Even as the days are now visibly waning, the wet season seems to not want to follow suit. 2018 has given many trials to food growers: a very cold late winter with almost no spring, followed by a hot and muggy summer that is runner up for Pennsylvania's wettest year on record. Despite this being bad for several of our garden plants, it's been quite the opposite in the pasture and forest.
We've observed baby saplings, planted this past spring, fall and spring of '17, grow 6 to 9 ft! The pasture grass is the most healthy the cows and sheep have ever seen, and flooding has brought a tiny stream back to life that now meanders its way to the Little Chiques creek. In general all of the woody perennials and so-called "invasive" medicinals are thriving thanks to the abundance of rain. Even some of the annuals did well despite the elements and fungal rot that effected others.
In the river hills we've eaten the sweet nectar of paw-paws like children leaving a sloppy mess all over faces and hands. Wild mushrooms such as chanterelles, boletes, chicken-of-the-woods, and oysters have been plentiful, their mycelial web decomposing dank wood, turning sick and dying to healthy earth. And, as we anticipate foraging black walnuts and hickories, acorns have been dropping upon us from the oaks above.
So now as we celebrate the years harvests and prepare for the coming winter we begin to slow down and reflect on what's working and what isn't, balancing light and dark. We also give gratitude to the water that brings us life, and to you, our community.
Our Farm Store is open! The little milkhouse just down our driveway by the bank barn has new life, with a fresh coat of paint and new lighting. The big chest freezer holds our pork, beef and lamb cuts for sale, and the refrigerator stores the pastured eggs and shiitake mushrooms. There is plenty of space left to add fruit, nuts, herbs and vegetables as we get our systems up and running! We are open Monday to Saturday, 8:00 am to 7:00 pm (call if you want to come on a Sunday - someone may be available).
Fall Meat CSA Shares! What's a CSA? Community Supported Agriculture! When you become a member you are buying directly from your local farmer with no middle man. You will be supporting a local farm, one dedicated to regenerating the soil, the environment, and the ecological balance and diversity of your region. In return you get the convenience of doing about a months worth of pastured meat shopping in one day, receiving a box of diverse cuts. We have full and half shares throughout the year. With our fall shares you get to choose beef, pork and/or lamb, and are a monthly pick-up from October-December either here on our farm, the Horn Farm Center in Hellam, or our Lancaster city location. Click here for ordering instructions and more info! ORDER NOW!
We now accept EBT/Snap cards! Onward to making healthy food more accessible to all!
Rain can bring abundance. In the newly planted 5 acre pasture across the road from the farmhouse, trees, cover crops, and pig forage grew with abandon all year long. Two foot tall chestnut whips turned into 8 ft trees in one growing season. A summer cover crop mix of sorghum, clover, cowpea, radish, brassica, chicory and sunflowers grew above my head in a matter of months. Hazels, oaks, persimmons, and apples all turned a rich, deep green as they converted sunlight into leaves, wood, and roots.
We could not have asked for a better growing season to turn this abused old cornfield into our forage wonderland we call "hog heaven." And we are grateful for it because the excellent growth of the forage helped our two first-time sows rear their full litters of 9 and 7 piglets, respectively, into healthy little tanks of porcine vigor (great job mamas!). Once again, caring for the land and increasing plant diversity brought in butterflies, spiders, crickets, grasshoppers, bunnies, groundhogs, snakes, and more into this small plot of land that stood silent as a lifeless field of chemically-treated soybeans last year. No longer.
As the pigs forage, root, and turn the remaining plants back into the soil they prepare the ground for more diverse plantings of cover crops to be seeded. These mixtures will overwinter and build the soil anew until the pigs come back to graze and root next year. All the while, our trees will be growing and in a few years will begin to bear fruits and nuts that will feed us humans and the pigs will feast on the leftovers in their pastures. I can hardly wait for that moment when apples, mulberries, oaks, hazels, persimmons, and chestnuts are dropping their abundance, while the pigs are stretched out and napping under the trees with full bellies and silly grins from over-indulging on the fallen smorgasbord of food. If that isn't a picture of hog heaven I don't know what is.
Food and Justice
Soul Fire Farm is a small, black-led organic farm in New York that is creating huge change in the food system. They are tackling food apartheid, climate change, racism in the food system, disconnection from land, harmful agricultural practices, lack of community, all while growing boatloads of life-giving food for their local community. They are also training the next generation of farmers, activists, and movers who are seeking to build community-based food systems that are equitable, grounded in the earth, regenerative, and open to all. Their websitewww.soulfirefarm.org has a wealth of information on how to take action in your daily life or where to press institutions for change to make food and farming a force for good in the world. Also, Leah Penniman, the executive director and author of the new book, Farming While Black, will be speaking at the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) Conference in Lancaster this February, so mark your calendars! If you can, consider supporting the work of these amazing folks!
Fall is the time for harvest, gratitude, and tying up the loose ends of the growing year. For us, that means autumn is also the season for slaughtering and butchering animals. We will have two workshops this November on how to butcher chickens and sheep from our farm.
Sheep Butchering Workshop - Saturday November 3 (possibly Nov. 10 so stay tuned) 1:00pm-5:00pm - $75 (meat included)
Join us and our good friend and butcher Javier to learn how to properly break down an animal into cuts, grind meat, and some suggestions on how to prepare different cuts of mutton. Go home with 12 lbs of grass-fed mutton from our farm! In the morning (8am) will be a demonstration on evisceration that folks are welcome to see and then the afternoon (1pm) will be hands-on butchering, grinding, and vac-sealing. Bring a lunch if you are coming for the morning to watch the gutting process. Email or call to reserve a spot, space is limited!
Chicken Butchering Workshop - Saturday November 17 9:00am-2:00pm - $30 (1 chicken included)
Join us to learn how to slaughter, pluck, and gut a chicken so that it is ready for the table. Every attendee will have the opportunity to do the entire process themselves. Email or call to reserve a spot, space is limited! Note: these chickens are our older laying hens and are not suitable for frying or roasting but will make the best chicken soup you have ever eaten!