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.