Saturday, August 31, 2013

searching for shade

Yesterday had all of us searching for shade. The sun was out and beating down on us. 

The trees and shrubs in our buffer: 30 feet between our property line and our fence, are now providing shade for the cattle. 

When we moved here there was a deer fence that didn't really work, as there were deer everywhere. We added 4 foot fence, electric wire on top and 2 feet of mesh fence on the ground. 

Now, most days when the sun is hot and the temperature is high, the cattle can find nice dense shade. Their mobile water/kelp/salt/mineral provides some shade, but nothing compares to the cool shade of densely growing greenery. 

As we were in the direct sun picking tomatoes, beans, cucumbers and corn we were a bit jealous of the cool herd. 

Friday, August 30, 2013

blind taste test

It is a confusing time of year for a farmer. People come and go on vacation, coupled with a three day holiday weekend, and numbers can get confused.  

A CSA customer showed up yesterday to pickup. She has been sending others while traveling around, so it has been some time since we spoke. 

She went for a bit to the beach at Fire Island. If you have not been there, it is an island where everything is transported via bike and foot, or using wheelbarrow. No cars allowed, and only little stores. 

She had planned accordingly, packing lots of food, making certain the things she loves were with her. Our chicken, eggs and vegetables made the trip. 

The beach house owner also brought eggs. In a giant pack from a giant discount grocer. Immediately, she protected her stash of eggs from our farm, telling her friend not to touch them. 

The friend stated that eggs are eggs. No difference. Oh yes there is, and a blind taste test ensued. Which included the 12 year old son, who has already developed a palate and can distinguish between eggs. And then did so, from behind a blindfold. Of course the CSA member identified our eggs correctly too, but the 12 year old astonishes me. From the first day this spring when he tried our eggs he has been telling me of the vast difference between ours and any other. It just tickles me that a kid can tell the difference!

Much thanks was extended to the host and homeowner. Still issued was the edict "don't touch my eggs". If you can't tell the difference...

Thursday, August 29, 2013

sort of a success, kinda

We have corn!

However, we grow for 40 shares and we are not certain there is enough corn for every share to get a couple of ears. It might just be one. Which seems odd. 

We have grown corn every year but have never had a harvest to distribute. This year we conducted our own, not totally scientific experiment. Same growing conditions, two types of corn. Water and compost and soil covered in black plastic for weed suppression. 

The Silver Queen, as it has every year, fails in this environment. The Country Gentleman was our big winner, and will be all we plant next year. It has been fun watching it grow, set ears, produce silk and now, eat. 

We cut it off the cob, mixed with summer squash, eggs and cornmeal and cooked into a fritter/cake kind of thing. Salted while cooling. Along with it we roasted a (scratch and dent) chicken. It was delicious, and I want it for breakfast. Because it was that good. 

We have to restrain ourselves from picking corn when it looks ready. It is only really ready when the silks dry up and the ear is really full. 

And it is true, the tight twist at the top stopped the bugs getting into the ear. The Silver Queen corn is covered in bugs and the corn worm as well. 

The Country Gentleman went in and needed nothing from us. We cheered it as it grew and grew and last night cheered again as we pulled the husk off, cut the corn off the cob, tasted it raw and then cooked and ate it. It looks a little odd but the taste is kinda great. 

Our goal has been corn without insecticides, herbicides or any other killing stuff. No terminus GMO corn here. 

Shoe peg corn. It's what's we are cooking today!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

a vision

Homer has a vision. Where people don't have mortgages that are huge, instead have well insulated, comfortable homes they build themselves. With a little help from friends and a few professionals. 

The Amish get together and build a house in about a week. The house might be lacking in closet space, and there might be a demand for more electrical outlets, but there is a beautiful place to live, shelter that is, many times, made from wood they milled and dried themselves. 

The idea that a house can be built in a short time without debt and with a group of people building it exists. We have seen it done and have been inside Amish built homes. They are built on a regular basis all over the country. 

Homer wants to add to that. To build a small footprint, super insulated home, with cash and with the ability to grow food near it year round. Sized to go into an urban lot, an existing foundation with water, sewer and electric in place. 

As the years roll on, living with the costs of taxes, low heat costs and no mortgage, the homeowner would be able to have time to create. Meals, music, writing, art, technology, programming, event planning: anything really. Schooling, recreation, strength training, yoga. 

Or any other thing. Like farming. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


Hanging on our living room wall is a collage. Photos were taken of a number of buildings in Hamden, a neighborhood in Baltimore, cut up and assembled together. 

The artist had an exhibit that we attended, both of us liked her work, and the subject made us smile. We have had it for about 17 years. 

For the past 2 nights this bug has appeared as the room darkens and climbs up the face of the glass. The bug is clumsy, large and bright green. We are not certain what it is but it should certainly not be in the house. One of us needs to do something. 

Too big to smash. Too big to catch with bare hands. It is still in the living room, likely looking for a spot to lay eggs. It looks harmless in a no visible stinger hanging off it sort of way, but it is just large enough to be more of a handful than would be fun. 

Life in the country where we don't spray insecticide. And the dogs push out the bottom corners of the screens in the screen doors mean visitors like this one. Bugs like this in the house used to freak me out but things have changed. A left over yogurt container and the lid to move it, then release outside will do just fine. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

left behind

Picky eaters. We all know them. Items can't mix, no hot sauce, no offal. 

Impressive is that picky eaters exist in the animal kingdom as well. If a bird is outside of the pen overnight for any reason (usually they find a gap because of an uneven spot in the ground) it is a given that the next morning something will happen to them. 

This, the remains, is a new one. Google what leaves just the intestines of a bird and there is not an answer. 

It is impressive in terms of how much of the bird was consumed, and what was left behind. Whatever ate was an incredibly selective creature, to leave just this pile and not one other part of the bird. 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

beans and corn

We are cautiously optimistic about sweet corn. We plant every year, but rarely harvest any. 

We tried Country Gentleman this year. Planted with a plastic layer surrounding each stalk for weed suppression. They have grown to huge sizes and there are ears of corn on every stalk. Now waiting for the silk to begin to dry up, as that is the indicator the corn itself is mature and ready. 

Country Gentleman is a shoe peg corn. The kernels are randomly placed on the ear, not in neat rows. 

We planted Silver Queen corn too. Much more uniform in appearance. Bigger kernels. 

Growing as we do without chemicals, corn is a challenge. We have watched, waited, hoped for a harvest. Country Gentleman has beautiful red silks on every ear of corn, a beautiful sight in a sea of green. 

The Silver Queen corn is covered in stink bugs. The plants are stunted and full of stink bugs and corn worms. Very buggy and nothing that looks like we would want to eat. 

We are pulling for you Country Gentleman. Keep growing chemical free, keep those bugs at bay, make those out of the norm looking ears of corn, we can't wait to taste them!

And those purple beans, rattlesnake beans, are also very tasty. Easy to locate and pick in all that green. 

Summer squash in coming in now too. Tomatoes, a little lettuce again, a few radishes. The larger winter squash has formed and is maturing. It's on!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

on turkeys

We start turkeys in the spring under grow lights. The post office delivers them, and the boxes have a different sound than our regular poultry deliveries. 

They spend a bit of time in the brooder, then out into their field pens. By the end of July we have a pretty good idea of how many birds we have, and in August we begin to really take orders: notice goes on the board at market, in the monthly email and on the website. 

At market, some people stand astonished that turkey orders can take place in August. They will ask "really? already?", shake their heads and walk away. 

Others realize that this turkey we grow is not like many others. The numbers are extraordinarily limited: less than 100. 

I'm not really a fan of turkey. Until eating ours, and realizing what a difference there can be in turkeys. And the gravy, made with stock from the feet, yum. 

As always, we keep the scratch and dent birds for us. Last year we had a group of college students buy a bird the week before Thanksgiving proper, they paid with ones and fives, took the bird back and had a feast with their friends. Second year that has happened, and a tradition we love. The vision of each friend finding their $5 each to put towards that big meal just makes us happy. 

This week, so far, we have taken deposits on close to 10 birds. Combined with people who send us checks on January 1, we are well on the way for 2013. While it might be odd to think about turkey dinner in August, we do sell out of birds every year. Each year the sold out date gets further into October and less in November. We only have them until sold out. Preorders only. Because we keep the scratch and dents for ourselves and enjoy delicious turkey all year. $6 per pound, $40 deposit needed to hold each one. 

Looking magnificent. At least the farmer thinks so...

Friday, August 23, 2013

so fun!

We were recently (yes, this photo was August 2013 and it was freezing) awarded Outstanding Conservation Farmer from the York County Conservation District. Official photo here!

working dogs

We started with no dogs. But little by little we are becoming a dog farm. 

The Jack Russell was first. She does an amazing job at rodent control. She is on the hunt most of the day, and is quite effective. Mean. 

The big dog, an unknown mix who was found as a stray puppy in Guatemala, came to us this summer, after being deemed "too protective" by his first family. 

The little one hates the big one. It is an uneasy truce when they are in the same room, usually the footstool is between them. As with everyone else, she gives a short warning growl when he gets too close, and snaps at him if he does not back off. 

Working dogs. Kinda like pets. But not really. On the farm for reasons: to deter small things and big things, since we grow vegetables and livestock there are things out there day and night looking to snack on what we grow. Funny thing, it is a challenge to take to market things with bite marks, and the dogs help prevent that from happening. 

When they are not trying to get on the furniture. 

The big one loves to steal food. He is tall enough to reach the table top. The other day I heard an odd sound and discovered him licking the butter. Ick. He ended up with the entire thing. 

Our losses have reduced. Keep up the good work dogs. There are plenty more chicken feet in your futures. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013


I have fall allergies. I've had them since I was in college, and the worst is usually right around Labor Day. It is a challenge to get to the fall fairs and see the livestock in barns and all the cool stuff submitted by neighbors. I sneeze the entire time. 

Last few years have not been too bad. Maybe I've finally outgrown it. 

Many times this plant, goldenrod, is blamed for fall sneezes. 

But it is not usually the plant that causes allergies. Usually it is ragweed. Which is hard to believe, because ragweed has teeny tiny flowers that are barely noticeable, and the plant is generally nondescript. 

Not certain which arrived first at this spot, the cow flop or the goldenrod. That is a very clean flower and a very fresh flop. Amazing that they are in the same spot at the same time. 

All those holes in the flop part? Probably flies. Or earth worms. Too small to be dung beetles. There is a nest of bald faced hornets not far from this spot, and if it is flies, they will be there over the next few days, harvesting larvae. 

Some jobs, not so great. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

dehydration fail

Tomatoes are coming in strong these days. We grow all sorts of colors, shapes and sizes. 

Sliced and placed in the food dehydrator, we went about the rest of the weekend with visions of wintertime tomato goodness. In soups or stews or tossed into a salad, the intense tomato taste is welcome in those cold and dark months. 

But then, close to the heat source, there was this. 

And further away from the heat source there was this

As ugly as this looks the smell was even worse. It was disgusting. 

And the clean up, that involved getting every speck of this stuff off was gag worthy. 

Bleach was required. 

I'll try again. On days it is not predicted to rain. It has been quite a damp summer, and this capped it. In a gross me out man kinda way. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

what is that?!

As part of the curriculum in the local elementary schools there is an incubator program. Incubator in the old sense of the word, where chickens are hatched from eggs in an incubator. 

After the chicks hatch, we get a few of the chicks. Some end up as laying hens in our flock. A few end up as noisy roosters, crowing and waking us up before first light in the morning. 

On Friday night we heard a sound we have not heard before. We think it was coyotes calling to each other, it was chilling for a pasture based livestock farmer. 

The land we purchased 4 years ago was an exotic bird farm. The woods are full of discarded wire cages of all shapes and sizes. 

Combine all of this, and Homer, and the outcome is this. A series of cages, where the roosters are safe but attractive. Larger cages than a have-a-heart trap. 

Today we see if anything is in there, and what it is. The have-a-hearts are out too, as is the dog. An when we hear birds in panic mode during the night, Homer is out there too. 

We have not lost birds in several weeks. But we know we are not alone and must remain vigilant or we will. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

what goes in our compost bin

We put a little of this and a little of that into our compost bin. 

Cow pies go in and break down. Lots of sawdust from the sawmill around the corner. Not much in the way of food waste, as that goes straight to the pigs, who chow down on melon rinds, apple cores, peaches that have turned and stuff like that. 

When we process poultry there is not much left after. Most things have a use. The few that don't go in there too. 

The other day Homer moved the compost from several bins down to 2. As he measures it, 14 yards of compost. The length, the width, the height of the pallets we use for our bins. He pulled the parts that were done, that are black, rich soil and planted fall crops in it. 

Lettuce, Swiss chard, spinach, carrots, beets, radishes, some brassicas...all in. 

Right now it is all about tomatoes and beans. But in a few weeks it will be too cold for them and time for the cool hearty vegetables again. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

yes, we have flies

We have livestock, so we have flies. 

Since every animal moves around, and leaves their waste behind, it gives the fly an opportunity to lay its eggs. 

When people ask about what we feed our livestock, we are usually asked about  administering antibiotics or growth accelerants. Never once have we been asked about fly killer. Easy enough for an interested person to google a question about cattle and having too many flies around. Up pops many articles and advertisements for fly killers. 

There are many different types. Most have an effect on the central nervous system of the fly, and kill them by breaking that down. 

Fly killer can be administered in a variety of ways. Ear tags, powders, oils. Sprays on the ground or sprays on the cattle themselves. 

The fly killer that I've studied does not discriminate what it kills. Small bugs.

That will not do here. We have bees, parasitic wasps, ladybugs, praying mantis, soldier bugs, butterflies and other good and small creatures here. 

For fly control, we have the bald faced hornet. Crazy to see them carry the flies away. 

We also have birds that arrive every evening, and chitter chatter in the trees with each other. They line the telephone wires. There are more than one kind found in this area: a phoebe, the least flycatcher, willow and alder flycatcher. 

Every day at 4pm the birds arrive. We guess that there is something in the life cycle of the fly that brings so many birds here at that time of day. The tiny birds fly around and land on the cattle until there are no more flies, they eat every one. The birds move onto other livestock and parts of the farm before they head out. 

The bald faced hornets are usually out searching for fly larva earlier in the day. It is crazy to see them tug a fly larva, eat it up and fly back to the large paper nest. Experts report they feed what they have chewed up to their babies. 

We move our livestock in concentrated groups, in small areas. They leave that spot quickly, which allows these fly eating creatures to gain access to their favorite meal. With almost an acre of woods and acres of high grass and shrubs the birds can find spots to construct nests, the wasps have plenty to build theirs too. 

And the livestock get relief from the flies on a continuous basis. By not using the fly killers on our cattle we can allow these tiny birds and hornets and all the rest of our pollinators to be here, doing their important work. 

Clean tasting beef, pork, chicken, turkey and eggs as a result. 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

not on our farm

These two cuties are not on our farm, but are on our neighbors farm. 

They are an indicator of tough times. Purchased at auction, if they did not make across the street they would have gone to the slaughter house. 

It is happening all over the country, and especially in the winter time. Horses, mules, donkeys, hennies are moderately expensive to keep, and they live a long time...20 to 30 years. A lot can happen to an owner of livestock in that amount of time: situations and employment change, and not just dogs and cats find themselves homeless. 

We have rescued two dogs, after Homer vowed never to have one. The little one is mean, the big one is a dufus. They have both been a lovely addition to the farm. When the Jack was ill last fall we both cried like babies thinking we might lose her, and she recovered without missing a step. 

But if members of the equine family show up here you will know some serious changes have happened. While I love dogs and always have had one or wanted one, Homer not so much. Horses, and their associated varieties, he claims have a "kick this man" sign with his picture on it, and he vows never to have them. 

It gets hard to resist when I see a horse listed as "bombproof", described as a horse anyone can handle, sweet tempered and never mean. For free or else heading to the auction to be converted to dog food. But if there is one there really should be two...

Friday, August 16, 2013

some truths about flocks

You have heard the terms: hen pecked, bottom of the pecking order, egg on her face...

These things we see played out every day. Each laying hen flock selects a bird to be at the bottom of the pecking order, and they pick on her. This gal is the bottom of the flock of hens that went out of the brooder yesterday. The other birds have heads full of feathers, and are not bald. 

Hen pecked means exactly the same thing: hens pick at the one all day every day. 

Egg on her face? A hen caught doing something she should never do, cracking open the shell and eating the contents. Caught doing something she is in real trouble for doing. 

We keep this poor gal with her group. If we pull her for protection they just select another to beat up. 

Yup. It's like that. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

honey bee homes

Keeping bees is an expensive habit. The frames, bases, lids, wax boards and bees themselves quickly run to $600-$700 dollars for each hive. 

Even to DIY, to buy the wood, assemble, paint, buy more wood and build inside frames and attach wax backer boards costs. A queen and about 3,000 bees, enough to get a new hive going, is over $100. 

The amount of honey taken from a hive each year can vary. There are honey bees (and many, many other types of bees) everywhere we walk on the farm. It has been wet and cool much of the summer, and honeybees prefer the weather to be above 72 degrees, sunny and no rain. Summer time they build honey stores, enough to last the winter. Enough honey must remain in the hive to support the queen and enough bees to keep her alive and healthy enough to make more bees next spring, when it is warm enough for blooms and pollen gathering. What is removed is for the beekeeper to offer as honey. 

Our existing hives have bees in them. We do not medicate our bees. Most beekeepers do: the assault on such a tiny animal has become untenable for most to survive. The integration of pesticides into a plant have an adverse effect, so do mites, parasites and the general use of weed killers, strong fertilizers and the like on lawns. 

Today we assembled more pieces to build empty hives. Put them out on the property, in separate spots. Some purchased parts, some homemade parts. No bees in them. We have learned that if we put empty hives out, bees will find it, explore it, maybe sometimes make a new queen and move her and a whole bunch of friends into it. 

After that, the honeybees fill the thing with wax and honey. It gets extraordinarily heavy, as the honey and all those bees weigh a lot. Placed on bricks or cinder blocks, these light weight structures, designed to mimic what a honey bee made hive is like in the wild, will become a new home. We hope. Come on over and visit us, stay awhile. We promise to provide lots of pollen loaded vegetables, fruits, berries, trees, shrubs and vines. No pesticides, organic or synthetic. No synthetic fertilizers. 

And at the same time we will leave plenty of bare ground so the native, single bees have spots to live and lay eggs. We all know that while the honeybee waits for warmth and sun, many native bees are jumping out of the ground and getting their pollen on. 

All welcome here!

The lids and bases were painted to protect them from falling apart. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

eggs, hens and production

We have been raising egg laying hens for years. Most of our girls are old breeds of hens, who are good sized birds that lay nice sized, mostly large eggs. A couple of them lay eggs that are too big for the cartons we use, and a couple lay tiny little eggs. We keep those odd ones for us. 

In the spring, local schools hatch out baby chicks from eggs. And we end up with a few of those birds, the White Leghorns. They are bred to be thin birds that lay almost an egg every day. They are our adopted flocks. 

The rest of our birds we select as we order. The most recent flock to join us as day old peepers is comprised of Arucanas and Barred Rocks. 

Last night, after dark, flock adjustments occurred. Some pens had lost members to predators, so they were combined: pulled from their roosts and moved to another, not quite as full pen. The young, not yet laying flock was moved from the brooder, and all 60 are in one pen together. 

If we combine or relocate the girls during daylight they fight with each other. If we wait until dark and put them together, they wake up, get fed, get moved and seem to do fine with each other. No fussing or fighting. 

The new 60 hens will begin laying eggs in November. It takes them 6-7 months before we start to see eggs, and the first few eggs each lays is tiny, too small for the cartons. 

And no poultry losses last night. The dogs are doing their jobs. 

The sunflowers are blooming. The bees are all over them. And the beans are 8 feet high!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

market extension from our poultry supplier

In the mail we received a box, unlike the ones we usually receive from our poultry supplier. The boxes usually have lots of holes in them, and the sound of live poultry or waterfowl are heard. 

This week, filling our mailbox, was an item that can only be described as market extension. Coffee?! From our poultry supplier?

And even more fun, named for the variety of chicken that originates in the part of the world where the bean originates. There will be a total of 8 available, the pound we received is named Araucanas Blend, which means the beans were grown in South America...where those green legged, colorful eggshell laying hens also originate. 

Roasted just hours before shipped, beans from locations that match all of the old breed varieties we raise for eggs, how fun is that?!

Monday, August 12, 2013

just a few days

A few weeks ago, we had no beans. Plenty of plants and lots of flowers, but no beans. Now we have bushel baskets full. Rattlesnake Beans, that start out as purple, then are green with purple streaks, then solid green. Very little if any strings, and delicious, barely need to be cooked. 

Now we have cucumber plants growing everywhere, covered with flowers, but no cucumbers yet. Probably next week bushel baskets full. 

Eggplants and peppers are still lagging behind. With a late cold spell we might have stunted them. Hundreds of plants and tiny harvests. 

Sunday, August 11, 2013


There were winners all over yesterday. At the farmers market in New Cumberland a prize was awarded to one of the youngest market shoppers: a chicken from Sunnyside Farm!

The Scavenger Hunt for York Buy Fresh Buy Local had the final event yesterday: a wrap up party at John Wright Restaurant. 

There were 30+ stops on the scavenger hunt. Farms, wineries, apiaries, bakeries, restaurants, orchards...all over York County. Which, if you visited every spot, was a lot of driving. And apparently a lot of fun: almost one hundred people participated and traveled to John Wright to turn in their game card. More than a dozen visited every location on the list!

The comment heard most, by all of us "I had no idea there was this much going on, right in my area!"

It was true for me too, I had no idea there are that many places in York County to get great eats! 

Prizes were pulled and awarded. Gift baskets filled with goodies, gift certificates, tickets to future events. The grand prize, from Allegro Winery, was a party/tasting for a group of 20, at the winery! Others were for meals, honey, all good stuff. 

And on returning home, my dear husband had cooked up this, for us: a stir fry of food from the farm, beef and vegetables. So good it's for breakfast too. It feels like I'm the real winner!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

more support

The beans have gone wild. While the eggplants and peppers are not loving the overcast and cooler weather of this growing season, the tomatoes and now the beans have just taken off. 

The beans have grown so much that reinforcements had to be installed. The bamboo poles, cut from a backyard and saved for us, have been installed, along with a heavier gauge line across the top. 

The weight was pulling the entire system of support down. Now the many plants have more to hang onto. 

There are a few bean beetles out there, but no where near as many as in years past. We still hand pick and drop into soapy water, then offer to the chickens. They eat them right up. 

Friday, August 9, 2013


A gal has to leave the farm sometimes. 

To get to farmers markets or just for errands. 

Now when that happens, Chaz stands and waits. And whines. And barks. In hopes that I'll answer or come back or take him along. 

He was staring at the door yesterday. I left through this door, came back via the back door. Confusing for a dog it seems. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

trying to love you

Eggplant, come on. I want to love you. Every year we try, but it is so hard. Getting to be down right impossible.

Guidelines/directions say to get eggplant started months before the frost free date. We dutifully comply, inside, under cover, babying, coddling, keeping temperatures warm. 

We do the same for tomatoes and peppers. Kinda similar, those summer loving plants that need to flower, bring on the pollinators, avoid the munching insects that enjoying turning leaves to lacy renditions of the former glorious and full version of the day before. 

They do just the same thing, stunting growth when too cold in spring, plain old shriveling up and turning to mush at the first fall chill.

Remember, this spring when temperatures dropped into the low 40's in York and Harrisburg? When located as we are, here in a spot nicknamed "Bald Hill", just a hump or two over from Ski Roundtop, our temperatures are usually lower. So we scrambled, and covered your sensitive baby selfs with anything we could find: big cans, mason jars, hoops and floating row covers. Johanna was here and gathered every vessel we have, covering so many. Arranging the balance of containers out so I could get them over top.

And the next day, when the sun came out and the temperature jumped? Especially under glass? And scrambling again, to uncover so you didn't get cooked to death. We did the same for all those pepper plants too.

That was May. Like 90 days ago. We put down trickle hose. And weed protection. And have hand weeded. For M O N T Hs.

And there is one eggplant to pick today. ONE. One hundred plants planted, babied. And we have just one eggplant. Who gets it? We have 40 vegetable shares, which we truly thought 2.5 plants per share would cover nicely. As in 4-6 eggplants each week each share.

One? Our hearts are breaking. Worse, the temperatures are cool and the weather is damp. Not exactly conditions loved by eggplants in August. Where are all your little flowers, for our lovely honeybees and bumble bees and all the other pollinators buzzing around our chemical free farm? Not even making them, it appears.

You are on notice eggplant. We are planting, in other beds, those cool weather loving vegetables like raab, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, even trying cauliflower.

Cause the love is waning eggplant. It is slipping away. It's time for you to give back...or it might be time to be replaced with our dear, reliable stalwarts of spinach, Swiss chard and Tom Thumb lettuce.

For now, we are trying to keep the love alive. But it is just about done dear eggplant. 

a message from our predators

We were off farm for a little bit last night to receive a bit of recognition from the York County Conservation District. We are tickled to be the recipients of the Outstanding Conservation Farm award!
A lovely meal, a chance to see a whole bunch of like minded folks and a quick stop to pick up a garbage can full of pig food. Farmers night out!

A limited edition print of apple blossoms and an apple going up on the wall today!

Being out as night was falling, we prepared for bed and missed a few details. While the dog was out, we were not. And at 3:30 birds were squawking and this morning, at least 3 missing from a broiler pen.

And equally so not funny, a little calling card from *something beside not one but two laying hen pens.

To the untrained, nonfarmer eye, this might not look like two different sets of scat, but it truly is.

Not leaving the farm this evening. Redoubling efforts to you know, stop these marauders. There is an APB out for these hated creatures.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

what a mess

Earlier we adopted a flock of laying hens from a family headed out for a couple weeks vacation. The girls had stopped laying and the family had no one to care for them while they were out of town, so our livestock trailer was filled up and about 60 chickens found their here. 

They are a breed we don't usually have on the farm: the red sex link, a standard production bird. They are not really red, and to my eyes they always look messy, with ends of their feathers pale in color and a just overall plain look. 

Now the flock is in one of our mobile pens. We kept them together and separate from our other flocks. And today the number of feathers surrounding and inside the pen indicate that a molt is starting. This means feather loss will be significant and egg production will decrease as they grow new feathers for winter. 

We have 8 pens of laying hens. The rest of the birds are named breeds who molt differently: it is not dramatic with a defined feather bed effect but a lighter loss of feathers. 

A molt is usually a response to lower amounts of sunlight. It signals the birds to get ready for winter, to put on their winter coats for the cool weather ahead. 

I'm not ready for winter myself. Not a big fan of being cold myself. 

Monday, August 5, 2013

tiny predators

On the far side of the last pen, something got in the other night. From our count it looked like only one or two chickens were removed.

But this tiny spot? We think weasels have added themselves to our nighttime list of predators. We used to see the things that went after our birds, but now, alas, it is small things.

The fiercest thing we have heard of are weasels. It seems unlikely that a fox or raccoon could squeeze into a spot that small.

But weasels are tiny and blood thirsty.

It appears the dog scared it off, because it was one chicken dead not the entire pen.

Good dog.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

ears are forming

There are tassels and then there are silks.  

A week or so ago we had tassels at the top of each corn plant. And now there is silk at the top of each ear. The ears are not done growing, they fill in and make each kernel plump before being ready to pull and make for lunch. Or dinner. Or actually, sweet corn is best cooked up and eaten right after cutting from the stalk. 

Boiled, steamed, roasted, grilled? The best way for corn is fresh, fat, rich. With butter too. 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

minerals and salts

Tractor Supply sells 50 pound blocks of trace minerals and salts. Along with kelp, we offer them free choice to our herd of cattle. They can have as much as they want, anytime. 

The organic kelp is a probiotic, a boost to the immune system that keeps them healthy. Some eat more kelp than others, and it is essential to provide after calving. The minerals and the salts are like us needing extra salt in the hot days of summer: as they move about, chew cud, eat tonnage of grasses they need the minerals to keep all their parts working. 

It takes months and months for our herd to use each of these up. They had a couple days where they ran out and then we got new ones to them, and they gathered around and hit it hard. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

don't count your chickens

We are trying not to count our chickens before they are processed. Just a few weeks ago we lost a total of 100 birds, and that has a huge effect on us: left with enough for our CSA shares but not enough for market. 

The addition of the big dog has cut our losses to zero. As his growl rumbles across the property it seems that our marauders are munching on other things during the night. 

We are cautiously optimistic that our flocks from now until November will be intact at processing time. As chicken growers we need chickens to...sell. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013


Picking peas and picking beans requires an eagle eye. When the leaves and the beans are the same color it is easy to miss them, and then they are too stringy and tough to eat. 

The first beans this year have a funny name: rattlesnake bean. Selected because they are two toned and easier to locate on the plant, our initial taste tests are tender, sweet and delicious. We did not cook them, just ate them with a bit of hummus and loved the taste!

On Sunday there were 3 beans per share   Today a handful per share. Last week there were 5-6 tomatoes per share. This week at least twice that. 

Beans and tomatoes freeze easily. Trim off the parts you don't eat and put into the freezer. Start with them on parchment covered trays and then transfer to bags or mason jars. Or skip the trays. When wanting to use them, just put into a pot and cook them for a while, we put a chicken in a Dutch oven along with frozen or canned tomatoes and cook until we can't resist the delicious smell...


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