Thursday, January 31, 2013


Sunnyside Farm vegetable CSA runs from mid-May until November. Now, in January, we are preparing for those days!

40 yards of compost was delivered yesterday. That's a tractor trailer full. Each year we add to our vegetable beds from our own on farm compost as well as from this hot, steaming pile of fun!

The distance from the front of the farm where this is unloaded is not too far, until truck load by truck load, this 40 yards is moved. Which is why we take delivery now, this takes a while to do!

Holes are dug in preparation for tomato plants. The soil is removed and will be refilled with fresh soil, as tomatoes are heavy feeders. Last growing season additional compost was added a couple of times through the summer, that will be done again this year.

So it starts now, with seeds here, soil prep, seed starting, weed pulling (there's always that!!), seedling transplant.

We are still eating greens from inside the hoophouse. Yesterday we had potatoes with spinach and eggs. The potatoes were roasted in the oven a week or so ago (about 5 pounds all at once) and then used a bit at a time. Yesterday the potatoes were diced, reheated in the oven with a bit of spinach and cheese on top and an over easy egg on that. A bit of beef on the side. We have heard that breakfast should be the big meal of the day, and it is here!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

gone broody

One of our 400+ laying hens has gone broody. Night and day she is on a nest of eggs. We pull them out from under her but she waits for the other gals to put eggs in the nest and then *bam, she is on them.

There are a couple of roosters on the farm. Not on purpose, but here non the less. We can combine a rooster with a small flock that includes this girl and provide her a nest of eggs that would hatch and be chicks. One rooster is a Cuckoo Maran. That variety of chicken lays an egg that is a rich, very dark brown in color. He gets my vote, as I love a box of eggs with a wide assortment of colors! And we still have a few Maran hens, together we will have lovely chicks!

We also have a small incubator. It holds about 2 dozen eggs, has a reservoir for water (so eggs stay moist, a must for egg hatching) and an automatic turner. Not the same as being in the nest under a hen, but it help us produce twice as many chicks. Might be time to fill it and a best for this gal too.

This hen is a brahma. She is a good sized gal with feathers all down her legs, pleasant and quiet. Good traits for a momma hen.

And focused. Even the bug could not make her move from the nest!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Tomorrow will hit 60 degrees?! In January? Today 50?

Time to get outdoor work done! Last weeks snow will be no more instead it will be a sea of mud. Ack.

Monday, January 28, 2013

and they rest

The sow ended up with about 10 piglets. With only 14 teats, how many can she really support?! They are busily and nosily feeding all day long. All night too. At this stage they eat every hour.

She moved herself so her back is against a wall, none of the piglets can get behind her.

Plenty of water available to her. For these early days the bedding is hay, sweet smelling and tasty...she can have it as breakfast.

The dirty eggs go to her. Along with brick hard old bread and vegetables that have turned a bit, and a bit of traditional feed. A gal needs her strength to nurse 10 piglets!

Our boar is proven. He is gentle and calm, and will have the opportunity to visit some other farms to cover their sows. A lucky fellow.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

9 degrees

It's supposed to be 9 degrees overnight. Our sow had piglets. Tonight. Under a full moon she gave birth to 12 piglets.

Homer noticed earlier today that the sow was exhibiting signs of imminent birth. There was already a shelter and a nest, which he reinforced in a number of ways.

When we visited the farm show a couple of weeks ago we noticed piles of sheep shearings...wool. When we asked about it we were told it would be thrown away, that we were welcome to take it.

That went at the bottom of her nest, as insulation against the freezing ground. Then a couple of bales of hay.

She gave birth on the coldest night of the year. The low temperature is 13 tonight.

More needed to be done. Sides went up and heat lights went on. With that it is about 70 degrees in their enclosure.

Homer assisted the birth, dried off each piglet, helped them find the teats. Very quickly each piglet started moving around, squealing, getting into a pile of pigs.

Amazing. Not a flattering photo of the momma pig but here they are.

Saturday, January 26, 2013


Never have we had eggs like this in the dead of winter.

It's true that we have twice the number of laying hens than a year ago. But a year ago we did not have a dozen eggs a day. This year we are getting many dozen each and every day.

So if you need eggs...get in touch. 19 dozen went off the farm in the last 2 days and the girls keep making more. Yum

Thursday, January 24, 2013

solid steel

A few years ago Homer was sitting at a red light, and a young man in the car behind him drove into him. He was also at a stop, but decided to jump the light and *bam hit the bumper.

Not much damage. To Homer's truck. The car that hit him kinda crumpled. A little crack in the bumper, a slight loosening of the trailer hitch. No worries. The kid was upset, scared of the consequences for him...he was issued a ticket and had quite a bit of repair work needed to the front end of his car.

But now we haul livestock. In a trailer attached to that bumper. It got a little looser...and we had visions of ugly things happening as we drive across the always under construction roads between the farm and the butcher. Livestock on the highway...mayhem.

A simple repair today. A plate of solid steel. The hitch cut off and a solid hookup is ours.

Even better: Homer returned to the farm and both the cattle that need to get in the trailer were in the trailer. All he had to do was slide the gate shut.

Safe and secure. Frozen ground, not a sea of mud. Tax reports completed. Now, if the tractor trailer of compost delivery will get to the farm while everything is solid and the rig can get back to the hoophouse...and it does not need to be transported one truckload at a time...well, farmers can dream!

greens for pigs

Portions of the hoophouse have beautiful vegetables. And other portions have weeds, the bane of any grower.

So this bright green, at this time of year, goes from being an annoyance to being pig food.

Pulled from the beds and walk ways, shoveled into a wheelbarrow, turned out to the pigs who love it.

Cardboard and heavy paper will go down to slow this stuff up. It is the last section to be tamed...a few years ago the entire hoophouse was overgrown and unusable. Just this last section needs to get formed beds with wood frames and covered walkways. Everything is always time and money...and winter time pig food too!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

no photos

We chronicle our lives here on the farm using our iPhones. We snap pictures all day long, and use them for this blog, for Facebook, for sending to family and friends.

This week it is bitter cold. Low of 10 tonight, high of 18 tomorrow. And the same the rest of this week, with the added bonus of accumulated snow on Friday.

A friend called to ask about their chickens...seemed they lost one overnight, it was frozen to the ground. It is just so cold that the livestock must flock together to keep each other warm. And so do the farmers!

We are not able to use the iPhones for photos on days this cold. There is a point where the phones just refuse to operate, and we have hit it.

In the summer we are broiling, the heat can make it hard to breath for a week or two at the we are at the opposite end of the spectrum, where we don multiplier layers of everything, including gloves and hats. And turning the oven on to help warm up.

by products from milk

This is an interesting infographic on milk, and it's derivatives. I've wondered about choices of what to do with milk, and what food comes from which process.

Different parts of the world have different names for quite similar foods. Yogurt, in many areas of the world known by different names, is one example.

It looks to me geography had a bit to do with what happened to milk. Cooler areas could age cheeses, hotter climates developed variations on yogurt.

Farmers today have the entire chart to choose from. Milk can be made into any of these anywhere in the world now. And into at least one more thing not on this infographic: my favorite, ice cream.

Monday, January 21, 2013

it's a mystery

Found. Inside our hoophouse. A tasty green with an interesting shaped leaf.

The leaf is shaped like a shield and with a pronounced lemon taste. Went through the seed catalog and discovered a match: it looks like it might be sorrel.

Whatever it is, we are eating it! Right inside the sunny hoophouse. Temperatures are scheduled to drop below freezing day and night for the next few days, so fresh bright greens are the perfect antidote! Along with wool socks.

Sunday, January 20, 2013


Wintertime greens, grown in the protection of the hoophouse, are the best of the entire year. Research has been done into which vegetables can grow and thrive in the shelter from wind but still freezing cold temperatures that occur at night. While daytime temperatures soar to 100 on a sunny day, nighttime it is down to the outdoor temperatures: in the 20's last night and predicted in the teens this week.

The list of vegetables that can withstand these conditions is not extensive. But it is wonderful to eat, roast, make into salad, cook as part of a stew, sauté in a pan, add to an egg dish, send through the juicer...good stuff.

With just a little protection from the wind, plenty of good, local stuff can be consumed in the cold and darkness of winter.

Yesterday we had a few visitors, and most were able to slog through the mud and visit the hoophouse. Sunny, bright, cold, windy and muddy outside, open the door to the unheated hoophouse and it is like a tropical paradise. The man cave, sunny and very warm, warm enough to take the chill away from all extremities.

And then the harvest! Here, Tom Thumb lettuce and Cherry Belle radishes. 10 pounds of yum.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

vegetable starts

These pots do not have any seeds in them yet. The seed orders have been placed, and the packages are arriving.

This high topped low tunnel inside our unheated hoophouse will serve as a home for the tomato, pepper and eggplant vegetable seedlings. And they will go in here by mid-February. It might seem too early to get seedlings going, but by the time summer is here we all want tomatoes as early in the year as possible. The high top allows them to grow tall, the double layer to the outdoors protects from the very cold temperatures, and the amount of sunlight increases as the seedlings grow.

We start 12 types of tomatoes. Some end up for sale at the farmers market, most stay here. The extra ones are only sold when we are certain there are plenty for our needs, that enough are growing and strong enough to produce tons of tomatoes until fall.

Friday, January 18, 2013

on antibiotics

Our milk cow is sick. She can't tell us what is wrong, so it is a matter of trying a variety of things and hoping that one or another helps.

She has had a cold nose, she is shivering sometimes, and has a heavy mucus in her nose. A cold perhaps? She did not have a bowel movement for a day, so we were concerned that she had a blockage, but she has eaten and had a movement we are hopeful there is no blockage.

We have been keeping her warm where she went down by covering her with hay. We are giving her water with electrolytes to help give her a boost. Each day we are giving her antibiotics too. Also higher protein feed.

She is not well. Without the ability to communicate we just have to use clues, keep her warm, help her stay hydrated, fed and her bowels moving. Antibiotics to help her system fight off whatever might also be there.

Antibiotics were discovered in 1928. A few years earlier than that, Homer's grandfather died from an infection from an impacted tooth. It seems amazing now that such a simple thing could cause a loss of life. We will run the course of antibiotics through her, not use her milk (she will likely not be producing any in another few days) and let her rest. And hope for the best.

Here she is, while drinking just now. About 2 gallons worth. Normally she consumes massive amounts more than that, so we are hopeful but not confident of recovery.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

one day

Yesterday morning the milk cow was up and moving. By last night she was down, ears back, lethargic.

We are in the midst of transporting our cattle to the butcher. The trailer is large enough for a few at a time so it takes more than one trip, and we were both off farm part of the day.

Sybil is a Jersey cow, a breed that is naturally curious. So when she does not get right up, come right over to see us something is wrong. Actually, having her here for a couple of years she has always gotten up as we have approached her, except for yesterday.

We called friends who keep a mix of livestock, and they arrived quickly. Armed with a variety of things they set to work with me asking questions "what are you doing now", "what are you looking for". We have instructions for follow up.

If it is a blockage in her intestines the vet bill/surgery cost more than the cow is worth. If she has a cold...just like in humans, her mucus is milky, not clear, she just needs to be made comfortable and the cold will run its course.

Our friends built a nest around her. She was cold and wet and not able to move, so they carried bales of hay (we are out if straw, so the good stuff had to be used) and broke them and stacked it all around and over her. The rain slowed down a bit. We could feel her warm up under the insulation of the hay.

Instructions for follow up. A trip to Tractor Supply for things to help her along. Guarded optimism that Sybil will pull through. Thankful for folks with greater knowledge, a comfort to panicked farmers. And down cows.

This is her with the calves, yesterday morning in the back yard.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

starting leeks

If you have ever set out to grow from a small, difficult to get one seed in one spot vegetable you know how hard it can be.

Clumps of plants. Bare areas. Weeds overtaking the baby plants. Frustration for the grower, when there is no real idea how many of any one variety is growing.

Homer built The Speedy Seeder to make growing easier and faster. To be able to fill a planting bed full, without overcrowding.

These leeks were put into this bed last fall. Sometime this summer we will be able to harvest won't be quite a year, but it will be close to it. Each leek will fatten up to an inch or so in diameter. Right now each leek is about the size of a thread.

Normally, we would be fussing with weeds, spacing and germination. Using The Speedy Seeder we know just how many are in the ground, and it is enough for a number of weeks worth of distribution for our vegetable CSA.

There are now 2 videos that demonstrate how to use The Speedy Seeder on our Kickstarter page. Kickstarter works that only if we are fully funded to we get any funds: we must reach our goal of 800 Speedy Seeders ordered to be able to receive our funding and fill orders.

Watch both videos. Order a Speedy Seeder. Forward the link to your friends. Grow leeks, carrots, lettuce, herbs, flowers from seed and enjoy the beauty with a tremendous reduction in hassle.

Here's the link: Click on it now. And get growing.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

spud dreaming

Wintertime. Projects are completed that in the growing season are just thoughts. Or sometimes fragmented conversations.

Potatoes need to be covered. But they don't have to be underground: any where there is darkness and soil potatoes will grow. Sometimes no soil is needed, they will sprout right in the kitchen!

This year we will grow potatoes inside pallets, strung together to form large areas above ground. Not for the planting or the growing, but for the harvesting. Easy to open a box, separate parts, and pull out what is needed for 40 weekly shares, leaving the rest undistirbed.

Monday, January 14, 2013

starts now

Most of our laying hens arrive on the farm as day old chicks. We order them as sorted peepers, only receiving females.

Sometimes we get them as adults from other places, and those hens are usually the sex links...not really red, not buff, somewhere in between.

We started a batch of Rhode Island Red hens last summer. Tiny balls of fluff when they arrive, these girls are now big, sturdy and have just started to lay eggs. Yesterday they had a dozen in the nest box. Muddy, because it has been raining or misting or foggy everyday for a bit now, the ground is not frozen, so they aren't so much scratching as slogging these days.

Always lovely when new eggs commence. These are still the little ones, by next week they will be full sized enough to go into the cartons.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

January water

Our system of water transport to the livestock is fairly unsophisticated. There are a couple of cold proof spigots on the farm, and a series of hoses link up to them. On days when it will freeze and not warm up barrels are filled and dipped with buckets after the skim ice is broken.

We have been able to use the hoses on many mornings this year. The temperatures are warm enough that the water flows through. It was colder in December but not so much now...

Saturday, January 12, 2013


We don't have any piglets. Yet.

A breeding pair of blue butt pigs have had the run of a sizable area for a few months now. Parts of it are muddy, especially in the rain we had yesterday. It was waist high grass when they moved in there.

It is obvious that the two of them could not make a new generation inside the confines of our rolling pig pens. So last fall they were given their own half acre.

Three months, three weeks and three days is the gestation period of a pig. There are now structural changes happening to the sow that indicate she will give birth soon.

Today the two of them will be separated. Each probably weighs 400-500 pounds, and piglets are pretty small at birth, so the boar does not really need to be right there.

The boar will go on a ride to another farm to, as we say in farming, cover their sows. He has proven himself a piglet maker, and the easiest way to widen genetics on a farm is to have occasional visitors.

A couple of extra bales of straw will go into the pig shelter. She makes a nest...just like the chickens do, only this is large enough for her. She is settling in nicely.

Friday, January 11, 2013


Yesterday I traveled to Washington DC to show support to the group of farmers working to help save the family farm.

Seeds have been copy written by some major companies in the United States and Canada. Court cases have been brought against farmers and seed savers by these corporate entities for copyright infringement. A small group of growers and seed houses has filled a case that protection is needed from drifting pollen and resulting lawsuits from these major companies. This was their time to appeal the refusal of a court in New York to hear the case.

The attorney on the case is from a law school in New York. He uses the case to teach students in real time how the law works.

Most interesting and telling is that the case involves no money. The group of growers and seed houses want to be able to grow and save seed without concern of being involved in court cases. They want protection from the law that we can grow without threat of reprisal for pollen drift: but don't want money from these large companies. Just the ability to grow and save seed without fear of copyright infringement.

Seem like a basic human right, so I traveled down there to show support. In this picture are farmers from western, central and eastern Pennsylvania. A CSA member. An advocate for GMO labeling on food. And Jim Gerritson, key plaintiff in the case.

The panel of judges will hand down a decision later on this year. We are hopeful that it is in favor of seeds that anyone can grow and save.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

and the winner is...

We were able to attend the PA Farm Show in Harrisburg PA yesterday. Some volunteer time and then time for wandering.

We came across this sheep as 8 groups prepared for the sheep to shawl competition. She was shorn, then covered with a jacket while her team carded, spun and wove her fleece into a shawl in 2.5 hours.

I thought she was beautiful, and her dark wool, set against the array of colors already on the loom, created a shawl that was the winner.

The teams were impressive, working in concert, creating intricate weaving a under pressure of time and competition to complete a beautiful work of art. What a treasure.

The sheep shearer we spoke to said the next competition like this is in May, at the Maryland Sheep and Wool festival. That can be tough for us to get off farm, so it might just be next January before we see this again!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

even in winter

It must be warm enough underneath those cow pies that something is alive and eating through them. It has been solidly freezing at night and a bit above freezing during the day, and something is munching out and reducing our cow pies to nothing...still.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Al Gore, via satellite

Love him or hate him, Al Gore has been effective at getting people to consider human impact on the environment. He wants people to understand his perspective, after much conversation with scientists, of what our world might look like to the next generation.

Through the miracle of technology, he will give a talk in New York that can be viewed live in York, PA. Days that we can be on the farm, taking care of our livestock and getting the rest we need...and having the opportunity to hear a man who stirs up thoughts like Al Gore does...are few. I'll be there. And I'll be trying to pay the admission few with a dozen eggs too: as Homer always says: try it, it just might work!

Sunday, January 6, 2013


Hay. It is really just dried grass and stuff. Mowed when the grass is high, allowed to dry in the sun, turned a bit, then squished into blocks. Stacked in a barn where it stays dry until an animal needs to eat it.

Calvin has 175 acres around the corner from us. Born in 1925, he is still running his farm the way he was taught as a kid. Modern farming techniques involve rolling hay into massive bales that require an entire new set of equipment to get the exact same job done...but then the farmer is in debt for shiny new equipment. The big bales, round or square, can't be moved by humans so when the hay is needed a diesel burning piece of equipment must be fired up.

The big bales don't fit into barns. They get left on the field, and if the sales rep from the equipment manufacturer has had a good day, they have sold the farmer (at a "low interest loan") another piece of equipment that spreads plastic over the hay.

Offer an animal a bale of hay like Calvin makes and stores in the shade of his barn constructed of locally grown and harvested wood and a chunk off a bale of hay that has been inside a sheet of plastic, in direct sunlight since last summer. Which hay do you think they select?

I'm not certain when the barn was built. The license plate hammered into place to cover where things chewed into the wood is from 1931. I do know that my limited sense of smell, compared to what an animal can smell, can still distinguish the sweet smell of summer in Calvin's hay. And the smell of plastic on the more "modern" hay. We will get our hay from Calvin for as long as he continues to make it.

The herd of cattle ran like a stampede to get to it. The pigs do their ZZTop imitation, giant mouthfuls consumed. We don't have a barn, so the hay gets stacked in Homer's man cave, where on sunny afternoons he lines a couple bales up and naps on them. The warm sun, the sweet smell of the dry summer grasses, a bit of milk right from our beautiful girl Sybil and he clunks right out. Ah.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

thoughts on small scale farming

An undercapitalized farmer, with access to land, could purchase a Speedy Seeder, $50. Made of metal it will last for years. They could buy a variety of seeds, enough for 40 shares for 26 weeks. They would know, week by week, exactly what the harvest will be, with no wasted seeds. They could spend time watering and picking bugs off and harvesting. Purchase 40 yards of compost and spread that in 3-4 inch depths over their land. Not use fertilizer or pesticide. Or gas or diesel.

Total spend? Cost of land. Seeds...$1200. Compost...$1000. If there is a water source, water cost $1000. Speedy Seeder $50. Salvaged paper or old newspapers, nothing. Drip tape $350. Some hand tools at yard sales.

And just like that. 40 more households eating local. Another business started. Our goal in bringing The Speedy Seeder to a Kickstarter campaign? To get 800 more people growing and eating for themselves or for others too.

We are dreamers no doubt. But we are doers too, and people who love to eat too. Lets all eat carrots! Fresh from the ground, nothing like it.

Friday, January 4, 2013

roasted radishes

Radishes grow quickly, from seed in ground to ready to eat in less than a month. There are bigger radishes that take longer and have a really string bite but most people are more familiar with the red ones, the Cherry Belles and the French Breakfast.

Homer has been setting seed with his Speedy Seeder almost every day. To test what will grow and germinate in winter, and to stop weed growth inside the hoophouse.

Radishes are the perfect thing to work with. Thousands of seeds in a pack for a few dollars.

Dinners now, on a regular basis, consist of many greens. Lettuces, spinach, kale, collards, Swiss chard, mustard. Radishes, carrots, onions, garlic along with butter, salt and pepper go into the oven until tender and hot, then right over the greens. A dressing of honey, mustard, olive oil, hot peppers that we grew last summer, dill, chervil, parsley fresh from the garden.

A fantastic mix that, as Homer says, the more goes in the better it tastes.

No bugs in the greens. Slugs are on holiday. Yesterday, in the sunshine, the hoophouse was warm and tropical. For a small window of time it feels like Florida out there!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

almost 2%

Yesterday we launched our campaign for Homer's Speedy Seeder on Kickstarter. In less than 24 hours, we are almost at 2% of goal! The video that Homer filmed (hey, we are farmers, not film makers: sorry for the sound!) has been viewed 165 times!

After several years of not really knowing what was planted...cause really...seeds and dirt are the same color...Homer decided there had to be a better way.

No tractor. No rototiller. No crawling around on hands and knees.

But best of all: you know just how many of any one thing you have planted. Need 400 carrots each week? Or 40? Plant exactly what you want to harvest each week.

Seeds are the least expensive part of growing. But wasting them is awful. Thinning them is worse.

The link:

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

bike helmet

We have had a lovely season of celebrations. A wedding, solstice celebration, Christmas parties, New Years. Along with festivities have been interesting planning meetings, offers of conventional funding of Homer's ideas, solutions to housing, home heating, food chains: the ideas are flowing on a regular and frequent basis.

Yesterday we had a chance to catch up with a friend we have known for years. We had heard she had been injured in an accident, and we were so happy to see here up and about.

It turns out that she is the third person we know who was hit by a car while riding a bike. The third person to suffer some serious bone crushing that required extensive time at a trauma center, followed by lengthy physical rehab.

Also the third person wearing a bike helmet. None of the 3 we know suffered any brain or spine damage. Each of the 3 attribute this to the bike helmet they were wearing.

Wear one. Get it properly fitted. Please don't get on your bike without it.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...