Thursday, October 31, 2013

pig rescue

"Would you rescue a pig" read the email. We looked at each other and wondered.  What we do with a rescue pig? We are farmers and one of the things we grow is...pork. 

The pig has a story. Police officers caught in a city. Not as big a city as Harrisburg, but a city none the less. 

And then transported to an animal shelter where she had been for 30 days. The people working at the shelter reached out to vets, to get the pig vetted. No answers. 

We went to get her. Expecting a pig that looks like our pigs. In the photo she was pink, so we figured she was a Yorkshire or a blue butt like some of the pigs we have here. 

Instead, there was this. 

A petite pig. Not a big pig. Just a small one, with a big head and mouselike ears. 

When she got into her mobile pen, she did what every other pig does. 

She tore up the ground under the pen in less than 24 hours. A pig, for sure, but maybe bred on purpose to be little. Her tail is very long, almost touches the ground, and has very long hair at the end. 

She will be here for quite some time. She fits perfectly in the pen built to go under the electric fence lines. She has a job to do, keeping them clear of the stuff that grows there. 

Adopted pig from the city streets. Didn't think that would happen. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

it's ok

When you visit the farm, it's ok to bring things like this back to the kitchen sink. 

There are two kitchens on the farm, so to be clear these types of things belong in the house kitchen, not the commercial kitchen. 

As we go about our day, coffee mugs and drunk glasses grow legs and end up all over. Come back to the kitchen so we can have a cuppa tea!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

food waste

Beans. We eat beans almost every single day. In the summertime as fresh green beans and now, as we head into colder months, as dried beans cooked in a pot with other stuff. 

The vines were stripped of all beans. 

These are all edible beans. The thinnest one is a delicious, eat the whole thing bean. The ugly dried up one at the top is a bean that gets stripped from the casing and used as a dried bean. And the two in the middle, still green but with an indelible casing, are allowed to dry up until they look like the one on top, and then the beans from inside are used. The casing goes into compost. 

This box of beans might look inedible or like a box of trash. But inside those no longer edible pods is this wonderful thing. 

That even quicker became a jar of beans. 

Those beans, along with a mason jar of chicken stock we had frozen a month or so ago and a whole chicken went into a Dutch oven on top of the stove. After a few hours on a low setting, we enjoyed a wonderful meal. And will have it again today. 

Not much went to waste. We were pleasantly surprised how rich and satisfying this simple meal tasted. And are looking forward to more!

Monday, October 28, 2013


Our incubator is full of turkey eggs. There are no broody hens in our laying hen flock right now, so putting eggs under a hen is not an option. The turkey hens don't sit on them either. 

An incubator with a capacity for 100 eggs costs a couple hundred dollars. For more than that it is even more, jumps up to a thousand dollars quite quickly. 

The question is asked...what does it do? How does it function? 

Enter our beat up coolers, that have really seen their last season of use. 

Because the eggs need to be flipped on a regular basis, a wire rack is devised to hold them together so that the entire thing is turned, not one egg at a time. The insulation keeps it warm, so that a lightbulb works set the temperature. 

Holes drilled to move heat and keep air flowing. 

Instant read thermometer to keep an eye on the temperature without opening and closing the box. 99.something is the desired temperature. 

A few adjustments to the bulb wattage, size of holes and all is well. Water in the bottom for the humidity needed by incubating eggs. Now in a month we see what happens. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

under the dome

The cold is starting to settle in. Nighttime is almost always freezing, so it is time to reattach the sides of the hoophouse. 

If we were smart, we would have roll up sides on the thing. While in summer the sides stay up and in winter the sides are always down, there are transition times in spring and fall where having the sides different from day to day would be helpful. 

When the bitter cold temperatures arrive just a week after tee shirt weather...we are never quite prepared. It takes all day to get the sides on, and a roll up crank would be so much easier. 

In the mini dome there are still summertime herbs growing. 

And a couple of tomato plants too. 

Last night we attended a haloween party. We went as a couple of good eggs. 

We had similar headgear on...

Friday, October 25, 2013

2 offers

Yesterday, between 5:30 and 6:00pm, we received two offers. 

Homer was at the farm, and got word that a pig was available. Not certain of the circumstances, but the thing is available to be collected today. 

It will be in quarantine for a bit, away from any other livestock. 

At about the same time, I was offered tickets to attend an acoustic performance by Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt at The Forum in Harrisburg. We don't attend many concerts or shows anymore, and we jumped at the chance to attend. 

We even arrived on time after meeting up after the farmers market in Hershey closed. Parking, with "restricted" signs everywhere, turned out to be available everywhere since it was after work hours. 

The stage was set with two chairs and four guitars. A couple of microphones. 

And they entered the stage, sat down and played, sang and chatted with each other for a couple of hours. It was a pleasure listening to them. Great music, lyrics, voices. Funny stories. 

A lovely setting. Not a bad seat in the house. I know we have attended events where getting out of the parking garage took us longer than our entire return trip home last night. 

Two offerings. We accepted them both. One quite a bit different than the other. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

well, um...

First there is this. 

Then we have this. 

And a few days more, this. 

And cautious hopes for turkeys to hatch out of them. When this fills, the eggs will go under a broody hen.  

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

who's the alpha

When I picked up Enola, her previous owner made it clear that Enola is always the alpha, the dog who runs things in the pack. 

When we look at her, we see daschund, maybe some jack, and in the shape of the head a little chihuahua. It would seem like she might rule. 

But Sandi will have none of that. She has everyone in line, runs the group, and is not letting any of those dogs near Homer. Or the chicken feet. Must give the girl lots of room. 

Plenty of chicken this week. Losses are minimal. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

and now there are four

Almost 3 years ago we adopted a 9 year old Jack Russell. She is no less cranky than when she arrived, and is still completely devoted to Homer. She is with him most hours of the day. 

We can pet her but no one else really can, as she is a biter. She is also an awesome mouser. 

Chaz arrived at the farm this summer. He helps keep chickens alive, as his growl, bark and sheer size intimidate most. He is about 3, and an owner surrender at a local animal rescue. 

When men visit the farm Chaz charges them, hackles up, growling and barking. He runs straight to them and barks right onto their privates. He was surrendered for being "too aggressive". 

Last week I traded a couple chickens and a dozen eggs for this sweetheart of a dog. Jazmine is about 5, and was a very hungry girl who settled in right away. Just the nicest dog, gentle, smart, alert and yet quiet in the house and very few demands. 

She does really love to roll in funky stuff. She gets brushed out every evening as we all head inside, it has gotten too chilly for nightly baths. 

Then yesterday I picked up this one, who took over a month of emails to get here. Her owners moved where they can't have her, but truly did not want to give her up. Enola will take a while to adjust. She was a real pet, tears shed when the transfer was made, clothes, collars and stuff handed over with her medical records. 

She looks like Chaz but is one quarter the size. She is a bit upset with the upheaval in her life. But when we ran the farm and she was able to get into the brambles, she came alive and happy hunting...ears and tail up, sniffing, smiling, running. She will be ok in a few weeks, but first night she is missing her family. 

No puppies. These adult dogs are so much easier! Already have manners, house broken, spayed/neutered, and understand the word no. 

Here Homer was tempting them with tasty tidbits to get all 4 in one picture. 

The only way is to hold Sandi, cause she will snap at the other dogs when they get near her. 

Chicken losses? Not so much anymore. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Monday morning

Chilly temperatures are with us now. Almost freezing last night!

A crisp fall morning, with temperatures due to rise to mid-60's today. 

Here's what the cattle were up to. A pedicure before it all turns to ice?

Chaz, hanging with a box made from salvaged pallets. 

Happy Monday!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

winter prep continues

More seeds into the beds. 

More wood chips in walkways. 

The wire rings that we use for supporting tomato plants moved from stacks on the ground to their winter location. 

The tomato plants grow huge and the supports need to be huge. The problem is they need to be out of the way half the year when tomato plants are out of season. Homer devised a system of home made (farm made?) hooks for hanging them from the hoophouse supports. The tomato supports are out of our way, protected from wind and rain, and in place for next year. The beds beneath are being planted with winter vegetables that will be harvested until sometime next April. 

Space cleared and ready for more seeds. Beyond there is more clearing to do, but huge amounts of change in just two days!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

not totally empty

There are still tomato plants with tomatoes all over them. 

But most have been pulled, the wire support frames have been stacked. The frames will go into the top of the hoop house, where they hang above our heads until next tomato season. 

The ground has been cleared of weeds and raked out. 

And the pigs ate until they could no longer eat. 

Next, we use the Speedy Seeder and get the rest of the spinach seeds in. Then insulation in the house. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

baby roosts for baby eggers

We start all of our poultry out in brooders. Heat and shelter while they have down covering their little bodies. 

As they mature and grow, feathers grow in, usually starting with wing feathers first. 

Their legs and feet grow longer and stronger. 

And once they are fully feathered, the heat is removed, and after that they move to the field pens. There are roosts in the field pens higher than their heads, so they can easily walk around, and still have a spot to jump up to at night. 

When little they still have roosting instincts. But can't jump very high. In their brooder are exercise bars. 

Little roosts for their little selves to practice and get used to gripping. 

These little laying hens will start producing next spring, by early April. The first few eggs will be tiny ones. By the time farmers markets start in May they will be making good sized eggs in good quantities. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

3 dog family

We have done it. We have added a third dog to the farm. 

Her name is Jazmine. Our oldest dog, Sandi, is slowing down. Sandi is a sweet dog for us, and she worships Homer. But will bite anyone who tries to touch her. She does not want to sleep in our bed, totally housebroken, does not go through the trash, eats a tiny amount: she really is a low maintenance dog. Our big dog, Chaz, has been a great addition to the farm. 

This one was located via an ad on craigslist. We gave a couple chickens and a dozen eggs for her. I picked her up and then went to the drive through at the bank. They sent a milk bone out with the receipt, and Jazmine ate it like a starving dog. We crossed the street, got a can of dog food. She ate it in no time. Big bowl of water. 

Skinny. Quiet. Met both dogs and had no issues.  Took a couple long walk/runs around the place, hung out with us while the days work was completed, never sat down. Moving, sniffing, looking for mice. 

Sandi still growls and snaps at Chaz when he goes near her. He wants a dog to play and run with, and did so with Jazmine. Until Jazmine got on the scent of a mouse, and got to work. Work that Sandi used to do, but as she rounds the corner on her 12th birthday, only does a little. We decided she needed a wing dog. Listed as a Jack Russell mix, Homer thinks Jazmine  is part hyena. It's the markings. 

Anyone can pet her. She does not jump up, charge, bark, snap or react in any way. Tail wagging, happy smile on her face. About 5 years old. Probably weighs in at about 10 pounds and needs a few more. 

Without geese, we are now a dog family. For watching when we can't. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


Later in this winter the hoop house will be filled with spinach. Right now it still has tomatoes and beans, carrots and lettuce. But we are emptying it out and replacing with a winter growing spinach. 

There will be a few herbs in there too, the types that bolt in the summer heat. They don't mind the chill of winter. 

Right now it looks like nothing. But the sun will come out and the seeds will sprout and grow all winter long. The spinach is crisp, bug free and weed free. So different than summertime when no spinach will tolerate the heat. 

Getting ready for winter here. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

what is in a name?

My father had 3 siblings. His sister, Dorothy, died when still a teenager. My dad, James, passed away from cancer when he was 50. His brother Edward lived to be in his early 90's. 

And his youngest brother, Nade, turns 88 today. Nade Otis is his name. There are a few things in life I'm not certain of, and the origin of my uncles name is one them. 

My siblings all have names that are fairly easy: Jane, Arthur, Jennifer, Jeffrey, Steven. And then my name is Drusilla. I have some vague memories of my dad saying that the family names were given to my older sisters, and mine was a character in a book my parents had read. 

My husband is Homer. His siblings are Patricia, Sandra, Jack, Jerry, Gary. For decades he was under the impression he was Homer Jr, named after his father who had been named after the doctor who delivered him. Then we visited one of his cousins who had done family history, and was told his name had been in his family for 13 generations, back to the Massachusetts Bay Colony. 

Nade, Homer and I all gave our kids standard names. No fancy spelling. Girls with girls names, boys with boys names. No explinations of spellings, or in my case, yes, I bet you were expecting a guy with the name Drew, but I'm a woman with the name Dru, a nickname for Drusilla. 

Happy birthday to my Uncle Nade. 88 years is a cause for celebration! Rhubarb pie for everyone!

That's my uncle Nade, with my cousin Linda in pink, Sue in green, and me in the red. 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

little things

We use small things to make a difference here. The big dog has a growl so low it rumbles along and feels like it is changing the earth. His growl makes me stand stock still, and want to get away. Seems to be having the same effect on chicken eaters. 

We built compost bins from simple things. T posts and pallets, coveredby a tarp. The tarp is there to prevent weed and grass seeds from blowing into it. Sections are separated by pallets, and the compost in each section is a different age. Homer is pulling this out for planting spinach in the hoop house. 

It rained like crazy for a few days. A couple of open containers filled up with almost a foot of water in that short time. 

While we don't have a waterway on the farm, we have low spots. Most do not fill in with water, but under the chicken pens it can get quite nasty. A couple of bales of hay, spread under the birds in flecks, keeps them much more comfortable. And cuts down dramatically on losses. 

Simple solutions. We've heard it called "farm engineering", the ability to keep business running while not spending money on fancy solutions to simple problems. It's the only way we make it!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

carrot season

Carrots are available in the grocery store year round, it is hard to imagine that there is a carrot season. There is, and it is now. 

Carrots have a fairly long growing time. Months of steady water, not too much or the teeny tiny seeds wash away, not too little or the seeds burn up and never sprout. Level soil so they grow straight and long. As a grower, we never really know what is happening underground until we pull the carrots. And there was this:

It's like a carrot Celtic knot! 3 intertwined carrots all wrapped around each other. One carrot from above ground looked a bit on an angle, but we never expected this!

And for good measure, another photo with other vegetable friends. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

and the rain falls down

Years ago we leased farm land from a generous family. They had acreage not far from our home, and let us set up for growing chickens, egg layers, turkeys and beef on their property. On their 80+ acres, there was a smaller than a river, larger than a stream that ran through a section of the property. A small bridge they had installed spanned the water way.

The first year we were there it rained heavily at the end of June. It was the same week that the scout troop had to be evacuated from their week long camping trip: the fire company evacuated them, leaving all gear behind, as they were certain the flood waters would cover the island in its entirety. It was a few weeks before moldy and funky gear could be retrieved.

On the property that held our livestock, the water breached the banks after the third day of downpour. The first two days all was well, but the final day of rain just broke everything out.

We lost a lot of birds that day. The next year this generous family allowed us to raise livestock on a different, higher ground. And another year after that. We learned a ton, and when we bought property, we bought without a stream, a spring, a trickle of a water headway...nothing that might cause the kind of flooding that we saw many times on that property we leased. It seemed like a better idea to purchase a little bit away from where water can back up.

Today, we found this:

It looks to be about 12 inches of water in the bottom of this tub. Last week, we were short on rainfall for the year. We think the last 24 hours made up for it.

And in another spot, we are retaining a bit more water:

I was at the farmers market yesterday, as a vendor. Which means loading the truck, unpacking, setup, standing, hanging the rain. Driving back in it as well.

This much rain also means I was outside a good bit of the night. Homer's truck has 4 wheel drive, so I took it out by the chicken pens to make certain that they were not getting flooded. Even with no stream there is a lot of water moving around the farm during this deluge. We just tried to tell each other it has stopped, but it has not stopped. It is just not a torrential rain anymore. Just steady rain.

The roads were not much fun on my return ride last night. Homer went to the hardware store and there was a log in the road. Debris everywhere, big time flooding everywhere.

We have to ask ourselves, in weather like this, if what we are scheduled to do is really necessary. Or if things can wait a day or two. Or a week. Not worth getting jacked up over it all.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

about York

Last Sunday we held the Farm to Street dinner in York, PA. 3 groups worked on this event: Healthy World Cafe, The Horn Farm and Buy Fresh Buy Local York. I'm the chair of York Buy Fresh Buy Local this year, but I can't take much of the credit for this event.

And what an event! 100 attendees. Beautiful food, drinks, setting, music.

As we were set up:

And as people arrived, there were trays of appetizers walked about by a wonderful group of volunteers, most of whom are not food servers in real life. You would never know it, they were so professional.

After the tables filled in, the street looked more like this.

The dinner was held on Beaver Street, right next to Central Market. This market has been in continuous use since the 1800's.

York was the site where the Continental Congress moved to in 1777. After they declared independence from England things got a tad tense, so the decision was made to put the Susquehanna between the unhappy British and those crafting the new laws of the new democracy. There are many historic sites in the city too, still standing from back then.

A local business,, let us use their beautiful bowls, platters and serving utensils. They have traditional pewter ware, and also cool contemporary stuff they supplied for this event. The food looked great on the platters!

Members First, a local financial institution, was a sponsor, and many people attended from their company.

What else is in York?

You know, the York Barbell company? Home of some of the earliest body builders? Still a spot you can outlet shop for barbells, kettle balls and the like?

Which after a meal like that, I should probably be using! It was all so good I had to have...tons of it.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

what is that?!

Homer continues to work on the scale model of his house design. A few years ago we picked up windows that were going into the trash, and installed one of them into the wall of our other building. The long, south facing wall. 

The scale model sits in that window, where the sun shines in on it most days. As we examine, review and discuss what is the best configuration and usage, more ideas perculate. Things are added or removed. Expanded or contracted. 

Our farm sits on the top of a hill, and the wind blows all the time. Over the years Homer has built various windscoops, windmills, governors for them, dismantling and changing again. We have contemplated the giant windmills, the tiny ones and everything in between. 

Our hoop house has always been a spot that Homer has wanted to add a wind system around. It certainly gets knocked around in the wind all year. 

There are days everywhere when the wind is too much and tears things apart, just rips things off of foundations. How can these days be part of the planning, so that the structure stays intact?

Because Homer worked so long for organizations building prototypes it is how he thinks. While he looks at what might be available on the marketplace and uses if appropriate, many times he has thought through specific needs and outcomes for small space, small cost infrastructure. New technology exists in many materials, and he works to incorporate in low tech ways. 

Farming has allowed time and space to contemplate how our home, so wasteful of oil, electric and the like...costing a small fortune to shiver through the entire winter season...can be changed...improved dramatically. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

semi drought

It has been dry, and recently announced that rainfall for the year was short be several inches. We could see it here in small ways, nothing critical. 

And then yesterday steady rain for most of the day. Rain a few days ago. Rain several more days this week. And now there is this. 

Worm castings. Soil building at its most elemental. As earthworms move they displace the earth and leave...poop behind. The soil has been lightened by the worms, as they dig it creates millions of holes all over the farm, and the water can be absorbed. The worm castings feed the soil. The grasses and flowers love it and grow stronger faster. And the livestock get fertilized, nutrient rich food. As the castings decompose they set in place just what is needed for the pastures. And the roots have holes to expand into underground. 

All of this happens because we rotational graze. Because the pastures are eaten and left to rest and regrow, pressured then left alone. The fields grow stronger and more nutritious forage. Yum. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

mowing it down

These days the cattle waste no time mowing the paddocks down to nothing. As they move to new spots they take the growth down to a nice tight clip. 

After about 3 weeks with little to no rain and plenty of heat the grass was starting to wilt. A little bit of rain and boom! Grass jumping up and growing all over! 

Plenty left for them to mow. Months more to go. The extended summer means extra growth from the grass, and extra eats for the herd. 

They have not been in the front yard for more than a month. It's looking quite shaggy, as they move around now the farm begins to wear a better look of short grass rather than the high growing stuff out there right now. The grass stays like that until spring rains when it all jumps up again!


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