Wednesday, September 16, 2020

2020 Week 13 Newsletter


Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!

Welcome to Week 13 of our CSA.  Week 13 is an egg week.  After this week's delivery there are 5 weeks remaining in the 2020 CSA.

It seems we are getting some fall weather and may even see some frost before this week ends.  We have had a low of 37 the past two mornings, with even cooler temperatures predicted over the weekend.  Can you believe we are experiencing cloudy weather due to the fires out west? That is almost unbelievable to me!  Of course we are counting our blessings that we are only dealing with some hazy cloudy skies from these devastating fires.  Such horrible destruction!  Destruction of nature, property and unfortunately lives.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to those dealing with these seemingly never ending fires.

As the weather cools, you will also see the crops in your CSA boxes change.  Look for more greens, more winter squash, beets, hopefully some carrots and fennel.  Farmer Don has a nice stand of spinach started, unfortunately it seems to be a favorite of both the deer and groundhogs on farm.  With any luck we will get a bit of a harvest off this bed.

It is with great sadness I have to tell everyone of the loss of a true keeper of our farm.  Our beloved Border Collie, Rosemary, crossed over the rainbow bridge this week.  We knew she was sick, but we did not expect her to decline so quickly.  Rosie lived life to the fullest and we so loved having her as part of our farm family.  She came to live with us, barely 8 weeks old, a fluffy bundle of black and white with the cutest beauty mark on her nose.  Rose was determined to rule us and rule the farm and she did just that.  Such a sensitive pup, she always knew when you needed a hug and would come to you and try to crawl into your lap.  At that point you often forgot why you were sad, as now you were focused on fending off Rose!  She greeted visitors with a wormy wiggle and kiss on the face or a bop on the nose if you weren't paying attention.  As anyone who visited the farm knew, Rosie was obsessed with playing fetch and once you threw the first ball you had a playmate for life, well at least until you snuck into your car and left!  Rose loved farm crop walks, car rides, hunting frogs, her Frisbee and nightly lap time.  As I write this, so many Rosie stories are popping into my head, she really was a huge part of this farm and our family.  I had planned to share these Rosie Stories with my readers.  But, instead, I just want to say "Ro Ro you are dearly missed and "Woo Woo" until we meet again my friend!"

On this sad note, I want to, as usual, thank everyone for your kind gentle support of us and our farm. 

Be safe, be well and enjoy those veggies.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

2020 Week 12 CSA Newsletter


Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm! 

Welcome to Week 12 of our CSA.  Week 12 is not an egg week.  After this week's delivery there are 6 weeks remaining in our 2020 CSA.

Even though we still are getting some warm temperatures, I can feel the change of seasons in the air.  Days are shorter, night time temperatures are getting cooler.   Hard to believe how quickly September is slipping away.  Soon I will be mentioning the "F" word - frost that is.  We generally get a light frost towards the end of September and our killing frost usually follows sometime in October.  I am anxious to see how this summer's drought affects the leaf show this fall.  We are seeing some trees already losing their leaves without ever changing color, but a few trees are already starting to show some color.

So a surprise was delivered to me the other day - a new camera!  Thanks to one of my sisters.  So does this mean I now have a hobby?  Well, I do have task - learning to use this new fancy camera.  I have not used any camera other than a point and shoot for many years.  Things are gradually coming back to me, but I am still as farmer Don would say "busy learning on the learning curve".  But, I have been having fun.  I have a zoom lens for it, so recently I have had the zoom attached and am trying to take some pictures of birds at our feeders.  Unfortunately I am finding I may not have the patience for avian photography!  But I do have a good pictures of a blue jay, of Shady, of Shady's paw and of farmer Don walking down from the barn.  So hopefully I will get some pictures I can actually post for all to see.

I am not sure if I have touched on Social Media yet this season?  But as long as I am posting "for all to see", this is a good time to let you know about some of our public pages.  We do have a facebook page where I post pictures and some farm news.   I also have a blog where I post our newsletters and also pictures of the farm.   I did have a pinterest  site, but have not been keeping it updated.  I am trying to figure out an instagram  account without a smart phone.  I have an account, but have posted nothing to it?  That is about as far as I go with Social Media, so if you are online check out our sites!

In the fields we have started to harvest winter squash.  Last week we had butternut squash available.  I like to use Butternuts to make a pork, apple and butternut stew from the Simply in Season cookbook.  This recipe was a favorite of my Mom's when she lived with us, so I am surrounded by good memories whenever I make it.  Some of the problem with butternut squash is peeling, seeding and cooking it.  These squash are hard and often hard to handle.  I usually get Farmer Don to cut the beast in quarters for me and then I scoop the seeds, peel and cube it.  If I don't need cubes or diced squash I cheat and cook the squash whole.  I poke some holes in the skin, put it in a shallow pan with a bit of water and roast it in the oven.  It will take an hour of more for the squash to soften, but once easily poked with a fork or knife, remove it from the oven and allow to cool.  Once cool enough to handle, cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds, peel off the skin and add the flesh to your soup pot.  This week I think Farmer Don will be harvesting Spaghetti Squash, so get your recipes ready.  Spaghetti Squash is a winter squash, but not nearly as tough to handle as our friend the butternut.  I like to use a spaghetti squash recipe I have made for years, a casserole recipe from one of the older Moosewood Cookbooks.

The canning kitchen is officially open.  I canned tomatoes the other week and my sister and I froze sweet corn this week.  I also boiled some of the spent cobs to make some yummy corn stock for use in soups this winter.  We may still try to do some tomato sauce, but my sister and her family have a small vacation coming up and then with social distancing following their travels, we may run out of time for canning.  But, we will do applesauce once they are out of self imposed quarantine!

The cooking kitchen is also open.  I tend to eat a lot of eggs - eggs and potatoes, eggs and greens, etc.  Eggs are quick nutritious meal for us!  And we are also starting to move into soup season.  Last night I made a tortellini soup; a bit of a variation of a green soup we make.  Basically it was a chicken broth and tomato based soup with garlic, eggplant and tortellini.  Farmer Don ate two bowls, so I guess it passed his taste test!  Farmer Don came home from market the other week with mushrooms and made a really delicious mushroom risotto.  Life is good when the kitchen is producing nutritious and delicious food!

Ok, it is getting late, I still don't have supper started and Shady has started to bark for her dinner.  I need to print this newsletter for Farmer Don to proof and then get it posted and sent out later tonight.

As always, thank you to each of your continued support of our farm. 

Be safe, be well and enjoy those veggies!

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

2020 CSA Week 11 Newsletter


Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!

Welcome to Week 11 of our 2020 CSA.  Week 11 is an egg week.

Clouds!  The farm has been in the clouds for the last few days!  The real meteorological clouds!  I have been joking with my family members that we have slipped right from summer into a winter pattern.  Think January or February when it seems to be cloudy every day!  I know we will still have warm sunny days this fall, but it has been a noticeable change in our weather.  Starting last night and continuing into today we have been getting some really nice showers.  Just what our farm and our neighboring farms need.  Probably too late for the corn and soybean growers, but we still need the rain to bring up our water table and to help get us through the winter months. 

So, I need to start this email with some additional thanks to the behind the scene people who have made the 2020 CSA season a reality.

First I want to thank all the people who volunteered early in Don's treatment to help clean up the farm, help take care of our chickens and for visiting with Don when he was in the hospital.  I especially want to thank his sister Gail.  I know I have thanked her in the past, but she seriously needs to be thanked multiple times!  Gail left a warm and sunny Florida to visit in the early spring of Pennsylvania.  We were still getting cold temperatures and snow!  Gail helped with transportation, moral support, our dogs and even did chicken chores for us.  She basically became an honorary farmer here at Dancing Hen Farm.  I don't know how we would have made it those first few weeks without her support.  Thank you Farmer Gail!

I also need to thank Lori.  Lori has been with us a number of years and works one evening a week helping to pack your CSA boxes.  This year her time with us was short, as her other job at Bloomsburg University started early this year.  Thanks Lori, what can I say other than you are now part of the family!

The other day I swore we had a chinchilla on farm!  Yes you read that right a chinchilla!  Rest assured it is not that unbelievable that we would have a chinchilla show up on farm.  Some people do keep them as pets and unfortunately our farm ( and most farms!) become the target for the disposal of unwanted pets.  We have acquired multiple animals this way, including a dog, cats, a rooster and even a cow!  So you can see why, when I saw this strange creature hanging out under our birdfeeders I thought chinchilla!  Ok, so maybe you don't see it, but bear with me.  I got the binoculars out to get a good view of the animal.  So, you guessed, it was not a chinchilla!  But, I still could not determine what it could be.  I was secretly worried it could be a giant rat!  But nope -- thankfully!  Then it climbed a tree and hung out where I could get a better view.  I was finally able to determine it was a tailless squirrel!  Just to assure you I have not lost my mind, several other people have reported seeing this squirrel.  It seems to do ok, hopping along in the grass and climbing trees even without being able to "swish his bushy tail".

Our canning kitchen officially opened the other week.  I canned some slicing tomatoes.  I can these in quart jars using a hot water bath canner to process them.  And I have to tell you many of these tomatoes came from Farmer Phil and his family's garden.  And I am proud to say all my jars sealed!!!  This week we will be freezing sweet corn.  Freezing sweet corn will bring back memories of growing up when my family and some of my relatives would gather to freeze hundreds of ears at a time!  Funny, because I do not remember eating that much corn growing up!  Later in September we will make some tomato sauce, hopefully paste tomatoes will still be available and not blighted by this cool rainy weather.  Tomato sauce will be followed by applesauce.   My sister and I have been working on perfecting a mix of apple varieties to get a really good tasting unsweetened apple sauce.  Peeling all the apples is a huge chore - but so worth it when you crack open a jar for Christmas Dinner!  Or just as a treat in January.

In the fields Farmer Don is finishing up for the 2020 growing season.  He has planted some late season greens and is planning on pulling the tomatoes from our high tunnel and replanting it with greens or carrots to overwinter.  We should begin harvesting winter squash soon.  Greens should continue to be available and hopefully tomatoes will hold on for a few more weeks.  Peppers are looking good and we are close to harvesting some tomatillos.  Thanks again for your support and understanding during this difficult and trying growing season.

So this is proving to be one of my longer newsletters, I should stop here, allow you to rest your eyes. 

Please say a thanks to the powers that be for providing us with this much needed beautiful rain! 

And always, we will be forever thankful to each of you for your support of us, our farm and local agriculture.  Buy Fresh, Buy Local!  And please remember not to drop your pet chinchillas at the local farm!

Be safe, Be well and Enjoy those veggies.  

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Week 10 Newsletter


Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!

Welcome to Week 10 of our 2020 CSA.  Week 10 is not an egg week.  Week 10 is a chicken share week, so if you have purchased a chicken share, don't forget to pick up your chicken.

It seems fall is over and we are back to the heat and humidity of summer.  We had a nice, but short, shower here the other night, but we are still really in need of rain.  The landscape is suddenly appearing more brown then green.  Our neighbor's fields of corn and soybeans seem especially hard hit.  We are seeing already turning brown and soybeans almost appear to be shriveling in the fields.

So many of you will be familiar with this newsletter.  This is the annual "thank you" newsletter.  When Farmer Don and I take a bit of time to thanks everyone who makes Dancing Hen Farm possible.

How can I write this newsletter with talking about Farmer Phil?  Many of know Farmer Phil as he has worked for us for a number of years and has become Farmer Don's right hand man.  On Tuesdays, Farmer Phil can be found heading up our pack and wash station.  He portions and weighs product for the CSA and manages boxes for us.  Farmer Phil also is our delivery assistant and spends most of Wednesday in the van with Farmer Don.  He spends Saturdays at the Back Mountain Farm Market, where he waits on customers, assists Farmer Don with sales and even sells some of his family farms' produce.  Farmer Don tells me Phil has quite a following at market.  If you see Phil, be sure to say hello and thank you!

We have several others who work on farm to keep us running smoothly.  Joyce, Farmer Phil's Mom, works on pack days and has become our head herb harvester.  She also helps Farmer Phil in the pack house and helps both Don and I with transportation to doctor's appointments.  New to the farm this year is Susan.  Susan has been volunteering to come out and help Farmer Don on her days off.  Susan helps in the fields, helps with animals and rumor has it she is Rosie's favorite visitor.  Thanks to Jason, who does farm projects for Farmer Don and helps with bagging chickens for delivery.  Jason often has one or both of sons with him on farm to help as well.  We also want to send a thank you out to our neighbor Dave.  Early in the season Dave mowed many of our overgrown fields and this summer he has kept our large lawn mowed.  I also want to thank all our friends and family who organized work days this spring to help us clean up the farm.  If you know or see any of these individuals, please say thank you to them for helping grow and produce your food.

A huge thank you needs to go out to our site hosts.  These individuals offer up their businesses for our use to drop boxes.  Thanks to the Sonya and all the employees at Crestwood Pharmacy.  Thanks to Gwen and the artists at Verve Vertu Art Studio.  Thanks to Corrine and her staff at Balance Yoga.  And last, but not least, thank you to the employees at Bloom Naturally in Bloomsburg.  Please take a minute to thank these site hosts!

And finally.  I want to thank all of you, our friends, members and family of the farm.  Thank you for your continued support of our farm and of us.  The kind words, cards and the notes and drawings left in share boxes bring a smile to our faces!  It is you, our community who makes this all possible.

With that I will close - be safe, be well and enjoy the veggies.



Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Week 9 Newsletter

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!

Welcome to Week 9 of our 2020 CSA.  Week 9 is an egg week.  Next Week 10 will be a chicken week.  So, if you purchased a chicken share you will be getting chicken on Wednesday, August 26th.

Such beautiful weather we have been having!  It almost feels like fall, but the calendar says August, so we know there is more heat and humidity to come.  But for now our windows are open and we are enjoying this cooler weather.  Have you noticed Mother Nature is starting to tell us fall is on its way?  The days have gotten noticeably shorter and the other day I heard the distinctive honk of Canadian Geese flying over the farm.  The hawks which nest in the tall pines across from the house seem to have moved on and I haven't seen the Rose-breasted Grosbeaks recently.  I have noticed some leaves starting to change color, but I am not certain if this is season or drought related. 

In the fields we are slowly transitioning to fall as well.  You can look for more greens becoming available as the weeks go by and we should begin harvesting winter squash soon.  Unless we get a very early frost, we should also have summer crops continuing, including tomatoes, peppers and string beans.  Farmer Don tells me our okra is finally starting to set fruit and he anticipates small numbers being available for Week 10.  We continue to watch our broccoli closely and the plants are large and beautiful, but still no heads being formed.  Cucumbers have been slow to set fruit as well and we are uncertain what the future harvest will be. 

As most of you know, each year we raise pigs in our abandoned apple orchard.  Over the years, I have really learned to like pigs.  Each year our small herd of pigs seems to have a unique personality.  We feed the pigs seconds produce from the farm and this year's pigs really like greens.  They also seem to really like taking a stroll and we have been struggling with getting our fencing set so they cannot escape.  This was very evident the other morning.

Farmer Don and I were watching the morning news while finishing our second cups of coffee and discussing the day when our phone rang.  An early morning phone call is often not a good sign.  This particular morning it was our neighbors.  It seems eight of our pigs were happily rooting around in their front yard.  Not a good call at all!  Farmer Don put on his boots and he and the dogs headed out across the field to fetch the pigs.  Rosie, our Border Collie, who is bred to herd and gather animals, took one look at the pigs, decided chaos was about to happen and retreated quickly to the safety of our porch.  Shady, our mixed breed, typical farm dog, showed her loyalty to Farmer Don and stayed close to his side, ready and willing to help.  Lucky for us the pigs seem to have bonded with Farmer Don and he was able to basically lead them, with the help of Shady and our neighbors back to their fenced area.  Now when the pigs go for what seems to be their daily stroll, Farmer Don carries a pan and stick with him.  He beats on the pan with the stick and the pigs follow him back home.  A bit like the Pig Pied Piper.  Rosie stills feels her role in pig herding is to watch from the safety of the porch. And Shady, our pig herder, eagerly helps Farmer Don by bringing up the rear and making sure the pigs continue to move along.  So if you visit our farm, don't be surprised if you see a pig parade being led by Farmer Don and his pan drum, with Shady bringing up the rear.

The sun is setting, supper is over and I need to finish the newsletter and move on to cleaning up the kitchen. 

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

Be safe, be well and enjoy those veggies.  (and this cooler weather!)

Pigs resting up for a stroll!

Thursday, August 13, 2020

2020 Week 8 Newsletter


Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!

Welcome to Week 8 of our CSA.  Week 8 is not an egg week.  Ordering for Week 9 is now underway.

Pennsylvania weather this summer is even more diverse than ever.  On farm we are in dire need of rain, in spite of receiving over an inch and a half of rain from Tropical Storm Isaias.  However some areas very close to us received over three inches of rain last Friday morning when a strong thunderstorm swept through the area.  And areas in Southeastern Pennsylvania are experiencing almost daily severe thunderstorms and flash flood warnings.  This is in addition to the eight plus inches of rain some of these areas received from Isaias.

The dry weather on farm has been really good for one weed, oops I mean crop, which is growing beautifully here on farm.  Purslane.  Farmer Don claims we are growing the best purslane we have had in years.  Purslane is a very interesting plant which most of you would recognize.  It looks a bit like a jade plant and loves dry weather.  Purslane is also a bit of a nutritional powerhouse.  It is one of the few plant sources for the heart healthy Omega-3 fatty acids we hear so much about and is rich in potassium, magnesium and Vitamin A.  Purslane has a tart flavor and the leaves and tender parts of the stems are a good addition to salads or can be added to soups.  Purslane pairs very well with cucumbers in traditional cucumber yogurt salad.

As I think many of you know, I was a raised in a family where summertime activities (including eating!) revolved around a large vegetable garden.  My sisters and I all have continued this tradition.  This year my one sister claims her garden has become a sci-fi horror film.  What?  She tells me she has huge green worms with a horn for a tail devouring her tomato and pepper plants.  Whenever I call to talk with her, Farmer Phil, tells me his Mom out "picking worms".  She diligently exams her plants several times a day and picks off any hornworms and feeds them to the chickens.  Yes, my sister's garden has been invaded by tomato hornworms.  Don't tell my sister, but I actually kind of like hornworms.  They are a magnificent large green caterpillar with a prominent horn for a tail.  The adult of the hornworms are actually hawk or hummingbird moths.  See why I say I kind of like hornworms?  How can you not like hummingbird moths and giant green caterpillars!  Ok, ok, because they are so large, the caterpillars can be very destructive, eating an entire branch of a mature tomato plant in one night.  If you find your garden invaded by hornworms, the best defense really is hand picking them.  But if you see a hornworm with what appears to be white oval projectiles attached to its body, don't kill it.  These white projectiles are actually really tiny parasitoid wasp cocoons.  These wasps are good guys and once they emerge from their cocoons, they will find other hornworms to invade.  A biological control example at its finest! 

Sorry, I have once again slipped into Entomologist mode! 

Thankfully we are not seeing the defoliation on our tomatoes that my sister is and therefore, tomatoes should continue to be available.  Peppers are starting to be available.  We do not have summer squash or zucchini right now for harvest, but we have more planted and with any luck we will be able to harvest from these plants before the season ends.  Cabbage should be coming on soon.  And believe it or not fall crops, including winter squash, will be available before too long.  Not veggies, but you will also see pullet eggs on this week's choice.  Pullet eggs are smaller, but are often prized by bakers.

Ok, this is getting long and the hour is getting late.  Time to start to unwind for the evening.

As always thank you for your continued support of our farm and local sustainable agriculture.

Be safe, be well and enjoy those veggies.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

CSA Week 7 Newsletter

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!

Welcome to Week 7 of our CSA.  Week 7 is an egg week.  I wanted to take a moment to talk about substitutions.  Please remember that Farmer Don (and our associate farms this year) are making harvest predictions on crops almost a week before the crop is harvested for your CSA box.  Some times for reasons beyond the farmers control when we go to harvest the crop is just not ready.  Perhaps fruit did not mature as we had anticipated or maybe an insect or disease has destroyed the crop.  When this happens, Farmer Don is forced to make a substitution for the unavailable crop.  Your patience with this is greatly appreciated.  As I mentioned in the past, this growing year has been one of our most challenging on many levels.

I hate to say this, because I know our neighbors to the east and south of us did not fare as well with the recent tropical storm.  But, wasn't yesterday's rain beautiful!  Here on farm we received about an inch and a half of nice steady rain.  A very needed rain.  By evening, when the sun came out, I think I could hear all our crops collectively sighing over the relief this rain brought.  We feel blessed to have gotten this much needed rain.

We are hoping this rain will push along some of our crops which seem to not be maturing as we had hoped.  Look for a second harvest of string beans coming soon.  With the rain we are hoping cucumbers will be available in larger numbers soon and hopefully summer squash will continue to mature and be harvestable.  We are hoping the rain also will bring about some more harvestable eggplant.  Peppers are now being harvested and hopefully will be available for a number of weeks to come.  Lettuces and cooking greens should respond well to the moisture and cooler temperatures, so will continue to be available for CSA boxes and market.  Winter squash is in the ground and the plants are growing nicely.  We are watching the broccoli closely and hoping it forms some heads in the next few weeks.  A second planting of scallions should be available in a week or two.

"You need a hobby".  This is the latest prescription being handed down by several of my doctors.  I politely smile and say "yes", trying hard not to laugh.  Laugh, because for years my family and I joked that my hobby was cleaning the house and doing laundry!  I was working a full time off farm job and basically also working full time for Farmer Don.  My free time was spent on household chores.  And I didn't really see anything wrong with that!  However my life has changed a bit in the last year.  The doctors are correct, I am finding myself with spare time on my hands and I am having trouble adjusting to that.  So, at the doctors' suggestion, I have been contemplating hobbies.  I suggested cleaning out my closets.  This brought hysterical laughter from my family as they told me "hobbies are supposed to be enjoyable".  I told them I would really enjoy those clean closets!  They were not going for it. Continuing on the closet theme, I suggested getting my old work office switched from its current status as a walk in closet into a farm office.  Reactions to this suggestion didn't even warrant a laugh, just "a look".  Then I argued I do have some hobbies.  I preserve our harvest with canning, freezing and pickling and I have a nice houseplant collection and in the summer add potted herbs and flowers to this collection and I love to read.  At least no one disagreed these were hobbies, but everyone encouraged me to look for a new hobby.  I have thought about photography and have been researching upgrading my old 33 mm to a dSLR camera.  I have also considered crocheting and knitting, maybe finally getting started on the afghan I bought yarn for several years ago.  In reality, I still haven't decided on a new hobby or hobbies to add to my life.  But, those closets still need cleaned out! 

Our kitchen is still pretty quiet.  I haven't done too much preserving yet this year.  I am patiently awaiting the ripening of paste tomatoes so we can get started on our first sauce for the season.  And of course, it will be a few months before we start making applesauce, one of my favorites.  We brought an old reliable recipe out last week.  Kale, sausage and garlic roasted potatoes.  This is a recipe we make often and as the weather cools it will become a weekly item.  The nice thing about this recipe is any leftovers are great with eggs either as a hearty breakfast or another supper.  This recipe is from a favorite cookbooks, Serving up the Harvest by Andrea Chesman.  If you like cookbooks and you are not familiar with this one, I would suggest looking it up. 

Speaking of the kitchen, it is getting near suppertime.  I need to print this so Farmer Don and proof read it for me while we eat and hopefully I will get it emailed out to everyone this evening.

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

Be safe, be well, and enjoy those veggies.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Week 6 CSA Newsletter

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm! 

Welcome to Week 6 of our 2020 CSA.  Week 6 is not an egg week.  Ordering for Week 7 is now open.  Thanks to everyone for treating their CSA boxes gently and returning them to us.  Please also remember to return the green pint and quart boxes for the farm to reuse.  And as always, if you have questions or concerns for us, please do not hesitate to contact us at the farm.

Welcome to August!  Can you believe it is already August!  Soon we will be talking fall.  I already think the days are noticeably shorter!

The weather for this summer has been hot and dry.  We had a couple of downpours Tuesday morning and some nice steady showers last night.  But what we really need is a good soaking rain.  The weather forecasters are saying Sunday may bring us a soaking rain.  We are dry here on Dancing Hen Farm, but we are counting our blessing as farms to our west are drought dry.  On a recent drive, we saw corn stunted and dying in fields and soybean plants wilting in the fields.  Without some rain soon, the harvest will be greatly reduced from these fields.  These farmers will therefore see not only a loss of income, but also a reduction in the amount of feed available to for their livestock this winter.  On a positive note, on some of these same drought stricken farms, we saw some beautiful hay being bailed and stored in barns.  So I am asking you, to keep your fingers crossed, say a collective prayer or do a rain dance, that Sunday brings us a nice soaking rain and some cooler temperatures.

The harvest of our summer crops is pushing into full swing.  Last week we saw our first eggplants hit CSA boxes.  We should have more eggplant in the coming weeks.  Peppers are near ripening and tomatoes and summer squash should continue to be available.  We are hoping to continue to make cooking greens available and with any luck (and some rain) lettuce should also continue to be harvested.  We have broccoli in the ground and after fending off a small groundhog attack it is now struggling to make heads.  We are hoping as the weather cools a bit the broccoli plants will react with some fruit.

In the next few weeks we are anticipating a real burst in our egg availability.  Unfortunately this spring we had a fox in our hen house and lost quite a number of laying hens to Mr or Mrs Fox feeding their babies.  Thanks to some helpful neighbors, we now have our chicken house on lock down!  Electric poultry netting now encases the house as well as an area of pasture and so far (knock on wood) we have not lost anyone to the fox.  In the meantime, Farmer Don got word of some pullets (teenage chickens) which were available from a friend of ours.  He arranged to pick up 150 pullets and they will be starting to lay any day now.  For a few weeks they will lay small eggs, but before we know it they will be laying one large brown egg a day.  So, look for more eggs on our buying club and available for sale at market.  Chickens by nature go inside their coop to roost each night and Farmer Don now shuts them up as an added protection against predators.  In the morning when Farmer Don goes up to open the coop door, he reports the chickens rush out in a big red wave.  If he doesn't quickly get out of the way he will have multiple chickens fly full speed into his head and face!  Not an enjoyable experience!

Farmer Don asked me to thank everyone for coming to market on Saturdays and saying hello.  He really enjoys catching up with our members and meeting new members.  As a reminder Farmer Don and Farmer Phil are at the Back Mountain Farmers Market every Saturday from 9 to 1.  This market is at the Dallas High School.  Come by on Saturday, support your local farmers and say hello to Farmers Don and Phil!

Our kitchen has been fairly quiet lately.  We are cooking lots of veggies, of course.  Farmer Don made Lion's Head meatballs this week.  Farmer Don loves meatballs and these are a favorite of his.  He uses a recipe he found in one of his favorite magazines, Cook's Illustrated.  It is an interesting recipe in that it calls for the pork to be worked with a stand mixer.  This is opposite of what I have always been told about making meatballs.  I was always told to handle the meat lightly or the meatballs will become dry and tough.  But, this recipe really does produce a large, tender and tasty meatball.  This week he served the meatballs with ramen noodles and kale, as we had both of these on hand.  Here is a link to a recipe which seems to be based on the Cook's Illustrated recipe.  I didn't do any preserving this week and I have decided not to can peaches this year.  Instead I am hoping this fall to can extra applesauce.  Farmer Don and I eat more applesauce than canned peaches, so extra applesauce just makes more sense.

It is getting late and I need to start to unwind before bed.  Thanks again for all of your support.  We feel so very lucky to have so many friends and members of our farm.

So, in Farmer Don's words:  "be safe, be well and enjoy those veggies".

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

2020 CSA Week 5 Newsletter

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm! 

Welcome to Week 5 of our 2020 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 also an egg week.  Remember ordering for our CSA begins every Thursday at 6 pm and ends on Sunday at 6 pm.

So not much new on the weather front.  Hot and humid seems to be the theme.  We are dry here on farm and are hoping some of the forecasted showers for the next few days bring us some rain.  Recently the storms have been going around us.  I will get reports from neighbors less than 5 miles away receiving a quarter inch of rain, but here, we only got a few drops.  We have irrigation to most of our fields, but there is nothing like a good soaking rain to revive crops. 

Our fields continue to looks good.  Tomatoes are starting to come on as are cucumbers.  Summer squash and zucchini should continue to be available along with kale and chard.  We are working with an Amish grower friend of ours to obtain some eggplant and we are hoping his will be of harvest size by next week.  Our first planting of string beans is done and our second planting is not quite mature yet, so there may be a gap in bean availability.  We are lucky to be working with some certified naturally grown and certified organic farmers and the beautiful lettuce we have been putting in your boxes is from them.  We are hoping the leaf lettuce and possibly the romaine will continue to be available.

Last week I talked about our resident hummingbirds and this week I had a cool hummingbird moth visiting the flowers on our back porch.  These clearwing moths move and hover like a hummingbird as they drink nectar from flowers.  Another one of my favorite bugs!  Speaking of bugs.  I have some herb plantings around the house and many of the perennial herbs have been blooming.  I try to keep the blooms trimmed from the plants to encourage more vegetative growth.  But, this year when I went to trim the flowers off of the thyme and oregano, I couldn't bring myself to snip them off.  The number of bees and beneficial insects swarming around these flowers was amazing!  Large bumble bees, busy honey bees and the tiniest of wasps!  These tiny wasps are generally too tiny to cause any problems for humans, but they are very beneficial to the farmer.  These wasps often belong to species of wasps which actually parasitize and kill crop pests. 

Ok, I will stop ranting on and on about bugs!

Our kitchen has been fairly quiet recently.  Farmer Don is still not eating a lot, so when we cook we seem to have tons of leftovers and therefore our refrigerator seems to be constantly overflowing with leftovers.  And leftovers we must eat!  However I did have the first of one of my summertime favorites, an open faced tomato and grilled cheese sandwich.  I used a fresh loaf of crusty whole wheat bread Farmer Don picked up at the farmer's market, an heirloom tomato and some extra sharp cheddar.  WOW, how can you go wrong with those ingredients?  I also have been keeping a jar of pickled eggs and beets in the fridge again for a light lunch or a nice afternoon snack.  Recently I made a batch of my mother's bean salad and have been eating that all week as well.  I should have halved the recipe, since I am having to eat this myself and the recipe makes a ton!  I think I will be eating bean salad all month!

Don't forget Farmers Don and Phil are at the Back Mountain Memorial Library Farmers Market every Saturday.  The market is held at the Dallas High School.  They usually have Dancing Hen Farm Apple Orchard Pork, Pastured Chicken, free-range eggs and an assortment of vegetable available for sale.  If you go to market, please stop by our table and say hello!  The farmers love to meet our farm members!

Ok, it is getting late and I want to be certain I get this newsletter out before I turn in for the night.  So, in Farmer Don's words - "Be safe, Be Well and Enjoy those veggies!".  And I will add "stay cool out there".

Until next week.......

Thursday, July 16, 2020

CSA Week 4 Farm News

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!

Welcome to Week 4 of our CSA.  Week 4 is not an egg week.  Hopefully everyone is enjoying their veggies!  And since I am late getting this newsletter out, Week 5 ordering is open!

As usual, some CSA notes to start the newsletter.  Please remember your CSA box is labeled with your name.  The name which you used when you registered for your 2020 share.  If there are any issues with your pick up site or your home delivery, please email us at the farm.  

You know by now that right about now in my newsletters, I talk about the weather.  Today brought a cool cloudy day to the farm, but before today we had a nice string of a couple of beautiful days.  Clear, with a nice breeze and cooling off a bit at night.  Perfect weather for me to spend time on our back porch watching nature and the goings on of the farm.  Also perfect weather for me to get some laundry done.  I like to hang my wash on the line and the threat of storms a week ago kept me from trusting my laundry would not get a second rinsing!  However, if the weather predictions are correct, it seems the hot and humids will be back by the weekend and into the first part of next week.  I cannot complain, this is summer in Pennsylvania!
Our fields are looking good, although as is usual for this time of year a bit weedy.  The first planting of beans is coming to an end, with our second planting growing nicely.  Peas are pretty much done for the year.  Zucchini and summer squash continue to be harvested.   We are starting to pick cucumbers.  We should continue have some nice kale available.  We are also bringing in some beautiful chard right now.  We are hoping to keep potatoes available for the duration of the season.  Peppers and eggplant have been planted and we are patiently waiting for them to produce fruit.  Again thank you for your patience as we work hard to get product to you  this season.

Farmer Don and I always feed the birds.  Year round since we moved to Dancing Hen Farm.  We enjoy watching them and notice the changes in species as the seasons move along.  This year, however, I have a new feeder, a hummingbird feeder.  I have had  a hummingbird feeder in the past, but never found the time to keep it clean.  After reading how dirty feeders can actually kill hummingbirds, I decided killing off hummingbirds kind of defeated the reason for having a feeder!  I threw the feeder out and the next year decided to plant more plants hummingbirds like.  This year I have a bit more time on my hands and decided it would be a good year to try a feeder again.  So, we found a simple feeder which seemed easy to take apart and clean.  And I have been loyally keeping the feeder clean and changing out the sugar water.   More importantly, we have really been enjoying watching the hummingbirds.  We have discovered that hummingbirds really do seem to eat a lot - either that or we have a whole flock of humming birds hanging out on farm!  We have also discovered that hummingbirds actually like to perch - perch when they eat, perch on my clothes line, or perch in nearby trees.  I have never observed them perching so much before, sometimes I am convinced Dancing Hen Farm hummingbirds must be extra tired and lazy!  Hummingbirds are also quite brazen, flying very close to us, often right at us!  They will eat from the feeder with us standing right beside it, seemingly unfazed by humans.  They are also quite territorial and will dive at  and chase each other if two try to eat from the feeder at the same time.  And I am reverting back to my childhood! When I was a little girl my Dad fed the squirrels and I named them, convinced I could tell them apart.  Now I am convinced I can identify some of the hummingbirds from each other.  At least I haven't started naming them -- yet!

Enough about hummingbirds -- on to the kitchen.

In the kitchen - preserving has begun.  With lots of beans coming in this week, I got out the blanching pot and started freezing.  Previously, this year, I froze some berries for use in our winter smoothies.  I am feeling a bit more energized this season, so maybe I will ramp up the preserving kitchen this summer?  I already know we will be canning tomato sauce and apple sauce.  We also have plans to can some peaches this year, if we can find peaches.  This was a hard season for peaches.  In my preserving dreams, I will also make zucchini relish, zucchini muffins to freeze, catsup, can some whole tomatoes, make a small batch of tomato relish and freeze corn.  And I need to dry some herbs this year, as my stock in the freezer is getting low.  I will keep you posted if any of my dreams become realities!

So it took me an extra day or two to actually sit down and write this newsletter and now it seems I can't stop going on and on!  So I will end here.  Thanks to everyone who actually read this to the end!
And as always thanks to each of you for your support of us, our farm and sustainable farming.

Be safe, be well, and enjoy those veggies

Thursday, July 9, 2020

2020 Week 3 CSA Newsletter

Greetings from Dancing Hen Farm!
Welcome to Week 3 of our CSA!  Week 3 is an egg week! 

Some CSA notes to start the newsletter:  We have just purchased new boxes for our shares.  Boxes are a fairly large expenditure for us each season, so please treat them with care.  The new boxes are stiff and sometimes hard to work with.  So, rather than immediately pulling up on the top to open your box, please PUSH DOWN first to allow the tabs to release rather than tear.  The farm and our boxes thank you for your help with this!

It seems as though summer has arrived!  Lots of heat and humidity over the last week.  Yesterday brought some nice rain to the farm.  We had been missing many of the storms which popped up near us the last few days and we really needed some soaking rain.  And with Farmers Don and Phil out on deliveries, it was the perfect day for rain! 

Fields are looking good and filling up with plants.  String beans should continue to be available with numbers increasing.  Summer means zucchini and our zucchini is looking good, so get your recipes ready.  Unfortunately, lettuce does not like the heat and these hot summer days, so look for a lull in lettuce.  Harvests of beets and potatoes should continue.  Our kale is looking really good right now.

Speaking of kale, I always get a bit of a smile on my face when I think about kale.  When we first started to sell at farmer's markets, we spent a good deal of time educating our customers on kale.  Many people thought kale was simply a garnish, but the news media was telling everyone what a super food it was.  We learned quickly our customers were curious and needed to know that kale could be eaten, it was delicious, and that it was good for you.  We learned people were willing to try kale and we just needed to have some easy ways for them to prepare it.  I spent lots of time telling people about sauteing kale and making a farm favorite of roasted potatoes, kale and sausage.  What is funny is that suddenly, overnight suddenly, everyone at market wanted kale and we could not grow enough.  Customers not only were demanding kale, they were passing recipes on to us and even knew the difference between red Russian and curly kale!  About this time I was excited to learn about massaged kale salad.  I  would stand at our market table and enthusiastically tell people how to make it, how good it was and how massaging made the kale almost appear cooked.  Then I would learn most of our kale followers were already making these salads.  Now it seems kale's popularity has diminished and again quite suddenly, again almost overnight!  So my real question from all of this is "what is the next super food?".

We do try to eat in season here on farm.  Meaning we try to either eat what is being harvested or what I have been able to preserve from the previous year's harvest.  This means sometimes our winter menus are a bit limited, but summer time means lots of variety!  With lettuce in a bit of a heat lull, we will be relying on massaged kale salads now and soon tomato and cucumber salads.  The grill has been fired up and we are already eating grilled zucchini - a farm favorite.  With early beets being harvested, I have my summer jar of red beet pickled eggs in the fridge.  To me a pickled egg and some beets is a perfect afternoon snack!  I am hoping to pickle and can some beets this summer so I can make pickled eggs in the winter without relying on grocery store canned beets.  With string beans being harvested, I am hoping this weekend to make a batch of my Mother's bean salad.  Another nice dish to have marinating in the fridge for a quick snack or lunch.

This Saturday is the opening of the Back Mountain Farmers Market.  This market is held at the Dallas High School.  Market opens at 9am.  Many local farmers have lost outlets to sell their product due to the pandemic, so please come out and support the local economy by purchasing from local producers.  Farmers Don and Phil will be at market with lots of Apple Orchard Pork, Pasture raised chicken and veggies.
I want to take a little extra time to thank everyone for their support this season.  We are trying to get product to you, but, by far, this season has been one of our most challenging seasons yet.  Health issues are always hard to deal with, but trying to farm while healing poses an extra challenge.  Farmer Don is doing well and is slowly recuperating.  His throat is healing and he is now able to drink and eat small amounts of soft foods.  He is still fatigued and sometimes it breaks my heart to see how exhausted he is when he comes in for lunch or at the end of the day.  Farmer Don is strong and he is very committed to Dancing Hen Farm.  This commitment and his continual push forward keeps us all motivated and moving forward.  We are already planning for next year, a healthy year!

Ok, time to actually send this newsletter!

And as Farmer Don always says: "Be safe, be well and enjoy those veggies!"

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

2020 CSA Week 2 Newsletter

Greetings from Dancing  Hen Farm!  Happy Independence Day!!!

Welcome to Week 2 of our CSA.  Week 2 is not an egg week.

A few CSA logistics updates and then onto some farm news.  Delivery to central drop off sites are always guaranteed by 4 pm, but we want to give you our delivery schedule for this season in case you want to pick boxes up earlier.  Mountain Top boxes should be at the pharmacy after 10 am.  Boxes will be at the Dallas location after 11 am and to Balance Yoga, in Forty Fort after 12, noon.  We will have boxes to Bloom Naturally by 2 pm.  Remember if you are running late, please let your site host know.  Our sites are not able to hold your box for you. 

A quick word on boxes, green pint and quart boxes and egg cartons.  In an attempt to keep farm costs down, we do re-use these items.  Please leave them at your pick up site for us to collect when we deliver.

It does not seem possible that we are already celebrating July 4th!  It seems we have just recently started to get summer weather.  May and the first part of June were very cool and wet here on farm.  This delayed our planting quite a bit.  We also had a very late freeze this year.  We were lucky and although we lost some transplants in an unheated greenhouse, we did not suffer any real losses.  Other farmers in our area did not fare so well.  We have heard reports that the peaches in the area were hit very hard and some orchards are reporting close to a 100% loss.  That is a scary and hard loss for orchards to absorb! 

So the saga of my herb bed continues.  As some of you may remember, several years ago I had couple of snakes take of residence.  We even had some of members try and help us catch them!  They spent one season enjoying my herbs and had moved on by the next summer.  This summer in the same herb bed, even in the same location we have a groundhog!  Yes, a groundhog, basically right off the porch/patio!  We noticed it about a month ago and had the dogs watching the area for us and I was convinced it had moved on, tired of being harassed by the pooches.  But, just the other day, I was sitting, doing some work by the window and saw it perched on a log in that herb bed.  And this morning I saw it lumbering around in the yard not far from its herb house.  And unfortunately our dogs now seem to think this groundhog is part of the family! 

Our fields are starting to fill up and we are seeing, what we like to call some true summer crops beginning to ripen.  This week we picked our first summer squash of the season.  In the coming week, summer squash should be available for choice.  Peas are starting to slow and will be available in very limited numbers in the coming weeks.  We should continue to have greens, radishes and scallions available.  String beans, both yellow and green, are starting to reach maturity and will be available on and off for a number of weeks to come.  The tomatoes in our high tunnel are starting ripen and we should have tomatoes available, with cherries most likely being the first to ripen.  We continue to plant as weather and schedules allow.  Farmer Don is on the mend, but is still in recuperation mode, so we are happy to be working closely with some Amish friends/neighbors of ours to bring you some certified organic produce to supplement out harvest. 

Speaking of Farmer Don.  I am assuming most of you have been following along with his story this spring.  His treatments are finished I am happy to say he is getting his energy back.  I am truly amazed at how much he is already able to do on a daily basis on farm.  He still has some difficulty swallowing and speaking, but we have turned a corner and he is eating soft foods now and able to drink.  Thanks to everyone for your kind words, healing energies and prayers.  Life is good here on farm and we continue to enjoy every moment!

Ok, it is getting near suppertime and this newsletter is getting a bit wordy, so I will end things here.
As always, thanks to each of you for your continued support of our farm.  You, our farm community, make it possible to continue to farm this rocky hillside in a way which will help leave the earth a better place for future generations. 

Be safe, be well, and enjoy those veggies.

Farmer Don Rings the Bell!

Farmer Don rings the bell!  Treatments are over!  The regeneration begins!

More musings from Farmer Don

Good Morning friends!
A quick note. I couldn't sleep last night, you know (toss and turn, drool & spit), so I got up and entered all the payments the farm has received. So, accounts are updated as of today. If you have any questions please contact the farm and we'll work it out. Thank you to all who have sent in their payments! Early payment is a huge boost for the farm. As I type, our big seed orders are in the mail system and on their way to the farm.
Yesterday, we had a small work day on the farm. Nice sunshine in the afternoon after a cool start. We were able to clear out leftover plastic and drip tape out of the planting plots allowing me to get in with tractor to chisel plow. Got 4 plots chiseled as part of our start up to the season. We also worked in the seed house, filling trays with potting soil for some upcoming seeding. Probably do some more of the same today, but add some rest in as well.
Hope everyone is handling shelter in place ok. At the farm, we pretty much do this on a daily basis. Joan works on her puzzles, and farmer Don rides around on his tractor and works on small projects. Fixing and getting the high tunnel up and running is one of those small projects. As many of you know last April we had a just miss for a tornado. Lot's of damage down in Benton but a near miss for us. The plastic on our high tunnel was completely ripped apart and I chose not to replace last year. But this year we're moving forward with replacement. So, a small project on the farm. Also, irrigation, another storm related loss last season has turned into a small project this year. Our water system was hit by lightning last August, so we ran with out irrigation from that point forward. This year we'll fix the system and hope for no major weather events. Hoping to finish the water this week.
Looking to get the Peas in the ground this week! Joan and I both love fresh peas. Hopefully I can eat them fresh off the vine a little later in the year. My tongue situation may say not so quick buddy. One way or another I WILL enjoy the harvest as will many of you. We are working hard to get veggies going and out for sale. We had some members come out to the farm yesterday and pick up orders. A nice day to do that. Self service, social distancing, good food, plenty of space and fresh air. Our buying club will be open all the time now for on farm pick up orders. And email orders are also welcome anytime. Lot's of Apple Orchard Pork, Pastured Poultry, Free Range Eggs, Wild for Salmon, Raw Milk and Cheese, and what ever veggies I can share. Again, the farm is always open for self guided tours if the house and shelter in place gets cramped. We have 26 acres for you to explore.
Time to get some breakfast going.
Be well, stay safe, wash your hands and flatten the curve!
Farmer Don