Pleasant Valley Farm

  (Tionesta, Pennsylvania)
Real Family Farming in Tionesta, PA
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Flowers & Fieldwork

Well my little Morgan, Sara, got her first taste of being a "work pony" this week.  Dan had her pulling a harrow through the garden and she did really well.  She's going to need some time getting used to the traces rubbing a bit when she turns, but overall it's going well.  I'm like a proud mama, she's been my baby for 17 years now.  I just think it's amazing that she's done so many different things in her life and now is working towards being a great field work horse.  Not bad for a little pony no one wanted whom I got through the Equine Rescue League.  It just shows the old Morgan bloodlines really are an all-purpose breed. 

 Everything is starting to turn green!  I swear when I looked at my flower bed on Sunday, there were just small buds and plants coming up, but last night my bleeding heart flower had not one but two blooms on it!  The rhubarb is really growing fast, if anyone is interested I have lots for sale!

We transplanted seedlings this weekend and I am always amazed at how fast they grow.  Everything we got from Seed Savers Exchange sprouted exceptionally well and I can't wait to taste the vegetables!  Our other seed orders are all in now, with the exception of some shallots I was hoping to plant but were sold out.  We're going to start the rest of the indoor seedlings this weekend and hopefully plant the rest of the potatoes.  We should have lots, we're planting 50# of Yukon Golds as well as reds and whites and I'm trying a heritage all-blue variety.

 
 

Cultipacking and other farm adventures

I did my first fieldwork with the horses by myself!  Dan was finishing planting the hay field when I got home from work last week.  As he was sick of spending so much time up there, I got to drive the cultipacker.  It's like a big roller that presses the seeds into the ground just enough so they can sprout.  Dixie and Dolly, our Belgians, have gotten used to the rhythms of field work again this spring and were wonderful to work with. They are a mother (Dixie) and daughter (Dolly) team and both were born, raised and trained at the farm.  It's an amazing feeling to be out there working with them.  I look forward to doing more, possibly with my horse, this weekend.  It's supposed to be near 80 degrees and sunny.

Our seedlings are doing so well we'll be transplanting to larger pots this weekend.  We'll use peat pots and put them out under floating row cover when they start to outgrow these new pots.  We've done a little planting outside- spring onions, a few potatoes and Dan transplanted garlic so he could plow the garden last week.  I started to move the hay off of some of my herbs as well- the hay was starting to sprout!  This is my first year overwintering them and I am simply amazed at how well they've done.  I have so much green oregano I could make a great pasta sauce if my tomatoes were more than 2" seedlings!  The chives look great, I may have to try them on a baked potato if we grill out this weekend.  My sage seems to be coming back, as does the thyme and the lemon basil is huge!  It must not be directly related to real basil as that died at the first nip of frost last fall.

The rhubarb is well on its way up and will be ready for harvesting soon.  We have 2 great patches that produce the nicest you'll find anywhere.  I don't bake, so I have lots for sale if anyone out there is interested!!

Butchering went very well, other than running out of pepper for some of the sausage.  We let the sausage marinate in the spices for a day or two before grinding anyway, so I was able to fix it.  But I'm so happy to have a freezer full of pork again! We do have a a limited amount of extra sausage, chops and roasts for sale if anyone is interested.  Mmmm...pork chops on a charcoal grill...

 
 

Butchering time is here again...

It's a beautiful spring day here in Pennsylvania.  I'm looking forward to a productive weekend on the farm. 

My husband's parents are kind enopugh to help us with the butchering of our hogs, so I am looking forward to seeing them this weekend.  We are doing 5 hogs this weekend, so I'm not sure whether I'll be grilling pork chops for dinner or if we'll all want chicken!  This will be my 3rd time helping with this particular farm activity, and since we send the piggies to a USDA facility for slaughter, the sides of meat we pick up from Hirsch's don't look like any creature I'm used to feeding.  That makes it a bit easier for a new to farming girl like me. (I never even had a vegetable garden until I met my husband...my mom can't believe that I pluck my own chickens now!)  This will also be the first time I'll be doing hogs that were born on the farm...the last 2 times we raised up feeder pigs that we bought.  I am looking forward to this weekend though, my freezer was quickly emptying after a long winter.  I am excited to make sausage this time.  I was let in on the 2 "secret family recipes" for sausage, a brown sugar breakfast type and a sage variety, and as a cook I can never just follow the recipe without trying to make my own adjustments.  I grew my first ever herb garden last year and dried some sage that I'm excited to used in the sausage.  If it turns out well, I'll use it in all the sage sausage we make and sell in the future, but for now I'm only going to try it with what my husband and I will be eating.  Lucky for me, he really enjoys sage, so if it comes out a little strong it won't go to waste.

We also have 15 adorable little piglets that will be 2 weeks old this weekend.  Our 2 sows, Fern and Charlotte (yes, the boar's name is Wilbur...I'm a family literacy teacher by day so some of the creatures get literary names) have done a great job with thier piglets, both this time and with the last litters.  We give our piglets iron shots at 3 and 10 days of age to make sure they don't become anemic.  I was happy to finish that up last night.  Char is as sweet as can be and makes some noise when you handle the babies, but dosen't cause any trouble.  Fern, on the other hand, well, you have to admire her motherly instinct.  On the other hand I really don't want a 350 lb sow biting me for trying to handle the babies.  So what works for us is to lure her just outside the hog house with a little feed and shut the door!  We can quickly give the babies the care they need, clean out the pen and no one gets hurt.  She's ready to come back in when the door is opened. 

Other than that, I plan to keep up the spring cleaning and help Dan in the fields if possible this weekend.  He hopes to finish up planting the hayfield today before I get home.  This weekend is the opening day of trout season in PA, which means lots of campers and former customers will be driving by.  It always amazes me how many people will stop on the road so they can talk to you...I guess seeing someone working a team of horses in the field dosen't register to most people as work, but rather something you do for fun.  It sure makes it hard to have a productive day though.  We bought a work collar and adjusted a harness to will fit my little Morgan mare, Sara.  I hope to try and work her in the garden this weekend. (it dosen't border the road!)  She is my baby, I adopted her from a rescue society when she was 6 and I'm proud to say she is an unbelieveably healthy 23 now.  I hope to teach her to do some light field work to keep her in shape as I don't get to ride as much as I used to. She's been a 4-H show horse, a trail horse, a pet that didn't get ridden when I was away at college, we taught her to pull a buugy and sleigh in the past few years, now it's time for something new for both of us!

 
 

More Babies...

After getting home from work, I checked Scotchie's nest box and she had 8 babies after all!  I am so excited that my first-time bunnies have been such good mamas.  Both Scotchie and her sister have raised 8 without any losses.  I am just anxoius to see the new ones hopping about in their pen, they should open thier eyes in a few days.

We are expecting piglets soon too, possibly as soon as the weekend.  Both sows had 7 each last time, and raised a total of 13. But we're hoping for even more this time around!  However, we only keep as many babies to raise up as we have orders for pork.  They just eat too much :(  So if anyone reading this is interested in a whole or half hog please contact me for more information!  

I am so excited, our seed order from Seed Savers Exchange came on Monday.  The packets show such beautiful plants, I can't wait to start them.  I was also impressed because each packet tells you how to preserve seed for next year.  I did some last year, but only green beans and sunflowers, so I appriciate all the information I can get!  We hope to do that this weekend, but first we have to finish a chicken coop & run, as we wintered over our Phoenix chickens and a few Delaware pullets in the greenhouse.  We need to move them before starting the seeds, because otherwise my beautiful seeds will just be expensive chicken food! 

 
 
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