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 ( 

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    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). 

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.