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Posted 12/13/2009 6:22pm by Reuben DeMaster.

     After a mild November, the cold weather has finally arrived.  I was pleased to continue picking vegetables until Thanksgiving.  Wannamakers General Store was kind enough to start stocking some of my produce.  My winter project has also started to take shape.  In November I formed and poured the footers and then watched the mason and excavator do their jobs.  You can see from the pictures that the shed is built into the hillside which allows for cool storage in the summer and winter.  I still need another warm, dry day to get the garage floor poured and then I'll be framing. 

     Although I have done a fair amount of carpentry, it is interesting and challenging to build from start to finish.  I don't think that I am ready to build homes, but I am confident that this will be a quality building that stands for a long time.  I also expect to have the useful space that I need next year.  That reminds me; I have to start ordering seeds!

 

 

Posted 10/26/2009 8:33pm by Reuben DeMaster.

If you are reading this, chances are that you already support the local food movement.  The following link is from the Emmaus Farmers Market website and lists 10 reasons to buy local.  http://www.emmausmarket.com/10reasons.htm

If you are interested in reading a more detailed description of the Community Supported Agriculture movement, here is an interesting site:  http://www.localharvest.org/csa/ 

Willow Haven Farm also has a listing at www.LocalHarvest.org

 

Posted 9/17/2009 10:39am by Reuben DeMaster.

All summer, I have been selling my vegetables at the Jim Thorpe Farmer's Market.  The market opened this year in Memorial Park on Saturdays from 9-1.  The community has supported the market and appreciates the opportunity to purchase fresh products directly from farmers.  I thank the community and especially those people who regularly purchase their food from the market.  I have met a large number of market volunteers, farmers, and vegetable lovers who have enriched my summer and I have thoroughly enjoyed selling in Jim Thorpe.  If any of you are ever in that area, please stop by.

Posted 8/16/2009 8:12am by Reuben DeMaster.

  Sometimes it seems like it is possible to find scientific research to support almost any position.  Nevertheless, the following article makes me feel better about the amount of dirt that attaches itself to my children and enters my house.  I found different versions of this story line and research in articles spanning at least the past 8 years.  If anyone has read "Dirt is Good", I would be interested in your opinion of it. 

 

February 2, 2009
Should We Let ‘em Eat Dirt? Kids, that is ...
American children’s overly sterile surroundings and overprotective
parents may pose dangers to their health
by Craig Weatherby


Fans of the comic strip “Peanuts” will remember the little boy
nicknamed
Pigpen, who ambled about in a perpetual cloud of dust and dirt.



Recent findings indicate that Pigpen’s prospects of developing a
healthy
immune system would have better than his fictional peers’ chances —
thanks precisely to his status as a human dirt magnet

In fact, excessively clean environments and lack of outdoor play may be
partly to blame for the rise of asthma and allergies in recent years.

Seemingly “icky” bacteria and worms may be crucial to ensuring that
growing children develop immune systems that can tell harmless
organisms
and foods from truly toxic things.

As immunologist Mary Ruebush,, Ph.D., writes in her new book, Dirt is
Good, “What a child is doing when he puts things in his mouth is
allowing
his immune response to explore his environment … the most delightful
sights for a parent should be a young child covered in dirt from an
active afternoon of outdoor play.”

Farm life builds
balanced immunity

Intriguing findings suggest that because kids who grow up on farms get
exposed to a wider range of organisms, this helps their bodies build
balanced immune systems.

For example, bacteria strains isolated from farm cowsheds appear to
possess strong allergy-protective properties (Debarry J et al. 2007).

And it seems to matter which kind of farm a child is raised on, because
some environments are linked to lower risk of asthma more than others.

The farm-related factors that German researchers found most protective
against asthma in children on farms were pig keeping, consuming raw
farm
milk, more time spent in animal sheds, and handling hay and silage (Ege
MJ et al. 2007).

Dr. Ruebush also decries the overuse of anti-bacterial soaps, which
reduce kids’ exposure to harmless bacteria while doing little to reduce
common colds and other innocuous infections, which actually help the
immune system calibrate itself.

The idea is that if children aren’t exposed to dirt, bugs and bacteria
early in life, their bodies never learn to tell real threats from the
myriad harmless matter that surrounds them and invariably finds its way
into kids’ mouths, ears, noses, and lungs.

Unless they are exposed to a reasonably full range of normal
environmental “stuff”, children’s immune systems may become
hyper-sensitive and mount the inappropriate, excessive responses that
characterize allergies, asthma, and inflammatory skin and bowel
disorders
(Romagnani S 2004; Hersoug LG 2006).

Worms and microbes as health food

The so-called “hygiene hypothesis” of allergies and asthma holds
that the
microorganisms and worms ingested by kids when they play in and around
soil and dirt actually aid the development of healthy immune systems.

In fact, it’s looking like, as an article in The New York Times
reports,
“… worms may help to redirect an immune system that has gone awry and
resulted in autoimmune disorders, allergies and asthma.” (See “Babies
Know: A Little Dirt Is Good for You”.)

The Times article notes that recent research results link the sterile
environments of Western countries to immune system disorders like
multiple sclerosis, Type 1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, asthma
and allergies, rates of which have risen steadily in the U.S. and other
developed countries.

Posted 7/20/2009 8:33pm by Reuben DeMaster.

     The season has been a good one so far and the farm has produced abundantly.  Several places have taken my vegetables and I would like to recommend them to you.  First, a wonderful chef at the Bake Oven Inn has been buying my extras and also buys from other local farmers.  I have not eaten there but have heard good things.  He is located in Germansville.  Two health food stores have been buying some of my vegetables - Healthy Alternatives in Trexlertown and Healthy Habits in Schnecksville.  Finally, I have been selling at the Jim Thorpe Farmer's Market on Saturday mornings.  It is in Memorial Park and goes from 9-1. 

     When you support establishments like these, you are supporting a vibrant, local food system. 

Posted 6/30/2009 7:35pm by Reuben DeMaster.

     I wish that you could hear some of the comments and stories that I hear about vegetables.  My favorite ones are from children.  One child decided to have more broccoli instead of ice cream.  Another smiled happily when I told her that there was broccoli in the bag because she said this broccoli was better than store broccoli.  When my oldest child was 1, we covered the broccoli on the table because once she saw it, she refused to eat anything else. 

     It is wonderful to see children learning to eat and enjoy vegetables at a young age.  Parents who help their families eat well are giving a great gift to their children. 

     Some farm members signed up this season in order to increase the amount of vegetables that their families eat.  This impresses me as well because changing eating habits can be very difficult.  For any number of reasons, many families and children do not enjoy eating vegetables.  I don't enjoy eating vegetables either when they come out of a metal can or when they are flavorless and cooked until they are mush.  Having high quality vegetables is the first step in solving this dilemma.  Giving people access to the same fresh vegetables that I have grown accustomed to eating is a major motivation to start this farm. The second necesary step is learning to prepare and serve them in a way the is tasteful and appealing.  

     Three simple ideas are these. Serve raw vegetables with a salad dressing or dip that you and your children enjoy.  Cut the veggies into diffent shapes: coins, cubes, sticks, etc. Many children especially love to dip thier food.  Try it even with kale, zuchini, peas, and onions.  Secondly, many greens and other vegetables are delicious sauteed in a little olive oil with garlic and a little salt.  Try adding a bit of the herb that you recieved that week.  Lastly, try a new recipe for a sweet bread or cake with the shredded vegetable added, like chocolate zucchini cake.

   

Posted 5/30/2009 8:30pm by Reuben DeMaster.

     One interesting adjustment that I am learning to make this Spring is that my daily schedule depends greatly on the weather.  Each type of weather helps some farm tasks and hinders others. 

     For example, we just completed a cool, wet week.  I now have beautiful leafy green vegetables, cabbage, and broccoli.  The transplants and seeds that I was able to get in the ground started growing quickly without extra watering.  Some of the weeds became easier to pull.  However, my strawberries did not ripen, my fruit tres had extra disease exposure, and I'm concerned about downy mildew on my cucumbers and squash. 

    If and when the weather warms up, my vegetables will grow quickly as will the weeds.  If it gets too hot, tender greens like spinach and lettuce will turn bitter and start to form seeds.  If it gets too dry, I spend more time watering. 

     Because of the wet week, I was not able to get enough seeds in the ground.  Early next week, that will be a priority along with trying to keep pace with the weeds. 

     

Posted 5/20/2009 7:49pm by Reuben DeMaster.

I knew that I was in trouble when I had to scrape the ice from my windshield Tuesday morning.  I'm told that the frost broke the the record low temperature by 3 degrees.  Despite the fabric covers, I lost the early tomatoes and beans.  The potatoes may have lost a few leaves but look like they will survive. 

Adjusting to the weather is one of the keys to farming and the weather got the better of me in this case.  I replanted the lost crops already and we will all have to wait a few weeks longer for tomatoes and beans. 

Posted 5/14/2009 1:24pm by Reuben DeMaster.

Our family loves Kale.  The kids eat it raw, right out of the garden.  We like cooking it too.  Our favorite recipe is for Sausage Kale Soup.

Kale is a super green vegetable. It is high in Vitamin K, A and C. 

How to Store Kale

Kale should be wrapped in a damp paper towel, placed in a plastic bag and stored in the refrigerator crisper. It should not be washed before storing since this may cause it to become limp. Kale can be kept in the refrigerator for several days, although it is best when eaten within one or two days after delivery since the longer it is stored, the more bitter its flavor becomes.

Tips for Preparing Kale:

Before eating or cooking, wash the kale leaves thoroughly under cool running water to remove any sand or dirt that may remain in the leaves. Both the leaves and the stem of kale can be eaten, although the stems of mature kale are tougher. After removing any roots that remain, you can just cut it into the desired shape and size.

If your recipe calls for the leaves only, they can be easily removed. Just take each leaf in hand, fold it in half lengthwise, hold the folded leaves near the base where they meet the stalk, and with the other hand, gently pull on the stem. You can also use a knife to separate the leaves from the stems.

A Few Quick Serving Ideas:

Click Recipes to go to the kale recipes on our blog.  You can use the search function to find all recipes with kale.

Sauté kale with fresh garlic and sprinkle with lemon juice and olive oil before serving.

Braise chopped kale and apples. Before serving, sprinkle with balsamic vinegar and chopped walnuts.

Combine chopped kale, pine nuts and feta cheese with whole grain pasta drizzled with olive oil.

The taste and texture of steamed kale makes it a wonderful topping for homemade pizzas.

Posted 4/20/2009 7:06pm by Reuben DeMaster.

    When I talk to people about vegetables, I discover a few common attitudes.  Some people flat out enjoy eating vegetables.  They like seeing them, cooking them, experimenting with them, learning about them, and are genuinely excited when a new variety is introduced.  They say, "Wow, an orange eggplant", or "That purple brocolli looks wonderful".  These people have no problem eating several vegetable courses at meals and snacking on carrots or radish between meals.  I tend to have this attitude and thankfully, my children have learned it as well.  We snack on mint leaves, baby kale, garlic chives, spinach, beans, tomatoes, and any fruit that we can find.  I adore sweet corn fresh in the field, but that is another story. 

     On the other end of the spectrum, I find people who have been told that they should eat vegetables.  They want to eat vegetables, but let's just say it does not come easily to them.  Their minds tell them how healthy the vegetables are, but their mouths haven't learned to take pleasure in eating them.  If you are a person like this and you have signed up in order to increase the vegetables in your diet, I want to welcome you to membership in Willow Haven Farm.  My goal is to help you eat more fresh, healthy vegetables and to enjoy doing it.  I invite all of the vegetable lovers out there to join me in helping these vegetable nibblers become vegetable lovers. 

     Throughout the summer, I will be posting vegetable descriptions and recipes from other members to encourage you not to be afraid of your eggplant.  Because iceberg head lettuce just annoys me after awhile, I grow dark red lettuce, and kale, and spinach, and swiss chard, and collard greens, and so on.  You can be sure you will receive plenty of beans, tomatoes, and cucumbers this summer, but I want everyone to enjoy a broader variety of vegetables.  So get your recipes ready and stay tuned for a great summer. 

New recipe: Fettucine with ham and napa cabbageOctober 9th, 2017

1/2 pound fettuccine 1 onion, chopped 2 cups chopped Napa cabbage 1 tablespoon vegetable oil 1/4 pound cooked ham, chopped 1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds 1/3 cup heavy cream In a large saucepan of

New recipe: Napa Cabbage SaladOctober 9th, 2017

2 (3 oz) packages ramen noodles, crushed (flavor packets discarded) 1 cup blanched slivered almonds 2 tsp sesame seeds 1/2 cup butter, melted 1 head napa cabbage, shredded 1 bunch green onions, choppe

New recipe: Beef and Napa Cabbage Stir FryOctober 9th, 2017

1 tablespoon soy sauce 1 tablespoon rice vinegar (not seasoned) 2 teaspoons oyster sauce 1 tablespoon cornstarch 1 pound flank steak 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided 3 garlic cloves, smashed 1 (1

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