Wednesday, December 31, 2014

HNY or, as Chaz sees it

Happy New Year! Or, as Chaz sees it, the longest, most annoying night of the year. Worse than the 4th of July.

This beautiful, busy, protective dog hates two days a year, and this is one of them. Fireworks displays annoy him, firecrackers cause him to run and bark, and gun shots make him charge and snarl and bark in protest.

We protect him from himself on these nights, trying to keep him where it is not so loud. He will have a day of recovery tomorrow, from all this noise and activity tonight. 

We are so pleased to be here another year. This is the 6th time we are here to see the fireworks display of Ski Roundtop from the comfort of our bed. 6 winters here! Time flies.

Happy New Year. And rest easy tomorrow.

Friday, December 26, 2014

after Christmas

The sun appeared from behind the clouds, and there was much rejoycing. There has been little sunshine here on the farm this fall, and some dancing might have happened when we realized that it will be unblocked by clouds for the next week!

Then we got to work. We have used wooden ladders as roosts for our laying hens, and one end was dragging in the dirt. Time to realign and reattach! Girls need their comforts, and at nightfall the jump off ground onto roosts is first on the list for happy hens.

These things are called pig tails. We use them to run electric fence line around the paddocks where the cows are each day. Easy to relocate, they are valuable for our frequent herd moves.

We took a couple and used them to reach into the pen and raise the downed end of the ladder.

Once the ladder was in place, giant screws went into all the layers of wood to support the weight of all those hens.

Even while we were working the hens hopped up to investigate. As the sun set today the ladder was filled up with hens. The settling in sounds they make as they prepare for the night is a lovely sound. Not too many squawks from this pen now that there is enough room.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

even if its winter

We continue to plant seeds. Inside the hoophouse things can grow all winter, protected from wind. At night the temperatures are just as cold inside as outside, so only certain vegetables can withstand those extremes.

The construction of our second hoophouse prevented us from filling the existing hoophouse, so all in all we are a bit behind. We are making adjustments to our growing schedule and what we grow. Still need to fill beds in both hoophouse, a lot has been accomplished in the couple weeks since completing construction.

Thousands of cloves have gone in the ground. First the heads had to be split into cloves, then each clove into a hole. We use a divot for the right depth and distance. We had lots of help getting this done, including from a 5 year old who gave one clove a little boost with a cheerios...

We caught up on some spinach planting too. We put down some paper for weedblocking in the beds, the compost we make here, then seeds spread and raked in.

And the beds of spinach that went in weeks ago, just before 6 of 7 days a week were overcast, are finally growing.

The leaves are not yet large enough to harvest. We will need more days of sunshine to help them grow.

Our laying hens, all new this year, are just beginning to produce eggs. After the winter solstice we see a gradual but steady increase in egg production until June, when daylight hours reduce. Something in the hens internal clocks tell them when to produce and when to ease up...

Can't wait for hundreds every day!

Friday, December 12, 2014

let's just say

Let's just say you know a farmer. The sort of farmer who eats beans every day. Who enjoys sunrise, poultry, cattle, the pigs, dogs, bees and ducks too. Fruit and vegetables.

Maybe a gift seems odd, kinda like "what could a farmer need who gets to do, and grow and live so cool?". What might they need?

Not much. Truly. But a few things might be appreciated, as things get worn out. Some ideas for farmer gifts.

Those that live sans dishwasher:

A lovely towel to dry those dishes.

For those with cold feet:

Cheery colors to chase winter blahs!

For the farmer noggin:

a fox hat to help stay warm.

For those early mornings

an eye opener as the cup empties

For just hanging out

a reminder of what we do.

And advice we adhere to...

Maybe this one won't break the back

And will actually keep out the weeds!

To remember those who farmed before us

Your farmer might appreciate these things too!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


For a time now it has been all about the turkey. With a day to go, we still have a few, so get with us before the storm hits us!

And one day last week the cover went on the new hoophouse.

Homer has a way of planning and preparing these big tasks so that whoever is on hand can help. 

With a system of ropes the three of us pulled it up and over.

Last time we pulled a top right over he used 2x4's. This time as we gave the heave ho I wasn't certain what was holding on.

As I pulled my rope and the edge moved toward me, it was obvious that chunks of wood were not used this time. But not certain what was in there.

Then all the way over, wiggle wire in place quick so the wind does not pull the cover back off. Ladder climbing,  fingers in use, no pictures of that!

And then...

From back when Matt lived with us, and we had a bunch of baseballs for hitting and throwing, each with his MW on them so they would come home with us from the field. Now in a different, farm use!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

farmers count

We try to budget. And account for losses. And allow for accidents, oopsies and general mayhem.

We calculate and guesstimate. Weigh one against the other.

With turkeys they start as little tiny polts. They arrive on farm when it is still cold out, and take about half of the year to get to an eating size. Classic slow growing, hanging out, grazing and growing outdoors all summer and fall.

As deliveries and on farm pickups happen, the numbers get clearer. Last year the numbers were chilling. Not many birds, and they were huge.

2014? We have a pretty good idea how it happened, and we hope to repeat it again sometime. The summer was not too hot, with a lovely amount of rain. No untoward floods, no power outages requiring hauling of water from off site. It was, dare I say, an almost boring growing season. Dogs protected. Farmers worked steady. The grain bin worked. Pens rolled daily. Water flowed.

When we count turkeys we tend to close one eye, so that we miss a few. Allowing for heat stroke, or a cat attack, or drowning when 6 inches of rain falls in two hours during the only time of the year the pens are in the low parts and a few drown.

But none of that happened. Twice a day water checks kept them hydrated. Twice a day pen moves kept them chomping grass, thistle, bugs, worms.

Over years of growing turkeys we have learned to request customers to be flexible on requested weights. Because it has been a challenge to predict, over months and months of sharing farmland with these birds, just what size they will be.

2 years ago? Puny. Tiny. Last year? Massive, beyond belief really. This year? Almost all are about the same size. A little variance but not much. 15 pounds average, a nice impressive but not too big bird. Plenty so that two will work if you need lots of meat.

And back to counting, and the numbers. We had counted, with an eye closed, accounting for all the ways turkeys can not make it to a dinner table, the number.

And as we fill orders, empty our coolers and fridge, as we greet people who allow us to year after year supply them with a pretty important part of an important annual event...and as we meet new people who wonder out loud if they have arrived at the correct location, sometimes here or sometimes in a parking lot...we realize our count is off. We should have kept both eyes open and counted every single bird.

We still have 30 turkeys left. And they are filling up our fridge and coolers. We owe $9,400 to our feed guy and it would be good to pay him. 

Next year, and how growing will go is anyone's guess. 2014? A beautiful year. An abundant turkey year. Get yours from us. Please. So we can still be here next year.

$6 per pound

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


Why so many turkeys this year? We have 3 times as many as usual. This year we still have turkeys available now, 9 days prior to Thanksgiving. We wonder why and then realize.

This dog. We have 5 dogs now. But this dog, Chaz, covers the farm in big, running strides all day long. And some of the nighttime too if needed. At first, in the summer of 2013, he spent most of his time right next to the house. He had to learn the ways of the electric fence, of having 12+ acres to run, of us and our schedules. 

It took Chaz a bit of time to adjust. He was an adult dog when he arrived on the farm and his vet paperwork showed that he lived in center city Philadelphia. Quite a change! Our population density of 2 people on all this land had him confused.

He never chased a chicken or a turkey. Ducks don't interest him. He observed cattle and pigs for a bit and then went on his way.

We guess there is shepherd and Rottweiler in him. Since he is a rescue we don't know. He is a guard dog, there is no question about that. He lets us know when a vehicle pulls in. If things are out of the normal he barks to notify us. 

A night last week he and the tiny dog, Swazey, were barking steady, were restless, hackles up, on full alert. Each was all over the farm, along the fence line, at a full run. It was very dark with no moon. No one in our parking lot. Nothing that we could see. Homer checked. I did a walk around with them, both dogs so tense and fully wired. Didn't see a thing.

The next night a bear was hit on the interstate. From the map we could see the location was not far from here. And then we looked at the dogs, at Chaz and Swazey, and realized why they had been so out of sorts the night before. No doubt the bear had been in this area. No doubt that without the dogs the bear would have made an effort to have a turkey dinner. Or 30.

We are small batch growers. While we have the greatest number of turkeys ever it is nothing compared to total number of turkeys consumed at Thanksgiving time. Our turkeys are different: the breed, the feed, the way they live, are processed is all outside of the norm. 

We have had the Broad Breasted Bronze turkeys on the farm since they were a day old. Into brooders this spring under heat lights. Special bedding. Extra wind guards. And then moved into pens and onto the field so they live clean, grass and bug eating lives. GMO free feed. Daily tending, feeding, watering and moving for 6 months. These are slow growing birds and they don't get additives to enhance their size. It takes a long time to grow out these beautiful birds.

As we end the season, our debts mount. We operate on the good will of many: that at harvest, we can pay what we owe back to our suppliers. As the turkeys are larger their feed consumption increases. We move and water twice each day, as they have become experts at grass grazing. And more waste is generated, so we move them with greater frequency.

As of today, our calculations indicate that it will be tight financially if we sell every bird on our farm. We are getting orders every day and the available number shrinks daily. This is great news for us, as we want to stay on the farm, continue growing food for those that want it. And like anyone else we must meet our financial obligations to continue.

Had that bear entered our farm and decided to overturn a turkey pen or two and release, kill or hurt our turkeys it would put us in a position where we would not have turkeys but would still have bills. The bear that was hit by a car on the interstate was 300 pounds. That is a lot bigger and stronger than we are, and requires fire power that we don't own to stop it. 

So this big dog. And the little dog, just on the farm in the past couple of months, are our heroes. Knowing things we don't know, on alert when we are resting. What a great thing a dog or two can be!

And this guy. Years of tiny turkeys. Massive turkeys. A few turkeys. A few more, until this year it works. Size in the sweet spot, 15 pounds average. Lots of turkeys available. And beautiful vegetables, chicken, pork and beef too. A lovely season of growing. A week from now things will be pretty quiet here. But its a busy week ahead.

deposit to hold your fresh turkey from our farm

Saturday, November 15, 2014

solar gain

Here's why you will find us in the unheated hoophouse on sunny days.



And after 9am

So call ahead if you plan on visiting. We will be out back!

Friday, October 31, 2014

while I was at market

Every Thursday, from mid-May until the end of October, you can find me at the Farmers Market in Hershey. Taking orders for Thanksgiving turkeys, delivering CSA vegetables, emptying coolers filled with fresh chicken and if I'm lucky eggs too!

While I was at the last market of 2014 yesterday, this happened on the farm.

The adult tinkertoys are continuing to be assembled! There are not as many pieces of metal in boxes and there are many more assembled as frames!

A list was written yesterday of what needs to happen for the structure to be completed. Many more steps, much more assembly, but so much progress! Beautiful!

Turkeys and chickens still available!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

tinkertoys for grownups

We've been busy harvesting, clearing and planting. And building!

Even for vegetables, straight and true framing makes things easier. Squared up and walked out, the posts go in.

Parts that will form the frame of the hoophouse.



And polycarbonate for the ends, and then there is some wood framing and doors too...along with everything else we normally get done. 

Who's tired?! We all are!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

what the farmer sees

This photo, of Zinnia and Tony's daughter, was posted on Facebook a couple of weeks ago.

So many likes. Such a cutie pie, holding a bunch of colorful flowers with a look of pure joy on her face.

At first glance that is what I saw. Her parents tell us she now will eat the entire egg, not just the white, after trying our eggs. Happiness!

Behind her is a structure exposed to the outdoors. The plastic covering on our hoophouse has reached the end of its lifetime. Or beyond. Its a 4 year cover in its 5th year. The small slits and tears in it earlier this year were easily repaired by tape. Not anymore.

What the farmer sees? A cute girl who has a true, deep love for farm, food, flowers, eggs, chicks and everything else at Sunnyside Farm.

Also? A ton of work. The giant single (OK, used to be single, now shredding into multiple) piece of plastic needs to be removed. You struggle with folding the bottom sheet? Multiply by 100.

First, wiggle wire must be removed at each end. And side. Then the entire piece/s must be removed, keeping as much intact as possible. We have other uses on farm for this.

Then the new cover is carried in place, then secured so it does not blow away. We need a perfectly still day, wind free so we and this giant piece of plastic don't end up in Nebraska.

After the new cover is slid in place (with no rips, tears or weak spots we hope) every inch must be secured. 

Through the course of the year we get a couple days where the wind really rips. We always say it must be 100mph, reality is that it is about half that. A huge cover like this waits for a windy, icy, snowy day to collapse, unhinge, sail away or just turn to shreds. 

We must gently and firmly secure every inch of the perimeter. So that when a night of true stress happens this structure will shrug off high winds, heavy snow, pelting hail and protect what we grow in there year round.

We are in the midst of converting what is growing in here. Tender summer vegetables were stripped from the plants all of Saturday. Fresh plantings of winter hardy vegetables are going in.

And the roof is needed. This photo? A sweet girl. And a ton of fiddly, critical work behind her.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

green beans and dried beans

Temperatures dipped into the 30's last night. It was a full on effort by everyone to pull every tender vegetable and herb off the field.

We handed out beans as part of of CSA shares for a number of weeks. Green and purple podded string beans and Lima beans too.

Mostly beans hate cold. Peas don't mind but beans are not happy. Actually, if the state of the bean vines are any indication, the beans gave up a bit ago.

Funny thing about beans. What might look like junk to some looks like delicious winter eats to the farmer.

Each of those ugly looking, shriveled up, dried out looking beans holds a stack of beautiful and tender these:

Beans, dried on the vine. As we crack open the dry and hard shell, these beans fall out. They don't get dehydrated or anything, they go into a mason jar and used all winter.

We used to buy bags of beans. And canned beans too. Some of that is in our pantry. 

But the beans we grow, allow to dry to this ugly stage, crack open and later add to any pot of goodness don't require overnight soaking and all day cooking. 

We grow heirloom varieties for just this reason. Good eating as tiny string beans or chopped and stir fried when larger or simmered for a bit when big, the string beans are great.

Dried on the vine and added to our cold weather pots of whatever we have, these beans make a creamy, almost sweet addition to the pot. And are done in 4-5 hours, still hold their shape and really add to a meal.

Trash or treasure? It all depends on perspective. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

clean up

Every year we have a pot luck. People bring the most amazing food to share, some bring food we have grown for them and they cook it up and bring it back to the farm. Beautiful concoctions. "Dru, you must try what I made" are my favorite words!

We roast a pig that we raise here. And end with a bonfire.

It takes us a while to clean up the place along with everything else that happens here. So we have started!

Clearly, Jasmine approves!

That oversized cement table has served two purposes. Home taught Claire how to build with cement with it. And it holds a ton of food too. The wood is ready and so is the cooker. 



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