Real Family Farming in Tionesta, PA
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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 jalapeños 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!
Posted by Emily
@ 03:27 PM EDT
I love this time of year in the garden, everything is so plentiful! We had our first sweet corn this weekend and a few ripe tomatoes as well. The plants don't look great, but they don't have the killer blight and the tomatoes are finally turning red! It must be the sunshine, which has finally reappeared. As I type, I'm keeping an eye on my canner as I am making salsa with the leftovers from the market- tomatoes, onions, and hot peppers. Growing up, no one in my family canned, but I taught myself a few summers ago and I really enjoy it. I love knowing what's really in my food and being able to control the amout of chemicals, salt and sugar that goes into whatever I'm eating. I love trying new recipies, and I love finding ones that use the herbs and vegetables I have just out my back door! I do make some other things, like mustards, that I need to buy most of the ingredients for, but they are so much better than anything store bought! I enjoy canning so much that I have started putting some of my sauces and other things for sale at the stand. If you stop by, along with 2 kinds of mustards I have flavored vinegar, a sweet & sour dipping sauce, hot pepper jelly, dilled green beans and this weekend, salsa!
Opening the stand has made us so busy, getting laid off was really a blessing in disguise. People remember our sausage and we have sold quite a lot of the secret family recipe breakfast sausage. Dan and I introduced a mild and a hot Italian sausage 2 weeks ago and they were so popular, we're going to have them again this weekend. So Thursday I'll be busy stuffing sausage and packaging it.
Another thing keeping me busy lately is working on the website. I've added a lot on new pictures of the animals and the stand. I'm also working on a page with pictures and descriptions of the various polutry we raise, which is taking some time and isn't live yet. If you'd like to check it out, the address is www.pleasantvalleyfarm.weebly.com.
If you're planning on being in Tionesta for the Rumble on the River Bike Fest, stop by and see us! We always enjoy meeting the people who follow us online. And if it isn't too hot, you can meet Puff, our cat who thinks he is the farm stand mascot. He love to be the greeter and be petted by everyone!
Posted by Emily
@ 12:48 PM EDT
Recenly I've noticed a strange visitor to the flower garden in the back yard. To me, it looks like what would happen if you crossed a ruby-throated hummingbird with a crayfish from a nearby creek, but there it was, flitting among my bee balm like a bee. I called Dan over, as he has spent most of his life on this farm and is well aquainted with everything that lives here, but he was as surprised as I was. After some research on the internet, I found a picture that looked like my little creature...it is called a Hummingbird Clearwing moth. Among the food sources listed for this insect were bee balm, mint, butterfly buish, red clover and lilac, all of which all grow here on the farm, so I'm pretty sure I have a positive ID. I know in recent years honeybees have become scarce, we have notice far more bumblebees acting as our pollinators, so my first guess was that these moths have moved in to take the bee's place since they are benificial pollinators too. However, I was thrilled to notice that all the melons, squash and pumpkins were being pollinated by real honeybees this week. I've seen limited amounts of the bees, mostly on the clover that grows in the yard, but not as much in the garden. It makes me hopeful that maybe our space, free of chemicals, really is benifitting the local wildlife. I'm not the only one noticing the moths though- a local gardner snapped a photo that ended up on the front page of our local newspaper just yesterday!
We are anticipating a busy weekend here at the farm stand. Tionesta's Indian Festival ends this weekend with a big parade on Saturday. If you're in town, we will have the stand open from 10-2 and our special this weekend is fresh sausage made right here at the farm. We'll have our secret family recipe loose breakfast sausage, plus mild and hot Italian sausage links, perfect for cookouts! We hope to see you Saturday!
Posted by Emily
@ 02:20 PM EDT
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...
Posted by Emily
@ 09:59 AM EDT
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