Wednesday, December 30, 2015

all tied up with a bow

The year is just about done. It has been a good year for us at Sunnyside Farm. This year we end in not quite as deep a financial hole as in years past. This running a farm as a business thing we do? It can be tiring and can not earn quite enough to be here full time.

So we continue to adjust and tweak at what we do. We can pay for the farm. But we sure can't get something like a new truck, and the current one has 209,878 miles on it. So we change up what we do to allow for that expense in the next year.

Vegetables have been a true joy to grow. We love harvesting year round, or pulling from cool storage our own squash or spuds or dried beans and cooking them up. We have things frozen and canned too, so we have farm food most meals. Eggs have continued in production this winter, with plenty for is and folks that want them. Turkey production was beautiful this year: the right quantity at the right weights at the right times. Beef is due for delivery soon, and we can't wait. The pork is looking good too. Flowers are planted and seeds are sprouting in many spots.

Lace socks completed. And they fit! Other projects are well underway. We are in good health, and have had plenty of time for visits with loved ones this year.

Glad to have another new year to celebrate. Lucky to be living a life with manageable pressures. And lovely rewards. Astonished at who has passed from our lives this year, and so glad for those still here with us. 

If you need us, you know where we will be.

Friday, December 4, 2015

the thing about winter

It gets cold around here in the winter. Not as cold as our friends who visited from South Dakota. Tammy and Dallis, when Homer said "it gets to 20* here" the response was "20* below?". Um no, not that cold! Cold enough that that folks think they can't get local food in the wintertime.

And yet, we do. This week at our regular pickup times and locations we have plenty of just laid eggs from our hens who are still out on pasture. And lots of spinach from our hoophouse. And some other vegetables on the way too.

There are lots of other growers who have local grown. In January we will deliver our beef. Plenty of other farmers in the mid-atlantic grow all sorts of winter hardy vegetables in hoophouses. And have potatoes, carrots, apples of many varieties. Squash lasts perfectly well until spring, just waiting to be roasted and mixed with other good cheese! Cows and goats and even some sheep still make milk in cold months, and farmers have cheese just ripening that was formed during spring and aged in cool spots.

Lots of local farms preserve things too. From applesauce to pickles, chutney, jam, maple syrup, krauts made from a variety of vegetables...chicken, pork, turkeys all might still be in a freezer at your local farm.

We have been very lucky to have support from so many. We had a productive growing season, and are thankful for so many who get so much from our farm.

This week we will add wreaths from our place to our offerings. Mixed greens mostly, until we get a better idea of what is attractive to most. And eggs and spinach!

Even in the cold and low light of winter your farmers still have what sustains you. Look us up! Check us out. We are all still growing. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

the difference

We are in full turkey mode. It's the weekend of delivery.

People visit to help. And then people pickup their birds at a variety of spots.

There is a very real deadline for turkeys. About 90% of the birds we grow are served for Thanksgiving. And those people don't want their turkey a day or two late. The timing matters!

A year ago we had our gear serviced. Bearings needed replaced. Transport to the manufacturer, time spent waiting for repair, late night return to farm.

Homer had the foresight to purchase an extra piece. It's a...something to do with bearings, shafts, set screws...things I don't know much about.

Yesterday the equipment started to malfunction. Things did not work quite as smoothly as usual.

He pulled this piece and replaced it with the one he had in reserve. So we are operating without a hitch, still working towards that deadline. 

It takes many skills to be a farmer. Homer has them. Repairing things, in place, before the sun is up is just one. Getting the extra, specific parts is another. Supplying seamlessly, on time is one more.

Monday, November 16, 2015


I'm astonished that the year is almost over. It has been a beautiful year for growing, with regular rain and a warm but not broiling summer and a gorgeous prolonged fall with many warm days.

We are gearing up for our huge final push of the year. Turkeys go from field to table, and the work involved in getting them from one form to another is intense. Thankfully we have plenty of help, most of the birds are ordered by folks love good eats, and we are tickled to be able to provide such a tasty treat.

The hens are still laying plenty of eggs. And the spinach crop is looking abundant. As we face the impending cold of winter we continue to build a better system of getting warm while it is cold out, using the sun to our full advantage, and some old school insulation to boot! 

Monday, September 7, 2015

fall hatch

6 weeks ago we mournfully discussed our decrease in the duck population here on the farm. We wondered what was getting them, and what protective measures needed to be instituted. We starting closing them in at night, as that seemed to be the time of disappearance.

And then this:

Ducklings appeared! Fall ducklings! Never happened before.

And in pretty clear language the grown ducks said go away, we got this

If you visit the farm in the next 3-4 weeks, Jasmine will be in a pen in front of the fence. She has been ill and is on medication. The veterinarian suggested we keep her away from the other dogs.

The ducklings will fare so much better if Jasmine is not around. She just cannot resist ducklings. It's best for them if she has no access until they are a month old.

Coincidence? I guess!

Friday, September 4, 2015

summer is here

It's been a beautiful growing season. Enough sunny days for all we planted to grow, enough overcast days to get work done, nice weather for distribution of all that we grow and decent sleeping weather.

Until the last couple of days. Heat and humidity crossed together to the truly uncomfortable range.

The final rush of egg gathering and flower cutting before departure for market produced an overheated farmer without enough time for a real lunch. For the first time the sun was at an angle that missed the tent and heated the farmer. Gnats nipped. A forgotten hair tie added heat tovthe neck. Massive water consumption didn't help. Then several sneezing fits as pollen was released and allergy medication failed. I tried to smile and be polite, but had to tell a couple of lovely people who have gotten eggs and vegetables from us for years that I was truly on the verge of tears, hot, itchy, miserable. A customer returned after checking the future weather forecast to tell me that to hold on, a cold front and reduction in humidity are in the forecast! So kind and clearly concerned as I was melting down.

This, that you might not see, didn't help:

Tiny scratches from one of the weeds close to the flowers. Itching badly, especially with salty sweat in there.

By the time I was packed up and ready to drive back to the farm, I had another sneezing fit and a migraine going. Ugh. 

We had a summer a few years ago with weather like this weeks at a time. I might be the only person hoping for a good strong thunderstorm at the beginning of a holiday weekend, but there it is. Holiday weekend does not mean a big change of events when you are a farmer, but a good, humidity clearing, temperature dropping thunderstorm can change a farmers world.

Bring it. Please.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

ugly food

If a portion of your cucumber looked like this

would you eat the rest of it or give it to the pigs/compost/trash?

What farmers eat, late summer version.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

wondering if...

This window overlooks our farm. Well, if it weren't completely fogged over! It's an older, aluminum framed window, double glazed but with seals broken all over!

It's 4 feet high by 8 feet long. We can replace it ourselves, if we have something to go in there. It does not matter to us what the window is, we just want to see out! It can be operable or inoperable windows, as long as its clear.

Anyone have a configuration that might fit in here? For free or close to it? We would love to make good use of clear glass!


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

and flowers too

We grow quantities of flowers too. We love to eat, and growing food to share with others is awesome. We love beautiful things too, so flowers are a joy too.

I've planted flowers everywhere I've lived, with the exception of college years. Perennials, annuals, shrubs, trees, vines, bulbs, corms, seeds. Rooting and cuttings.

Our focus has been on food crops. And yet a pack of seeds here or there slips into our soil.

Zinnias are a happy flower with a pretty long life as a cut flower. When the flowers are cut just after they open flowers can last up to 10 days.

But sometimes we miss some flowers, and they will not last in the vase. They need to be cut from the plant so more flowers will form behind.

We cut them, trim and put into any container out in the garden. They only last a few days, but we still get to enjoy their beauty.

And the butterflies still visit and feed.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

just around the corner

We have neighbors here in the country. They are not really close to us, but they are here. We have met plenty of them and still there are many we have yet to meet.

Pinchot State Park is, as the crow flies, just behind the farm. As the roads go its about 5 miles away. With a huge lake, public (free!) swimming, picnic grounds, hiking trails, kayak and paddle boat rentals, cabin and yurt rentals it is a hub for summer and winter fun. Disc golf, fishing, clearly marked hiking trails and spots where boat owners can put their own watercraft in and out.

We had our work completed yesterday and it was hot. Not broiling, but hot enough that a dip in the lake and a sit for a bit in the shade with cool breezes was just what was needed.

Here's what it looks like. Just around the corner.

Homer loves to see just how things work. He appreciates natural beauty, but also explores technology made by humans. The lake at Pinchot is built by use of a dam, so the spillway had to be explored and documented too.

We easily encountered a thousand people yesterday in the park. Spread across all those acres it really felt like we were there all alone.

Monday, August 17, 2015


We farm in a very particular way.

We describe how we grow our vegetables as chemical free. Of course, everything is a chemical...water is H2O, and we use that! We also use compost. Delivered to us every year by a tractor trailer.

We never use insecticides, fumgicides, herbicides or pesticides. Growers can use either organic or synthetic based of any of those chemicals. A grower with organic certification can use those, as long as they are not synthtetic in composition.

We have learned a lot about what takes care of the bugs that eat our vegetables. So many bugs that eat other bugs. 

Praying mantis and ladybugs eat aphids. There is a parasitic wasp that lays eggs in tomato hornworms, the larva eat the inside out of the worm, killing it in the process. Bald faced hornets eat house flies, snatching them in the air. Cicada killers take them out. Soldier bugs. Assasin bugs.

And then our favorites appear. We see a variety of toads and frogs. Snakes and turtles too. We hope for salamanders someday!

My father was curator of the division of herpetology at the Smithsonian. Part of the reason we grow the way we do is a tribute to him, and what he taught me about small things having an impact. That enough pesticide to kill most pests kills most beautiful things too. And this, a sticky toed frog climbing straight up the side of a bucket, is one of the beautiful things.

And while we are in the shade resting on a hot afternoon, or inside sleeping at night, this frog and more like it are quietly eating their weight in bugs, daily.

That's why we farm the way we do.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

not your daddy

We tried for a year to rescue a jack Russell. I'd find one listed, think I was jumping on it, end up not getting it.

So we bought a puppy. Rescues cost too, to offset cost of care and medical treatment. The puppy didn't cost much more than full grown dogs we have adopted.

So Blitzen arrived earlier this year, in the form of a tiny puppy.

Adorable. Sweet tempered. Smart. Energetic without the crazy JRT's can sometimes be.

He listens well, has good manners and is a joy.

But we don't want any puppies. Our other dogs have been spayed or neutered, and we want him to stay here on the farm and not roam the streets.

So on Thursday Blitzen went to have his reproductive abilities removed. The instructions at pickup said to keep him quiet for 7-10 days.

We are keeping him away from the other dogs. No walks, no stairs. Water, kibble, chewies but no real rough housing.

He seems to be healing just fine.

Sound asleep, all four in the air.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

quick conversions

These days are when all the hard work of spring pays off. So much to harvest!

We preserve plenty of things. Tomatoes will start soon. They were deep green, now almost white, with red next. Canning and freezing and roasting down to paste will happen.

These days we get to eat fresh. Pulled from the farm, cooked and consumed. So good. This summer has been mild with low humidity, so we can have small cooking events.

Last night's harvest looked like this:

We didn't use the winter squash, but everything else was chopped up and put over the mashed potatoes made from those Yukon golds. A saute of all of those vegetables, some herbs and spices and then this...

Summer time comfort food. Farmers pie. Gardeners pie. Meat free. Near vegan.

Happy, satisfying meal. Nothing else needed!

Monday, August 10, 2015

overcast days

We put seeds in the ground constantly. It never stops. With that we also pull weeds all the time too!

We have two hoophouses on our farm. They are both filled year round with vegetables we are harvesting. Or, in the case of tomatoes we are impatiently waiting to harvest! The original hoophouse is filled with tomatoes, peppers and eggplant right now.

The hoophouse we built last year was full of heat loving basil. We've pulled a lot of it, week after week, and its starting to look pale. Still smells and tastes good, but as it fades we are pulling and filling our freezer, for that taste of summer this winter!

The peas and garlic came out earlier. The garlic went in in November 2014, and the peas were planted in February of this year.

So here are some of the beds this morning.

The drip tape is visible in the planting bed to the left, it is the most effective method of watering we have found. The wheelbarrow is overflowing.

And after

The plants we wanted and those that were uninvited are all removed. And take your tiny seeds too please!

It was overcast and barely 70* today. For a farmer, this is amazing weather in early August, allowing us a 3 week jump on clearing and planting. We like sunshine too, but love a day when lots of work can be completed without sweating through multiple sets of clothes!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


The tomatoes are ripening! Slowly.

We grow heirloom varieties, open pollinated, indeterminate tomatoes. They grow and grow, and produce tomatoes over a number of weeks.

This year most of our plants are either Roma or San Marzano. We add wheelbarrows of compost to the soil, as we have for the last 6 years. This year we really notice the difference in the planting beds. The depth and quality of the soil is greatly improved.

We use drip tape and wire cages, as tomatoes require water and support.

There are many issues that can prevent a tomato harvest. We have managed to harvest tons of tomatoes without using chemicals. We do water the plants, and we make certain that compost is in abundance.

Some of them will go right in the freezer. Whole and with seeds to be used in soups and stews that are cooked all day. Or seeded and skinned and then canned, in glass jars for use all winter. Or sliced thin and dehydrated.

Last fall we didn't really put many tomatoes up. We had to purchase them in metal cans at the grocery store. And they just don't taste good.

We are waiting and watching for ripe ones. All our gear is here and ready, and we have vowed to have tomatoes until next August in our larder!

Bulk orders will be available if you decide you need to save tomatoes for winter time meals, check our website to reserve as many pounds as you like.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

summer cooling, winter warming

We grow chamomile. It looks like a daisy, but has a lovely flavor.

As flowers open, we cut and tie the entire stalk and flower into bunches.

Before cutting.

We use it fresh right into cold water. The infusion is delicious.

In the winter, after it has dried, we add it to hot water for a flavorful tea.

It grows back after the heavy trim. We will do exactly the same thing again.

We start them from seed. Chamomile can be invasive, so we are careful to not let it go to seed and to keep roots contained.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

keep seeding

We grow and nurture a variety of living things on our farm. Beef, pork, chicken, Thanksgiving turkey, vegetables, berries, fruit,

One thing we have learned. We grow almost everything from seed. Trees and shrubs are live plants, asparagus arrives as roots: but most of what we grow starts as a seed.

I got some lily bulbs to grow for flower bouquets. Then planted them in tubs with flower seeds all around. It's a simple spray watering system around them.

Results are mixed. Same treatment, different flowers, but we have learned to hold some seeds back and try again. Here's why.

Lily up, and 3 seedlings

Barely a lily, and tons of seedlings.

Just the lily.


Replanting today!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

every year

It's a dogs life here at Sunnyside Farm. We have 5 of them, and they do a good job discouraging critters that eat vegetables, chicken, eggs and turkeys from our place. The dogs are an important part of us staying in business, ensuring we have vegetables, eggs, chicken and turkeys to bring to our customers.

The dogs rarely leave the farm. Vet visits for shots once a year. An occasional trip to the creek down the hill to cool off on hot summer afternoons. But mostly they are here, regularly launching into a full blown chase of something not wanted on the farm.

Every dog had two tags on their collar earlier this year. One with their name and our contact information. One that shows they are registered with York County.

Of the 5 dogs, only one still has both tags. Luna lost hers within a week of attaching them to her collar. The others took a little longer to lose, but gone they are.

Luna, everything gone.

Chaz, both tags.

Swazey, no tags

Jasmine, just the ez clip.

I couldn't get Blitzen to sit still for a photo.

Time to order new tags. And to weld those tags onto the collars!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015


These are full days on the farm. We are full up with livestock, vegetables and the small amount of fruit we grow.

Yesterday we did all the chores, weeded and watered, then set out to see what berries could be picked.

Pin cherries, mulberries, black raspberries and blueberries are all in. We pick the ripe one in each bunch, and in a day or two get the next one and keep picking until the season is over. Strawberries are already done!

While walking around we found a few more things.

Ferns in the woods.


A tiny flower stem.

Sweet yellow flowers.

A teeny magenta/purple flower.

We can't identify a single one. So much to learn.


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