Saturday, October 12, 2019

CSA Week 17 News


Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!

We hope everyone is enjoying their Week 17 CSA boxes.  Week 17 was an egg week and a chicken share week.  Ordering is now under way for Week 18.  Week 18 is the last delivery of our 2019 season. 

With the CSA and farmers markets coming to an end, I want to a bit about our buying clubs.  In the next few weeks we will be beginning our Winter Buying Club.  This Winter Buying Club is a pay as you go program and is separate from our CSA buying club.   To participate in the Winter Buying Club, you will need to sign onto our website and purchase a free membership.  Deliveries are on Friday evening to Bloomsburg and Saturday to Luzerne County locations. You can also pick up your order at the farm.  For delivery, we meet you at a predetermined time and location.  You will pick up and pay for your order at that time.  Around November 1, we will have a fresh supply of pork available on the buying club.  Please note, if you are a member of our CSA buying club and have not used all of your deposit, the deposit carries over and you can use it for purchases through the Winter Buying Club.  If you have questions concerning buying clubs, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Fall is in the air.  We have had a light frost here on farm, marking the end to our summer crops. As we transition from the summer growing season into fall, life here at Dancing Hen Farm starts to slow a bit.  We continue to have animal chores and we still have greens growing in our fields, but in general we have more time to work on projects and reflect on this past growing season.  We will spend these next few months planning our 2020 growing season. 

Fall in the kitchen means we transition from the grill to the soup pot.  Last night we had a ham and cheddar soup which had a unique, but good flavor profile as I used a frozen jar of pork stock.  I had simply labeled the jar "pork stock" and didn't realize it was left from a pork roast with fennel!  I am not sure I would have voluntarily added fennel to the soup, but once it was in the pot there was no going back.  So ham and cheddar soup with under tones of fennel it was!  It passed the Farmer Don test, as he had two large bowls. Although this soup was tasty, I wish I had saved the stock for a pot of more traditional vegetable soup!
 
As always, thanks to each of you for your support of our small family farm and local, sustainable agriculture.



Farmer Don's Newsletter

Hi Friends and supporters!
Farmer Don writing the newsletter this week as Joan is a little under the weather. Alot to talk about as we come to the end of the 2019 season.
First a correction to the last newsletter, we have TWO deliveries left for this season, this coming week (17) and the final week (18). The next delivery (17) will be the final egg week. Those members with two egg shares will receive eggs on week 18 as well. The next delivery (17) will also be the final Chicken Share delivery. Each chicken share will receive an extra 1/2 chicken this year to substitute for the free stew hen. The stew hens did not make the market trip this year and they are probably thankful that they didn't. So, the extra, free 1/2 chicken will need to serve as the stew hen. Thank you for your understanding. And finally the most important part of this newsletter is the move up of pick up day from Wednesday to Tuesday for next delivery (17) only, due to family stuff. We apologize for any inconvenience. So, NEXT PICK UP WILL BE TUESDAY!! NEXT PICK UP WILL BE TUESDAY. NEXT PICK UP WILL BE TUESDAY.
We will send out another reminder over the weekend so everyone will be aware of this one time change.
A couple of other farm notes.......frost coming Friday night, so I'll pick all I can. Tomatoes are done, a few peppers left and some beans left. Can't say how much of these, so they will probably hit farmer's choice. The direct seeding I did a few weeks ago has responded to the rain and is growing nicely. I have to do smaller amounts as each of these crops are nice but small so bear with the clamshell packaging. I'll increase the amount available. Acorn squash coming this week. Sweet potatoes will run through the end of the season. Pencil thin leeks will be bunched and put out for choice also. They didn't finish well with the lack of water the past few weeks, but we can still get them out to you. The radishes are nice and a favorite of mine.
Well, time to wrap this up and get busy with the other aspects of the farm.
Be well friends and thank you once again for your support.
Farmer Don

Monday, September 23, 2019

2019 CSA Week 14 News


Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!  Welcome Fall!

I hope everyone is enjoying their Week 14 boxes.  Week 14 was not an egg week.  After Week 14, there are 5 deliveries in our 2019 CSA.  Please watch your email accounts for some upcoming CSA announcements.

Attention Chicken Share Members:  This week, Week 15 will be a chicken delivery week.  On Wednesday, September 25th, please remember to look for a cooler with your chicken at your pick up site.  And please leave the cooler at the pick-up site so we can re-use it.  Week 17 will also be a chicken week.
 
Sorry this newsletter is so late in getting out to everyone, we have been experiencing some computer problems here on farm.

The calendar says this is the first day of fall, but the temperatures recently are more like summer.  We have been hoping for some rain here on farm.  Unfortunately today's cold front seems to be moving through our area with only a minimal shower.  "barely enough rain to wet under the trees".  I just checked the radar and there are still some storms to our west, so I will keep my fingers crossed we will get a bit more rain.

Our fields are starting to feel the effects of lack of rain.  Our fall greens are really suffering and many have stopped growing.  We will do our best to get crops to you as they become harvestable.  Winter squash and sweet potatoes are new on the harvest list right now.  Tomatoes and peppers are starting to slow down a bit.  Kale should continue to be available, as should storage crops of potatoes, onions and carrots.  We have some beautiful French breakfast radishes sizing up  and will be on the choice list soon.

On farm last week we welcomed Farmer Phil back from vacation.  Phil and his family spent a week at Ocean City Maryland.  It sounds like they had a relaxing time crabbing, eating, visiting the arcade and watching the motorcycles roll into town for bike week.  As I have said before Farmer Phil is a key member of our harvest crew.  He spends harvest day in our pack house, weighing and portioning items and getting boxes ready to be packed with shares.  He is really missed when is away, so we were all happy to him return last week.  I also know he was missed at the Back Mountain Farmer's Market as Farmer Don told me customers were asking for him during the markets he missed.  So welcome back Phil, you were missed on farm and at market!

In the kitchen, we are gradually shifting from what I call summer food to winter food.  Fall and winter for us mean roasts, casseroles, soups and stews.  Farmer Don made a really nice pork roast the other week complete with some delicious root vegetables cooked with the meat.  We also recently made eggplant lasagna using not only our own eggplant and also freshly canned sauce.  Speaking of sauce, canning season is also about wrapped up for this season.  We are hoping to can some applesauce next weekend.  And we have plans for some sauerkraut a bit later in the fall.  Then we will get busy planning meals to use all this preserved food!

We still have bulk/freezer apple orchard pork available.  We sell bulk pork by the half or whole.  All cuts come individually wrapped and frozen.  If you have questions about purchasing freezer pork or if you would like to reserve pork, please contact the farm.  Individual cuts of pork will be made available through our buying club.

Wow!  Time is getting away from me again.  I still have dishes to clean up from supper, so I will sign off until next week.  As always, thank you for your support of our small family farm.  And from Farmer Don "be safe, be well and enjoy those veggies".


Thursday, September 12, 2019

2019 CSA Week 13 News


Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!

We hope all our CSA members are enjoying their Week 13 share boxes.  Week 13 was an egg share week.  Ordering for Week 14 is now open.

It looks like fall, the leaves are slowly turning, the golden rod is in full bloom and the days are most definitely getting shorter.  But it certainly feels like summer is still here.  Just as I was getting ready to pack away some summer clothes we get another day of "air you can wear", as the local weatherman likes to say.  We are not complaining on farm, as some warmer temperatures will help with ripening of the last of our summer crops.  Tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, beans and eggplant all like warmth.  However our fields could really use some rain.  Yesterday and today some areas very close to us received some nice rain, but here on farm we have had only a few short lived showers.  This lack of rain is really delaying the maturation of our fall greens.  And the forecast is for another dry week ahead. 

Although dry, our fields are still looking good moving into fall.  We continue to harvest tomatoes.  This week we have placed green tomatoes on the availability list, so get your fried green tomato recipes ready.  We have also made tomato seconds available.  Seconds are generally what we eat here on farm.  They are usually ripe and ready to eat, but may have a few spots or cracks on them.  If you order seconds you can expect a generous portion.  Other than tomatoes, we are harvesting a small number of beans and zucchini is also making a late summer come back.  Like tomatoes, peppers should continue to be available until we receive a killing frost.  We have some beautiful radishes starting to size up and with a bit of moisture, they should be available next week.  Hopefully in the next few weeks we will be harvesting some tender young greens as well. 

I am really happy to be doing some canning and preserving this year.  As I have said in the past, I really enjoy canning and preserving.  It brings back not only fond memories of my childhood, but also of various gardens Farmer Don and I have tended over the years.  Last year was really tough for me, as I found myself too ill to spend time extending our harvest.  So, I set a goal this year to get canning.  So yesterday, on one of the hottest days of the year, for some reason, I decided to make good on that goal and can tomatoes.  Well to be fair to myself, the tomatoes decided they needed to be canned.  After pack on Tuesday night, Farmer Don told me he had tomatoes harvested which were destined to become pig food if they were not used.  They would not hold for the weekend's markets or next week's pack.  So I dug the canner out of the closet and got busy Wednesday morning processing tomatoes.  And boy did I heat up the house!  Even the dogs couldn't stay in the kitchen!  I only got a yield of 6 quarts (one short of a canner load), but I am happy to say all 6 quarts sealed and are resting on the kitchen table, ready to be washed off and put away for winter use.  And my canning chores, hopefully,  are not over for the year. 

It seems, once again I have been writing this newsletter for a long time.  The weather has now cooled, the dogs have been fed and it is time for me to get some supper started.  On the menu tonight -- salmon on a bed of sauted kale and sungold tomatoes.  And, of course, some sliced heirloom tomatoes as a salad. 

Thank you to each of you for your continued support of our small farm and local sustainable agriculture. 

Thursday, September 5, 2019

2019 CSA Week 12 News


Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm.

We hope everyone is enjoying their Week 12 CSA boxes.  Week 12 was not an egg week.  Ordering is now open for Week 13.

The recent rains have been welcome on farm.  We are still operating without our farm well and pump and therefore have only limited irrigation for our crops.  Our farm is hilly and our soils are rocky, which means our fields drain and therefore dry out surprisingly quick.  These well drained soils are a real blessing when we get flooding rains, but during drier times, our crops often show signs of water stress.  Farmer Don has set up a gravity fed system to get water to some of our more vulnerable crops, but other plantings are only being water by rainfall. 

Despite this lack of irrigation, our crops continue to look good.  New to the harvest list this week include yellow snap/wax beans, delicata squash and an assortment of hot and sweet peppers.  Delicata is the first of the winter squash varieties to be available and should continue to be available for several weeks.  Look for other winter squash in the upcoming weeks.  Wax beans should become available in larger numbers and hopefully we will also have dragon and purple snap beans available soon.  Our fall cabbage is g sizing up and should be ready for harvest in the coming weeks.  We did not have luck with our spring radishes, but fall radishes are up and looking good.  With any luck we will have radishes in a week or two.  Kale and chard will continue to be available and fall greens plantings are close to being harvestable.  Our tomato plants are, for the most part looking good.  We have a bit of disease, but we are hoping to continue harvest until a frost kills our plants.  We are doing our best to get tomatoes to you as they ripen.  As many of you with home gardens may already know, this has been a slow year for tomato ripening. 

In the kitchen, I finally got around to making eggplant sandwiches.  Originally I was going to roast the eggplant slices on the grill, but decided on oven roasting them instead.  I also added sungold tomatoes and a few capers to the roasting pan.  The sandwiches were assembled by spreading ciabatta rolls with some pesto, adding a slice of fresh mozzarella, a slice or two of roasted eggplant topped with some roasted sungolds and the juice from the roasting pan.  The rolls I had were a bit tough, making the sandwiches hard to eat, but the flavors were really good.  Farmer Don and I both decided the sandwiches needed to make a repeat appearance.  Since I had some mozzarella cheese leftover, the next day I made a delicious caprese salad using a couple of beautiful heirloom tomatoes.  Nothing says the end of summer to me like thick slices of fresh heirloom tomatoes and basil!

As most of you know we have two farm dogs, Shady and Rosie.  Rosie is a Border Collie and has all the quirks of that breed.  Shady is a mixed breed and was a stray who decided Dancing Hen Farm would be a good place to call home.  Shady has always been a bit of a forager.  She will pick ripe berries off plants, even going as far as to test a berry's ripeness before she picks and eats it.  We have to keep harvested cucumbers and summer squash covered or she will steal and eat them.  And don't even get me started on Shady and eggs!  Recently she found another farm product to forage, sungold tomatoes.  Farmer Don came in from harvest the other night with a big grin on his face telling me how cute Shady was.  It seems as he harvested the cherry tomatoes into the bucket, Shady picked them out and ate them.  I don't think she has learned to pick them herself yet, but I am sure it is only a matter of time.  Next year we may need to plant extra tomatoes for Shady!

So, it is getting late, I am getting tired and I am already late getting this newsletter out to everyone.  I will end here.  Have a great week!  Enjoy those veggies.  And please keep our neighbors to the south dealing with the aftermath of Dorian in your thoughts and prayers.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

2019 CSA Week 11 News


Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!

Welcome to Week 11 of our CSA.  Week 11 boxes were delivered today, Wednesday, and, is an egg week.

Attention Chicken Share members.  Next week, will be a chicken week.  Chicken will be delivered with our CSA box deliveries on Wednesday, September 4th.  Please remember to check for a cooler at your pick up site with your chicken share inside.  Please leave the cooler at your pick up site.

Haven't these recent cooler temperatures been beautiful!  And can you believe this weekend is already Labor Day and that most schools have already started for the year.  We have a family picnic planned for Sunday, so we are hoping the predicted showers hold off until the evening.  Looking at the long range weather forecast, it looks as though cooler temperatures are here for awhile.  Cooler temperatures are good for the people and animals at Dancing Hen Farm, but not good for some of our crops.  These cooler temperatures tend to bring disease to our tomatoes and slow the growth of most of our other heat loving crops.

Speaking of crops and a change in the air.  A change is on its way for our harvest.  Cucumbers and corn are over for the year.  We will do our best to get as many tomatoes out as possible.  Greens are in the ground and we are awaiting them to size up for harvest.  Our collard green planting has done well this year, although the planting is small.  Peppers are starting to be harvest.  We have our fingers crossed a late planting of summer squash will produce, but only time will tell.  Next week we will begin to make winter squash varieties available.  Fall cabbage is looking good.  We are hoping our last planting of beans will reach maturity before the end of the growing season.

It is also the time of year to talk about pastured pork.  This year's pastured pork will be available the end of October or the beginning of November.  Now is the time to reserve your pork for the freezer.  We sell both half and whole pigs.  The meat is processed in a USDA inspected facility and comes wrapped and frozen, ready for your freezer.  We only raise a small number of pigs and only a portion of those raised are available as freezer meat.  The remaining meat is sold by the piece through our buying club and at farmers markets we attend.  If you would like to reserve pork this year or have questions, please contact us at the farm.
 
The kitchen was busy again this week with canning and preserving.  On Saturday, I made a large batch of pesto  to freeze.  To freeze, I put the pesto in small jars and top them with a bit of  olive oil.  This pesto will be a real treat this winter!  Then on Sunday and Monday, my sister and I made and canned tomato sauce.  Sunday we ran the tomatoes through the food mill to extract the juice and some pulp.  I cooked the sauce down Sunday night and then on Monday we re-heated the sauce and filled the canners for processing.  We were excited to have all jars seal!  We are still hoping to can some applesauce a bit later in the fall.  I may also try to can at least one batch of slicing tomatoes, depending on how the tomatoes hold up to this cooler weather.

Once again, it seems to be getting late.  I still have supper dishes to clean up, so I will end here, in Farmer Don's words: "be safe, be well and enjoy those veggies".

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Dog and Cat days of summer




And they are NOT allowed on the picnic table, but you see who rules here on farm.....

CSA Week 10 News


Greetings From Dancing Hen Farm!

Welcome to Week 10 of our 2019 CSA.  Week 10 is not an egg week.

The dog days of summer were definitely upon us this past week.  Hot, humid and with pop up thunder storms.  Fairly typical weather for August in Pennsylvania.  The weather predictors are telling us a change is on the way with almost fall like temperatures arriving for the weekend.  The farmers, the dogs and I are all ready for some cooler weather.  As much as I enjoy the bountiful harvest we enjoy in August and September and hate to say good-bye to the beautiful fresh veggies, I am ready for some cooler weather and dare I say fall. 

We are still without farm water here on farm and therefore are still carrying water to water our animals and plants.  This also means we do not have irrigation in our fields, so we are actually looking for some soaking rains today.  A huge thank you to Stacy for all her dedication to our farm and animals.  Yesterday, she rose to the challenge.  After a very hot morning of harvest, she loaded the Kubota buggy with five gallon buckets of water and hauled water to our chickens and pigs.  We hate to see our plants going without water, but we cannot allow our animals to be, even a short period of time, without fresh water.

In the fields, our tomato harvest is ongoing and should continue until frost, or a major disease event.  Every year we (along with most vegetable farmers) struggle with late blight of tomatoes.  Late blight is very devastating and, even  what appears to be a very minor infestation, will spread rapidly and kill most all untreated tomato plants.  Late blight has been reported in Pennsylvania this year, so we know it is only a matter of time before it arrives on our farm.  Since we do follow organic practices on our farm, we do not use synthetic fungicides to control this disease.  We do try to plant some varieties of tomatoes with disease resistance and may spray some copper (organic approved) on our plants.  We will keep your posted on how our tomatoes are faring.  Right now our tomatoes look beautiful!

Other crops also look good.  Peppers are starting to be harvested and our eggplants are very slowly sizing up.  Farmer Don asked me to apologize for anyone anticipating carrot tops this week.  Carrots going forward will be without the tops, as this last hot spell did not treat our carrot tops kindly.  Summer squash and cucumber harvest have both slowed and we are still awaiting new greens to size up.  Our leeks look good this year and are safely tucked under insect netting, so we are hoping they will continue to size up and we will get a harvest.  Fall cabbage is forming heads and should be ready for harvest towards the end of our CSA. 

I am slowly getting back into canning and preserving.  As many of you remember, in the past, I have always been busy in the kitchen this time of year with freezing and canning.  This year, I have frozen strawberries, blueberries and peppers and dried some herbs.  And over the weekend I made a batch of freezer pickles.  I think I may be a bit out of practice, as I anticipated a few (3 or 4) pints of pickles, but ended up with 7.  I had to make more syrup twice to fill my jars!  My next canning job will be tomato sauce.  In the past few years, I have been making sauce with my sister, kind of an old fashioned canning party.  We are not sure if we will have enough paste tomatoes to make sauce, so I had Farmer Don order some for me from a neighbor.  I am thinking the cooler weather this weekend will make a hot cooking and canning job a bit more tolerable.  After sauce, we will tackle canning some red slicers and hopefully applesauce this fall.

Speaking of kitchen antics.  Last week, Farmer Don made a wacky cake or as one of nephews likes to say " he banged out a wacky cake".  This cake was a belated birthday cake for one of our workers.  Wacky cake has a lot of tradition on farm and to our family.  My Mom made wacky cake often and she passed the recipe on to my sisters and I.  Farmer Don has the sweet tooth around here and soon he became the official wacky cake chef.  My family always puts a seven minute boiled frosting on the cake (add the egg yolks in the cake).  Farmer Don continues the frosting tradition, as well, and has mastered boiled frosting.  The frosting is a bit more challenging than the cake.  Here on farm, wacky cake is almost always made for birthdays and Farmer Don has even been known to have his interns make their own birthday cakes!  If you have never tried wacky cake, it really is a good easy cake to make.  Recipes for the cake and the frosting are easy enough to find online. 

Here it is already afternoon and Farmer Don will soon be back from deliveries.  I need to end this babbling newsletter and move on to the kitchen.  Last week Farmer Don fixed our dishwasher and I need to unload and then re-load it.  Funny how the kitchen seemed cleaner when I was without the dishwasher and washing dishes by hand!

Have a great week and enjoy this upcoming beautiful weather!



Wednesday, August 14, 2019

2019 CSA Week 9 News


Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!

Welcome to Week 9 of our 2019 CSA.  Week 9 is an egg week.  Hopefully everyone is enjoying their Week 9 boxes.

Yep, the weather again!  Last weekend was absolutely beautiful, dare I say almost fall like?  A nice relief after last week's stormy weather.  The storms were not overly kind to Dancing Hen Farm. As you know we lost power on Tuesday night and it seems that is not all Mother Nature had in store for us.   When Farmer Don went to water our pigs early Friday morning he discovered our farm well pump was not working and we had no water for the farm.  Luckily, our house has its own, separate, water source, so we were able to get water to our animals using five gallon buckets.  Ok, Farmer Don manned the buckets and I offered moral support!  Over the weekend a plumber confirmed what we had suspected, lightening had hit our pump.  However, we are again counting our blessings here on farm.  The controller to our pump was damaged, but the pump itself seems to be in working order.  The controller is not an inexpensive part for our system, but we are relieved to not also be having to replace the pump.  Now the search begins for a replacement controller which is compatible with the systems we have on our farm.  Without the controller we do not have an operational pump and therefore do not have irrigation, so we actually are looking for some rain!  Crazy to think we are looking for rain, when we have had such a wet year, but our fields of shale do dry out quickly.   I am not sure Farmer Don can water the fields with five gallon buckets, even with my moral support!  So, we need some collective energies to bring some nice soaking rains to the farm.

Our fields do continue to look good this year.  Farmer Don asked me to let everyone know we are in what he calls the "August greens doldrums".  This happens most Augusts as the heat of the season is not kind to greens.  We have greens in the ground and some ready to go in the ground and these plantings should be ready for harvest in a few weeks as temperatures cool slightly.  More exciting than greens to come are our tomatoes.  They are ripening and we are starting to harvest them.  Farmers choice boxes saw our own Julliette Salad tomatoes in their boxes this week and our own cherry tomatoes, including sungolds, will also be available shortly.  Fennel is coming to an end and cucumbers have finally slowed down a bit.  Cucumbers are often a boom or bust crop for us and the past few years have been booming.  The next bean plantings continue to look good as does our fall cabbage.

This weekend Farmer Don and I attended a really nice farm to table dinner at our neighbor's farm.  We rarely go out and barely leave the farm anymore, so this was a real treat for us.  Toby and Sarah own and operate the Blind Pig Kitchen in Bloomsburg and this dinner was a Meet the Farmers (Toby and Sarah!) Dinner for supporters of the restaurant.  The Blind Pig is a farm to table restaurant with most all food served sourced locally, much of it produced on their own farm.  The farm dinner was amazing, great food, great setting and even a bluegrass band for entertainment!  If you have not yet visited The Blind Pig Kitchen, I would encourage you to do so.  They are open for dinner Wednesday through Sunday and for brunch on Sunday.  More information can be found on their website (www.blindpigkitchen.com). 

Farmer Don is in from evening chores, the dogs are settling in for the night and I need to think about heading to bed.  So, I will end here with Farmer Don's words "be safe, be well and enjoy those veggies".

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

2019 CSA Week 8 News


Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!


Welcome to Week 8 of our 2019 CSA.  Week 8 is not an egg week.  If you placed a buying club order, your extra items will either be in your share box, in a separate box with your name or in a cooler at your pick up site.  Please remember to check for your buying club orders.

Wow!  Last night's CSA pack was another challenging one.  Right off the bat, I want to thank Lori, Maria and Alex for their perseverance and help getting boxes packed, despite a very leaky roof and limited lighting.  Soooo, just as we were finishing harvest and getting our pack line set up, the sky got dark and the wind started to blow.  At first it appeared as though the storm would pass to the south of us, but within minutes, the rain began, followed by hail and more rain.  Unfortunately, the storm also darkened the farm, as we lost power.  With night setting in, Farmer Don and Alex scrambled to get the generator going and the extension cords laid.  We were able to power a few things in the house, and some lights on our pack line and packing boxes commenced, as did the rain and thunder and lightning.  This all brought back memories of our very first CSA pack (12 years ago!), when we also packed boxes without electric.   That year, we didn't have a generator, so candles, lanterns and flashlights lit our pack line and our help was Farmer Don's sister Gail, visiting from Florida.  A vacation I am sure she will not soon forget!.

Speaking of weather, although strong storms seem to be coming again today, this weekend is to be beautiful.  The perfect weather to visit your local farmer's market.  Farmer Don and Farmer Phil can be found, every Saturday, in Dallas at the Back Mountain Library Market.  This market is now held at the Dallas High School and has really grown in the last few years, with a great variety of vendors.  Market hours are from 9 am to 2 pm, but be sure to arrive early as many farms sell out before 2.  On Sunday, Farmer Don is at the Mountain Top Farmers Market.  This market is held at the Crestwood High School, also from 9 to 2, but like the Saturday market, most farmers are sold out before 2.  This market is also growing with new vendors this year.  If you visit either of these markets, please stop by our table and say hello.  Farmers Don and Phil really like to meet friends and members of the farm.

Our fields continue to look good this year and our fall seeding and planting is just about complete.  Summer crops are moving along nicely, with tomatoes and peppers beginning to ripen and eggplant sizing up.  Tomatillos are now being harvested in small numbers and should have a larger flush in the coming weeks.  Our first and second plantings of summer squash varieties are starting to slow down and we anticipate a lull in harvest as we await our final planting to produce fruit ready for harvest.  Chard and kale continue to be available.  New plantings of lettuce are sizing up, as well as some Asian greens.  Yellow wax beans, purple snap beans and Dragon beans are growing nicely and should be ready for harvest in the coming weeks.  We have begun harvesting our potatoes for storage and they should be available into the fall.  With our tomatoes being so late this year, Farmer Don has been working with a couple of our neighbors to secure some certified organic tomatoes, so look for those on the availability soon. 

This time of year in the kitchen, I am always scrambling to use all the produce which keeps appearing in my fridge!  Most recently that included fennel and a watermelon.  I had been craving some massaged kale salad and used the power of Google to find a salad with watermelon and kale.  To my surprise, I found one with watermelon, kale and fennel (and a bunch of other ingredients I had as well!).  Very easy to make and it passed the taste test, so it will go in the keeper pile.  I didn't have any radishes, so I left those out.  Here is a link to the recipe https://www.loveandlemons.com/watermelon-feta-salad-kale-avocado/    Farmer Don brought more harvested fennel home from market on Sunday, so on Monday, I searched the cookbooks for a good fennel main dish recipe.  I always think of fennel in the fall with roasted pork or chicken, but I really wanted something a bit lighter.  I found a very easy recipe for a Greek fennel skillet.  It was basically a stew of fennel, tomatoes, onions and garlic, with some feta cheese stirred in at the end.  I served it over some soft polenta and the flavors really blended well - another keeper!   Again, Google helped me find the exact recipe from my cookbook online for our readers (no olives in the pantry, so I left those out).  https://openhandsfarm.com/recipes-2/fennel-recipes/ 

One of my sisters hinted to me that I might be bringing up bugs too much in my newsletter, so I was prepared this week with a dog story.  But, this newsletter is already getting a bit long, so I think I will save the dog story for another day and who knows by then maybe some other great insects will charm me into telling their stories!

As always thanks to each of you for your support of us, our farm and local sustainable agriculture.

Until next week, be safe, be well and enjoy those veggies.


Wednesday, July 31, 2019

2019 CSA Week 7 News

Photo by Farmer Don.



Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm! 

Welcome to Week 7 or our CSA.  Week 7 is an egg week.

It is hard to believe that tomorrow is August first.  We are already starting to notice the days getting slightly  shorter.  Temperatures and evening thundershowers, however, continue to be very summer like.  Although this July has been unusually hot, we are happy to have avoided the drenching rains of last July.  Hopefully we will also avoid the drenching flooding rains of last August as well.  Some of our neighbors (and our local roads) still have not recovered from the flash floods last August.

In the fields the summer temperatures continue to push along our tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and other summer crops.  We are still several weeks from our own tomato harvest.  However, Farmer Don was able to secure a small number certified organic cherry tomatoes from a neighbor for next week.  These will be available as pints of mixed tomatoes on a first serve basis.  Our chard is starting to slow a bit, but our kale continues to look good.  We are monitoring our tomatillos daily and they should be ready for harvest soon.  Basil continues to look good, but some of our other herbs have gone to seed.  Our next planting of beans includes yellow, purple, dragon and flat Italian beans.  The plants are up and beans should be ready for harvest in the coming weeks.  The seed house is slowly filling up with seedlings for our fall crops.  

The other evening, Farmer Don came in telling me he had something to show me in our tomato patch.  So off we went to explore and there in the middle of the sungolds was a fawn bedded down.  Don tells me this baby has been alone for several weeks and recently it has decided the coziest place on farm is in the tomatoes.  Deer do so much damage to our crops, but it is hard to not love this beautiful baby! 

Ok, so I have to admit, I saw something I found even more inspiring than the fawn on this farm tour.  On farm we allow some areas to remain weedy or more wild.  One of the plants we like to allow to grow are milkweed.  Milkweed are a food source for Monarch butterfly larvae.  Several years ago Monarchs seemed to have disappeared and there was worry about the future of the species.  Well, there beside the tomatoes was a patch of milkweed with a large number of Monarch (and tiger swallowtail) butterflies flying from plant to plant!  So exciting to see this species of butterfly becoming more common in Pennsylvania again!  Monarchs really are amazing insects.  Each fall they migrate, over 2000 miles, to a small area in south central Mexico, to overwinter.  In spring the Monarchs fly back north.  So, come September, if you see one of these orange butterflies, wish it luck on its journey to Mexico!  And if you have children in your life, I would encourage you to point these beautiful orange butterflies out to them and help them learn about the Monarch's life cycle and migration.
 
Today is delivery day, Farmers Don and Phil were just here for lunch and to pick up the boxes for afternoon delivery.  I need to get off the computer and continue checking items off my "to do" list for the day.  So, I will say, in Farmer Don's words, "be safe, be well and enjoy those veggies"!

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

2019 Week 6 CSA News


Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm! 

Welcome to Week 6 of our 2019 CSA!  Week 6 is NOT an egg week.  We hope everyone is enjoying their Week 5 boxes.

What a difference a week makes.  Last week, I was talking about a beautiful weekend and wanting to spend every minute outside.  This weekend was quite the opposite.  High humidity and high temperatures and even the dogs didn't want to spend time outdoors!  Yesterday brought the rain and hopefully today we awoke to cooler temperatures.  These cooler temperatures are a much needed relief for us.  As I have said before, the hot temperatures are good for ripening our summer crops, but not real good for the farmers or our animals. 

Cucumber season is officially here.  And zucchini season continues. Time for those creative recipes.  Speaking of cucumbers, Farmer Don asked me to talk a bit about the pickling cucumbers being harvested right now.  They are beautiful and as I have said before they can be enjoyed fresh or pickled.  These cucumbers are a variety called "deli star cucumbers", after the barrel of large Kosher pickles seen at your local deli.  These pickles are traditionally brine fermented for preservation, compared with vinegar pickling.  This is the same principle of lacto fermentation used to make sauerkraut and kimchi.  I have fermented a number of different vegetables, but have to admit, I have never made fermented pickles.  Maybe before cucumber season ends I will have to try a small batch.

As I have indicated in previous newsletters, our fields are looking good right now.  Some of our crops (tomatoes and peppers for example) are a bit behind due to the wet spring, but everything is quickly catching up.  Eggplant and tomatillos are looking really beautiful this year and I would anticipate some tomatillos being available in the next week or two.  Eggplant, tomatoes and peppers all have fruit on the vine, so now we wait for them to mature.  Kale and chard continue to look really beautiful and our next rotation of salad greens should be ready in  the next few weeks as well.  Purple and sweet basil is very nice right now and should continue

Farmer Don and I do try to carve out some non-farm time for ourselves.  One of our activities, after farm chores are done, is to go for a drive and get ice cream.  We usually load up the dogs and drive up through the Sullivan Falls area to Ricketts Glen park.  We stop occasionally to soak in some of the magic of the woods and to give the dogs a chance to explore.  We sometimes also take a quick drive through the park campground.  This week during our drive temperatures were still in the upper 80's with stifling humidity.  This got Farmer Don and I talking about campfires.  Farmer Don loves a campfire, something he learned at an early age camping all over the country with his family.  No matter how hot (or rainy), there is always a campfire if Don is around!  On this drive, he was convinced at least fifty percent of the campsites would have fires.  So, we started counting.  The results?  The jury is still out.  Farmer Don is convinced he was correct, but since we quickly lost count and started reminiscing about past camping trips, I think the data is inconclusive!  There are two campgrounds at this park and one had quite a few (at least fifty percent) fires, but the other campground was surprisingly void of fires.  A debate to be continued, perhaps around a campfire! 

I will end here.  The crew is here harvesting and need to get ready for a doctor's appointment.  Lots of appointments coming up in the next week, so I will be busy.  Thank you again for your support, by joining our CSA, by buying from us at market and by keeping us in your thoughts and prayers.

Until next week.... be safe, be well and enjoy those veggies.



Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Week 5 CSA News


Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm! 

Welcome to Week 5 of our 2019 CSA!  WEEK 5 IS A CHICKEN WEEK!!!  So, if you purchased a chicken share, please be sure to check for a cooler at your drop site.  Our site hosts are not able to store your chicken for you.  Week 5 is an egg week.  Remember ordering of our CSA begins every Thursday at 6 pm and ends on Sunday at 6 pm.

I am sitting on the back porch still enjoying the coolness of the morning, but I fear the coolness will be short lived as the hot and muggies are on their way with highs in the 90's predicted into the first part of next week.  Highs in the 90's and overnight lows in the 70's are not great for the farmers, but our summertime veggies will be loving life.  And, I must say "Wasn't this past weekend just beautiful!"  I know I spent as much time as possible outside enjoying the low humidity and sunshine.  
 
As I have reported in recent newsletters, our fields are looking good.  A bit weedy, but crops are growing nicely.  Our tomatoes are large and healthy and we have fruit on the vine!  We are still a few weeks from tomato harvest, but it is encouraging to see the plants setting fruit. Eggplants are also looking good and like the tomatoes are also setting fruit.  Our chard and kale continue to look healthy and produce well.  Zucchini and summer squash harvest is in full swing, so get your recipes ready!  The other night Farmer Don brought me a beautiful bulb of fennel  and a tomatillo (the gifts a farm wife gets  - be still my heart!).  We will allow both of these crops to size up a bit more, but look for them on the choice list soon.  We are harvesting small numbers of beans currently, but have large plantings which should be ready in several weeks.  Cucumber harvest has started as well, with pickling cucumbers being the first to be ready.  Don't let the name fool you, picklers are also good for eating fresh, although the skin is a bit tougher than slicers, so you may want to peel them.  Sweet and purple basil is beautiful  and harvest should continue of these herbs for quite a while. 

As many of you already know, my most recent health issues have caused me to leave a full time off farm job.  This has been quite an adjustment for both Farmer Don and I, as I cannot remember the last time I did not have a full time job.  Farmer Don would tell everyone I worked 2 full time jobs; one off farm and then on farm for him in my spare time.  Farmer Don is now intent on keeping me busy and involved in the farm.  Most recently he has decided I can take over our seeding of fall crops and has set up an efficient work station for me on the back porch.  Although this seeding is a huge task and I am not nearly as efficient as Farmer Don and his farm  helpers, it has felt good to have my hands in the dirt again.  So, I will be spending time in the coming days and weeks trying to convince only one tiny seed to fall into each cell of our seedling trays!  I will keep you posted about my new on farm job.

In our kitchen, simple and quick is still ruling for farm dinners.  Last night we had a large salad consisting of a mix of greens and topped with an assortment of fresh veggies and some leftover chicken.  I have started to do some preserving as well, with freezing some berries.  My next task will be some simple freezer pickles.  I use a recipe from one of my canning books, but this web recipe is very close to the one I use  (https://www.amish365.com/freezer-pickles/)  
Like this recipe, I do not add any pickling spices to my freezer pickles, as I remember reading somewhere that freezing the spices could result in off tasting pickles.  I find these pickles are good as a topping to salads, atop burgers or pork sandwiches or stand alone as a small side salad.  And as a bonus, they are super easy to make!  As always, stay tuned as to how my freezer pickles turn out!

So, I have literally been writing this newsletter for over 12 hours!   More like 48, if you consider the versions I started over the weekend and never finished!  So, I will end here, with a promise to try and get newsletters out in a more timely manner in the future.

Thanks to each of you for reading and as always thank you for your support of our farm.

Monday, July 8, 2019

CSA Week 4 Farm News


Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm! 

Welcome to Week 4 of our 2019 CSA.  Week 4 is not an egg week. 

The weather word this last week has been humidity.  Today we awoke to a morning of rain.  We had not anticipated this.  We knew there was a good chance of showers today, but assumed we would be dealing with those all too familiar passing summer thunder storms.  Instead it seems a band of rain is stalling over us giving us what I would classify as rain, not showers.  We also anticipated cooler temperatures this morning, but we awoke to temperatures still in the 70's!  As Farmer Don likes to remind us, Mother Nature always bats last!  I did just check the radar and it looks like the rain is slowing slipping past us, so some muddy field work will be possible a bit later today.

Our fields are looking good.  We are having our usual battles with deer and groundhogs, but in general most crops are growing well.  We are now planting our third plantings of chard and kale and soon will begin seeding our fall crops for planting in August.  I always find it odd that we seed fall crops in the heat of summer!  Cucumbers look really good and we should begin harvesting them in the next week or two.  We are still harvesting peas, but they are slowing down due to the heat.  Summer squash continues to produce and soon we will be harvesting eight ball zucchini, yellow squash and patty pans, with zucchini harvest continuing.  Our Swiss Chard and Kale is really beautiful right now and we should continue to have these available going forward.  Tomatoes are looking good, but will most likely be a later harvest for us.  Our tomatoes got a late start and unfortunately one of our four legged pests now seems to have a taste for tomatoes and has been trimming them back for us with their eating.  In the past certain crops, including tomatoes have been safe from deer and ground hog but I guess the new generation of wildlife has a different palate.

I want to take a bit of time to thank some of those who help us out here on farm.  First, a big thank you to CSA members Alex and Maria.  Alex and Maria spent the Fourth of July on farm helping Farmer Don finish up some planting and they also helped out on Sunday at the Mountain Top Market.  Also a big Thank You to Farmer Phil.  Farmer Phil has helped us for a number of years now and many of you know him as Farmer Don's helper at the Back Mountain Farmers Market.  Phil also helps with CSA deliveries and is in charge of weighing and portioning in our pack house.  Stacy is another helper on farm.  Stacy has been volunteering her time for several years and can be found early in the season helping in the fields.  Now that the CSA has started, Stacy spends a long day on farm harvesting and washing share items.  Joyce, another volunteer, can also be found here on harvest day.  Joyce not only helps with harvest, but also becomes my driver when Farmer Don cannot accompany me to doctors' appointments and therapy sessions.  Ken, another farm volunteer is a bit of a jack of all trades, helping in the fields, harvesting and running a mean weed eater.  And last, but not least, Lori.  Lori works, as Farmer Don says, second shift.  She arrives late in the afternoon and works into the evening helping Farmer Don pack CSA boxes. 

As a side note, we are always looking for good volunteers or work share people.  Due to weekend farm markets, hours generally need to be daytime Monday to Friday.  If interested, please contact us and we will try to work something out.

In the kitchen, we are still using the grill to try and keep the heat out the house and farmer Don is still doing his specialty, grilled zucchini.  Last night we had grilled eight ball.  For those of you not familiar, eight ball zucchini are zucchini which grow round rather than long and they are good for grilling as they are easy to slice uniformly.  We also are still eating a lot of chard and peas.  I have never frozen peas, but I asked Farmer Don to pick some extras for me today, so I can experiment with freezing some.  Freezing peas will be new to me, as I have always thought peas are best eaten fresh, usually right off the vine!

Market season is in full swing.  Saturdays you can find Farmer Don at the Back Mountain Farmers Market in Dallas and Sundays you can find him at the Mountain Top Farmers Market.  Both of these markets are growing with some great farmers and vendors selling their wares and are well worth the trip.  If  you are at either of these markets, please stop by and say hello. 

As many one you may recall from a past newsletter, I am a bit of a bug person, having spent many, many classroom and work hours studying bugs.  This has made me aware of insects and their unique behaviors.  Recently, I have been watching stunning shiny black, almost blue, metallic wasps. These are spider or pompilild wasps.  The other day, I was able to watch the behavior I was looking for.  I saw one of these wasps nap a spider out of its web, paralyze it and carry it off.  So efficient and so incredible!  The wasp will use this spider as a vessel to rear its young.  I will not bore you with the details, but just say - "how cool is that?!".  A venomous insect attacking and paralyzing another venomous arthropod and then using it as a kind of food filled nursery for its babies.  Yes, I know probably way too much science and probably way too much talk of killing and paralyzing, especially, just, as I got done talking about cooking and food!  And maybe the doctors are right, now that I have retired early, maybe I do need a hobby!  But, the next time you see one of those shiny black wasps, think about following it and watching it catch a spider.

Ok, time to wrap up!  The rain has stopped and although it is still cloudy, the sky seems to be brightening.  Have a great week!


Sunday, June 30, 2019

CSA Week 3 Farm News


Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!  

Welcome to Week 3 of our 2019 CSA.  Week 3 is an egg week.  Ordering for Week 3 is now underway and will close tonight, Sunday, at 6 pm..

It doesn't seem possible that it is already time to celebrate July 4th.  It seems summer has barely started.  Although this morning brought cooler temperatures, this week we did see some summer heat returning.  The heat had Farmer Don declaring the our farm pond "open" as he took his first cooling dip of the season.  He reports the water is still really cold, but it felt great after a long day in the fields.  We are hoping the seemingly daily drenching rains have subsided for a bit and our fields can dry out and our summer crops can begin to grow.  Farmer Don told me he has seen some long range predictions for the summer weather and we could be in for a hot and dry summer.  Although hot and dry brings along a whole set of problems, it will be a relief to have a break from the wet summers we have endured recently. 

On farm we are falling into our summer rhythm.  With the CSA in full swing and farmers markets starting up, we find ourselves spending more time harvesting, washing and packing produce.  This allows for less time to plant and maintain our fields.  Even with the longer days, there still does not seem to be enough hours in the day to accomplish everything on the farm to do list.  In general our fields are looking weedy, but our crops seem to be growing well.  We have been really happy with our romaine lettuce this year and our chard and kale are growing nicely.  Peas look good, but the warmer temperatures will most likely take a toll on them and I predict their production will slow quite quickly.  Row covers have been removed from our eight ball zucchini plants and cucumbers.  It will not be long before these crops appear on our harvest list.  We are starting to harvest scallions and continue to harvest onions.  Tomatillos are looking really good and tomatoes are starting to take hold.  Green beans are being replanted, as much of our first planting fell victim to the groundhog.  

Since I am generally feeling better these days, one of the farm tasks I have been trying to take back is meal preparation.  Farmer Don is so busy in the fields, I feel horrible expecting him to also be busy in the kitchen!  So yesterday, I gave Farmer Don my shopping list for him to harvest.  He came back with a beautiful bunch of chard, some peas, green onions and green garlic.  Our chard is so beautiful right now  and I really wanted to feature it in our evening meal.  I had planned a simple greens, goat cheese and pasta dish.  While the pasta water heated, I got busy sautéing the vegetables.  Once the veggies were cooked, I put them, along with the pasta, goat cheese and a cup of pasta water in a bowl and mixed everything together with some fresh herbs and parmesan cheese.  A salad and some sour dough bread completed the meal.  As is often the case this time of year, Farmer Don and I felt blessed to have a meal with the majority of the ingredients produced here on our farm.  Tonight we are having a summer stable at Dancing Hen Farm - BLT's.  We have a beautiful tomato grown in one our Amish friend's greenhouse on the kitchen table waiting to be sliced and a nice head of our own lettuce already washed and in the fridge.  Dancing Hen Farm bacon will complete the sandwich.  

Farmers Market season officially began for us this weekend.  Today Farmer Don is at the Mountain Top Market today and next Saturday the Back Mountain Market opens.  Right now we expect to be at both of these markets throughout the season.  If you visit market, please stop by our stand and say hello to Farmer Don.  He really enjoys meeting our customers.  And as a public service announcement, I would encourage you to visit local farmers markets and buy fresh buy local.  Supporting local farmers is investing in your local community by keeping your food dollars local.  

Farmer Don wants me to be sure to thank our CSA members for returning their share boxes, egg cartons and green pint and quart containers.  Reusing these items not only keeps farm  costs down, but also reduces our farm's environmental footprint by keeping these items out of the landfills. 
As long as I am saying "thank you".  I cannot end a newsletter without thanking each of you for your support of our farm.  Without your support we would not be able to farm this rocky hillside we call Dancing Hen Farm.

I will end here as my computer is running out of battery juice and I am hoping to pull some weeds in my flower beds on this beautiful last day of June.  So in the words of Farmer Don "be safe, be well and enjoy those veggies".