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.