Monday, May 30, 2011

babies swimming

Goslings and ducklings grow at an amazing, sometimes alarming rate. They are able to be swimming in their teeny tiny pond (really a bucket in the ground, filled with clean water every day) with Clover. I love how he turns back for the last little one. Homer actually got that last one out, and Clover did not beat him up too bad over it.

The geese had their flock, the 5 ducks had their flock this morning, 5:30 or so, all off the nest. At first we thought we had lost them all. Then realized that the adult birds teach the little ones to hide and be still, all the little ones are still there.

This morning we added a super to the beehive. We were out there early, hoping to get there before the bees were really awake. When I took off the outer cover Homer was there, when I was breaking the seal on the inner cover Homer said "I think I hear my mother calling me" and went for a quick trip up to the hoophouse. That man hates bees, hates them. an additional super is on the hive, and it looks like I'll need more soon, that hive is busy!

Happy Memorial Day.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Beds Made!

Jerry Schnick has been a huge help to Sunnyside Farm. We met a few years ago at the Hamilton/Lauraville Farmers Market, and he has been helping us on a regular basis. He comes and works side by side with Homer doing everything that needs doing on the farm. He can give a tour of our farm with more knowledge than I can, as he has actually done all of the work!

Last week he visited and help build out the final planting beds that go around the hoophouse. Last year we never got to this, too many obstacles, too much poison ivy, not enough pig power, no real understanding of how much water would be needed..and more reasons: trees had to be cleared inside the hoophouse and outside. Orchard grass with those massive root balls.

And with the help of Jerry, Gavin, Marc, Jakob, Troop 792, St. Tims school, Matt and others, Homer is caught up. Our official frost free date here is May 8. It is advised that we plant corn and melons 2-3 weeks after the last frost date, as they are sensitive and do not like cold. Homer will be planting those this week. Beans are climbing the fence, potatoes are sending up massive greens, everything else looks fantastic. Amazing what a difference a year makes!

And for those of you lovers of things herpetological, here is a turtle that lives in our woods/shrubby areas:

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Charles Street Friday Market

Last night the market was too busy for me to take pictures! After a delay in arrival because of serious traffic jams, Johanna and Claire helped get everything set up. Lisa helped take care of folks and pack all up, yay! And then it was time to get Sunnyside Farm fare to folks in Baltimore, and to EAT!

Gaylord joined us with his delicious, sustainably fished Alaskan salmon. The pickle guy was there with a wide variety of dilled delights. Sandy Miller represented with amazing goat and tender veal. Raw honey and heirloom tomato plants, with buds and all! Chez G and baked yummies! Spencer Summers and apples right from his orchard. Five Seeds Farm had guest Spike Gjerde and scallion cakes/dipping sauce and an off the hook grilled flat bread with garlic scape pesto. Taharka Bros. root beer float! Agriberry strawberries..all gone before back on the road! Flying Dog Ale in multiple flavors. Cooking with jambalaya/red beans and playing, bring a chair next week, visit for a spell, get weekend groceries..too fun! More farmers join us each week!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Toulouse is a proud mama

We have hatched geese before, but our geese have not. We parked the giant goose eggs under broody hens, rolled them a half a turn daily, and got a gosling. Toulouse and Clover (they came with those names) hatched one on their own today. Here is momma and baby gosling..notice they are green, to hide in the grass..

Meanwhile, the Buff duck has accepted the ducklings we slipped under her, the ones hatched in our incubator. Now just waiting on the cow.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

if it quacks like a duck

After a beautiful walkabout last night, which including a note to self "get bird netting onto blueberries before all blueberries are gone", there were ducks in our kitchen! Brand new, soaking wet, pipping ducklings, with a couple of additional eggs making the pipping sound too.
Our incubator has been filled to capacity by our 4 hens and one drake Buff Ducks. One duck hen has gone broody, and built a magnificent nest in one of the shelters, formerly occupied by the beef cattle, how are now out on pasture.

We had to put a blockade up, because her spot has been upsetting Clover, the mean goose, and he was chasing her off the nest.

Ducks grow at an incredible rate. Almost seems like they double in size daily. That means twice the food each day, and twice the poop too. We have not enjoyed having them in the house, and all other brooders and lights are in use right now over our turkey and chicken peepers. Late last night Homer went outside with the hatched duckling and the 3 peeping eggs. He put them right into the nest this hen has been sitting on. The nest is massive, deep, and was toasty warm last night. This morning he reports the 2 ducklings are doing fine under her, and she is taking good care of them. As for the other 18 eggs under her, time will tell. It appears that all of the ducks are putting their daily eggs in this one spot..I believe that is the original usage of the term "spread thin", as the hen (I have seen chickens do this too) will thin themselves down to be certain and cover every egg.

The goose is still sitting on her nest too. We have seen signs of hatching, but no goslings wandering around yet.

and footage of the ducklings with her in the nest:

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

3:45AM, never again

We raise heritage breed laying hens. They take longer to get to maturity, they live longer, they are beautiful and they make the best eggs. These birds are good out foraging in the open and have the good sense to take cover when the hawk flies over. They get back on the roost at night, and eat up everything that moves in their vicinity.

So as we keep adding varieties of chickens to our mix, we thought about breeding some of the more endangered birds. The Sicilian Buttercups are listed as threatened on the American Breed Conservancy chicken list, the hens are quiet and beautiful, the eggs are a nice shaped white egg. What a perfect bird for anyone, especially a resident of a less rural area. So we grew a few roosters, selected one to be our breeder (beautiful, with an even temperament) and put him in a pen with a few of the Sicilian Buttercup hens.

And our boy turned out to be a dud. Never did his job of getting us fertilized eggs. Hens sat on the egss, we put them in the incubator for the right number of days, and nothing, just rotten eggs. Time passes, still nothing from the rooster, the eggs continue not to be fertile. Then the weather warms, the sun comes out every day. The rooster, who has been crowing at a regular interval, becomes an early morning crower. As in 3:45. Every single morning. And he does not stop at one crow, he gives a good one every 15-20 minutes or so. Our neighbor (about a half mile away) has a rooster who answers. Sleep..forget it!

With Claire, Matt and Laura's help Homer had gotten the chicken processing plant organized and under shelter. With Josh and Mo's help (they visited Monday night, stayed in the guest room, turning the fan on to mask the crowing rooster) they processed this years first batch of chickens. And included that rooster. Homer dispatched it, while Josh and Mo took care of all the bagging and getting into the cooler they had brought along. And the last I heard was one of my favorite sounds: people who love to cook, talking to about all the ways they can prepare what we have grown here on our farm. Josh was debating many things, the most obvious coq a vin, but salt curing and a few other acts were also mentioned. Can't wait to hear the results. Here they are at the stainless steel table:

And we had an all time first yesterday: a visitor from South Dakota! We are certain the residents of the state missed him..they have to all know each other don't they?!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Homer and I love ice cream. LOVE ice cream. And fresh mozzarella. And cheese of all kinds. We have solved the question of cheese and where to get it: Keswick Creamery is a closed Jersey herd, pasture based dairy..and the cheese is delicious too. Their cows get lots of fresh grass, some additional stuff, but most of the feed comes from their fields. They have yogurt, chocolate pudding, hard and soft cheeses. That part of the equation has been solved.

But the ice cream. And the mozzarella cheese..with tomatoes and basil, olive oil, cracked pepper. The sources for those remain do those cows live, what do they feed them, what other additives. When the federal government lays down a law that says the dairies that do not give steroids to milk cows have to comply with exact wording or not put it on the tells me that most dairies are using hormones. In milk cows. Ick.

So Homer decides we need a cow, a milk cow of our own. He does work for Keswick Creamery over the winter, and they pay him with a cow. She is beautiful, you have seen her head in an earlier post, where she pushes 2 smaller beef cattle out of the way to get to the best grass in the paddock. Sybil, our milk cow, came to us with a baby on board. A calf that has clearly been growing inside her since her arrival at Sunnyside Farm.

In order to get milk a cow has to have a calf. It is a must. In order to have the calf it has to get from inside Sybil to outside her. And we wait and watch and hope all goes well. Sybil came with wonderful instructions from Melanie Dietrich at Keswick Creamery: "put her on the field. do nothing." Well, those are directions I can handle! Good luck Sybil, we are cheering for you and have the ice cream maker ready and the rennet in the fridge. You go girl!

Mel tells us Sybil will get physically different before she births. It seems like she has been changing. Her with her tail in the way:

and here where we can see more of her:

and the next pictures you see will be of Sybil and her newborn. I think a gal needs her privacy. And there are plenty of you tube videos that show in more detail than you might want a cow getting a calf out. Keep a brown paper bag handy, for breathing if you hyperventilate or just in case you lose your lunch. We are all about multipurpose uses here at Sunnyside Farm.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Dr. Venable's Saw

When we lived in Towson, we lived in a beautiful neighborhood, Wiltondale. Many houses built in the 30's, 40's, and 50's, established shade trees, well maintained by the homeowners. I joined the branch of the Federated Garden Club for the area, and as a result have had a chance to meet many of the original homeowners..and visit their homes and gardens. Grace Venable was a member, held meetings in her home and visited ours for the annual Christmas party. When she moved with her husband to a retirement community, Dr. Venable offered Homer any of the tools in his garage that Homer could use. I don't recall all that came into our household, but the most memorable was one of those 2 person saws, the kind that have massive sharp teeth and look to be 6 or 7 feet long. Intimidating!

This weekend Homer was determined to get the poultry processing plant up and running. After working all of last year here on the farm, he had decided just how to arrange everything so the lighting is right, the wind is blocked, the sun is not too hot while working. And there is cover from rain. He spotted a couple of dead locust trees in our grove of trees and knew they make the best corner poles: they do not rot, hard as a rock, and last for decades even under ground.

Claire was here on Saturday and held the other end of the saw for one tree felling. Matt Soper and Laura Helm were here Sunday, and got the other timber down. And then helped with the construction part of the job. Here, risking his life, is Matt along with Homer and the tree sawing. I'm pretty certain Dr. Venable would advise against this..

Then, they used that cool saw again to cut the thing into 10' or so sized pieces..

and then, Matt & Laura helped erect the shelter for the 2011 processing plant location. I expect it all to be reconfigured for 2012, so don't get attached to this set up.

that is the plucker in front of them, scalder in the corner of the photo.

Claire left before photos could be taken, getting back to College Park ASAP!

Sunday, May 22, 2011


It has rained so much the grass is hip high! Keswick Creamery has offered us a couple more bull calves, and we are taking them, all this grass needs eating!
And even better, there are fruits and vegetables making their appearances now. We can hardly believe the blueberries that Gavin helped plant a few weeks ago are already bearing fruit. Snow peas are growing and even the beans, just put into the ground, did not rot and are jumping up everywhere! It is beautiful!

None of them quite ready to pick yet, but the CSA boxes will have these delicious treats in weeks to come.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

my mother

My mother, Dorothy Jean, was probably in high school when this photo was taken. My oldest sister tells me our mother, born and raised in Danville Illinois, is our connection to every Osbourne in the United States. I'm not certain that is true, but the Osbourne's I've met have all had a connection to north/central Indiana, where my family has roots. Story (and records) show that my mother's ancestors were in Pennsylvania fighting against the British for freedom. Family documents include a great-grandmothers Daughter of the American Revolution application..and she was a member.

By the time my mother was the age I am now she was in full time nursing home care. My father did not live to see the age I am now. Every day feels like a bonus to me, a gift. I have good health, an amazing husband, a daughter who is just awesome, I get to be the farmers wife to an innovative, creative and fun guy..we have lots of friends, lots of love, and much joy and happiness.

In my lifetime I have been told I take things too seriously, am too intense, and take too much to heart. Years ago I resolved to visit a theme park every month for a year, and managed to get to 10 in 12 months. That shook it up! The changes I have worked to make are to worry less. To find joy and happiness in all the wonderful little and big things I have. And to remember and honor my parents, the short lives they lived on this earth, all they have missed in my life..and to remember to go for it, do things that make me happy, excise things that do not, work to reduce expenses to zero while having fun doing it, to live stress free..overall, to lighten up. How fabulous this is, how happy I am to get another day to enjoy and live my life.

I can't remember to hold a grudge. Things slip away. Some things that felt critically important earlier in life are of no importance anymore. Occasionally I'll get my panties in a bunch over something..and I make myself go to a farm chore, some sort of physical labor. The tension eases. We host people here on the farm who are curious about what we do, or who have known us for years and bring offerings of partnership, of support, of general labor help, of ideas that are percolating within them. What fun! What a lovely way to live, and I count myself a lucky gal and farm wife. And I remember how different my own mothers life was to the life I get to live now, and give thanks.

turkey polts on farm

The hatchery split our shipments this year. While we had ordered our turkey polts to be delivered in late April, one shipment was delayed, and just received this week. They ship via the US Mail, Express Delivery. Here, Homer introduces them to their brooder, the surface covered with heavy weight paper (they will eat any other flooring material and not do well) and then feed all over. The red bell shaped thing is a waterer, weighted to refill as they drink from it.

After a while, the polts get bolder and begin to explore, and peck at every little thing they see. They will eat anything at all, stationary or mobile. They eat shiny things, flat things, round things..anything they can get to. Here they are exploring their brooder, which is a secure cage inside our fenced property, as every predator likes tender young turkey.

And a photo of them in the box, just before being released into the brooder..
and after a few weeks in the brooder the amount of heat is gradually reduced, and they are ready to take on the great outdoors. Here Homer transfers them from his home built cart into his Homer built moveable pen:

Friday, May 20, 2011

potatoes popping

Everyday we plant something. In the basement under lights, directly into the vegetable patch, or right into flower beds. It was potatoes a few weeks ago, and last weekend as well. We have 300+ pounds of seed potatoes, so just after frost free date the first beds went in, and more weekly so we have plenty all summer. The ones on the south side have all popped, full of leaves and healthy growth. Homer adds more compost to them every week, just like with the asparagus. Both vegetables do best when buried on a regular, frequent basis.

And a closeup of Austrian Cresent:
The asparagus gets more compost too, as well as a more permanent mulch. Because we will not pick for a couple more years, we want to do all we can to keep the weeds down. No fun weeding around things you can't eat! So left to their own for years to come, Homer used the feed bags as a ground cover on the pathways, added hay on top. The feed bags to block weeds, the hay to make it look a little nicer. We will see if it turns out to be too slippery. Sandi likes it too.
Turkey shipment received yesterday. That makes it easy to calculate how many weeks from now until Thanksgiving, just count each Thursday!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Buff Duck and a wide variety of beans

Sunnyside Farm is fenced all around. 4 foot wire on t-posts, an electric line across the top of that, and 2 feet more of wire fencing on the ground abutting the upright fence. We have, over the years, learned hard and ugly lessons about what a fox can do in an amazingly short period of time. We have lost as many as 200 2 week old chickens in one the fox and, we assume, a few of their friends. They can dig quickly and efficiently right under a fence and still have time to empty the portable chicken pen.

And we wanted ducks. When Homer's parents and sister Pat farmed on Maryland's eastern shore they were overrun with mosquitoes. There are jokes all over the DelMarVa peninsula that the mosquito is the state bird, and if you should ever decide to camp on Assateague Island, make certain there are no holes in your netting! Homer would visit their farm, and noticed the ducks running, with mouths open, catching mosquitoes by the hundreds. When we put down roots here in PA, we had not the massive mosquito problem as the shore does, but we had our fair share of skeeters, enough that we could not eat outside some nights. We decided to get ducks, as spraying to kill mosquitoes is just not an option for us. I loved the Buff Ducks I saw at the PA farm show, and ordered some from McMurray Hatchery. We had 8, but sometime last summer the fox did get in and killed 3. So now we have 5. One the above footage he is the last one to leave the loaf of bread, he looks a little different with a darker head and a more orange bill. We have hatched ducks this year, and they are growing like crazy at the Mitchell's house, we are told the kids love them! More are in the incubator and under some chickens and some ducks, we hope for more ducklings as the weather gets warmer. And we walk the fence line on a regular basis, to repair any damage, make certain every gate opening is tight fitting, and to clear brush that might stop the electric from working.

most views of the ducks look like this, as they roam the property:

Last year when we planted beans the geese and the ducks ate every sprout as they came up in the garden. Our CSA members did not get any beans from us, as beans take a long time to grow, our growing season is not quite long enough to get beans from a second shipment and planting. Homer and Jerry replaced the fence around the entire vegetable growing area, and there is even a double fence around the bean growing area. The beans will climb up the fencing, making for easier harvest. Here is the list of legumes planted this year:

Lazy Wife Greasy Bean
Blue Coco Snap
Green Asparagus
Black Turtle
Jacobs Cattle
Lima Christmas
Purple Asparagus
Whippoorwill Cowpeas
Willow Leaf White Cowpeas

Some of these are better fresh, some are better dried, then reconstituted in the dead of winter when summer and the fresh vegetables are a distant memory. We have planted a lot, and plan to be able to provide to our members an abundance of many colored beans this year. The fencing is too tight for the ducks to squeeze through, too tight for the geese to get their heads through, and as long as we keep the gates closed we will have a bean crop in 2011. If the sun ever comes out again!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

ready for vegetable harvest

We are recyclers. Everything goes into the compost pile or to the pigs. What does not goes out into the recycling bin the recycling truck picks up each week: plastic, glass, magazines, shredded credit card offerings.

Last spring Dale and Susan got in touch with us. Told us there were wooden bleachers in Catonsville that were being dismantled and the wood was going in the dumpster. The dumpster! Between the 2 of them, help from a few others, we managed to get a bunch of that wood here on the farm. Then comes the hmm..what do we do with it now? Should it just be another pile of stuff waiting to be transformed? We realized we needed CSA boxes. CSA, community supported agriculture, means Homer grows as many vegetables, fruits, herbs as he can and delivers a split of what grows to people how have paid us at the beginning of the growing season. So the wood from the gym in Catonsville was converted to the frames for our CSA weekly shares. Each family has a separate box, each and every week. The bottom of the box is coated chicken wire, so we can hose everything off, cool it off in the hot summer months.

Here the boxes are on the stand that Homer built for them at the end of the hoophouse. We bought the shade cloth that covers the area, and strung the shade cloth out with metal parts from parts of the hoophouse we don't need. Same with the stand for the boxes, it was constructed to hold 20 of the boxes..which is the maximum we pick for daily. Homer will also build an insulated shell to fit on the back of the truck, and we will use the recycled freezer packs that Peggy saves for us to line the box each week.

Homer is certainly the guy who looks at stuff and sees a totally different form for the materials. He saves many things that I would get rid of, via freecycle or recycling. I read a zero household waste blog on a regular basis..the author shows a photo of the items they have been unable to recycle, reuse or eliminate getting in the last 6 months..and the contents fill up 2 baggies. We are a long way from there, but always thinking about ways that we can reduce or eliminate waste from our farm. Or from other locations by bringing cool stuff here that would end up in a landfill.

It might just be a thin line between recycling and hoarding.

The weekly share box, in close up.

grass growth

This has been a wet spring, with steady rain on a frequent basis. Weather reports tell us it is actually a record setting amount of rain. As farmers we monitor the rain and sun every single day, hoping for a bit of each daily. Our well pump was replaced a few days ago, and the rain barrels have been placed in their spots for the 2011 growing season. 4,000 gallons saved with 1 inch of rain in those barrels! In theory we would use the water on the outside beds right next to them a day or 2 after the rain, but there has been rain every day. Matt Soper gave Homer a submersible pump, and Homer has hooked it up so that the water from the rain barrels is being used inside the hoophose on rows of peas, sunflowers and various other grrens, lettuces and radishes for our CSA.

As a grass farmer, Homer wants grass to groww as much of the year as possible, since it provides the entire feed for the cattle and a good portion of feed for the poultry and pork. He manages the grass by using electric wires or pens (depending on the livestock) and moves all animals daily.

Last fall I loaded wheelbarrows up with cow leavings and put them in our compost pile. It just looked too unsightly with short grass and all those cow flops, so I cleaned up areas in the vicinity of our walking paths. In spots where I left them, the grass growth has been huge this year, outstripping any other locations. And the cattle, as soon as they are moved to a new paddock. run to these spots to eat them first. Especially the big one, Sybil. Here she is having it her way:

That looks like pure happiness to me. The smaller cattle need to get growing, there are days when they disappear the grass is so high!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Homie cam

After 2 years my original iphone died. Just seized up and would not work anymore, nothing at all. As we use our iphones all day every day and have no wall phones anymore getting a replacement was imperative. So 2 new iphones were purchased and Homer and I are both connected to the world.

The updates on the iphone 4 are awesome, the camera is much improved and the video option is such fun! Well maybe not for the drunk girl at University of Maryland whose court case will include her attacks on bouncers and cops caught on video by her fellow bar mates at 2:15AM on a Tuesday morning..

Homer has constructed his own holder for the video/camera function of the phone. Most mornings he does the chores alone, and here is what is involved in taking care of the peepers in the brooder. First, his Homie cam home made holder:
That's a portable fence post, usually used for stringing up electric wire to keep livestock where they should be, he has repurposed, with this result:

And the final, important act, as the little birds need warmth in such a chilly and damp spring.

Monday, May 16, 2011

a chickens view of Sunnyside Farm

We raise a wide variety of egg layers at Sunnyside Farm. The American Livestock Breed Conservancy lists varieties of domesticated animals that are in danger of going extinct, and we always work to pull from that list: for chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, pigs and cattle. As small farmers, it is easy for us to locate the ones we need.

Since we grow everything out on the field (we don't even have a barn on our property), the varieties have to be hardy ones. Currently, our chickens are a pretty diverse group, resulting in egg cartons that hold a variety of different hued and shaped eggs: white, tan, medium brown, dark brown, light blue, bright green, olive green..the variety makes for a beautiful dozen.

Our girls are also an important part of converting our fields, which last year were overgrown with blackberries, poison ivy, tree of heaven and and an assortment of shrubby, messy stuff. Where we concentrated the livestock the fields have lots of grass and clover growing, but the very back paddocks of the farm are still overgrown with a shrubby mess. This year we have enough hoses to reach all the way back there, so can have all the livestock cycle through easily. First up are the laying hens with their intense ground scratching, leaf and blade consuming ways. After the pigs finish up hogging all the areas were we will plant vegetables and melons this year, they are headed down to spend the summer moving through this brushy area. And next year: grassy fields, cleared vegetable area, cleaned up woods..we continue to make progress toward our vision. Here is a chickens eye view of the paddock they are in right now. Is it any wonder they make the most delicious eggs?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

hat rack

Farm living calls for a wide variety of hats. Hats to keep heads dry, hats to keep heads warm, hats to keep heads cool, to block the sun, cover the neck from sun, cover the neck from cold and wind. Homer wears a hat of some sort every single day. A we wanted a hat rack in our redone mudroom that would hold some (certainly not all) of our head faucet handles seem like the way to go..

First day of vegetables, St Tims at the farm

Saturday marks the first day of our vegetable and egg distribution. It looks like we will have chicken next week. So lots of folks traveled to the farm today to get their vegetable shares, walk about the farm, hold chickens, and in the case of one very brave 6 year old girl, climb to the top of the ladder and zoom down the zipline. Here is what we had today:
This is a photo of the share boxes at the hoophouse. Homer picks them and then wheels them up to the next project..the 1947 IH flatbed truck that needs restoration, serves as an easy pick up point, right in the shade:
The girls from St. Timothy's in Stevenson, MD have been so much fun. There are enough of them that weeding the hoophouse took less than a half an hour, getting 3 beds of potatoes planted..including rides in the back end of the pickup truck, shoveling compost in, building the beds, took less than an afternoon. And then dinner, and of course a trip out for ice cream..we all rode the bus..
second scoop free for each of us because it was raining!

And then back to Sunnyside Farm for a burning, guitar playing and singing, and a little hand jive too..
and some seriously good sleeping occurred after all that!

We are so honored that Abigail Cooley asked us to have the students here for the weekend, and that they all look like they are enjoying themselves..and all agree that working in slightly overcast weather is better than sunshine, and those free scoops of ice cream were all right.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Charles Street Friday Market

Chip Watkins hangs the banner on Charles Street for the new market, Fridays 3-7 at Charles Street and Lanvale, just over the bridge from the train station. Plenty of good eats, drinks, groceries..we had quite a crowd for an overcast first night! Every Friday until the one just after Thanksgiving.
Denzel Mitchell and Mike Singleton of Five Seeds Farm hang the banner at their vegetable stand
Payton Sorah's stand..Agriberry strawberries in the house!
Sandy Miller, Painted Hand Farm, with pasture raised goat and veal
Chez G with bread and sweet baked things

Shane Hughes, Liberty Delight Farm with grass feed beef by the piece
Homer Walden, Sunnyside Farm, sold out of eggs before the night was over
Flying Dog Ale sponsors this night, music provided by them.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

when the well runs dry

Late yesterday afternoon Homer went to turn a spigot on. And nothing came out, not a drip of water. He went back to the house..on this 13 acres we have just one well, one pump, and it all starts at the house. We use water for ourselves, for the livestock, and at this time of year for all the little seeds we put into the ground. Simple things but critically important things. Gil, our water guy is a neighbor and has worked on the well and water system here for decades. He stopped in about 10PM last night, looked over the system real quick and told us it is either a wire or a pump..but the pump has to be pulled from 250 feet below to figure out which it is.
This photo is of the three 300 gallon tanks that are in our basement. The previous owner had them installed so there would be a back up of water if the pump went up. We ran the tanks dry yesterday. But our rain barrels..eighty 50 gallon drums that collect rain water off the hoophouse still have lots of water in them. So today Homer sets up a set of hoses and buckets to get water to everything that needs it, digs out the dirt that has accumulated on top of the cement hatch for the well pump, and we await Gil's arrival. And have decided that even if the issue today is only a wire, we need to replace the pump now, while it is cool and not so intensely hot day and night. Better to prepare for the heat wave we know will be here by the end of June.
And today is the first farmers market in Carlisle..Farmers on the Square is from 3-7PM today. I'll be packing up eggs and heading over there. Just won't be standing close to many shower today, ick.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

eat your veggies

Over the winter Homer experimented with growing vegetables inside the hoophouse, outside the hoophouse, under floating row covers and without covers. He planted seeds in November, also garlic corms.
The testing has worked, and the results are vegetables for our CSA customers, beginning this weekend. A preview of some of what Sunnyside farm will put in the box this week:

Potatoes, inside the hoophouse. Had rowcovers on them for a while, now flowering. They are not ready until the greens die back, so it will be a few weeks. Homer keeps adding soil to the bottom, keeps the plant producing more potatoes.
Salsify..what the heck? They serve this root vegetable at Woodberry Kitchen, and we liked it so much we had to grow some too! Carrot or parsnip like, WK roasted it in the oven with butter until tender, added a few herbs (there might have been some butter involved too) and it was delicious!
Ragged Mustard..we use this as a general green, more on the bitter than sweet side of the palate. We either chop it up, then drop it into a hot pan that has olive oil and garlic cloves already heated up in it, or add to a soup right at the end so it wilts and becomes part of the garnish/flavoring with out overpowering the other vegetables in there.
Kale..we keep hearing from people about kale chips, cooked in the oven. We have not tried them yet, but plan to google that term and implement what sounds like a great idea. Crunchy vegetables? I'm there!
Rainbow Swiss Chard just tastes like summer to me. We eat it on a regular basis, in the old school cast iron skillet, onion, garlic, oil/ it wilt and eat it piping hot.
French Breakfast Radish is one of our favorites. Even if they get big, still tender and sweet. Toss in a salad or slice super thin with a few small bits of onion or shallot, olive oil, splash of balsamic vineger, pepper and salt, a very refreshing side for any meal. Or wipe the dirt off and eat them bite by bite.

Since we have shown so many photos of empty beds, we figured it was time for a few photos of what is ready now. Yum!

Monday, May 9, 2011

sweet potato slips

In the mail for us on Saturday were 2 things: an envelope and a beat up box. Thanks to Kirsten at Joshua Farms, who introduced us to Amos Beiler, an Amish farmer in Christiana, PA, we have our sweet potatoes. I've not met Amos, but suspect that we might run into him at one of the sustainable agriculture events we attend. I ordered sweet potato slips from him last fall, 50 each of 2 varieties, one ready early the other late. Raised organically. I sent him a check for the amount, along with a note for what we want. He sends a post card confirming the order. And then this weekend, months later, our slips arrive in a beat up box. Homer gets them right into the ground, each one next to where the drip tape lets out water. And in the envelope? A handwritten note from Amos, apologizing for not charging us shipping. The note is for the exact amount on the box, $7.95. He sent the slips along without the payment for postage. Today I am sending his check along, the slips are settling in the compost bed nicely, and I am thankful to support a business as his. I know where I'll get them next year too! Quite different than my experience a Wegmans, receipt in hand, where I tried to return a defective scale.

And mother's day was yesterday. Had plans to post pictures of my mother and stepmother, but the scanner does not work with our software update. Suffice to say that I would not be here without the 2 of them. And a bunch of other mothers thrown in their too! My brother Art was here visiting, so happy mothers day wishes from him, Homer, Claire, Matt and Randy too, along with others. Happy to have a village, and happy mothers day to all..we all had one!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Rob Dacko: morel chef

Rob Dacko, a chef who worked in Philadelphia before moving back to the Harrisburg area, visited Sunnyside Farm today. Neither Homer nor I have ever cooked morels before, so we offered to share our bounty with Rob if he showed us what to do. And now we know why people keep their morel gathering sites a secret..they were really delicious! We sure hope more appear!
He cut them up, removed most of the stem, leaving them in large pieces. Heated oil in the cast iron skillet and put them into the hot pan. Cooked until they were crisp.
We were happy to share eggs and mushrooms with Rob and his crew of cooks. Nick dredged some of the mushrooms in flour, leaving more of the stem on, then into the hot skillet. Also wonderful.
A full pan of fried eggs, a pot of hard boiled eggs, and we all go back to work. Next time the morels pop here on the farm we are going to enjoy them, thanks to our personal lessons in identification and preparation!

Friday, May 6, 2011

drip tape down, visitors with gifts

22 vegetable beds, in and with drip tape on!! Homer also makes the plant markers: painted orange, green and yellow and written on with a sharpee, these stakes tell us what we have in each area. There are 6 beds waiting for additional plantings, but the balance have seeds or things already growing in them. With the help of the pigs and the humans Jerry and Gavin, the aisle ways are clear (pigs remove most everything, and the huge grass roots get removed by human power) so the beds are easy to get to. I hand watered today after our visitors left around lunch time. Homer spent the afternoon setting up the water line, the drip tape so that every plant gets water right next to them. In theory, water goes to the vegetables and not the weeds, but we will grow weeds too as the summer progresses!
And a photograph of our smallest calf on the farm. We just love how the Jerseys look against the dark green spring grass. And the herd of cattle are loving the grass too, they are gorgeous out there. Night times are warming up so the herd is out in the field, away from the shelters..they just don't really need the shelter from cold wet rain anymore, and look very happy eating the green growth, or hanging around in the high grass chewing cud.
This morning we had a few visitors to the farm. Kirsten from Joshua Farm, an urban farm in Harrisburg brought along her adorable 10 month old Chava. And Sunyl visited with his sweet daughter Meera, who is 13 months old. A pair of happy babies on the farm! Kirsten had read that we just started asparagus this spring, and was kind enough to bring some along for us. So dinner tonight? Cornbread and asparagus roasted in the oven! Nothing like fresh asparagus..just fantastic!
No photos of lunch. We only had one breakfast today and were starving by lunch time. We had thawed out a package of our Flat Iron Steak and it was ready for eating at lunchtime today. Along with onions in the pan, we cooked them up, sliced onto bread, added Keswick Creamery Tomme, a little of our Tom Thumb lettuce and well they disappeared before a picture could be taken. On the side, Lady Moon Grape Tomatoes with a bit of balsamic vinegar.
And started under lights today, because we just can't get enough: more bell peppers and eggplant. Last weeks starts are looking good and will have the first set of real leaves in a week or so, and will head outdoors the week after that.
A beautiful spring day on the farm, with great eats, tons of work completed and interesting visitors. Lucky to get to live this life.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Cinco de Mayo plantings and Homer's Birthday!

The side of the hoop house closest to the house. 22 vegetable beds here, almost all planted. Most of the big roots removed by Homer with a mattock (yes his shoulders hurt). The pigs rooted out the smaller stuff. Each of those water barrels is now hooked up so that when it rains, 100 gallons fill at each bay. Drip tape from the water barrels will go in today, from the well in the next couple of weeks. Right now we have had days of sunshine with rain in the evening, perfect for seeds just getting started.
Same side of hoophouse, with a view of the rolling peig pen. The large pipe holds water, 5 gallons, so that the pigs can drink as they need. Buckets/low rubber pans do not work, they kick them over.
Potatoes and asparagus in. This is about 150 pounds of potatoes and 100 crowns of asparagus.
The side of the hoophouse furthest from the house. On this side we experimented with growing things over winter and starting other things while it was still quite cold out. Onions, garlic, leeks, potatoes, many different greens, carrots, rutabagas and even a few beets are on this side.
Under the hoophouse. The south side of plastic has been removed. Peas, sunflowers, lettuce, radish, Chinese cabbage, potatoes, spinach, parsley, and even a little basil are in here. Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers and flowers will live here over the summer, and the north side will be removed in another 10 days. Still too chilly at night to remove.

And happy birthday to Homer! Sunny and not too hot, a great day for a birthday.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

bed building

This is the 2nd year we have received a tractor trailer load of compost from Hollins Organic. There is a giant piece built into the back of the trailer that moves forward to push all of the compost out of there and onto our property. Homer's truck, while not the huge pickup trucks you see on the road, is a Chevy S-10..a reasonable size truck. In this photo, next to our spring compost delivery, it looks like the trucks kids play with in dirt piles!
Last year Homer used a push cart to move that much dirt out to the area where we grow. This year we have decided to amend the "no fossil fuels on the property" we try and maintain, and he is pulling the loads out there in the back of the truck. Also last year the weeds and grasses were everywhere. This year, with the help of our army of pigs in moveable pens, the vegetable areas are shaping up beautifully. Yesterday, with Gavin's help, they put in 2 beds and 150 pounds of potatoes. Today many more seeds are going in. Tomorrow a number of seedlings started under lights in the house will go in, and when the area under the lights is open the melons, pumpkins and winter squash will get started. Sunflowers are almost safe to go in the ground too. I've cleared a bed, and once we are certain it will not really chill down at night will start getting sunflowers growing. It can be a thin line between seedlings living and dying at this time of year, so we are being careful.


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