Pleasant Valley Farm

  (Tionesta, Pennsylvania)
Real Family Farming in Tionesta, PA
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Goodbye 2012, Hello 2013

It's hard to believe we're over a week into 2013 already! Looking back, 2012 was a year of great successes, but also great sorrow. Putting up the greenhouse was a major achievement, and I had far more success in starting seed than ever before. Despite the craziness in weather, the garden produced bountiful amounts of delicious produce, including tomatoes from June into October. We grew some awesome new flavors in the garden; winners included Pineapple Tomatillos, Fingerling Potatoes and Jimmy Nardello's Italian Frying Peppers. It was a more successful year for melons than I've seen before. Plenty of babies were born (sheep, rabbits, calves, chicks, quail, turkeys, kittens), including the first calf to be bred here at the farm from our bull. Yet again, I was able to be home on the farm full time, a major achievement in itself. I created new favorites in the canning kitchen, making Pineapple-Jalapeno Jam, Rhubarb Marmalade, and Bread & Butter Pickles. Dan and I (with some help from our friends) put up a new building, creating a blacksmith shop which also included some space where I could set up a stained glass studio. Dan has improved his smithing skills and has also learned to make some fantastic knives and other blades, while I taught myself both jewelry making and stained glass this past year. Off the farm, I shared what we do at Pittsburgh's Farm to Table conference and the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy's national conference in North Carolina. Closer to home, I talked about the importance of healthy, local food to a United Way group of families and at a luncheon for diabetes awareness, and also at a meeting of our local Lion's Club. I got to learn all about roasting coffee thanks to Matt Shay at Happy Mug Coffee.  I was interviewed and featured in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review article for the Farm to Table conference (complete with a picture of me and our team!) and my blog was even features in an issue of edible Allegheny magazine! Whew! A LOT of great things!

But there was heartache too. In July, my cat Puff, a companion of 11 years and self-appointed farm stand mascot, was lost. All that was found was some fur in the woods, as though he lost a fight with something large and with teeth. Six weeks later, my beloved Morgan mare Sara, my best friend for 20 years, passed away in my arms. On a farm with lots of animals, there will always be losses, and life does go on for the rest, but these were the two creatures that were part of my life before I met Dan and became a farmeress, and losing both so quickly was not easy. But as life moves on, other special creatures arrive. I hope to take more time blogging in the near future and tell you all about Little Puff the cat and Montana the horse, both whom arrived on the farm last year but haven't made it into my writings yet. In the garden, sweet corn season was disappointingly short, and the salsify proved to be tricky as well, and by the end of the year there were more weeds than I like to admit (and something I vow to do better at each new year!). I also wish I'd have put up more corn and peppers in the freezer and saved seed from a few more plants. But, I need to remember that there will always be things that don't quite measure up to the standard of perfection in my head.  After all, finding happiness in life involves celebrating the successes and moving forward, not dwelling on what could have been done better.

2013 so far has brought lots of snow, meaning we had much work to do in keeping the snow off of the greenhouse. Letting snow build up on the plastic will actually lead to the metal supports inside bending and can bring about the collapse of the entire building, so it's one of those things that HAVE to be done, even if it means setting the alarm clock for the middle of the night, just to check. But we're already looking forward to growing again. I spent yesterday inventorying seeds so I have an accurate picture of what we'll need to order. Dan says it's too early to be looking at seed catalogs, but it feels like time to me.  With the success of the sprout house last year, I'm eager to try new and exotic flavors that are only possible when you start your own plants, with special attention to tomatoes, peppers and melons. I'm always excited to try new herbs, and am kicking around the idea of starting some flowers before too long, with hopes of having them blooming by Mother's Day. I'm excited to be incorporating stained glass into my jewelry making, especially the new things I've been making by recycling old seed catalogs. I think the pendants made with pictures of flowers, herbs, and vegetables are really fun! My online store continues to grow, featuring lots of both jewelry and canned goods, which is a great help this time of year. (Check it out here!) Although it's cold and snowy, lambing season is little more than a month away, and soon the incubator will be humming and hatching. It's also time to round up some of my free-ranging yard bunnies so we can offer Easter bunnies as well. I've got two speeches lined up for March, one for an event put on by a group of Master Gardeners, the other at this year's Farm to Table (on heirloom seeds and canning, respectively), so I'll need to prepare for those soon, too.

I'm confident that 2013 will be full of farm babies, sprouts, delicious produce and tasty local flavor. I know there will be great successes, but that they will also be tempered by things that don't go as planned, but that is the nature of farming, and truly, of life in general. I'm excited to pursue all the wonderful things I so enjoy doing here- caring for the animals, gardening and growing, canning and cooking, and making beautiful things like jewelry and stained glass. Maybe this will be the year I learn to sew more than just curtains, really play the guitar, get back into yoga, write a book (or two!), get back into oil painting, or start a new hobby- I'd like to try woodworking, leather crafting, or making soaps, lotions, scents, and candles. As always, there are a stack of books I want to find time to read. Maybe I'll get around to training Ponyboy to do something useful or painting the room we've worked on turning into a library.  While I know not all of these will happen (this year, anyway), there is no harm in dreaming big.

This year, as every year, my most sincere wish is to dream and then do, to create and to love. I wish that and a very happy 2013 to all of our farm stand friends, and to all of you who take time out of your busy lives to read my ramblings. May the coming year be joyous and productive for you all.

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