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.