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"

Friday, July 21, 2017

Dinner Time

Dinner time for the chickens.  Farmer Don calls them the table with "winner, winner, chicken dinner"  They have learned this means food and most run to the coop.

And don't forget dinner time for the farmer!

Green Heron

For years we have had a green heron at pond each summer.  We never saw two and assumed we had a lone heron.  This year there are most definitely two! Without the dogs to disturb the birds, Farmer Don spent some time at the pond the other evening taking their pictures.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Week 4 and 5 CSA Newsletter

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!  Welcome to Weeks 4 and 5 of our 2017 CSA.  We hope everyone enjoyed their Week 4 boxes.  Week 5 is and egg week and week 5 is also a chicken share week. 

And welcome to a beautiful Sunday morning.  Last week's rain and humidity has given way to a wonderfully cooler and sunny Sunday morning.  The farm is quiet and peaceful this morning.  Sun is filtering through the trees, the dogs are sleeping peacefully at my feet and the wrens in our back porch bird box are chirping noisily as they work to tend their nest.  I feel so lucky to be able to enjoy this peace, this beauty!

I have to confess, it is now Sunday night, dusk has settled in and I am just now getting around to sending out the newsletter!  Where does the time go?

The farm, however, is still a flurry of activity.  We are continuing with our rotational plantings, harvesting and of course, trying to stay ahead of the weeds.  Cucumbers and zucchini continue to produce well.  Farmer Don feels we harvested close to 200 pounds of cucumbers on Friday!  We are starting to see some disease in these crops, so our harvest amounts may be falling off soon.  We will harvest our first tomatillos this week, with larger harvests to follow as the plants continue to produce.  We finished staking tomatoes this week.  The tomatoes are looking good, with flowers and fruit plentiful.  Warm weather will help to ripen these.  Greens continue to look good and snap beans should be ready for harvest soon.  The heat has gotten the best of our peas, with very little harvest going forward.  Peppers and eggplant are in the ground and starting to set fruit.

Animals on farm are doing well.  Last week's heat has slowed our egg production at bit, so look for extra half dozens of eggs to be leaving the weekly availability list.  Right now, we are officially sold out of chicken, at least for a few weeks.  Our chicken share has been very popular this season, leaving us very little chicken to sell on our buying club or at market.  We have upped our chicken production a bit, but it will be number of weeks before this will impact our availability.  This seasons pigs are growing nicely and developing personalities.  They run in circles and squeal when we give them a shower and still have not figured out that the produce we give them is something they should eat, preferring instead to roll cucumbers around with their noses and root and wallow in the greens.

Farm dogs, as always are loving summer.  They love the extra attention they get from workers and visitors.  At 5, Rosie, our border collie, is starting to settle a bit.  She now only attempts to jump over your head 4 or 5 times when you first arrive on farm!  Shady, our older dog, is still Shady.  Barking for attention and loving her daily travels around the farm on our Kubota buggy.  This week, during cucumber harvest, we discovered that next to riding on the buggy, Shady's new love is cucumbers!  That's right cucumbers!  When we harvest, we work in teams.  Several people cut fruit from the vine, stacking the harvested cucumbers in the isle for someone else to come along with a bucket.  Shady was doing her best to get to the harvested piles first, so she could get her choice of cucumbers.  Farmer Don actually had to send her out of the field, as she was starting to have an impact on our harvest yield.

In the kitchen, Farmer Don has been chef recently.  That means meat and zucchini on the grill!  And, of course, some kind of salad.  I am so thankful to have a husband who is as comfortable in the kitchen as he is in the fields!  We also use quite a bit of sausage this time of year.   Sausage pairs will with summer squash or greens.  A quick easy meal - Braise the ingredients together and put the mixture on top of pasta, rice or polenta.  With all the cucumbers coming on, pickles may be in order.  I am thinking some simple freezer pickles this year!  Here is a recipe:  This recipe uses quite a bit of sugar!  You can safely reduce the amount of sugar.  

Thank you to everyone who has been treating our share boxes with care and returning them for re-use.  These boxes cost the farm one to two dollars each, so our ability to re-use them helps keep our farm costs in order.  We also re-use egg cartons, pint and quart berry boxes and of course, coolers.  Re-usable items can be left at your drop site for us to pick up. 

So, it is getting late in the morning and my laptop is running out of juice.  Time to get moving!  Take care and I hope you enjoyed your Sunday!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

2017 Week 3 CSA Newsletter

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!  Welcome to Week 3 of our CSA.  Week 3 is an egg week!

Happy Fourth July!!  We hope everyone had a safe and happy celebration.  We spent most of the day getting boxes ready for today's CSA delivery.  We did sneak away in the afternoon for nice relaxing picnic that even Shady and Rosie were invited.  July 4th is not our dog's favorite holiday.  The "bombs bursting in air" make them a bit nervous, causing them to hide in the house.

I am having trouble believing it is already July!  It really seems to me that the summer is just beginning.  I am not sure why, because when I walk our fields I see lots of summer veggies ready to be picked and/or growing nicely.  Our summer squash is really starting to produce, so get your recipes ready.  This year we have green and yellow zucchini, yellow squash, eight ball zucchini and patty pan squash growing.  Our tomatoes are looking good, with fruit starting to appear on the vines, pepper and okra plants are sizing up nicely, tomatillos have fruit on them and our snap beans, well soon, hopefully soon we will have beans.  Believe it or not, we have planted beans four, yes four, times already this year and still no beans to harvest.  The first planting was during the cool wet days of May and the seed rotted rather than germinated.  The next two plantings came up beautifully, but then were methodically mowed down by our resident deer population.  The fourth planting is tucked under some strong shade cloth, which, hopefully will deter the deer, and the groundhogs and the rabbits!

Also in our fields, greens continue to look good.  Look for chard, kale and salad greens to continue to be available.  Some of our Asian greens are done until fall, but we still have some nice plantings of bok choy to harvest.  Peas are winding down.  Last week's heat combined with pressure from the deer reduced our pea harvest this year.  Cucumbers should continue to be available.  Our first planting is starting to wind down, but our second planting is just starting to ripen.  Look for the possibility of beets next week.  These will be from our Amish neighbor's farm and certified organic.  We do work closely with some of our neighboring farms who have the same growing philosophy (chemical free, sustainable) as we do.

As you have probably concluded from not only today's newsletter, but from past newsletters as well, our farm has quite the resident animal population.  This includes, dogs, cats, pigs and chickens nurtured intentionally by us and lots of other animals also nurtured by us, but not necessarily intentionally.  This year we have had our usual groundhog pressure, but the deer pressure seems to be much worse this year.  Just last night Farmer Don scared 3 does and 2 bucks out of our pea patch!  And now these unintentional animals are moving closer to the house.  This year I have 2 snakes living in my herb bed!  They seem to spend most of the day lounging together between a large sage plant and some tarragon.  They are fairly brazen and don't move unless someone gets pretty close to them.  Now, I totally understand the importance of snakes in our ecosystem and actually think they are kind of cool.  For the most part, I am not afraid of them, but I have to admit, I have not been pulling weeds because of them and really wish they had decided to make somewhere up by the barn their home!  How long do you think it will take these two to become a family of snakes? 

In the kitchen, we are in squash mode.  This last week, we had our first zucchini on the grill and our first Mom Miller's zucchini and sausage.  I know every year, I talk about these two ways of preparing zucchini, but they are such stables in our house and so easy to prepare I cannot not help but bring them up.  Grilled zucchini is so simple.  We usually cut the zucchini lengthwise in approximately one quarter inch  slices.  Brush the slices with olive oil and sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper.  Place the slices grill and cook until tender, turning once.  Remove to a plate and sprinkle with parmesan cheese and balsamic vinegar if desired.  We also make zucchini pizzas on the grill.  For pizza, slice the zucchini into rounds, brush with oil and place them on the grill.  Allow the rounds to cook several minutes and then turn them over.  Once you turn them over, place a spoonful of tomato sauce and a bit of cheese on each slice.   Close the lid to allow the zucchini to finish cooking and the cheese to melt.  I have served these pizzas as an appetizer, but we have also eaten them with a fresh salad as a meal.  Larger zucchini and eight balls work really great for pizzas.
Now how could I talk about cooking zucchini without mentioning my Mom's sausage and zucchini.  Again, very easy and no real recipe needed.  Start by browning some sausage with some onion and garlic.  Next add some diced zucchini and tomatoes, canned or fresh.  Put the lid on the pan and allow the zucchini to cook.  In the mean time cook and then drain a cup or so of elbow pasta.  Once the pasta and the zucchini are done mix everything together, top with some parm cheese and enjoy.

A gentle reminder that we do reuse share boxes, so please treat them gently, sliding the tops to open them.  And please remember to return them to your drop site, so we can pick them up.  Also, remember to return coolers from chicken shares or buying club orders.  Egg cartons and green pint and quart boxes are also reusable items for us.  They can be returned to your pick up site with your share box.

Once again, thanks to all our farm members and friends for your continued support.  We are so happy and thankful to have you as part of our community.

And from Farmer Don:  "be safe, be well and enjoy those veggies."