.  Dinners this time of year tend to be fairly simple, using ingredients from the farm.  We tend to eat late in the evening, after chores are complete and darkness has fallen.  Maybe not the best for our bodies, but reality on a busy farm.
So it is now light out, the dogs are begging for breakfast and I need to get this day started. As usual, I will pass this over to Farmer Don to read and then send it off to all our farm members and friends.
Be safe, be well, enjoy your veggies and have a great week.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Week 11 CSA Newsletter

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!  Happy Labor Day!!  This is Week 11 of our summer/main season CSA.  Week 11 is an egg week.

And suddenly it was fall!  Today was fairly warm and I am sure we will still have some warm days (dare I say summer-like?), but this past week has had me dreaming of pumpkins and apples and looking for changing leaves.  I do love fall, but this almost seems like the summer that wasn't, with lots of rain and cooler temperatures.
Our fields are slowly turning over to more fall like crops.  Our greens are loving this cool weather.  Watch for mixed mustard greens, turnip greens and more lettuces coming soon.  We have a small planting of arugula and with a bit of luck, should provide a harvest in the next few weeks.  Winter squash will be coming soon. We are working with some of our neighbors to once again secure sweet potatoes this year.  Unfortunately this cooler weather is not helping our remaining summer crops mature.  We have a final planting of summer squash and cucumbers which are slowly growing and trying to make fruit, only time will tell if these plants produce harvestable fruits.  Our second, and larger, planting of okra is also suffering from the cooler weather, as are our eggplants.  We are thinking our tomatoes will start to slow down in the next weeks.
CSA members will be noticing some new items appearing on our pick list.  New last week were tomato seconds.  These are beautiful and, for the most part, heirloom tomatoes.  They are usually ripe and do  have minor blemishes or cracks and will generally need to be used shortly after they are received.  You will receive approximately 2 quarts of tomatoes for each seconds order.  These are the tomatoes we use on farm!  New this week are no spray sweet corn, crab apples and fall salad mix.  The crabapples are old fashioned crabapples off of a large old tree we have on farm.  This year it is weighted down with apples.  Crabapples are small, hard, sour/bitter apples and generally are not good eaten fresh.  They do however make good jelly, pickle or can nicely and can be used to make chutneys.  As our crabapple tree is unsprayed and un-managed, the apples will have some blemishes.   Here are a couple of websites with information on crabapples, including some recipes.  If all else fails you can do as we did as kids and a great crabapple fight!  Also new this week is fall salad mix.  This is a favorite mix on farm and will include lettuces, mustards, sorrel, herbs, and more! 

Our kitchen is still in preserving mode.  This week we canned tomatoes and I have beans in the cooler to freeze.  Plans are for another batch of tomato sauce and possible more canned tomatoes.  I am thinking ketchup and relish will not be in the plans this year.  But, I may try a turn some of our tomatillos into salsa verde for canning.  We also have plans for our annual batches of sauerkraut.  We have a nice German fermentation crock which holds 10 pounds of fermenting cabbage.  Our plans are to fill this crock, 2 or possibly 3 times, this year.

Farmer Don and I had a night out this past Sunday.  One of our few nights away from the farm this summer!  We attended a "meet the farmer dinner" at the Blind Pig Kitchen in Bloomsburg.  The farmers featured were our friends Johnny and Leah Tewksbury of Tewksbury Grace Farm.  We had a great night filled with delicious food and good friendship.  At least one third of the guests at the dinner were fellow and farmers and friends of ours, so we got a chance to catch up on how everyone's summer was going and swap some great farm stories!  If you have not been to the Blind Pig yet, I would encourage you to do so!  You can learn more on their website.

Farmer Don is busy making dinner as I type and he just told me we are about ready to eat.  So, I end here, print this, so Farmer Don can read it, and eat some pasta with fresh tomato sauce!

Be well, be safe, be kind and keep our neighbors in Texas and Louisiana in your thoughts and prayers.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Week 10 CSA Newsletter

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!  Welcome to Week 10 of our Summer season CSA.  Hopefully all our members are enjoying their week 10 boxes.  Week 10 is not an egg week.  Week 10 is a chicken week.
Did everyone get a chance to experience the eclipse this week?  Quite the media hype and such crowds of people traveling to see darkness fall during the day!  I have to admit, I would have loved to experience the darkness!  On farm, we didn't get the fancy glasses, and obviously we didn't experience darkness, but we still were able to view the event.  Thanks for farm volunteer/helper Stacy and her beautiful eclipse viewing box, we were able to watch the moon move partly over the sun.
WOW!  That is all I can say about the upcoming weather.  The humidity and, what seemed to us like daily rain showers, is being replaced by sunny mild days and cool nights.  This dry stretch will be very welcome after such a wet growing season for us.  However, the weather forecast just showed some predicted overnight temperatures in the upper 40's.  Soon we will be saying the dreaded "f" word.  Frost!  Generally, here on farm, we get some light frosts in September, and a killing frost in October. 
So, what does all this talk of frost mean to the farm and our crops.  The killing frost will generally mean our true summer crops will come to an end.  These crops include, tomatoes, summer squash and beans.  We will harvest what we can of these crops right before the frost to save what harvest we can.  However many of our crops actually improve with the cooler weather.  Greens, both salad and cooking, love cooler weather.  Their growth will slow, but with some minimal row covers greens will survive some fairly low temperatures.  As the temperatures cool, kale will become ever so sweet and chard will deepen in color.  Lettuce will also become sweeter and more tender.  And yes, the animals will also enjoy the coming cool mornings.  Cool mornings is when I really miss having cows and horses on farm.  Watching a horse or cow, run and buck through a frosted pasture, is sure to bring a smile to my face.  But, it is also fun to watch Rosie and Shady run around in the frost or watch the pigs snort and charge around their field.  The cool weather will even have the chickens more active and foraging more.
Ohhh! All this talk of frost and here it is August and we are in the middle of an explosion of summer crop harvest!  There are still lots of crops growing in our fields and lots of harvests still to be done.  It is officially tomato season on farm!  Lots and lots of tomatoes are being harvested and they should continue for quite a few weeks to come.  Farmer Don has started some tomato tastings at market and it seems everyone has a different favorite.   I think the heirlooms, obviously, have the best flavors and I am still amazed at the differences in taste from variety to variety.  And who can deny that sungolds are a universal favorite.  Looking to do some tomato tasting, stop by one of our markets and ask Farmer Don for a sample.  We should have beans available for quite a few weeks, as our plantings are finally really starting to produce.  Lettuce and salad mix should become readily available again and kale and chard will continue.  We have an arugula planting which has germinated and we are awaiting it to size up and hopefully not be devoured by bugs!  Asian greens are in the ground and will become available in the upcoming weeks.  We also have another planting of summer squash and cucumbers which are looking really good and we should be harvesting from these in the upcoming weeks.
We are busy planting and preparing for this year's Fall/Extended season CSA.  To assure crops are available, we are planting our greenhouse and building mini greenhouses in our fields to protect plants for the upcoming cool temperatures.  Storage crops; potatoes, winter squash, sweet potatoes and carrots, will be harvested and made available as well.  We already have quite a number of members signed up for this Extended Season.  Thank you to everyone who has signed up!  We do have some memberships available.  Please remember, as is always the case, we hold your membership when we receive your payment. We do anticipate limiting the number of membership for this part of our CSA.
The kitchen was busy this past weekend with tomato processing.  It was tomato sauce weekend!  50 pounds of Roma tomatoes were processed and cooked down to 20 pints of canned sauce.  Processing tomatoes can make a quick mess of the kitchen, but the ping of sealing jars somehow makes the mess seem unimportant.  And 20 pints of sauce cooling on my kitchen table is a beautiful sight, even if I am still wiping tomato splatter off my wall!  The cool, wet summer has me a bit behind in canning as crops have taken their time in ripening.  My plans for this year's preserving is to still can some tomatoes and possibly another batch of sauce.  In the upcoming weeks I will also freeze some green beans and hopefully some cooking greens.  Not sure I will get much else "put up" this year, only harvest and time will tell.  I do love preserving!  I find spending a day putting food away for the winter months extremely satisfying and it brings back such fond memories of my childhood and many summertime hours spent with my Mother, Grandmother and sisters canning, pickling and freezing.
This weekend looks like a beautiful weekend for market!  If you haven't visited one of the local farmers markets, I would encourage you to do so.  On Saturdays Farmer Don is at the Back Mountain Library Market in Dallas and on Sundays he is at the Mountain Top Farmers Market at the Crestwood High School.  If you are at one of these markets, please stop by our table and say hello and ask to sample some tomatoes.  We really love to meet and connect with our members and markets allow us that opportunity.
So, the sun is up now, the dogs are patiently, ok not patiently, waiting for their breakfast.  Time to get off the computer and get on to the chores of the day. 
Until next week......

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Week 9 CSA Newsletter

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!  Welcome to Week 9 of our Main/Summer Season CSA.  Hopefully our CSA members are enjoying their boxes.  Week 9 is an egg week and Week 9 is the half way point of our Summer CSA.  Next week, Week 10, will be a chicken delivery week.

We have had an unusually wet (and somewhat cooler) summer here on farm.  This is evident by our need to still mow our grass.  Usually by now the heat of summer combined with a the usual need for rain, leaves our grass brown and dry.  Not so this year!  In fact, Farmer Don is mowing right now.  Unfortunately, this year of lots of mowing, our riding lawn mower seems to be in need of a transmission.  So, we are now mowing more than half our yard with the tractor!  The tractor makes the task of mowing go quicker, but it does tear up the lawn a bit.  Maybe next year we will finally bring sheep on farm and allow them to do the mowing for us.  I think we will also have to budget for a new mower!

Tomato harvest is in full swing, with lots of cherries and heirlooms being picked.  Farmer Don asked me to mention that we harvest our tomatoes, especially the heirlooms, slightly on the green side.  We do this to prevent the tomatoes from cracking and therefore spoiling in the field.  For this reason, the tomatoes you receive in your boxes may require a day or two the kitchen table to fully ripen.  With the varied colors of some of our heirlooms, it is sometimes tough to determine when they are ripe and ready to eat.  I like to tell people that ripe tomatoes will feel slightly soft to touch.  Speaking of tomatoes, we are getting some certified organic bulk Roma tomatoes from a neighbor.  If you are interested in making sauce, please contact us.

Continuing on with harvest.  Beans continue to be available, as do summer squash.  Cucumbers are almost done and will be available in very limited numbers going forward.  Barring any nasty blight outbreak, we anticipate tomatoes to be available in good numbers for quite a few weeks.  Swiss chard continues to look great and our next planting of kale will be sizing up shortly.  New last week, we saw collard greens become available. Escarole and dandelion greens will be harvested for several more weeks.  We are still harvesting salad greens and heads of leaf lettuce should again become available in the next few weeks.  Tomatillos are looking good and a small planting of ground cherries are starting to mature as well.
The seed house is still a flurry  of activity as we finish up seeding for the season.  Lots of lettuces, Asian greens and cooking greens being seeded and germinating.  Fall crops are being planted in our fields, as well.  Last week we direct seeded fall greens and radishes and today we planted rutabagas.  Winter squash and pumpkins are looking good and with a bit of luck we will have a nice harvest this year. 

In years past, I used to feature a crop each week and pass on recipes.  I am thinking of bringing this tradition back for the next few weeks.  This week I want to talk a bit about tomatillos.  Tomatillos or husk tomatoes are a staple in salsa verde or green salsa.  They are high in vitamin C and fiber and also provide dietary sources of potassium, magnesium and niacin.  Tomatillos have a papery husk around the fruit.  To use, peel the husk away and rinse the fruit.    On farm, we add tomatillos, raw, to salads.  One of Farmer Don's specialties, this time of the year, is pico de gallo, which he also adds tomatillos to.  Tomatillos pair very well with pork.  I would suggest getting the slow cooker out and making a pot of chili verde using a pork shoulder.  I can't seem to find a weblink to my recipe, but here is a fairly straight forward recipe (  Another farm favorite tomatillo recipe is Tomatillo Bread Salad.  The addition of black beans to this salad makes it a meal for lunch or dinner.  The recipe comes from a CSA farm in Arizona  ( ).
In our kitchen, in addition to using tomatillos, we have starting to binge eat tomatoes.  Our kitchen table always has a bowl of cherry tomatoes for snacking and several large heirlooms ripening.  As mentioned above Farmer Don keeps us supplied with fresh pico de gallo.   Tonight for dinner we had a farm favorite -- BLT's.  It is so nice to have our own lettuce, tomato and bacon!  And the bread was locally made as well!  This weekend, I am planning to make and can some tomato sauce.   Hopefully this year I will also get some tomatoes canned and some ketchup made.
This past week we said good-bye to another of our summer interns.  Jane will be heading a bit south to start her freshman year at Gettysburg College.  Thanks Jane for all your help this summer!  Good Luck at college, you will be missed on farm.

So, the hour is getting late.  Farmer Don just came in from late night animal chores.  I need to print this newsletter, allow him to read it and hopefully get it sent out either tonight or early tomorrow morning.

As always, thank you for your support of our small farm and sustainable agriculture.  "be safe, be well and enjoy those veggies".

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Week 8 CSA Newsletter

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!  Welcome to Week 8 of our Summer CSA.  Week 8 is not an egg week.  Last week, Week 7, was an egg week.  And next week, Week 9, is the half way point of our summer CSA!

An early August  morning and a cool 50 outside!  Fall, could it be?  The past few days have certainly felt more like fall than the heat of summer we usually feel this time of year.  I am sure there are plenty of hot days still to come, but still I am seeing and feeling fall.  Apples are falling, golden rod is blooming, days are getting shorter and the geese have started flying over the farm. 

Our harvest, however, is still saying summer!  Although these cooler temperatures, make Farmer Don's job of predicting harvest a bit tougher.  Our summer crops still need some warmth to fully mature.  Tomatoes are starting to ripen and we anticipate their availability to continue for quite a few weeks.  There are a lot of cherry tomatoes being picked right now and heirlooms and slicers should follow in good numbers shortly.  Summer squash continues to produce, while cucumber production is falling off a bit.  Okra should become available next week or the next.  We are closely watching several plantings of green beans and these should be ready for harvest in the next few weeks.  Greens, cooking and salad continue to be harvested.

Continuing on a bit with fall.  New this year, we are offering a Fall CSA share.  The fall share will begin in October, right after our summer season ends, and will run for 8 additional weeks.  Many of our Summer CSA members have already signed up for our fall season and we thank each of you for your support.   We do still have memberships available and you do not need to be a member of our Summer CSA to sign up for Fall deliveries.  Please visit our website or contact the farm for additional information. 

Boxes, yep, boxes again!  Please return your share boxes!  As I have said in the past, these boxes cost the farm between 1 and 2 dollars each.  This cost adds up quickly, considering we have 100 CSA members.  In the beginning of the season we generally budget 2 to 3 boxes per member, but this budgeting is based on members returning their boxes for re-use.  Unfortunately, this year, we are needing to go to the produce supply house on a regular basis and purchase boxes.  Please help us out and if you have share boxes at your house, return them to your drop site so we can pick them up.

Our kitchen is still in summer mode.  Grilled meats and veggies continue to be the theme for most farm dinners.  With tomatoes coming on, they are taking a more prominent role in meals.  Grilled tomato and cheese sandwiches are always a favorite, as are BLT's.  I do like to roast cherry tomatoes.  The roasting really intensifies the flavor.  Cherry tomatoes can be placed in a shallow roasting dish, along with salt, garlic and perhaps a few herbs.  Stir to combine the ingredients and roast in a hot oven until the tomatoes are soft and their skin is bursting.  These tomatoes can be served as a side dish, as a pasta sauce or as a topping for a toasted baguette.  Or, half way through the roasting, add salmon or chicken to the pan.  Spoon some of the tomatoes and their juice over the meat, turn down the oven and continue to roast until the meat reaches the desired temperature.
This week we said "good bye" to one of our summer workers, Blyss.  Thank you Blyss, for your positive attitude, hard work and dedication to the farm this summer!  Blyss will not be helping on farm, but she will still be helping out at the Back Mountain Farmers Market.  If you see Blyss at market, be sure to thank her for helping us grow your food this season.

The sun is now up, the temperature has warmed a bit and farm is buzzing with activity.  Time to say "good bye" until next week.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Week 6 CSA Newsletter

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm.  Welcome to Week 6 of our 2017 CSA.  Week  6 is not an egg week.

Another week of hot humid weather is behind us.  Today is a bit cooler, but, oh so muggy, with rain  threatening.  The forecast is for cooler, and hopefully drier weather this week.  For us, this summer has been the summer of threatening rain showers.  We haven't always received the rain, but it seems storms have been brewing around us most every day.  It will be a nice relief to have a few drier days.

On farm, we continue with our planting, harvesting maintaining schedule.  Recently the seed house has been a busy place.  We like to have all seeding done for fall crops by the first or second week of August, so this week and next will be our final push for the seeding.  Once we get into August, the days will start getting noticeably shorter and plant growth will slow.  Hard to believe we are already starting to talk about shortening day lengths and final seedings of crops!  August and September are actually our months with the largest and most diverse harvests.  Summer crops, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants all ripen in August and September and by the end of September we are usually starting to harvest some fall crops, such as winter squash.

In general our fields look good, despite our usual battle with the weeds.  Our chard continues to flourish under shade cloth.  We are harvesting a beautiful new crop of greens which, like the chard, have been growing under shade cloth.  Dandelion greens, escarole and lettuce are looking good.  Look for a lapse in Red Russian Kale availability as we await our new planting to size up for harvest.    Cucumbers are starting to slow down a bit, but harvest amounts are still good.   Summer squash varieties are still being harvested in large numbers.  CSA members can expect to see green beans on next week's choice list.  Farmer Don has been talking with one of our Amish neighbors concerning organic sweet corn, so we may have sweet corn available for the CSA and our markets.

Currently, chicken and eggs are available in very limited quantities.  Chicken is actually sold out!  We have increased our production and we anticipate extra chicken to be available in approximately 8 weeks.   Our chicken CSA share has been very popular this year, so most of our chicken is pre-sold.  Egg shares are also a very popular add on to our CSA, so as with our chicken, most of our eggs are pre-sold. Our laying hens have slowed their egg production a bit, leaving us with a very limited number of extra eggs available for sale.
The baby deer are back on farm. Each year, we have twins or even triplets born in the orchard.  We have not seen the babies in the orchard this year, but  Farmer Don saw two fawns on the farm road going up to the upper field this past week.  They were innocently eating Japanese honeysuckle, but I am sure they are being taught the beans, chard and lettuce are a much better meal!  There is nothing more entertaining than watching fawns get their land legs and begin to jump and play with each other.   Unfortunately, these innocent little fawns soon become veggie eating machines!
Our kitchen has been fairly quiet recently.  The heat has us eating lightly and preparing simple foods.  We continue with meat and zucchini on the grill, salads and simple braised greens.  I have not yet started preserving for the season.  Generally, I preserve a bit later in the season, when tomatoes are ripening and hopefully the days are a bit cooler.  However, with our chard doing so well this summer, I may try to freeze some chard later this week for use in soups and stews over the winter.  Each year I plan to can tomatoes and tomato sauce and hopefully make some ketchup.   I always freeze green beans, sweet corn and sweet peppers.  And as fall approaches, we will again make sauerkraut and can applesauce.  If I feel really motivated, I like to make and freeze zucchini muffins for winter breakfasts.

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!

As usual, I started this newsletter in the morning and here it is bedtime and I am just now finishing it! How can it take all day to write a simple newsletter?  I have yet to figure that out! On positive note, Farmer Don just brought in a surprise for me -- three ripe sungold tomatoes -- It won't be long now before they show up in CSA boxes and on our market table!

Until next week.  "be safe, be well and enjoy the veggies"