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".

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