Friday, June 21, 2019

2019 CSA Week 2 Newsletter

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!  Welcome to Week 2 of our CSA!  Welcome to Summer!  Happy Summer Solstice, be sure to get out and enjoy the longest day of the year!

Hopefully all of our CSA members are enjoying their boxes.  Ordering for Week 2 is now underway and will close on Sunday at 6 pm.  Week 2 is not an egg week.  A quick note on ordering:  Remember if you do not place an order, you will still get a box, a farmer's choice box.  In addition, you may want to consider a farmer's choice box if many items are sold out when you go to make your weekly selections.  Farmer's choice items often are items we have in very limited numbers or are items we were able to harvest more of than we predicted. 

How can I possibly write a newsletter without discussing the weather?  Even though we awoke to rain this morning, now the weather seems to have changed.  There is a swift breeze and the tropical humid feel to the air seems to have moved on.  The weathermen are predicting a dry weekend and next week seems to not be quite as soggy as this week.  We definitely  have had our share of rain over the past few days, making it very hard for Farmer Don to get on the tractor and prepare beds for planting.  But, again we are counting our blessings, as some communities near us once again suffered flash flooding this past week.  In addition, farms in the Midwest are really suffering from all the rain.  Many of these farmers have been unable to get in their fields all season.  We are seeing reports of vegetable farmers canceling CSA's and corn and soybean growers possibly losing an entire season of income as it has become too late for them to plant and expect crops to mature.   So, once again our thoughts and prayers go out to our neighbors and fellow farmers and we count our blessings.

Our fields are filling up as our nursery empties of transplants.  The rain has caused our planting to be a bit behind schedule, which means some crops will be slightly later ripening for harvest.  I think this year we have worked more in the rain than any year.  Week one was a very soggy harvest (thanks Stacy, Phil and Lori!).  Last week saw farmer Don trying desperately to plant what he could between the rain storms.  But, the fields are producing!  Peas and greens are looking good and should continue to be available for the next few weeks.  Basil and parsley are two of the crops whose planting has been delayed.  They should be planted this week and become available for choice shortly after that.  Green, or early, onions should continue to be available for the next few weeks, as should new potatoes.  Our first planting of kale and Swiss chard are looking good and our second planting of these crops are ready to be planted as soon as the fields are ready.  Our large summer squash plantings should be producing soon, so squash availability will increase soon.  We suffered some loss in our broccoli and cauliflower plantings, but the plants that survived are looking good and starting to produce. 

In the kitchen, one of our goals this year is to use up leftovers.  We tend to cook beef and chicken once a week and use the leftovers during the week.  This mostly means, stir-frys, wraps and salads.  One of my favorites is thin sliced beef added to sauted veggies and tucked into a tortilla or wrap.  Farmer Don prefers leftover chicken or beef on a green salad.  Recently we were cleaning out and came across some old saved magazines.  We quickly scanned them and saved a few from recycling for their recipes.  One of these recipes was a simple chard and white bean recipe which pairs well with pork chops or beef.  It is a simple saute.  Here is the actual recipe .  As the recipe notes, remove the stems from the chard and cook them with the onions.  On a side note, I always us those colorful chard stems.  If they don't go in the saute pan, I add them raw to chicken or tuna salad.

I always find it interesting when my predictions proven wrong and this is so often the case with our farm dogs.  Recently, I am not much help in the fields, so I spend most days working around the house or on our back porch.  I always assumed Shady, our older mellow dog, would be my companion.  She is much lower energy than our Border Collie, Rosie, and really enjoys her nap time.  Rose, on the other hand, always seems to be awake and on the alert, ready to run and/or chase any "invaders" and is always ready to go when Farmer Don says "we have work to do" .  It seemed logical Rosie would be in the fields with Don hunting her prey  and Shady would be sleeping peacefully with me.  But, much to my surprise, this is not the case.  Rose has been spending her days by my side.  She still goes to work with Don when he asks, but almost always makes her way back to the house, where she is ever watching for the invaders, but completely happy to hang out.  Shady, on the other hand insists on going everywhere Farmer Don goes.  She still naps, but not on porch, instead she can be found sleeping in or under the truck or burrowed happily into a bed of weeds.  Of course, as I type this, Shady is passed out at my feet and Rose is nowhere to be found!  Predictions, ever to be proven wrong!

Please remember we reuse our waxed share boxes.   Open your box carefully to avoid tearing it and leave your share box at your drop site.  We also reuse egg cartons and green berry boxes.  These items can also be left at your drop site.

As always, thank you for your support of our farm and local agriculture.  Keeping money local has a big impact on our community. 

Be safe, be well and enjoy those veggies.  

Sunday, June 16, 2019

2019 CSA Week 1 News

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!  Happy Father's Day!  Welcome to Week 1 of our CSA.  Week 1 is an egg delivery week.  Week 1 is also a chicken delivery week.

First some CSA housekeeping and logistic notes.  Our first CSA delivery is this Wednesday, June 19.  Please note ALL deliveries will be on WEDNESDAY this year, this is a change from previous years and unfortunately some misinformation is reflected on our website.  You will receive site specific information in the next day or so.  Ordering each week will open on Thursdays at 6 pm and will close on Sundays at 6 pm.  Shares are packed in wax boxes and will be labeled with the name you used  to sign up for your share.  We reuse these boxes, so please either leave them at your drop site or return them to the site.  As always, if you have questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Each growing season Mother Nature seems to present us with a new set of challenges.  This spring has again been wet and cool, with a very challenging wind.  The wind challenges us to keep ground and row covers in place and challenges our plants as well.  Transplant shock is normal when we first plant our seedlings as they adapt to the unprotected environment of the field plots.  We try to move seedlings from the greenhouse to an outdoor staging area to harden them off, or get them used to an environment without the protection of the greenhouse.  This hardening off greatly reduces transplant shock and allows the plants to take root and begin growing in the field quickly .  But this year, the strong winds are causing our plants to take longer to adapt to the field in spite of being hardened off.  What this means is our crops are taking longer to become established and thus taking longer to start producing. 

Ah yes, the scientist in me is emerging again.  I am sure this is way more than you ever wanted to know about transplant shock and in all honesty this is a very watered down version of transplant shock and wind!  But, I will move on to field news:

Our fields are quickly filling up and our nursery greenhouse is quickly emptying.  Swiss Chard, Romaine lettuce, kale and peas are all coming along nicely.  Sugar snap peas are just starting to mature and we should continue to harvest them for a number of weeks with larger numbers available in the coming weeks.  Snow peas will be ready soon, followed by some shelling peas.  Summer crops are planted and growing, although our first harvest of tomatoes and peppers are quite a ways off.  We should continue to have zucchini and other summer squash varieties available for most of the season and cucumbers are growing nicely.  We are currently harvesting young green onions and soon will have smaller scallions on the choice list.  Our first rotation of beans are growing nicely and our second rotation is ready to germinate.  And, of course, the weeds are growing very well.

In the kitchen, we are ecstatic to finally have fresh home grown vegetables to cook with. Cooked greens have been a mainstay recently and we had our first zucchini on the grill the other night.  As is always the case this time of year, meals tend to be very simple and quick.  Usually a protein on the grill, with a foil packet of potatoes and some sauted greens.  With the spring flux of eggs and some beets being harvested, I have also been making a Miller family favorite of pickled red beet eggs.  This is probably my favorite way to eat beets and hard boiled eggs.  I also have been freezing strawberries.  Although we do not grow strawberries, I always buy some from a neighboring farm to freeze.  Come next January these frozen berries will become a nice addition to our morning smoothies.  My goal this summer is to feel good enough to do some canning, freezing and fermenting.  Watch future newsletter for how my preserving the harvest is going.

Continuing on this personal note.  I know many of you are eager to know how I am feeling.  As I have mentioned in the past, I am much stronger this year than I was last.  I am once again going through a pulmonary rehabilitation program, with the hopes of not only getting stronger, but also helping my lungs use oxygen more efficiently.  If you or anyone you know is struggling with respiratory issues, I would highly recommend pulmonary rehab.  Last weekend, Farmer Don and I went to Forks Farm Market, as shoppers.  I tend to be a little shy about going out in public, as being so sick has left me looking quite frail and it is hard for me to be around people who knew me before this decline.  But, Forks was a very good experience for me.  Having spent a number of years as a vendor at the market, we know most of the vendors and many of the customers and we very much consider this market a part of our community.  It felt good to be around friends and such a supportive community.  I plan to make Forks Market a more regular activity for me.

So, this newsletter is getting quite long.  Sorry, but thank you for reading!  I will end here with a reminder to our CSA members to please treat our boxes gently and return them for reuse.  And as always, thanks to each of you for your support of our farm.

Monday, June 3, 2019

2019 CSA Opening Date Announcement

Good Morning Friends of the Farm!

First, let me apologize for the slow communications. Life here on the farm has been way busy personally and professionally. But, the time has come to announce the opening dates for our 2019 CSA season.
Our first deliveries will be on Wednesday June 19th. So, the first date to choose items will be Thursday June 13th. The order window will be the same as previous years, opening up Thursdays at 6pm and closing Sunday night at 6pm. This year we are running an 18 week season. Last delivery will be Oct. 16th. Week one will be egg share delivers and also chicken share deliveries for those who have chosen these add ons.

While we have been working hard to get the veggies growing, once again Mother Nature has decided we need more rain. Tough to believe but rain totals so far this year are already above the record setting year we had last year. Let's just hope we don't have as wet a summer season as we endured last year. As most of you know, our local area was hit by a tornado earlier this year and we were very thankful the farm did not encounter the damage many of our neighbors had to endure. The plastic we lost on our high tunnel was our only major damage, again nothing like some of our neighbors who continue to work to rebuild their lives.

So, some early crops we have been working on include some nice romaine lettuce, swiss chard, kale, peas, scallions, onions, broccoli, collard greens, micro greens, Asian greens, dandelion, potatoes, and some spinach. Tomatoes, summer squash and cucumbers are coming along. Radishes, carrots, eggplant and beans are in the works also. Many herbs are coming along nicely as well.

Well, to wrap things up and head out around the rain showers, opening choice day will be Thursday June 13th with delivery the following Wednesday June 19th. Other e-mails will follow with more detailed information. As always, thank you for the support of our farm and small, sustainable, local agriculture.

Be well and stay in touch.
Farmer Don

Monday, April 15, 2019

Wind 1 Greenhouse plastic 0!

In the wee hours of the morning, the wind blew, the rain fell and the thunder boomed. We didn't hear anything crashing down nor did we lose power, so we thought we made out pretty good. Until the sun came up, and this was the view out our kitchen window. Wind 1 greenhouse plastic 0!! But we continue to count our blessing and move forward.

Monday, April 8, 2019

CSA Registration Closed and April News

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!

It has been several months since I have pulled out the laptop to craft a newsletter.  As the harshness of winter moves into a greening of spring, I am hoping to keep in touch on a more regular basis.

First some CSA news.  We have met our capacity for our 2019 CSA and we are therefore closing registration for this season.  As a courtesy to those who have already signed up, but have not sent us payment, we are allowing you to still join the CSA, but we need your payment by April 20th.  After April 20th, no memberships will be accepted.  If you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.  And a HUGE THANK YOU to all who have signed up for the 2019 season.  It is so humbling to have so many pledge their support to us. 

Didn't we just have a couple of beautiful spring days?  They have brought the buzz of spring to the farm!  Spring bulbs are starting to bloom.  The cats and dogs are shedding their winter coats.  The grass is getting greener.  The tree buds are swelling.  AND Farmer Don is getting growing.  We have learned over the years to take things slow in the spring.  Spring in this part of Pennsylvania can be very fickle and I am sure we have not seen the last of freezing morning temperatures!  But, Farmer Don has been busy!  He has been busy putting "steel to the soil" to get fields ready for planting.  The wood stove heated nursery is filling up with trays and trays of soon to be transplants.  Last week we planted a nice bed of red potatoes.  Planting peas, more potatoes and onions will be the next crops to go in the ground.  Today the high tunnel was cleaned out in preparation of early greens and tomato plantings and our unheated nursery was repaired and covered with plastic.  Putting plastic on the greenhouse was not an easy feat with the gusty wind we had today.  Many thanks to Stacy for patiently helping Farmer Don accomplish this task!  In the spring, plants move from the heated nursery, to the unheated nursery, to an outdoor hardening off area and then get planted out in the field.  Cooking greens and salad greens will be the first transplants to be planted out and hence some of the first crops available. 

We are experimenting a bit this year with some old seed.  We are worried about the viability of these seeds, so we did not want to use them for our cash crops.  But, we also did not want to throw them away if they were still able to germinate.  So, we planted the seeds, mostly kale, out in flats of soil.  And we are happy to see some germination!  Our plan is to harvest some of the tender plantlets for our consumption as micro greens or slightly larger baby greens.  If this works for our dinner table, watch for micro/baby greens coming your way in the future.  We also will feed some of the growing plants to our laying hens as green fodder.  We had noticed this winter, when our layers did not have good access to green grass, their egg yolks were becoming paler as they relied more on grain for their nutrition.  We also noticed when we find a tender bit of green (ok a weed!) growing in the greenhouse in the winter and pull it up for the chickens, they fight over this tasty morsel.  That made us think the hens must be missing and needing the greens in their diet.  So, remembering Michael Pollan's "you are what you eat eats" quote, we are hoping by offering our hens a better diet in the winter (living plants!) we will improve the quality of their eggs.  I may not have the results of our fodder experiment until next winter since with the spring greening of our fields the laying hens already have access to green plants.  Thus their eggs' yolks are already becoming darker and richer due to the hens' natural foraging. 

Speaking of chickens.  Our latest batch of pullets, or as I say "teenage chickens" are on farm and getting adjusted to life at Dancing Hen Farm.  They should begin laying towards the end of May, just in time for CSA, buying club and farm market season.  Our first batch of broilers will arrive this week.  They arrive as adorable yellow day old peeps and will spend several weeks in the brooder under some heat lamps before they are hardy enough move outside.  Once outside, they, like our laying hens, will then forage on our organically managed fields.

As much as I am a very private person, I know many of you are concerned about me and my health.  I can honestly say I am much better today than I was a year ago.  Avoiding the hospital this winter, has allowed me to continue to heal and get stronger.  Although I doubt I will ever be the physically laboring partner I once was at Dancing Hen Farm, I still have a lot to offer our operation.  Farmer Don and I count our blessing every day, not the least of which is the supportive community which revolves around our farm. 

So, I hear Farmer Don coming in from the fields.  I will end here as we get ready for supper and some quiet time with the pups.

As always, thank you for your support of our small family farm and local sustainable agriculture.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

2019 CSA Registration and More!

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm! 

It's here!  No not spring!  2019 Dancing Hen Farm CSA details and Sign Ups!

New for 2019.  We are implementing an Online Market Share.  This share is a pay as you go, order when you want share.  This share is only available for on farm pickups and deliveries to a central pick up site.  The will be no home deliveries for the Online Market.  Online Market Shares will require a non-refundable deposit of 100 dollars to get started.  The deposit will act as a bank account and your purchases will be deducted from this balance.  All purchases will be at farm market prices, including eggs and chicken.  You will need to deposit additional money into your account when your balance gets low.  Add on chicken and egg shares are not available to Online Market Share holders.  Your items will be delivered with our CSA share boxes.

Details for our 2019 CSA.  We will continue to be a full choice CSA, meaning each week you will be able to pick the items you receive in your box each week.  You will have your choice of a full (10 items each week) or part (6 items each week) share and you can add an egg (9 dozen eggs) or chicken share (5 deliveries) to your CSA share.  Our early bird sign up is back and will run through February.  We will also, again, be offering a returning member discount.

New for our 2019 CSA:  Our drop sites have been consolidated, resulting in fewer drop sites.  We have shortened the CSA by eliminating a few weeks of deliveries at the end of the season, resulting in an 18 week season.  In 2019, deliveries will be on Wednesdays.  In addition we are downsizing the size of our CSA by cutting the number of shares available by half.  Shares will be reserved by order in which payment is received.  At this time we only accept cash (in person) or checks for payment, although we have begun exploring a system to take plastic. 

After many family and farm meeting and more heartfelt talks then we can even count, we feel it is necessary to implement these changes due to family needs, health and transportation costs.  Thank you for your support and understanding as we move Dancing Hen Farm into 2019, our 12th year of growing for you, our community! 

As we have indicated in past newsletters, 2018 was a very difficult year for us.  Like most farmers in Pennsylvania, we battled Mother Nature with all we had and She fought back hard!  Our washed out road serves as a constant reminder to us, how torrential and downright scary the rains were this year!  Farmer Don asked me to be sure to say a special "Thank you" in this newsletter to all of our farm workers and volunteers during the 2018 season.  Perseverance was the name of the game for our workers last season.  I think almost every week's harvest was completed in the rain last season!  Farmer Don also asked me to again thank you, our farm members and friends for your continued support of our farm.  Your kind emails, notes and words of encouragement at market go a long way to keep Farmer Don farming!

On a more personal level, my goal is to stay out of the hospital in 2019.  2018 found me spending many, many, way too many, nights in the hospital and many more nights and days recovering at home.  I am still recovering, but getting stronger all the time and doing my best to stay as healthy as I can.  I want to also thank everyone for their kind words, notes and prayers.  It brings me comfort to know I have the Dancing Hen Farm community behind me.  So here is to health and strength in 2019!

So, on that emotional note,  let's get back to the 2019 CSA!  As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Winter Buying Club Newletter

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!  Happy New Year!

Buying club ordering is now open for this weekend's delivery.  Ordering will end at 5 am Thursday morning and deliveries will be Friday or Saturday, depending on your pick up site.  We currently have half chickens available (we are sold out of full chickens until next summer).  We also have a good supply of apple orchard pork and storage vegetables available and a limited supply of eggs. 

Welcome to 2019,our 12th year of growing here at Dancing Hen Farm!  Recently I was looking at some old newsletters from our very first season.  I am sure some of you remember these newsletters.  Farmer Don used to write all the newsletters and I would type, format and print them.  Each box received a hard copy of our newsletter.  We have come a long way from those first packed boxes.  We still stress and struggle a bit over what items will be available for shares.  Now, as a choice CSA, that stress is more drawn out, as we try to estimate our harvest of crops almost a week in advance and watch and beg these crops to be ready for harvest in the numbers we need to, fill our members' choices!  One very obvious common denominator in the past 11 growing seasons has been the weather.  I sometimes tell people our best weather for growing was our first year.  But, then I remember the hail storm.  How could I ever forget?!  The day before our very first CSA harvest, we witnessed hail do damage to our crops like I had never seen before.  Beautiful, ready to harvest salad mix and heads of lettuce were pulverized, kale was stripped from its stems, peas and tomatoes were snapped off and row covers were ripped to shreds.  We scrambled that first week to work with other growers to find product to put in our member's boxes.  And I might add we packed those first boxes by candle light, as the storm had also left us without power!  (on a side note -- we will forever be indebted to Farmer Don's sister Gail for her help packing those boxes!)  So, after the hail of season one, we saved what plants we could and re-planted others and then the better weather started! 

These long winter months are often a time for us to reflect.  Reflect on these past seasons, reflect on life before farming, and reflect where we want to go from here.  We often find ourselves wandering why we do this, why farm?  I usually turn to Wendell Berry to answer this.  For those of you not familiar, Wendell Berry is an American author, novelist and poet, he is also an environmentalist and an observer of social behaviors.  I turn to his quotes often for inspiration and reflection.  In the words of Wendell Berry:

 “Why do farmers farm, given their economic adversities on top of the many frustrations and difficulties normal to farming? And always the answer is: "Love. They must do it for love." Farmers farm for the love of farming. They love to watch and nurture the growth of plants. They love to live in the presence of animals. They love to work outdoors. They love the weather, maybe even when it is making them miserable. They love to live where they work and to work where they live. If the scale of their farming is small enough, they like to work in the company of their children and with the help of their children. They love the measure of independence that farm life can still provide.”  

So, here at Dancing Hen Farm we are moving forward with plans for our 2019 season.  Please watch your email, as we will be rolling out the details for the coming season soon.  We will be downsizing, but Farmer Don is committed to continuing to offer choice CSA shares to members.  Memberships will be available for purchase soon, as well as some other new options for purchasing Dancing Hen Farm products.  

With philosophies of life and pending season opening, I will end here.  Thanks for reading and as always, thank you for your support of our farm and local sustainable agriculture.