Greetings from a soggy Dancing Hen Farm!
Spring is in full swing and summer is just around the corner. This spring has been wet and cool. Last week we were scrambling to cover plants and get fires going in our greenhouses, as the night time temperatures dropped into the 30's. Our low was 33 for two nights and I can happily report, although I saw frost on our back roof, our plants suffered no damage. Watching this morning's weather report, it seems summer will be making an appearance this week, with dry weather and temperatures in the 70's and 80's. I guess we can put away the wool hats (at least for this week!) and get out the sunscreen and straw hats!
Spring is always a busy time on farm, as we are seeding and planting and getting ready for animals. The seed house and plant nursery are filling up with flats of germinating seeds and our fields are slowly getting planted. We have cooking and salad greens planted and a several nice beds of spring broccoli. Farmer Don is experimenting with some broccoli varieties this year developed specifically for East Coast growers. Broccoli is often a challenging crop for us. If our resident ground hogs don't devour our plants, our weather causes the broccoli to not form heads and bolt, or flower, too quickly. The varieties he is growing this year have been developed to grow well in our varying weather conditions. Stayed tuned for how our spring broccoli harvest goes!
As a diverse farm, we are also preparing our fields for animals. The area for our pastured chickens has been mowed and our first batch of pastured broilers will be moved from the barn to the pasture next week. The pig area is almost ready for this year's pigs, which will arrive on farm next month. Farmer Don continues to work on our fences, with the ultimate goal of adding sheep to our farm's production plan. And of course, the longer days have our laying hens doing what they do best, laying eggs!
It is hard to believe this will be our tenth year of production on this farm. One of our goals since our first growing season has been to take care of our soil. Soil is an important and sometimes overlooked vital resource for sustaining life. In the micro environment of our farm, the healthier our soil, the healthier our plants and animals are and therefore the more nutrient dense the foods we produce are. As many of you probably already know, Farmer Don is passionate about soil! When I asked him if he had anything he wanted included in the newsletter, he told me to talk about yellow clover. Yes, yellow clover! Yellow clover is a cover crop and as much as respect and love Farmer Don's new affection for yellow clover, I think a very general discussion of cover crops might be an easier read. (and easier for me to write!) To build and preserve our soil, Farmer Don plants a variety of cover crops. We try to rotate between cover and cash crops and sometimes managing the cover crops becomes more of a challenge than managing cash crop! Cover crops are diverse and each has separate (and sometimes combined) effects on the soil and unique management requirements. Each cover crop has unique planting requirements. Some are combined with other cover (or cash) crops. Some get planted in the fall, others in the spring or summer. Most either need to be mowed at a specific life stage or incorporated into the soil when green. The benefits of these cover crops can be great. Some make nutrients more available in our soil, some inhibit plant (think weeds) growth, others out compete weeds and most add vital organic matter and increase the tilth and water holding capacity of our soil. There is a quite a bit of information available about cover crops and if you see Farmer Don out and about he would be more than willing to share his knowledge. Or, stop by the farm for a tour and cover crop demonstration!
As is usual for this time of year, we are getting lots of interest in our CSA. We do still have memberships available for 2017. We are a full choice CSA. Members log into our website each week and choose the exact items they would like to receive. We then custom harvest and hand pack each of our customer's weekly boxes. Boxes can be picked up on farm or for an extra fee delivered to a central pick up site or your home or work. We have pick up sites in Bloomsburg, Danville and throughout Luzerne County. If you need information as to where a specific site is, please contact us at the farm. All deliveries and pick ups are on Tuesdays. New this year, we are offering separate summer season and a fall season shares. Summer season deliveries will begin in June. We do need memberships paid prior to the start of deliveries. As always, please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions.
I am starting to wrap up this newsletter, but how can I do that without talking about food and cooking! We have been doing a happy dance in the kitchen. Why? Because Dancing Hen Farm's field to table dining is returning! We are starting to harvest greens, so salads and stir frys are becoming frequent kitchen creations. It is so nice to be eating off our land again and soon we will be sharing this harvest with all of you!! Stay tuned for a possible buying club delivery and of course, the start of CSA deliveries.
One more announcement! On Thursday (5/18) at 7 pm we will be at St Therese's in Shavertown talking about our farm as part of their "Healthy Eating: Loving ourselves and our World II" series. This event is free and open to the public.
Ok, time to rest my fingers and your eyes! Thanks again for reading and for your support of our farm and local agriculture.