Saturday, June 30, 2012


Can you catch lightening in a bottle? How about in an iPhone while running to get tools inside after working all day?

Truckload of construction debris now at the dump. Truckload of floor tiles, thinset, grout, spacers and gloves back to the farm. FRP up on all the walls after new insulation and drywall installed.

Clean, white, bright. Easily cleanable. Coming right up.

Friday, June 29, 2012

no sprays, organic or synthetic

We have been growing for years without chemicals. There is a massive list of things that can be purchased and we don't purchase a single one.

Last year, we needed to pick the potato beetle larva off by hand. It took a couple of us quite a few days to get rid of them. This year? The song birds are here, and they are snatching up every soft sided bug larva they can. We have seen a few beetles but not many.

The peas had aphids early on, but with spaying them off with the hose and then the bugs that live for aphid consumption the pea yield has been strong...about 6 weeks of lovely, tender, sweet peas. Nothing like what you think of peas.

This appeared the other day. Our bug id came up with an assassin bug...we just love eats massive amounts of other, plant damaging bugs. And it looks like a bug that deserves such a name.

Happy to use this bug, and many others like it, as our bug patrols. Hold that chemical cocktail, thank you very much.

Thursday, June 28, 2012


The before photos give a better idea of just how ugly this room was before we started.

I was off farm yesterday, running errands. Returned late, in time to see the sun setting behind the mountains, framed by the hole cut in the wall for the new window. Magnificent.

When these buildings were constructed...the house and the other building that holds what was Woody's Bird Farm...they raised exotic birds, sold them, feed, toys, cages...there are virtually no windows that overlook the farm. Both buildings are oriented towards the road, with picture windows facing that direction. I love the grounds here, the sky, the trees, grass and mountains behind, so this big window is just what I want to see!

Before and during. No after yet, as it is a work in progress. Pipes in the ceiling had burst at some point in time, causing a leak, ruining drywall and insulation. This morning that is all closed up and new insulation is in there. Completion of the window and application of wall covering next.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

commercial kitchen

In order to cook food in your home and carry it to a farmers market to sell there are regulations that need to be met.

For baked goods that do not need refrigerating after being cooked, a business can use a home kitchen, as long as there are no pets in that house. We have the dog, so that eliminates our ability to do that.

The other building on the farm had a kitchen in it. Pipes had burst in the ceiling before we moved here, and it was an ugly mess. Torn up ceiling with dangling insulation, ancient, nonfunctional oil furnace, split pipes to the radiators, broken up cabinets, cracked up counter and floor tiles. It was a shell of a kitchen but not really a kitchen!

A commercial kitchen needs a triple sink, a separate hand wash sink, lights with covers, easily cleanable walls, ceiling and floor, freezers, fridges and stoves used all in there, ovens/stoves and fans all cleanable.

We don't have the oven, stove or exhaust fan yet. There are holes in the ceiling already in place for when we do. We have lots of the other needed gear, and are in the process of acquiring the rest of what we need.

There was a an opening in the wall for an air conditioner. When it was removed, we could sort of see out to the farm. This small, high placement opening became a cause for all to look around and think...what can go in there? We need to see the farm, have light, see the mountain beyond!

The drywall has been removed. The sawzall will cut through the wood and exterior sheathing for a larger opening, a kitchen with a view.

The window will be one of the four glass doors our neighbor removed from his house. 2 be came cold frame covers in the hoop house. This one will have part of the door frame removed and then turned on its side. Double glazed glass will help insulate, and a shade will be needed, as last night the sun was beating right in!

Now, visions of what we can prepare in the kitchen and sell at market are forming. Chicken pot pie? Mini meat loaf? Salad with fresh berries, beets on the side? Asparagus quiche?

Cooking what we have is already a favorite. Taking to market will be fantastic!

With a view?! Even better.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Dill and new potatoes. One of my favorite things.
We buy organic seed potatoes and grow them in compost. If potato beetles show up we hand pick them off and feed them to the chickens. There are lots of birds in the potato plants this year too, and it appears that they are taking the potato beetles (they sit on top of leaves, easy to see) and eating them.

When it is time to cook our fingerlings, we usually boil them. Or bake in the oven with a chicken. Then a little salt, pepper and fresh dill. Skins on, because they are tasty and pretty clean. No need to peel, just cook them up and eat them!

Monday, June 25, 2012

pasture raised

The pigs are in pens until they outgrow the pen. We can move them, and keep walkways clear, electric fence lines clear and if we move them quickly enough they do the work of lawn mowers!

We have a livestock trailer and are in the process of acquiring tags for it. Tags have taken a little bit, 2 pigs outgrew their pen and are now in an area where a pond could be. A pond would be fantastic, really. As the pigs root and wallow it is changing the landscape! This steep sided section of the property cannot be used with pens, it is too hard to move chickens on ground like that, the chickens pop out of the pen everywhere. Much time is spent gathering them back to the safety of the pen.

Ducks can use this area, if a pond were there. So for now these pigs have a project.

One electric wire holds them in. It is amazing to see them held in place by such a delicate looking piece of metal.

Sunday, June 24, 2012


Cooler days, so the cattle can be in a more open paddock. Pea plants are shriveling up, so today is it with them. And the tomato horn worms have arrived. Only the full grown laying hens will eat those big fat worms, the peepers are afraid of them!

Saturday, June 23, 2012


Tomatoes in June! For years Homer has said he wanted tomatoes before 4th of July...season extension With the hoop house...and this year it has happened! Grown in dirt/compost, full flavored, real, old style tomatoes. Yay!

Friday, June 22, 2012


Hot the last couple of days and nights. So hot we all have to be careful, as it is easy to do too much and not realize there is not enough water in our systems, or that our core temperatures have gone too high. It is difficult to eat right, as it is too hot to cook much.

The herd of cattle, led by Sybil, appear unconcerned. Tucked into the bottom of the hill and are using the shade of the woods.

And eating everything around. Plentyto eat, they are the only ones on the farm who appear unaffected by this heat wave.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

why we do this

There are many things we love to eat. Lots of vegetables, meat we grow, fruits, grains, dairy from our cow...and then there are summer time foods. Tomatoes, cucumbers and basil. Almost here. Still pea picking but not for long.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Doug Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home and professor of entomology at University of Delaware, spoke in York last night. The place was filled to capacity, and he was warmly received.

He presented some amazing facts and figures about plants, trees, birds and insects. He quoted numbers that I did not write down...but are staggering...of how many acres are in national park, how many paved and how many are in yards. And agriculture too.

As a bug guy, he wants bugs to have a chance. Through a whole run of slides of caterpillars he named one after another, each crazier looking than the rest. And producing crazy looking moths and butterflies.

It turns out that our song birds need massive amounts of caterpillars to raise their young. For a couple of weeks from spring to early summer, many varieties of songbirds are hatching out their babies, who eat caterpillars in staggering numbers. On his own property he observed a pair of birds feed their young from sun up until sun down a caterpillar every 3 minutes or so. All day long! His calculations put the number of caterpillars needed into staggering amounts to get each baby bird to where they can fly.

We have many of the flowers on this list growing on our property. We will add more. His website also lists trees that support massive amounts of birds in their search for caterpillars. We will add more of those too.

Every time we see another bird on the farm we are tickled. This year we had red winged blackbirds all over for a few weeks. Homer saw an oriole the other day, we see gold finches, chickadees and cardinals on a regular basis. While neither of us can identify very many song birds, they do make us stop and look at them, as they are beautiful.

This chemical free farming, rotational grazing, messy property that we have grows bugs. No question. Any as we observe the birds all over we see them pulling caterpillars and other larval bug stages from all over the farm. As I pick peas the birds are flying all around me.

Dr. Tallamy tells us that what the birds are looking for and eating, in massive amounts, are all those baby insects that damage what we grow. That the birds will eat seeds and berries but the first interest is in that larval bug stage, just what we want to get rid of.

Lovely. We will get seeds for more flowers, and next spring, when our county has the annual tree sale, we will be certain to add a few trees, whips they are called because they are so small...Dr. Tallamy advised us to think of them as oak shrubs, so that we can enjoy them in our lifetime rather than thinking that trees are only for the future! We can enjoy a small tree too!

I've read his book and will read it again. He has a different perspective on landscaping than we do...he is neater than we are. It seems the bugs, and the birds, don't really mind.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


It is blueberry season. Like any other berry the season does not last too long, 4-6 weeks at the very most. We love blueberries and have some here, not enough for us to get the 50 or so pounds we need until next year! So plans were made to get to a pick your own orchard, with an early departure followed up with a visit from a friend.

Early morning rain storm. Too cool temperatures coupled with not right clothes cancelled berry picking. Time enough in Dillsburg PA for I photo with the...pickle...and back to the farm for a visit and tour.

Cool and rainy all day, and end up with time on our hands. I finished piecing the top of a quilt I'm working on...machine quilting comes next, oh boy! And berries picked here on the raspberries and blueberries went over banana tempura and vanilla ice cream. After the best steak and potato/no greens ever dinner. That is what happens on a rained out farm day!

Still need that 50 pounds of berries. Putting picking back on the calendar and working to get the freezer full

Monday, June 18, 2012

farmer eats

Dinner tonight had lots of bits from the farm. Chicken, potatoes and massive amounts of salad greens and then black raspberries. A powerful reminder of why we do this.

Early in the morning Homer was stopped by a cop, as there is a tail light out on his truck. Told to get it repaired, he was able to proceed and enjoy his day. Happy that there is nothing else to be pulled over about.

And then a lovely walkabout and visit with Sybil. Blueberry picking today, working towards 50 pounds so we have enough frozen to last until next year. And to eat fresh today.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

cooler in the shade

Still plenty to do every day on the farm. Pen construction is about completed for the year, so we are in a grow and harvest mode now. Takes plenty of time and energy.

When we see the prediction change to almost 100 degrees we know it is time to schedule the days in a different way. Early starts, late evenings and midday hiding in the shade, or in a stream or lake are in order.

The cattle are moving across the back of the property, where there is plenty of shade and even woods they can visit. There are a number of paddocks in this cooler, north facing, shaded area and they appreciate the shade. They are never in this area in winter and only a little in spring/fall, it is saved for the hot days to give the herd a break.

The pigs we hose down. The poultry must have water to is critical that we check and refill buckets, tubes and bell drinkers, that we use clean buckets to carry water to the few pens out of reach of hoses...all in an effort to keep water flowing, clean and clear, with no gunk stopping things up. It is the little things that make a difference.

Saturday, June 16, 2012


We are having the most beautiful weather. Clear, sunny, warm with little humidity. It is a true joy to be in the farm. Everything is growing, producing and looking good. Much of the garden area is walk able, as the pathways have been cleared by human, pig and chicken power. The cattle herd are doing what they are supposed to do, the big pigs are installing their own ponds, the turkeys look great, the chickens are getting closer to the size needed, we are getting clean and gorgeous eggs. The temperature and humidity will climb soon, so we are loving this weather while we have it. Life is good.

Friday, June 15, 2012

calcium supplements, heart disease and stock

Recent news reports sited a medical study on the increased risk of heart attacks associated with taking calcium supplements.

It was not a small group of test subjects. 24,000 people, both men and women. People who took the supplements on a regular basis were 86% more likely to have a heart attack than those that did not. People who used supplements as their "only" source of calcium had a 139% increase in their likelihood of a heart attack.

Does this mean our bones should just be allowed to disintegrate? As farmers, we know their are other options. As people who love to cook we know there are delicious alternatives.

When we deliver a chicken, there is always the option of feet and livers with it. A stock made from the chicken carcass, along with the feet, carrots, celery, onions, salt and pepper and water to cover, set to simmer on the stove for an hour or so, then poured through a colander and into a bowl, will produce a tasty stock full of calcium and other goodies. Substitute for any time water is making rice or a gravy from the stock, a little butter and flour in the bottom of a skillet. Or take the stock and use it to simmer another whole chicken in it, allow the chicken to cool, pull all the meat off, put it back in the pot, and add something else that we grow: greens of any kind. Along with any other vegetable you live, an easy, one pot meal that will be certain to taste great.

And increase your calcium. Those dark leafy greens: kale, collards, spinach, turnip greens, mustard, tatsoi, Swiss chard, beet greens...and more...have calcium available when eaten.

Something tells me eating greens and regular dishes made with stock from chicken or beef bones might also be a great way to eat. And the greens, and the grass fed meats we produce, might even be good for you in other ways...

Thursday, June 14, 2012


The pen design for the laying hens changed this year. We have more egg layers than ever, so the needed more protected space for them.

The pens are pretty easy to move. They were covered with tarps this an effort to reduce the amount of chicken wire on each pen.

Turns out our girls did not like the change one bit. A few weeks ago we had 3 eggs from 200+ hens in one sunny, clear spring day. So changes had to be made...the bell drinkers had to go on and chicken wire, better roosts and a huge reduction in shade.

Yesterday...6 dozen eggs. Same hens, no change in feed, grit, oyster shell...just water and sunshine.

Or maybe it was just the change of pens and flock grouping...Homer jokes about how all girls like their homes neat and unchanged...we won't ever really know what caused our girls to stop but are sure happy to see eggs again!!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

turkey eats

This looks like a stand of weeds to most people.

To us it looks like a meal for our turkeys. We know that when the pen arrives there the turkeys will eat every inch of this plant, including the roots. Their very favorite weed to eat is thistle...covered in large thorns that require gloves, long sleeves, head protection and possibly a shovel for one of us to pop it out of the ground. The turkeys grind it down to nothing.

They will have to be a little bigger to tackle this stand of weeds around a fruit tree, but they've proven it can be done.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


The pigs are moving all over the farm. Summertime is here and they are rapidly growing.

Here are the two Herefords, resting up before clearing out all that is growing under their pen. They graze just like cattle, eating what is growing all over. If we move them quick enough...if we take too long the earth is stripped bare.

Monday, June 11, 2012

off farm

Homer left the farm yesterday. In June. Amazing.

He was there at our CSA distribution and other deliveries. He found a spot in a tree to hang a bag of vegetables for one of our CSA members who was running late.

And then we attended a meeting of people considering new options for housing. Some people there we have known forever, some we just met. As the conversation evolved, it became apparent that we are not the only ones considering a pretty strong shift in housing, while not paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to do so. Reassuring.

We were there when our friends Lola and Stu burned their mortgage. They made a copy of the paperwork that breaks down how much a household pays for their living space, and when they had made the last payment (at an accelerated pace, paid off years before required date), Homer and I attended the burning and cheered them on.

I've known other people who live mortgage/rent free. We do, and it is life changing.

The next largest payment we make annually are our real estate taxes. And just behind that? Utilities. Oil to heat this house we don't love, built when oil was $.50 per barrel.

We have visitors to the farm on a regular basis and we always talk about how to reduce costs of living, and about how people can have hope of home ownership that does not bankrupt them. How to have a sense of security that come what may, things will be well.

We are there in many ways. Eventually knocking this house down and rebuilding is in our plan. Nice to have a couple more people interested in the same outcome to bounce ideas around with.

And there was something I had never had. Watermelon juice. With crushed ice. Like a slushee drink, only much better. Just watermelon juice and ice. Amazing. Yum.

Back to farming! Another hot day with no rain, everyone/thing needs plenty of water, no running out.

Sunday, June 10, 2012


Some of what grows in our pastures is grass. Some of what grows is a mix of many things in just one square foot. Some the farmers eat...the raspberries are just starting to ripen. These are not raspberries that can be transported as they don't stay together long after being pulled from the came. Best to stand and stuff straight into ones mouth.

Saturday, June 9, 2012


We grow great greens. The collards planted last fall produced most of the winter...until we has stripped every leaf and had to wait for them to grow back.

They can be added to and soup or stew: if sliced thin you barely know you are eating them! My favorite is to carmelize onions and garlic (cook them in olive oil until burned) then deglaze the pan (with water, chicken broth, wine or any liquid flavor you prefer) add the just rinsed wet greens and cook them down. A little bit of balsamic vinegar at the end to add a little flavor. Yum.

We let them go to seed and continued to eat the leaves, until only stalks were left. Now, the result is, Homer estimates, one million seeds in seed pods drying. We plan to give some seeds away and keep about 100 for ourselves.

Friday, June 8, 2012


The Farmers Market in Hershey is situated on a grassy patch near the Hershey Medical Center. It is across the way from where the helicopter goes out to collect people for treatment at the shock/trauma unit.

When I hear the helicopter start up I about who must be needing it, and I send hopes and thoughts that the person can really be helped.

There are a few Amish vendors at the market. One runs every time the helicopter launches, and stands to watch as it flies off. When it returns, this young man runs back to where he can see it again. Watches as it lands, as it hovers over the ground before gently settling back down on its designated spot.

When I used to travel a lot I'd see Amish on the trains. They get rides to market from the English...what they call those of us not Amish. I'd see them occasionally on airplanes. This young man is a new vendor, so I don't really know him...beardless, so likely unmarried, I met and spoke with the guy about my age who was there the first week, but not this young man.

When I was in Australia my sister and I took a trip on a 4 seater helicopter. It was in the area around the Great Barrier Reef and the oldest plant life on earth, where mountains meet the sea, prehistoric looking beasts in the water and on land, amazing sky. We were taken to a private beach, flew just over the tree line between the huge mountains. I loved it. It was amazing. The helicopter zipped about, quickly taking us out over the water where we could see the alligators submerged, the reef further out, the waterfalls on land. Amazing.

When I see this young man run to observe the flight of the helicopter I think about all the freedoms I have. I can travel where I want, jump right into the helicopter, I never have to wear double knit polyester or the very ugly shoes those poor women hair can be covered, loose, tied up...I don't think about what would be considered "worldly" and make efforts to avoid it. My mothers family was in Pennsylvania centuries ago: long enough ago that my great grandmother was a member of the DAR. But I've not heard that they were anabaptist or plain people, they were from England not German...probably, as most folks who left England, Puritanical, but not plain sect.

Thank goodness. This young man tugs at my heart: in the English world he could be a pilot, a medic, a helicopter technician or the guy who pumps gas into the thing. His birth requires him to stay more earthbound, land bound, plain, without worldly aspirations.

I love being a farmer's wife. We eat like royalty, get to own land that has amazing things growing on it, get to rebuild the soil, farm in quiet, with birds, bugs, snakes, turtles, is beautiful.

And if I wanted to, I could jump in a helicopter, jump out of an a tad further and ride every ride at Hersheypark, even shop the outlets.

Clearly this young man has a fascination, an unbounded curiosity about these flying machines. He runs to a spot to get the best view of the helicopter, returns to his booth at a slow, hang dog pace. His joy and interest are balanced equally with his look of resignation as he returns to his customers.

Freedom. Imagination. Creativity. Dreams. Goals. Plans. Not all of us in this country are free to go for what we want. Glad to be one of the ones who can, and always has.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

full on

and now, it is on..beds are being filled with seeds and emptied of plants every week. The farmer eats all the overgrown stuff, gone to seed stuff, ugly stuff! The rest goes to our CSA customers. Yum.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Our second or third attempt at growing wheat. It is already growing in a number of spots in the farm, here we planted after pigs were in this spot.

Turns out most farms grew a patch of wheat. And had a grinder if some kind, or a local mill, to grind it up. Homer has a scythe and is not afraid to use it in harvesting. Now we watch, wait and see if we get a crop. Save some of the seed heads to plant again. And figure out how to grind it. Then? Pancakes. Bread. Maybe waffles.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


A brief season for peas. A month at the very most. We have 3 types planted, and the English peas are certainly the most challenging to grow. We probably pick them too soon!

We never cook them. The farmer eats the larger, tougher peas, the peas that should have been picked last go round. Then on the plate right next to a sandwich, like a potato chip.


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