Wednesday, May 28, 2014

next up

2 years ago a neighbor with big, heavy duty mowing equipment cut down brambles all over the farm. We needed to clear to get a better system of paths and picking.

Most berries: red raspberries, black raspberries and blackberries grow on 2 year old canes. After we cleared there was only a little to harvest last year.

So much flowering right now. The reqrowth in the last couple of years has made clear which will yield berries and which are just sticker bushes.

It looks like close to an acre of berry brambles. There are now areas we can walk in between the berry patches. There are thorns on every single branch. We will be picking in very careful ways.

The berry itself forms at the center of each flower.

The different berries have stems of different colors. The flowers are similar and yet quite different.

We will watch daily from now on. The birds are watching too. There are more of them than us. If we want any it is a race to have them!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

this herd

We grow out stocker calves. They already have some size to them when we get them. And of course milk cows.

Sometimes we hear that dogs and cattle are sworn enemies. But this bunch don't mind the dogs a bit. And Luna is particularly curious about everything, and visits the cattle several times each day. They are patient with her and she slows down to give a good sniff. And a roll around in their poop.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

no dogs in the bed

We don't sleep with dogs in our bed. The amount of shedding hair is one thing. The other is the myriad of substances that those dogs can find.

Luna found a nice fresh patch of cow poop to roll around and coat her own backside. Its fragrant. And not quite dry yet. Even with a bath she would still be odorous. No dogs in the bed.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

and this week

The vegetable, chicken and egg CSA shares start this week!

Homer picks. I weed and photograph. I'm not certain what gets picked this week but I'm pretty certain there will be...

Speckled lettuce.

Bright green lettuce.


Maybe some early garlic.

Plenty of eggs.

We just covered the potatoes again. Tomatoes and cucumbers are going in. And plenty of other things too!

Monday, May 19, 2014


The herd of cattle is expanding. We expect one more member sometime this summer. For now they are overwhelmed with the spring flush of grass.

I watched them eating. Assuming they were going for the clover that grows closer to the ground.

I was mistaken. They were searching around the clover and selecting the wide leaves of the plantains. 

Plantains and their chemical composition have been documented. It has different properties than grass, clover, dandelions or other things growing on our pastures. As the herd moves through and selects what to eat, then calmly lies down for a lengthy cud chew, it is a calming and delightful sight to see. They know the best green for what they need right now, and have space and time to choose. Their cud chewing happens in clean grassy fields so their hides and bellies are clean and bright. There are flies on them...which might just prevent them from overeating as they swat flies from themselves and each other. And the fly catching birds and hornets have returned to build their nests, reproduce and help our livestock enjoy each day. 

May is a gorgeous time to be outdoors. Baby animals, comfortable temperatures, seedlings growing at a great rate. Lovely.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

6 weeks later

We grow Thanksgiving turkeys. It is a decidedly unscientific approach. In the brooder until real feathers, then onto the field for months.

2 years ago the weather was dry and hot all summer. At the end of the season turkeys were small. Tiny. We had chickens bigger than our smallest turkeys.

Last year we took delivery of the turkey polts 8 weeks earlier. And the weather was beautiful: weekly rains, grass that grew, and plenty for the turkeys to eat.

And eat they did. Last year our turkeys were huge!

This year, as every year, it is an unknown as to what the weather will be. We took delivery of the turkey polts 6 weeks later than last year.

They look beautiful. We are off to a good start with them. 3-4 weeks and out they will go into their field pens. 6+ months to go!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

half a penny

A box of these is about $2.

Wire nuts. Our electric fence was not juicing quite as strongly as we need.

Which resulted in our little herd in the front yard.

Along with the pens of chicks. We don't want them right together, cattle can get entangled in things, break things and slow down traffic.

Homer took the machete and cleared every inch of the perimeter fence. And at every linkage of wire added a wire nut to keep the line together.

Yesterday he had tested each section of the fence. Fully charged at the charger, each section was weaker than the last. 

After repairs the wire is silent and fully charged. Now cattle will be in the right spot, safe from their own curiosities.

Total cost about $.10. Total time about 2 hours. Wire nuts. What a great thing.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

dog edition

I grew up in a house where our parents instilled a respect, and a hands off if it is not yours policy. We had nice things. We lived in a lovely neighborhood in a house that had nice things in it. Modern, clean, unfussy furniture. Very modern art. And it stayed that way.

My kids were not destructive. In our house there was space for messy stuff (aka outside) and nice stuff. As a parent our family lived in a lovely neighborhood in a house with nice things. Not fancy or over the top, but not embarrassing.

Now we have dogs. We left the farm yesterday. And not just one thing was ruined.

Might need reupholstered.

Soil all over. Glass table top displaced.

Reading material shredded and dirty.

This is the dog edition of the Momism why we can't have nice things.

But the chickens are alive. As a kid I would not have done that and as a parent wouldn't ask kids to protect chickens all day and night. So a new chapter in life, life with dogs! The why we can't have nice things edition.

Friday, May 9, 2014

growing ducks

Any animal takes some time to mature. Ducks are no exception.

This batch are Pekins. The duck grown commercially here in the United States. A big, broad breasted white duck. Orange webbed feet, orange bill.

Water lovers.

They are still living inside a broiler pen because their pond is not ready. And the fence is not up and charged. And the last time ducks got out we lost a few. So they are held safe in a pen. 

As time passes we start checking for indicators of male and female. How many of each? And they all look alike don't they.

Almost all alike. The tail feathers on these two tell us a great deal of information. The one with that little tight curl of feather at the top of its tail feather is a male. Of the 6 ducks on our farm only one has this. We wait a few more weeks to see if more develop. While hoping that we have 5 females...and duck eggs soon...

Thursday, May 8, 2014

when we stop

These are busy days. Lots to do. Potatoes are going in. Chickens are moving on the field and out of the brooder. This weeks seeds need to go in the ground too.

We try and stop and enjoy the beauty of the farm. That's why we do this: to eat fresh, chemical free vegetables. To have luscious and flavorful eggs, clean tasting chicken, beef, turkey and pork...and to enjoy the quiet beauty of our farm.

Yesterday an oriole visited. Really bad phone picture...this is when we remember we need a better camera...and know that we gave seen the oddly shaped oriole nest in our woods in past years, and hope we are selected again.

And under row cover we see the tiny beginnings of what will be carrots in 8-10 weeks.

Back to work now.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014


You think we would be used to this by now.

An early morning phone call "I have peepies for you" from our mail carrier.

A few hours later, 3 toots of the horn to notify us the delivery is here. Day old chicks into the brooder, lights on, water, feed and grit ready, and the little balls of fluff commence growing.

For the laying hens we wait what feels like forever. They need full feathers before they will do well outside, they need to be large enough in size that they move with the pen and don't just pop out of the back.

And when we make the shift...from the brooder that has not had a light for a while, that has gotten more on the funky side than we prefer...and transport the birds to an outdoor, mobile pen it is like magic. The baby hens start scratching in the ground. They break off blades of grass and eat them right up. They take dust baths. They jump up on the roost.

How do they know?

They just know to do these things, without instruction or example. It just tickles us each time we see this transformation. They will squawk and scream as we catch and relocate them from brooder to field pen.  It sounds like a few seconds of trauma. And then happy sounds. A low murmur of contended purring happens. 

Each time we marvel at the immediate transformation. From the now crowded indoor  brooder to the space of the field pen the birds just jump into action and do what birds do. Astonishing every time.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

shifts happen

We had a pig. And then we had more. And then we had bacon, ham, pork chops and more. And we wanted more.

A pig went to a neighbors. Then returned to participate in acts that will help us have more pigs. Now he is back home.

To do that he had to be coaxed into the livestock trailer. And driven to the neighbors. To prevent the dogs from running away while the gate was open, they were loaded into the truck.

Dog loading. So much easier than pig.

And the momma is busy making her nest. She has a sheltered, dry spot filled with straw. She is calm and peaceful but quiet. Up and down. Making a spot in the middle. Not her usual rooting and eating. We think her time is near.

Meanwhile. Seeds in the ground. Seed beds built. Pen moving. Eggs. Water to all. And looking for piglets as often as we can sneak away from other tasks.

Monday, May 5, 2014

oh my goodness

We were invited to join in a menu tasting for a spot that will open in Belvedere Square later this year. Influenced by Latin flavors...Irena Stein, chef and owner, has roots in Venezuela and reflects that in her menu. With bright flavors, citrus based, real cooking and baking her future spot promises to be delightful.

Right now she operates Azafran, a restaurant on the Johns Hopkins campus in the Hubble Space Telescope building. Open for breakfast and lunch only during the week, Azafran has a wall of windows overlooking a completely treed park and a menu that has daily specials not usually found on a university campus. Fresh food abounds, delicious fair trade coffee, and wonderful desserts.

As the addition of another location affords the expansion of the menu into an even more delightful array of taste treats: empanadas, arepas, cerviche and more. Desserts made by a resident chef. Refreshing drinks concocted from fruits and citrus and fresh herbs. Yum. Everything we had was good and I don't think we missed a thing. Here are a few photos, including some of the folks we had a chance to chat with...

We are excited for this great chef and the creative and energetic team she has assembled to expand into an additional location. For selfish reasons it will provide me an opportunity for another spot, reasonably priced, to get a bite to eat, quickly while still being fresh and well made. Yay!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

full days

We are busy these days. Not yet filling CSA shares or attending The Farmers Market in Hershey, but full days.

Weekly planting of seeds. Daily moving of livestock. Managing heat in the brooders. Eggs! Collection, packing, delivery. Are there piglets yet?

We completed chores and left the farm together on Thursday. A special order for Homer's contracting client was delivered and looks beautiful.

The 2014 York Buy Fresh Buy Local Food Guide was completed, delivered to Naylor Winery and then sorted for pickup.

Need one? They are here on the farm and at all of the partner locations too!

We went to York College to hear Abby Kinchy lecture on GMO seeds and the impact her research indicates has happened from their use. Interesting information and a lively question and answer session after.

And the pen that was missing egg boxes got them. The hens hopped right in and started depositing cackle berries. They love to twist the straw into nests inside each box. 

A spring day!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

on GMO's

Last night I met Abby Kinchy, author and professor. Her research and writing is on transgenic seeds and the impact the planting of these seeds has on all of us.

She is a guest speaker tonight at York College, in an event open to the public.

Her brief synopsis of what she will cover tonight has me intrigued and wanting to hear more. If it was winter I'd be reading her most recent book but that will have to wait until next winter. 

Policies set by the farm bill, what activities the federal government funds in growing, how much debt individual farmers carry, why 1% of the population is supporting so many other equipment/material suppliers...and farmers got to this point and what happens to those transgenic seeds and pollen that blow in the wind...who owns it and why.

Curious stuff. We will be at York College this evening to hear more. After an afternoon nap.


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