Pleasant Valley Farm

  (Tionesta, Pennsylvania)
Real Family Farming in Tionesta, PA
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Rain, Finally!

Another crazily busy week here on the farm, but that is just July for you!  We were so happy that the oppressive, 100+ degrees temperatures broke, but most days we're still seeing upper 80's and into the 90's, so with the humidity it sure feels like summer anyway.  But I can't complain, because finally we got some summer rains!!  The ground was so dry here that the creek through the pastures dried up and the garden soil on the unirrigated parts was about bone dry as well.  Between the heat and the dry creek, we've spent much more time than usual hauling water to the livestock- up to 5 times per day in the worst of the heat, up from our usual schedule of 2x per day (morning and evening).  The tomatoes and peppers have been doing great with the drip irrigation under them, but we were starting to worry that we'd lose the entire sweet corn crop if we didn't get some rain.  Fortunately, we got a plentiful amount, and over a few days, not all at once in a single, severe storm. Dan swears the corn stalks grew a foot one day while he was away at work as a result of the rain.   The creek is even showing feeble signs of life again!

But hauling water isn't the only thing that's kept me busy.  I love to find great canning recipes to use up the garden bounty, and the canner has been getting a workout lately.  I've got dilly beans (green beans pickled with dill), hot pepper rings, pickled beets, and my popular dill pickles, made with my own secret recipe.  Those have all been great things to make, and I've enjoyed doing that over the last few years, but I also love to see what else I can find to make-  every cook gets bored with the same old things day after day!  So this week, I made something I'm calling "Sweet Garden Relish".  It's like a sweet pickle relish, but instead of using cucumbers (the heat has not been kind to them) it uses zucchini, onion and bell pepper.  A combo that really works for what the garden is producing right now, and it tastes amazing! I admit, as I was finishing canning it and tasting the final product, I started craving a hot dog or burger from the grill, anything on which I could pile this relish!  

Meats have been keeping us busy, too.  I got to visit my friends from Hirsch's today as I picked up a whole carload of ground beef.  After reading my post about saying goodbye to Buzz, you might imagine that it was an awful trip, but it wasn't.  It was hard to say goodbye, but there is almost instant closure to it, at least for me.  I'm not going to cry about it anymore, or refuse to sell, handle or eat that meat- I respect my animals by treating them with kindness and dignity while they are alive, and not wasting the food they provide later.  If I had trouble moving on like that, I doubt I could farm the way we do.  

We also have been busy processing chickens.  Although it's still just Dan and I, hand plucking and processing, we're trying to up our output a little bit, as we have the wonderful problem of selling out of chicken every week we offer it.  We've talked about making a nice processing pavilion, one that would streamline the process a bit, and we've gotten that underway. If you have wondered what the new building with the green roof is behind the greenhouse, now you know!  We do have some siding up now, which was so nice in this heat to be out of the direct sun.  The gravel floor is down, and now the next step will be to pour cement.  We'll also be running some lines for a sink and the cooling tubs soon.  It's already much nicer that before, and I can't wait to get it all done.  I've been trying to take pictures of the construction process, so hopefully soon I can post a whole start-to-finish slideshow of that project.

I also took a rare day away from the farm this week to attend a field day put on by PASA, the PA Association for Sustainable Agriculture, along with WAgN, the Penn State Women's Agriculture Network.  (I know, it's a mouthful!)  The even was in nearby Brookville at Quiet Creek Herb Farm and focused on Chantrelles and exotic PA mushrooms.  I learned a lot and was really happy to attend, the folks there were amazingly knowledgeable. The workshop was a fun mix of mushroom hunting for personal fun and use (which Dan & I started just last year), cooking with mushrooms (and an amazing lunch!) and a bit on growing & selling mushrooms to the public.  It's something we may like to try in the future, we are always looking to keep up and expand the diversity of our farm stand offerings.

 So, it's been more than enough to keep us busy, but we don't expect any less from the summer months! 




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!

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