Pleasant Valley Farm

  (Tionesta, Pennsylvania)
Real Family Farming in Tionesta, PA
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New Arrivals

Lots of excitement going on here at the farm!  We have 3 new Dexter cattle here as of yesterday afternoon.  Mark & Edlyn Muir were kind enough to loan us a few!  We met these wonderful people last fall when we purchased Fiannait from them.  This time, they brought us Finn-Bar,  one of their impressive bulls, for us to breed Finni to.  (So far, they've hit it off quite nicely!) Although Dexters are not tall, he is a beefy, solid, well-built animal, and gentle enough to follow me into the barn calmly when we put them in away from the heat of the day this morning. He gladly followed me, but it may have had something to do with the feed bucket in my hand! As the Muirs sold us Finni knowing we were hoping to milk her in the spring, they were disappointed for us that a calf never arrived.   So Lil also came with them, along with her calf.  They were kind enough to loan Lil to us for the summer so we could have a family milk cow for a time, and the calf is ours to keep as a replacement for the one Finni didn't have this past spring.  It is just amazing to deal with breeders like that!  Plus the cattle are so tame and easy to work with, even the bull, that they are a true joy to have here.  I'm excited to try my hand at milking a cow for the first time ever this evening!

I was also thrilled to check the incubator this morning and find three newly hatched peachicks!  We set every egg the peahens laid this year, but being that these were the very first eggs they had ever produced, I wasn't expecting a great hatch.  Sometimes it takes a few tries before a bird will produce a hatchable egg.   So, I'm just tickled pink with 3 out of 5 hatching!  That's probably all for our first round, but there are more eggs in the incubator, and I'm confident that there are more chicks on the way.

The garden is looking amazing. Saturday we were able to have the first of our green peppers for sale, and more are on the way this week.  I spy some jalapeƱos and other hot peppers as well.   I see tiny zucchini, yellow zucchini, and crookneck squash, as well as cucumbers, that should be ready for this weekend.  The new crop of lettuce, spinach & other salad greens are going strong, although I may give them another week before I start cutting.  I have green tomatoes appearing on more plants every day. I should have green beans by now, but the deer have been munching on them and the peas, so we'll see if there are enough to pick by the weekend. We often don't have enough hot weather to grow melons properly, but these past couple weeks have been ideal.  Even the seedlings that didn't look so hot at first are thriving. This year, I'm trying 3 varieties of watermelon (2 heirlooms), a honeydew, a cantaloupe, and an exotic French heirloom melon (Delice de la Table) that I didn't have success with last year, but sounded so intriguing I had to give it another shot.   I have herbs sprouting and otherwise just going crazy in those beds as well.  I'm headed back outside to do some more weeding, so among the weeds that took over some of the earlier plantings, I'm hoping to see kohlrabi, pac choi, beets and Swiss chard, hopefully of picking size. 

It's hot and humid here, but the chance of rain looks fairly low for the next few days, so Dan is out mowing hay.  He mowed some a few days ago, so hopefully it will dry out enough later today or tomorrow to get it into the barn.  We had hay in by the beginning of June last summer, but this year it's so far been next to impossible as we need 3 rain-free days in a row, and June hasn't cooperated much!  I like to help with the horse drawn equipment, so I'll probably be raking hay, as well as driving the haywagon again when we load it.  

Another pig left us this morning, so we'll be making sausage by the end of the week to have fresh sausage to sell this weekend.  I'll also need to make a seperate trip to Hirsch's to pick up our beef, which will be available for the first time since last fall.  Plus I have more vinegar to bottle, and more bottles should be delivered tomorrow.   These is so much ripening and coming in that I may need to get another table to the stand before the weekend to have a place for all of it!  What a great time to be home on the farm!

 
 

Peafowl on Display

Anyone who has come to visit our farm has likely seen some of our more exotic-looking poultry.  We raise Polish chickens, with crazy crowns of feathers that look like a wig, Golden Phoenix roosters have tails that can grow to be two feet long, and Cochins whose feet are completely obscured by feathers, making them appear to be wearing slippers.  All these birds are kept in a pen visible from our parking lot, and the do get quite a bit of attention.  However, they are not the most attention-grabbing birds we keep.

Two summers ago, Dan and I bought peafowl.  Most people know these beauties as peacocks, but that is really only referring to the males of the species.  Our ladies are properly called peahens.  The babies, not surprisingly, are called peachicks.  We got our birds as chicks, and peafowl are slower to develop than many birds, as they are long lived...they can live to be 50 years old!  Our males are developing the first real tail feathers with the characteristic eye spots, and although they will get longer still in years to come (up to 6 feet!) they are beginning to be beautiful.  Our hens will lay their first eggs this year, and we hope to hatch them in our incubator.  However, peafowl can fly well and we worried about them escaping, so it's taken us some time to get a proper outdoor run set up.  We were able to do that this weekend, complete with a roof made of netting, which makes it look like a real aviary pen.  It's also located right along the road, which I'm sure will slow traffic going by!

 

It took our birds a day or so to get used to leaving the safe confines of the barn, but they truly seem to enjoy being outside now.  We're thrilled to get them out where we can enjoy them as well, and it's a great time of year to be able to watch them.  The males have been strutting, trying to impress the hens.  Like turkey, they are able to raise their tails into an impressive fan.   They can also vibrate them, which makes an interesting soft rattling noise as they follow the girls about.  When all four peacocks start, it's quite a show!

 

They also make a variety of sounds, especially around dusk and dawn.  The one noted in books as sounding like "help"  does sound a bit like the word, but is an eerie, haunting cry.  I'd be pretty worried if I were outside by myself around dusk and heard it without knowing the creature making it!  There is also another cry that sounds...well, the closest I can come to describing it in print is like a bicycle horn!

 

In other farm goings-on, Dan broke ground for the first time this year with the horses.  After discing under some cornstalks, he began plowing the cornfield and garden areas near the road.  There are many more days ahead of working Dixie and Dolly to get our fields through spring planting, and it's always exciting to get that process underway! 

 
 
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