Thursday, May 31, 2012


Some days we come across things that surprise us. The other day Homer found a turtle in the road and stopped, picked it up and brought it to the farm. The shell of the turtle had an old but prominent gash in it..probably where a lawn mower hit it. Here it will be able to move out of the way of the cattle with time to spare.

Then this appeared in the clover one day. He thought it was a hose that had been discover it was alive and moving. Black snakes eat rodents, so it gets to go live in the high grass too.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Under the watchful eye of Clover the goose, Jess makes certain the 3 week old chickens have water. It has been hotter than the hinges the last couple of days..90's..and water must be available at all times for all, both farmers and livestock. Clover does not miss much, and if things are out of order he squaks like mad. Jess, inside, got him squaking and concerned..

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Incredible to think that this, the passionflower, is native to the United States. Passifloria incarnata can grow here in PA, and provides food for different butterflies and fritillary.

These amazing flowers and butterflies too?! Sold!

Monday, May 28, 2012


The musical fruit?!

We impatiently wait for the weather to change and get warm enough at night for beans to be planted. Peas love cool weather and hate the heat, beans are heat lovers. Most beans can withstand drought and have few pests/diseases.

More will go in for longer harvest season. There are fun ones (Christmas) some good luck ones (black eyed peas) and some regular green beans.

Good eats. And the subject of that famous song the fellas love to sing: "the more you eat the better you feel, so eat beans at every meal". Yes.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

pigs clearing

On May 14 we moved the black and white/belted pigs into an overgrown area that needed clearing. Into this area will go more vegetables..we are holding back on some things because we have read about the life cycle of pests and avoiding them by waiting. There are still enough days before frost to harvest.

The pigs do beautiful work. Almost every inch is clear and they are happy. The last area they did like this has been planted in of course the farmer hopes for rain..after Memorial Day parades, rememberances and celebrations are completed of course..

Saturday, May 26, 2012


Last Saturday the 13 acre property across the street from us was sold at auction. We were nervous about what was going to happen to the open fields and woods..and sure did not want to look out onto houses or trailer homes. A nonprofit bought the property, with plans on using the property to train people in farming and small home construction. Fantastic, we are delighted!

Everything in the house and couple of outbuildings was sold. There was everything from drinking glasses to a brand new tractor. It took all day to auction off everything.

We bid on and bought, for a total of $18, a few things. Old milk bottles, a few tools, a bow front Victorian cabinet, metal minnow buckets.

It was hot and sunny so we had to return to the farm and water all the livestock. But there was a huge pile of wooden ladders, the kind with round rungs. No one really uses them anymore, as they hurt your feet to climb and are not too stable. Homer wanted them..said he had a use for them.

The folks from the non-profit bought almost all, for less than a dollar each. They asked Homer would he like some..voila, just the roosts for the laying hens he was looking for. And the light color tarps arrived, which will provide shade and let light in too..hopes are that the change in conditions encourage the girls to produce eggs again..

Friday, May 25, 2012

fresh chicken today

We started chicks in the brooder earlier this year, at the end of March. They went into their field pen while it was still quite cold out, so an extension cord was stretched out to the pen and lights were on them to keep them warm. The last 4-5 weeks the birds have been moving their way across the field in their pen: needed to protect them from all the predators that love chicken.

Two days each week we will process so that we can offer fresh (not frozen) chicken to our customers. And to us too, yay!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

all over

Cattle delivery this morning.

We buy stocker calves. 300 pounds of fun in each one. Grass eating machines. The grass got too high so the first mowing had to be done by a neighbor with a bush hog, and now the cattle will take over.

Most of our land was pricker bushes and poison ivy when we moved here. Some of that is still here, but now the fields look and feel different. Some things we can identify and some things we can't, and to our eyes it is certainly looking beautiful.

Tons of clover everywhere now. And this pretty yellow daisy flower.

Too bad the front yard is also shoulder height. Rumor has it the township might just fine us for that. Odd, as there are many spots with high grass along the way here, and are high every year. A neighbor said "not in your yard". It's a hay field not a yard :)!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

in record time

We are about done milking the cow for now. She needs to keep her milk, helping her system and her calf too.

Homer has taken just one gallon or so every couple of days. The milk, cream, butter are amazing..clean tasting and the reason for uninterrupted sleep at night. Ok, we don't really know for certain on the sleeping thing but know that neither of us has slept better.

Years ago, with credit card points, we acquired an ice cream maker. It is the kind with a piece that lives in the freezer, ready for ice cream making at a moments notice. Cream and milk and a little sugar go in..vanilla too. Homer always adds chocolate syrup. 25 minutes later it is ice cream!

The directions, which we ignore, say to put it into a container in the freezer until it is uniformly solid. We give it about 10 or 15 minutes.

Last nights version had strawberries on top and chocolate syrup on it. Split 4 ways..not a speck left. The part that goes in the freezer will go back in there this morning.

Sybil, the 3/4 milk cow, has been producing milk that is half cream. When it goes away we will drape the ice cream maker in black. And eagerly await the return of her milk production.

And maybe read Heidi out loud to each other. The story of where time spent outdoors and drinking grassed cows milk cures..everything.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


We need more chicken pens. And the truck needs to be registered as a farm PA a vehicle needs to be inspected annually unless a farm form F from the tax return has been located and a trip to the state office is scheduled. The grass got too high so a neighbor had to mow, cattle delivery on Thursday, possible township lawn mowing violation in the mail to us, weeds high between vegetable rows, metal for feed hopper needs ordering but credit application must be completed, trip to locate a fax machine, trailer paperwork fail and now redone by one who knows better, photo selection and printing, frames for them for market, seed starting of flowers, squash, watermelon..maybe learn to ride a unicycle too?!

Monday, May 21, 2012

sweet potato

There are lots of potatoes, 6-7 varieties, in the ground. We planted some while it was quite cold out, some a few weeks later and continue to plant. Beds are full, so new beds might need to be made!

Sweet potatoes, more sensitive to cold, are planted later in the season. They love hot and dry conditions so they did not go into an irrigated vegetable bed but instead went right into the compost bins with finished compost. It is done cooking, rich with organic matter, elevated so it will dry out earlier and stay warmer. 100 days until plucking, we are counting the days. The kids will be back in classrooms. The teachers too.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

irrigation from rain barrels

The rain barrels are all up. Frost free date here is mid-May..or maybe not. Maybe frost free date is May 1. The USDA monitors the temperatures across the country, and became aware of a shift years ago. 3 or 4 years ago our area was moved to two entire weeks earlier than it has been for decades. We trust and believe the science..but are also still hesitant, having lived so long with the message of not ever planting until after mothers day. We put many seeds in the ground in late April/early May, and crossed fingers that the USDA is right. Worked this year!

The rain barrels have a valve that allows a switch to open or close the flow of water. Now that freezing temperatures are done until late fall, water can go into the rain barrels and then onto the garden beds. This one, planted with basil, is the first one. It is also a new bed..we have such great visitors this year that every bed is planted, every time we pull something out something else goes in..things are working as we hoped.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

sage, asparagus

The first bed in this picture is sage. Blooming with purple flowers it is a lovely sight.

At the very back is asparagus. All those ferns are from the spears that, if snapped off are dinner, when allowed to grow make a lovely, airy fern.

In between are lots of other goodies. First vegetable distribution is taking place..yesterday, Wednesday and tomorrow..and it is a nice assortment of delectables. We have been growing, bed building, weeding, transplanting for months so it is awesome to pick and feed folks!

No asparagus, next year on that. The roots need a strong base before we can take the top. We want them to return every year.

Friday, May 18, 2012


Can you see it? In this picture are a few things..a hand, flowers from collards and a spider. The spider is the exact same color as the flowers..the brightest, sunniest shade of yellow..but the spider is round and the petals are a different shape. And the entire spider is shaped like a crab.

Everyday these flowers are filled with buzzing from pollinators of all shapes and sizes and colors. Tasty flowers for them, tasty greens for us. The spider must find something tasty in there too.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

battle of the bug

Every year we plant about 100 tomato plants for our 40 member CSA. Homer got a super jump on the season and reduced our electric bill by starting lots of seedlings in December in a cold frame in the hoophouse. Now, in mid-May, we have green tomatoes already. We are so excited to find this beauty and see flowers on many more plants! We grow 10 different varieties for a real range of taste, texture and color.

Something else loves tomatoes. The tomato horn worm. A brilliant green worm about the size of my thumb, it can eat the top off a tomato plant before our eyes can see it.

This is the moth that lays those horn worms. It was found on a tomato plant yesterday, and promptly fed to the chickens. We would be more frightened of the horn worm, but know when we miss them the parasitic wasp finds it, lays eggs in it, and the baby wasps eat it from the inside out. We just love the checks and balances of the animal kingdom. And a fresh, vine ripened, chemical free open pollinated tomato.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

faux pond

Geese and ducks need access to water every single day. They need to clear their nostrils and spread their oils around their feathers, and water is the conduit for each of these.

We have a small cement pond on the farm, it was here and cracked and had trees growing out of it when we moved here. Homer cleared it out, patched it, filled with water and added cover for goldfish. Every animal uses it whenever possible.

On other parts of the farm these simple tubs are used. Sunk in the ground they are our faux ponds..easy to manage, to refill and to clean out periodically..ducks and geese can be messy and quickly make water funky.

The cement pond serves as a habitat for the frogs and toads to lay eggs. The same hiding spots for goldfish serve as hiding spots for the incubating eggs/tadpoles/spring peepers. Last night we could hear them calling all over the farm..the sound is one of my all time favorites. When I was a girl my father brought a recording of night time sounds in the Amazon forest home, and we listened to it on the living room stereo, lights out. My sister came home, arriving at the front door to a dark house with those sounds filling it, and asked what was going on. Then reminded us how uncool we were. I guess, in a funny way, that is still happening. She is in LA attending celebrity events, product launches, award ceremonies and the like and we are here, listening and delighting in the sound of peepers!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


It is almost warm enough to plant corn. Each year we are getting closer to distributing corn..who knew it was such a challenge to grow GMO free corn?! To us, it is like the chicken of the plant kingdom..everyone loves it and wants to eat it, from a myriad of insects to every animal we have here.

For now, electric fencing is installed and the pigs will head in here to clear every inch. We will watch and monitor for insects. And in August we will keep livestock away from this part of the farm!

Monday, May 14, 2012

tomato buds

May 14. We have tomato plants with flower buds already.

Started in December. In the hoop house, true, but without any additional heat. No electric lights, no heat pads underneath. Just seeds in dirt..nice dirt, true, but no chemicals. Compost, vermiculite, peat moss.

With night time temperatures warming up and day time temperatures above 70 there are plenty of pollinators out. Tomatoes, a new world food, not dependent on the honey bee..there are plenty of native pollinators that will work on we might just have something to eat..soon!

Learning to make feta and fresh mozzarella are on the to do list between now and ripe tomato time. Last weeks attempt at fresh soft cheese resulted in cheese that was too stiff and not creamy enough. Time to get it right so summer meals

Sunday, May 13, 2012

peaches and clover and..

Oh my!

May and things are blooming all over! The 600 pea plants produced 3 snow peas yesterday, with thousands more flowers covering them. So beautiful on the farm..lush, green, happy and healthy.

And green peaches. Can peach and strawberry season be far behind?

Saturday, May 12, 2012


Grape vines must live forever. Since we moved to the farm we have had mild and severe winters, drought and flooding, winds of 65+ miles per hour.

We have also had pigs root up every inch of the garden, working at either clearing out the ground or getting the grass trimmed. And still the grapes grow. They have returned yearly, and now that we know they are here we let them grow. We will have to learn the best time to trim them and who much to prune back.

These are Concord grapes. The grapiest grape ever. Seeds, purple, intense..flavor like grape bubblegum or kids candy. Beautiful to see and amazing to eat.

Friday, May 11, 2012

lined up

All in rows..pigs, chickens, vegetables, sunshine.

We continue to experiment everyday with milk from the cow. Extraordinary what one gal can produce. I'm talking about the cow of course!

The soft fresh cheeses we have made are setting up too tight. We need to get them softer and creamier and will keep experimenting. And weeding, packing eggs, feeding pigs and all the other fun stuff!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

farm dog

Most times when people visit the dog greets them. Usually with her hackles up and barking. We call out warnings "don't touch the dog" because she is truly not a friendly thing. She does not like strangers to touch her, she really hates when faces get near hers..all in all, she is a working farm dog and not an I love everything kind of dog.

Everyday she patrols the property. She searches constantly for creatures that do not belong, and when she locates them she quickly takes them out. She is constant, never tires of the search and is eager every day. The Jack Russel breed was bred to go, go, go..which can be why they can be difficult dogs to own. I have a book about Jacks..and the sub-title is "or demon dog". She is a working girl.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

butter maker

Not the one from Bad News Bears. The one here on the farm.

Daily a gallon or so of milk has been coming into the kitchen. I much should be butter, ice cream, cheese, fluid milk, yogurt, kefir, hard cheese? Rennet, lemons, clabber to thicken? Who knew we would have decisions to make?!

Butter won. A mason jar of cream on the counter for about 12 hours. Shake it up for a while a *poof butter! Cream, sugar, vanilla into the ice cream maker and *poof ice cream! Strained milk onto a pot, heated, rennet added, hanging in cheese cloth *poof cheese! And then pizza! With a whey based crust and vegetables from the garden. Improvements can be made to all..more cream and less milk in the ice cream and butter, less rennet in the cheese..but we are all healthy and not wanting to get pizza elsewhere. Next up?! Yeehaw Farm flour and pizza on the grill..wood fired..with other toppings from the farm. Crazy good. Treats for the cow..looking for bales of alfalfa hay now to have her munch on while being milked. Why was the family cow so loved? We know we are only beginning to understand the depth of food that can come from one beautiful animal.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

ouch, I bet

That must hurt.

Trying to dry the cow off. She spends time separated from the calves, Homer takes a gallon of milk from her to relieve the pressure..and make butter, ice cream, farmers cheese, cream for coffee, milk for drinking and anything else we can get cooked up..and the calves manage to get back to her.

It will happen. A gal needs a break. Those calves are bigger than she is. Double electric strands between them might just be the answer.

Monday, May 7, 2012

gone to seed

We planted cold hardy greens last fall, both kale and collards. They were ridiculous good all winter long, and as we cut a meals worth of greens off of either the leaves grew back with more. These were planted outside the hoophouse with no protection. It was a mild winter, but it sure looks like this two grow right through the coldest days.

We ate them for months and months, until the beds had nothing left to pick and there were really just roots left. We cooked them in a pan, with olive oil, garlic and onions browned to the point of burning, then added a little water to deglaze the pan. Rinsed the greens off under running water and then into that hot pan, stirred until wilted, and then a little balsamic vinegar. We also added to any soup or stew we made. Really sweet and delicious. Also seems like those dark leafy greens really keep winter time blues away.

And then we had weeks of unseasonably warm weather, and the kale and collards bolted..grew back and went to flower! We had hoped to stretch these greens to CSA season but usually flowering plants mean the taste is now bitter.

The back tier with yellow flowers are our greens. The bees are crazy for these flowers so we have not pulled them. The flowers buzz with many different varieties of we will wait until the fuss is over and then pull all and feed to the pigs. After we taste test for bitter/sweet...

Sunday, May 6, 2012

I'm warning you..

A couple of these photos are scary.

Homer celebrated his birthday yesterday. A simply gorgeous spring day..sunny, mild, song birds flying all over the farm. Construction of extra heavy, extra large tomato cages for the mortgage lifters and the Kentucky beefsteaks. Those indeterminates grow on forever! About a gallon of milk from the cow..she needs to dry up to support the growth of the calf on board and her own system, so this is a dramatic reduction in what has been pulled from her. Milk and chocolate/peanut butter whoopie pies for Homer..made by Jess not me..and a delish dinner at the Green Room in Carlisle..reservation was needed..the place was packed!

Don't say I didn't warn you..

Saturday, May 5, 2012


It is a bit if a vague answer that we start to give out in January. To the question as to when our vegetable distribution commences. We plant inside the hoophouse in the fall, and outside under row covers, so we can have things to eat all winter. In January, February, March and April we set seeds in place to have vegetables to distribute. And now there are plenty of things going in that will take us through the heat of the summer, just now getting started.

Tomatoes, potatoes, cucumbers, radishes, basil. And starting to flower, 3 kinds of peas. It is 10 days until mid-May and we are getting to the point where we must set a exact start date..the picking and washing station is set..come on peas..

Friday, May 4, 2012

wrangling cattle

The cattle got out of their paddock. They broke through the electric fence and then ran around the farm.

The big pigs are in an enclosure that is wired with the same electric fence. Closer to the garden, their escape could be quite disastrous: they can quickly destroy (consume) every single thing we have planted.

Working to gather cattle up, get them back where they belong, repair the electric fence, unplug and replug, test to make certain it is working. Finally, almost 18 hours later, the problem is located. A section of wire from working early on and using aluminum wire. It is flimsy and twists apart..which it had done..and was shorting out the entire fence. Replace that section with steel wire, and current flows again over the entire property. Every animal is contained.

In the meantime lights were needed. So the truck, still loaded with bread and vegetable leavings from earlier in the day, is driven onto the field. Cattle approach to, we think, eat what is in the back of the truck and instead lick the truck body, causing the truck to bounce around. Day in and day out we are still mystified by livestock.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

exotic assortment

We have a couple hundred egg layers on the farm. We lost 25-30 earlier this year to a fox, and need to bring the flock back to the right size.

4 weeks or so ago, we received an exotic assortment from our chick breeder. They are truly tiny little balls of fluff, and needed plenty of time protected and warm in the brooder.

Night time temperatures have been trending warmer, so this flock went out on the field yesterday. Still tiny, they can barely be seen in the grass! All sorts of shapes, sizes and colors..their eggs will be too. We love to start day old peepers here on the is months before these girls will produce eggs, and we enjoy how lovely the pullet eggs are, and watching these birds grow and mature. Lights on at night until they look adjusted.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

kitchen for serious cooking

We have a second building at the farm, currently used for storage, Homer's workshop and the studio for The Central Link, a local tv show.

There is a room that was a kitchen..a traditional, home style kitchen. We want a kitchen where we can cook to take food to market or to have groups here. That other building needs a lot of work before we can have groups here..but markets start up shortly, and getting a kitchen where we can cook and carry food there has been the subject of conversation and planning.

The cornerstone of a commercial kitchen is a triple bowl sink. It is always required, even with high heat/ high speed dishwashers. Triple sinks are expensive..usually over $1,000.

Yesterday I visited the resale shops in the area. Looking for electric double wall ovens, fridges and sinks. I have looked for years, including checking craigslist for cities around here.

This sink was in one of the resale shops, without a price. It had just arrived, and I was told they needed to research before pricing. Waited and wandered. Sent Homer pictures. The price was finally stuck on the piece..$300..less than the metal in flat sheets costs according to my metal worker husband. It is ours now, and my job is to scout for a few additional pieces and then get the state in here to inspect. The dog will never go back in this room again!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

milk..and more

Homer and Sybil have totally worked out this milking thing. She stands sweetly in the field, he pulls a little bit of milk from her. The 2 calves she has nursed for the last 10 months are in the paddock next to her and are healthy, strong and good looking. Sybil is getting quite wide with a new calf on board..and she needs a rest from producing milk, saving calcium for herself and the new calf. Her udder will dry up, but in the intervening time it is very full and a little bit of milking relieves the pressure.

For a brief time in his youth Homer's family lived next door to a dairy farm. They milked mechanically, but still needed to hand milk a few cows. Homer learned how to hand milk, how the milking parlor worked, how to bring the cows in, a little about what to feed them, and just how good the milk tasted! He was paid with a couple jugs of milk whenever he worked there.

He knows how to milk. Sybil did not really know how to be milked..the calf on our field is her first and they learned together. The other calf just helped himself. She is a 3/4 cow..only 3 of her teats produce milk, she had mastitis in the 4th quarter and it does not work..which is why we have her! Not great for a working dairy, but a sweet cow like her is perfect on a small farm like ours..plenty of milk from her 3 quarters for us!

And we have tomato plants with flowers on them. So as we look at what she is producing we think of fresh mozzarella and tomatoes with basil..and of fresh butter..and how easy yogurt is to make..and cream, just leave it in a colander over night..and ricotta..and o my cheeses that hang out longer and become truly tasty..

And creme brûlée from our eggs and cream..yup, that is gonna happen soon. This jug has to separate out so the cream is on top, and then butter, creme brûlée and the best cup of coffee ever can happen. And cookies and milk too. Oh yeah.

Homer requested a milking stool. Some are 3 legged, some are one. Either way it looks like something he could build in about 15 minutes. And we did locate a stainless steel bucket for milking into. It's on with the milk, for certain.


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