Sunday, August 26, 2018

CSA Newsletter

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!  "Summertime and the living is easy".

CSA members:  Ordering for Tuesday's boxes ends tonight at 6 pm.  This is not an egg week.  We have reached the half way point of our CSA.

First let me apologize for being late getting the week's newsletter out.  I have no real excuse other than life.  Sometimes life seems to make the days fly by and other times one day seems like eternity.
Speaking of flying by.  Can you believe September is knocking on our door?  Schools are starting.  I am seeing lots of golden rod blooming.  The bees are aggressively looking for food.  The days are getting shorter and the mornings cooler.  Yes, fall is coming.  Soon we will pack away our shorts and get out the fleece and sweaters. 

Not ready for fall, not a problems here on farm.  We are still in summer harvest mode.  September tends to be one of our busiest months for harvest.  Summer crops, like zucchini, tomatoes and peppers are still producing well and by the end of the month fall greens and winter squash will be going strong.  Right now, other than crazy weed pressure, our farm is looking fairly good.  Tomatoes are producing nicely, although our plants are showing some disease.  We are harvesting off our last planting of summer squash.  The flat Italian pole beans are growing well and beginning to set tiny beans.  We have started harvesting peppers, okra and tomatillos.  Asian greens are being harvested and other greens are in the ground and we are patiently waiting for them to size up for harvest.

Not ready for fall, take 2.  It seems our weather is also not ready for fall.  The forecast is for hot muggies to return this week.  Highs in the 90's again!  Hopefully the return of the humidity will not bring the never ending rain we had a few weeks ago.  As everyone knows, the Benton area had devastating flooding and more soaking rains are very unwanted right now.  People are still out of their homes due to the water and many, many roads are closed and will most likely remain closed for quite some time.  Seeing the rocks, debris and destruction left behind by the flood waters really puts in perspective the force of this water.  Again, here, at Dancing Hen Farm, we consider ourselves quite lucky.  Other than a washed out road and having to detour a bit to come and go, we have little or no lasting damage.

This week Farmer Don found a surprise in the fields.  On Thursday he went out to harvest a vegetable for our supper and to do a final look at some plots before choice for our CSA members opened up.  And he found Brussels sprouts!  Yep, he came in with a small basket of sprouts for our dinner.  This was a huge find and surprise.  Our Brussels Sprouts were in a plot which was heavily damaged by deer this season.  The deer had actually walked down the row and eaten the top out of every plant.  But, it seems the deer did us a favor.  Something many grower do when growing Brussels Sprouts is to top the plants, or pinch the top, actively growing, part of each plant.  This topping forces the plant to form the round shoots we know as Brussels Sprouts.  So, in reality, we should be thanking, rather than cursing our deer population.  "Thank you deer for helping us grow a nice crop of Brussels Sprouts".  And yes, with some luck, we should have Brussels Sprouts on our choice list in the next few weeks, so get the recipes ready.

Let's see.  The wash is now hanging on the line, my coffee cup is empty and it is lunch time.  I am thinking this is a good time to wrap up the newsletter.

As always, thanks to each of you for your support of our small family farm and local sustainable farms.  Enjoy the veggies and have a great week.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

CSA Week 10 Newsletter

Greetings from soggy Dancing Hen Farm

First some information for our CSA members.  You will need to log on and pick items for Tuesday's box, since last week's picks are no longer valid.  This week will be an egg week and a CHICKEN week.  If you are getting a chicken share, please remember to look for a cooler at your drop site.  Your chicken will be inside the cooler.  Since we canceled last week's delivery, we will add one week to the end of our season to make up for this lost week.  Thank you for your understanding and patience with all of this.

So, I have decided this is the summer it rained, and rained and rained and rained and rained.....  And then it seem to rain again! 

Last Monday these rains were concentrated over our immediate area.  Flash floods raged through fields, yards, houses, and roads and eventually emptied into the Fishing Creek.  The creek then engulfed the town of Benton and charged on towards Bloomsburg.  Anything in the water's path was destroyed and swept along.  Driving around seeing the wide spread destruction and the force this water moved with is unbelievable.  Farmer Don and I feel quite blessed.  We did have a large volume of water running through the farm.  We do have some washouts on farm and on our road, got some water in our basement and lost our power, but compared to some areas, we have little to no lasting damage. 

To all our friends and neighbors dealing with flood waters, please know you are in our thoughts and prayers!  More showers are forecast for the next few days.  Let's hope they don't pack quite the inches of rain these last showers did.

Our fields are wet, very wet, but again we are blessed.  This time blessed to be farming rocky soil on a slope, so most of our fields dry out relatively quickly.  However all this rain, has brought us one of our most challenging growing seasons.  We have had problems getting into our fields to get things planted and once planted crops are not maturing as expected.  The weeds, however, are flourishing!  We are trying our best to get items to you.  We are harvesting some tomatoes right now and should continue to harvest until almost frost, as long as moisture loving diseases don't kill our plants.  Eggplant, peppers and okra are flowering and hopefully will set fruit soon.  Lettuce is growing slowly, as are cooking greens.  Speaking of greens, new this week are limited quantities of Asian greens, including bok choy.  We continue to harvest summer squash and our new planting of squash is coming along nicely.  Believe it or not we are still harvesting some cucumbers!  Beans are starting to mature, including green snap beans, wax beans and flat Dragon beans. 

Remember if you do not choose items for your weekly share, you will still receive a box, a farmer's choice box.  Farmer's choice boxes are sometimes a good bet if you find most of items are "sold out" on our pick list.  Farmer's choice boxes will receive some of our staples (potatoes, onions, etc), but may also includes items just starting to ripen, which are hard for Farmer Don to forecast harvest numbers for.  Farmer's Choice boxes may also include items which were available in greater numbers than Farmer Don predicted.  For instance, we may have more cherry tomatoes ready for harvest than anticipated.  You can also pick some of your items and allow Farmer Don to pick the rest when he packs your box.

Our kitchen has been quiet again, as most of Farmer Don's free time is spent dealing with opportunities as they arise on farm and I am still getting my strength back.  We have started some of our summer time  favorite traditions, including BLT's and Farmer Don's fresh pico de gallo.  Also, each weekend we cook chicken, which easily feeds us for 2, if not 3 meals.  This week we topped some pasta with leftover chicken combined with a quick sauce of sungolds and garlic.  I really like to either roast or quickly pan fry cherry tomatoes.  The quick heat, really intensifies their flavor!

Speaking of dinner and favorites, Farmer Don and the dogs just came in from the heat and tonight we are having BLT's, so I need to get the bacon cooking!

Until next week.  Be safe, be well, enjoy those veggies and don't forget to count your blessings.

Monday, August 13, 2018

CSA And Flooding

Hi Friends,
Due to extreme flooding today (Monday, Aug. 13th) on and around the farm, and loss of power, we have decided to cancel this week's deliveries. We will add an extra week to the end of the season to fill our 20 week season. Check out the local news networks to see some of the damage in our local area, Benton. Keep our neighbors in your prayers and well wishes as we know many folks are in a lot worse shape than we are.
Thank you for your understanding, be well, and send us some sunshine.
A soggy Farmer Don

Friday, August 10, 2018

Newsletter -- Week 9

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!

Welcome to Week 9 of our CSA.  Week 9 ordering is well under way and will end on Sunday at 6 pm.  Week 9 is an egg week and a CHICKEN WEEK.  If you ordered a chicken share, please check for a cooler at your drop site.  Your chicken will be in the cooler.

On farm, we are still dealing with rain showers, almost every day, although I do think yesterday and today have been dry for us.  I should say, "yet", as the sky is looking pretty dark and threatening right now!  It looks like this weather pattern is to stay with us for the next week or so.  We are hoping the clouds part sometime over the weekend so we can head out to the yard and get a glimpse of the Perseid Meteor Showers.  With a new moon on the Saturday and the showers peaking Sunday night into Monday, this should be a good weekend for viewing.  Let's hope for some cloudless skies!

In the fields right now the word is tomatoes.  We have quite a few nice red slicing tomatoes starting to ripen.  Cherry tomatoes should continue to be available.  Heirloom tomatoes may be in limited supply this year.  Early in the spring, we lost over 500 heirloom transplants to either cutworms or a field vole.  We never spotted the culprit, so we aren't positive what mowed down the plants in one night!  Asian greens are looking good and should be back on the availability list soon.  Okra is starting to set fruit, despite being a favorite food of Japanese Beetles.  Eggplants are flowering and with continued luck we should have some fruit in several weeks. 

It is never a dull moment here on Dancing Hen Farm.  Each fall, I generally talk about "the running of the pigs", when we move the pigs down from the apple orchard to the barn.  Well this week our pigs decided to do some running of their own.  Of course, they picked the one day Farmer Don and I were both off farm to go for their run.  Luckily, Ann was here doing chores and watching the farm.  When she went up to feed and water the pigs, she noticed the fence was down and more than half our pigs were missing/gone.  She was able to capture one escapee and put her back inside the fence, but the others were nowhere in sight.  She called in help from my sister and brother-in-law and the three of them proceeded to search for the pigs, finding no pigs and no signs of them.  It's kind of hard for six 125 to 150 pound pigs to hide, but somehow it seemed they disappeared!  When Farmer Don and I got home, he sent everyone else home and took the dogs up to look for pigs.  I could hear him up there, beating on a bucket and calling "here pig, here pigger".  My hopes of him finding the pigs were low.  I had nightmarish visions of them eating all our neighbor's sweet corn, running wildly through the nearby campground or never being found and Dancing Hen Farm being responsible for a new feral pig colony.  But, Farmer Don can now be called a "pig whisperer".  He came down several hours later and told me "the pigs are in".  "What!!!????  Where were they?"  He said he found them walking down the farm access road headed for home.  He and the dogs then led the pigs to their fenced pasture and he finished mending the fence.  He told me the pigs seemed tired and they headed right for their water and food once got to their fenced area.  Needless to say, the next day was spent working on fences!  What do they say ""good fences make good neighbors"?  And a farmer who loves to interact with his pigs is priceless when they need to be called home!

Did you know this is National Farmers Market Week?  Do you think there is a greeting card for that?  I'm not sure about the card, but I do know farmers markets are in full swing right now.  Why not stop by a local farmers market, pick up some great local food and "shake the hand that grows your food".  On Saturday, Farmer Don and Farmer Phil will be at the Back Mountain Farmers Market in Dallas.  In addition to Dancing Hen Farm produce, Farmer Phil will also be selling veggies from his family's extensive garden.  If you go to the Dallas market, be sure to ask Farmer Phil what he has for sale.  On Sunday Farmer Don will be at the Mountain Top Farmers Market. 

So, I am already late getting this newsletter out, so I think I will end the rambling now. 

Until next week.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Wilda Mae

This past week we said good-bye to Wilda Mae, Billie.  Bill was very much a one person cat and her person was Farmer Don.  She followed him around and slept almost every night snuggled under the covers with him.  Rest is peace Billie Cat, until we meet again.

Friday, August 3, 2018

CSA Week 8 Newsletter

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!  Welcome to August

Ordering for Week 8 of our CSA is now open and will close on Sunday at 6 pm.  Week 8 is not an egg week.

Last week brought us torrential rain and this week brings us crazy humidity and downpours.  Hopefully we are getting enough sun to ripen our tomatoes.  All this rain and humidity makes me nervous about disease in our tomatoes.  Most worrisome, is late blight.  Early this season, late blight was already confirmed in Pennsylvania and New York and we were convinced we would lose our crop before our plants even set fruit.  Then some drier weather moved in and the blight threat subsided.  Now the threat is back, especially with last week's storms coming from the southeast part of the state.  One way late blight spreads is in the air currents and these storms came to us via the areas with confirmed blight.  Humid, moisture filled air and foliage which stays wet for most of the day is heaven for late blight spores.  The only thing in our favor is the heat, blight tends to like slightly cooler temperatures.  We have our fingers crossed that blight will come to our fields later, rather than earlier.

Speaking of tomatoes.  We have tomatoes!   Get your recipes ready, or at the very least have your salt shaker nearby.  Cherries, including sungolds, are ripening nicely and should be available for many weeks.  Sungolds became available for choice by themselves this week.  Our large field tomatoes, slicing and heirlooms, are just starting to turn and I expect them to be available for choice next week, or maybe the next.  Please remember we pick our larger tomatoes on the green side and may require a few days on the kitchen table to fully ripen.
We continue to pick cucumbers!  Believe it or not we think we have harvested close to 1,000 pounds of cukes this season.   That's half a ton!!!  Definitely the year of the cucumber.  Our first summer squash planting has also been bountiful, but production here is slowing.  Our second squash planting looks good, but we anticipate a few weeks where summer squash is a bit scarce.  We are starting to pick green beans, with a few pounds going out this week, with lots of beans available in the coming weeks.  Also new this week are dandelion greens.  I would suggest pairing dandelion with a nice warm balsamic vinaigrette or hot bacon dressing.

On farm, this past week, brought both sorrow and joy.  First we lost yet another farm resident.  Wilda Mae, or Billie, as we called her, was Farmer Don's cat.  She was a one person cat, following Farmer Don around and sleeping under the covers with him.  Wilda was named after one of my Mother's school mates.  She was a stray at a friend of ours house and his grandson wanted to name the kitten William. Only William was a girl!  We brought her home named William, when my Mother suggested Wilda Mae, after a grade school classmate.  Wilda lived life on her terms and she died on her terms.  Rest in peace Billie.

On a more joyous note.  Farmer Don and I ventured up the river a bit to hear some live music.  In our younger years, live music was a staple in our lives.  Recently, we have not been out to see music for quite some time.  It took a bit of planning and all of Farmer Don's negotiating  and debating skills to get me there.  Eventually I gave in and off we went, even dragging our friend, Annie, from college, with us.  And, yes, Farmer Don, I have to admit, I had a good time and being out in public wasn't nearly as horrendous as I imagined.  If you see Farmer Don, thank him for pushing his wife out of her new homebody comfort zone.

In our kitchen, some summertime regulars are starting to appear.  This includes a perpetual bowl of sungold tomatoes!  And last week, we had our first BLT's of the season.  I haven't started any canning or freezing yet, but may try a quick batch of freezer pickles this weekend, depending on how I feel.   My freezer pickle recipe is very simple containing only cucumbers, onions, salt, sugar and vinegar, no spices.  In the fall and winter, I like to add a few of these pickles to my salad, sometimes as a replacement to any dressing.  I am hoping for tomatoes to can and beans to freeze, but that will probably be the extent of my preserving this year.
Speaking of preserving, we do still have bulk cucumbers available.  We sell them in half bushel boxes.  A half bushel box weighs about is 20 pounds and will easily make two batches of pickles.
Farmer Don spends his weekends at farmers market.  On Saturday he and Farmer Phil are in Dallas at the Back Mountain Market.  This market is now at the Dallas high school and you will need to follow the detour signs as Hildebrandt road is closed for construction.  On Sundays he is at the Mountain Top Farmers Market at the Crestwood High School.  If you come either of these markets, please stop by our tables, say hello and "shake the hand that grows your food."

Ok, it is getting late and I need to head to bed.  I will print this gibberish for Farmer Don to read and most likely email it out to everyone tomorrow morning.

Until next week.......