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.