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Posted 6/7/2011 8:56pm by Reuben DeMaster.

 

Last fall while I was selling vegetables at my stand at Jim Thorpe's Fall Foliage Festival, I took a break to wander through the other vendors stalls.  Some beautiful platters and bowls caught my eye so I walked over to talk to the pottery artist.  The artist purchased some of my vegetables and ate them for lunch.  That day I made a friend who loves nature, beauty and good food.  Robin Neidelcheff has a gift for using forms and designs in nature to create pottery.  She has developed beautiful glazing color combinations and enjoys teaching her skills to others.  When I found out that she offered classes, I was eager to get on her busy summer schedule. 

On June 25, Robin plans to teach a 10AM and a 2PM clay tile class.  This will be a hands on event in which participants will collect leaves from the farm and press them into clay.  These tiles will be glazed during the class and Robin will take them home to fire.  Each participant will pick up the tiles and take them home.  You can see an example of the tiles on the flyer and they are beautiful.  You can see Robin's work at www.playtimewithclay.com

If you would like to spend a few hours at Willow Haven Farm while learning to create a beautiful tile, please let us know soon.  The class is $25.  Children may also register for the class and the second child you register is $10. 

Registration:

  • Email the names of participants and your preferred class time to willowhavenfarm@live.com.
  • You will recieve a confirmation email when the class is filled and payment is due. 
  • Please respond ASAP if you are interested. 

See flyer HERE  or HERE.



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Leaf Imprint Tiles

Will make an Impression …

     on your Life

Saturday June 25, 2011

Learn about “the plants at the WILLOW HAVEN FARM

through a walk and discussion tour.”

 

 

Then choose a leaf and record your time at WILLOW HAVEN FARM.

You will create your own fossilized leaf tile out of earthenware clay.  Artist Robin Nidelcheff, of Perkasie Pa,

will direct you in the basics of tile making, imprinting and underglazing to give your tile life, color and depth.

Tiles will be dried, fired and ready for pick up July 9th.



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Use it as a trivet, wall hanging, or coaster. It’s a great summer learning

opportunity for the whole family.

 

          Make a set to serve your farm fresh produce.

 

To sign up email:  willowhavenfarm@live.com

Questions?  Call:    610-298-2197

Price:  $25

 

 

 

 

 

Posted 5/14/2011 10:17am by Reuben DeMaster.

On Tuesday night I received a call telling me that my bees arrived.  This year, I ordered bees from an apiary in Bethel, PA.  Neither of my two hives survived the Winter, so I ordered replacements.  To get honeybees, over 500 boxes of bees are shipped from Georgia.  Each box contains about 3,000 bees along with a queen.  The queen travels in a smaller box with 5 or 6 attendent bees in the box with her.  There is also a jar of syrup for the bees to eat on their journey. 

 

Early Wednesday morning, I picked up the bees and placed them in the hives.  First, I cleaned out the dead bees from the old hives.  Then I sampled the delicious honey left in the hive from last year.  I scraped off any comb that the bees built in the wrong place.  I removed the weeds from around the hive and made sure that they tilted forward slightly.  Finally, I was ready to introduce the bees to their new home. 

I pried off the top of the box and removed the smaller queen cage.  I placed that in the hive.  This cage is sealed with a sugar plug on top that the bees will consume in order to release their queen.  Then I removed the syrup can and proceeded to shake the bees into the hive.  Once most of the bees came out of the cage, I placed the top on the hive.  I set the cage in front of the hive so that the other bees could fly out.  Then I repeated the process for the next hive.

 

On Friday evening, I opened the hives to make sure that the queen was released.  I knew she was out when I saw the empty box.  Surprisingly, the bees had brought a lot of honey into the hive in just two days.  I did not find the queen, but if things go as expected she should immediately start laying up to 1200 eggs per day.  Now I will watch and wait.  I may open the hive in 6 weeks to make sure that the colony is healthy.

It is difficult to describe the excitement and thrill that I feel when handling bees.  I'm not sure if other beekeepers have the same feeling, but I suspect that they do. 

 

 

Posted 5/4/2011 5:04pm by Reuben DeMaster.

 

Apr 27, 5:01 AM EDT

China seizes melamine-tainted milk powder


BEIJING (AP) -- Authorities seized 26 tons of melamine-tainted milk powder from an ice cream maker in southern China three years after widespread use of the chemical in infant formula killed six babies, state media said Wednesday.

The discovery underscores China's stubborn problem with illegal food additives used to turn a quick profit regardless of the health risks.

Caches of toxic milk powder repeatedly have been discovered since a crackdown in 2008 that saw dozens arrested and a dairy farmer and a milk salesman executed.

The Global Times newspaper quoted police in the southern city of Chongqing as saying Tuesday that the Jixida Food Co. bought the milk powder a year ago to make pastries and ice cream.

The report said the tainted powder was stored in a warehouse and had not yet been used. Five suspects were detained and three could face criminal charges, the paper said, but did not identify their suspected roles in the contamination.

The report said the milk was traced to a company in Inner Mongolia but didn't say when it had been made. Other seized batches have been described as old stocks that were hidden when they should have been destroyed.

Adding melamine and water to milk and milk products makes the tainted, weaker products appear to have the correct protein content. Health problems from the industrial chemical include kidney stones and kidney damage.

At least six children died and nearly 300,000 children fell ill after consuming tainted infant formula in 2008.

That scandal prompted China to pass tougher food safety regulations and step up inspections.

A recent spate of new problems prompted the State Council, China's Cabinet, to last week order a renewed crackdown on the illegal food additives. So far this year, authorities have uncovered sales of drug-tainted pork, bean sprouts treated with a carcinogenic chemical compound, and old bread treated with sweeteners and dye to make it seem fresh.

© 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Learn more about our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

Posted 4/19/2011 5:38am by Reuben DeMaster.

My honeybee colonies did not make it through the winter.  At first, I thought that they ran out of honey.  Last year was their first season and they had to spend a lot of time and energy making comb in the hives.  By fall, the bees seemes to be thriving and had produced a fair amount of honey.  Other beekeepers had advised me to feed the bees in the fall, but I didn't get around to it.  So when I checked the hives in January and did not find live bees, I assumed that they had run out of honey. 

In February, I decided to take another look in the hives and discovered that one of the hives still had honey in it.  I tasted it to make sure.  This hive colapsed from something other than starvation.  Then my neighbor told me that all 4 of his hives had died and they all had honey in them. 

I was late in ordering new bees this spring.  Last week when I called the Lehigh Valley Beekeepers association, they told me that they were not taking any more orders for bees.  I happened to hear of a friend who had ordered bees from another source and was able to get an order in with him for two new colonies.  This has been another bad year for the bees with a lot of winter losses.  It doesn't seem like a good time to be a beginning beekeeper, but I guess that I'll keep trying. 

If anyone identifies honeybees living in a building or swarming in a large cluster outside, please call me or another beekeeper.  When honeybees swarm, they are looking for a new home and they are not aggressive.  Swarming bees have stuffed themselves with honey which they are trying to bring to their next home.  You should never spray them.  We will be happy to come and remove the bees because we will be able to start another hive without spending $80 on bees.  One person recently told me that honeybees were living in the walls of his house.  If this is true, maybe I'll get to start another hive this spring.   

Posted 4/10/2011 8:51pm by Reuben DeMaster.

This year, Willow Haven Farm welcomes Ben and Jade Chessman as farm interns.  Ben will be working full-time on the farm and Jade will fill in occasionally.  They arrived April 1 and plan to stay through the season.  Each of them add new gifts and abilities that I hope you will notice this season.  You can expect to see some excellent photos soon.  They bravely drove here from Texas and moved into our house without knowing quite what to expect.  So far, they really enjoy life on the farm and my children love having them around.  Both Ben and Jade wrote an introduction so I'll let them tell you something about themselves. 

 

New Tripoli is quite a ways from Dallas, but I couldn’t be more glad to be here for the season.  My wife Jade and I have already learned so much in this first week on the farm and are looking forward to everything else that will come over the next 7 months. 

Reuben thought it would be nice to give a bit of an introduction for those who are interested so here it is. 

I have grown up all over the U.S. but have called the Dallas area home for about the past 6 years.  I just graduated from the University of North Texas in 2008 with a degree in History and went from job to job not really sure what I wanted to do.  Farming has been a strong interest of mine since I was a kid (my father is an agronomist with the USDA so I’ve been surrounded by it) and I eventually decided to just go for it and see what kinds of opportunities were out there for me.  After applying for about 40 farms all over the country similar to Willow Haven, Reuben contacted me and after some correspondence and discussion with my wife, we decided this would be a good fit. It was definitely the right choice. 

My interests with agriculture have strong ties to my future plans for life in the horn of Africa.  The culture there is strongly tied to farming and the raising of livestock and the need for expertise is pretty great.  I am confident that the skills I gain here will transfer well to a life in a culture that can’t be dependent on access to chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and other aspects of conventional farming here in the U.S.  Poor farmers who make a meager subsistence living are doing so with farming techniques that are about 100 years behind our commercial farms here in the states.  If anyone would like to be of any assistance to farmers in a setting such as this, working on a 2,000 acre conventional farm doesn’t equip you so well.  But Willow Haven Farm is close to perfect. 

I look forward to meeting all who are friends of Reuben and Tessa’s and friends of the farm so come see us at the farm or market anytime.

Ben Chessman

 

Howdy Ya'll! 

Just kidding, no one actually says that in Texas, but I couldn't resist the urge to say it.  I was born and raised in Texas, but have yet to be told I "sound like it."  I spent most of my life there with the exception of a few short term stays overseas.  I graduated with a Sociology degree from the University of North Texas and have begun working on an M.A. from Redeemer Seminary in Dallas.  "What brings a seminary student to a farm?" you may be asking.  Well, my husband, partly, but also our mutual aspirations to live overseas where we anticipate every life skill will be put to good use.  The more I learn here, the better off I am in being equipped for what the future may hold.  I plan to help Tessa with her life, since she seems to have a few things on her hands, learn to can, learn to make bread, make butter, grind flour, etc.  I do miss cooking for my husband, myself and our friends, but have certainly enjoyed some of the very best food on this planet.  Eating this local, this fresh and this heartily has been incredible, to say the least.

When I am not working hard on the farm, you will probably find me with my camera, honing in on the subtle and remarkable details strewn about the land, riding my bike, or playing with one of the children (of whom there seems to be a plethora).  Come say "hi" to us whenever you're ready to work alongside.  I'll be the one in the cowboy boots.


Jade Winter Chessman

Posted 4/5/2011 8:50pm by Reuben DeMaster.

Insects have killed the first plants of the year.  Two weeks ago, I noticed a few wilted cabbage plants.  After examining several of them, it looked like the roots had been chewed.  I knew that fly larva can cause this, so I called a Penn State Cooperative Extension agent and brought her a sample.  Two other knowledgeable people looked at my plants are agreed that the culprit was...millipedes. 

Who knew that millipedes could kill cabbage plants?  This made sense when I realized that I had seen a lot of millipedes in my greenhouse this year.  Immediately I removed over 100 seedling trays from the greenhouse.  I shook out my fabric covers that were under the trays.  When I put the trays back into the greenhouse, I elevated them on boards so that they no longer contact the compost bunkers or the soil.  The Penn State experts told me that there were no reliable methods for killing millipedes which didn't surprise me. 

Needless to say, I was concerned about the extent of the damage.  Yesterday, I planted over 15 trays of plants that were affected.  I examined each tray carefully as I prepared the plants for transplanting.  Most trays had several affected plants and a few trays had a larger number.  However, I estimate that only about 5% of the transplants had significant damage. 

It appears that the damage was small and that I will be able to avoid further damage by keeping my trays elevated.  If this story ends successfully, it will be because I was able to identify a problem in the greenhouse quickly and find a solution with the help of a support team.  I hope that more and more problems will be solved in this manner. 

Posted 3/21/2011 12:21pm by Reuben DeMaster.

This is the first full season that I am using this greenhouse.   I built it on the south facing side of the larger farm building and designed it as a passive solar greenhouse.  I borrowed all of the ideas from books and other farmers and I thank my farmer friends who taught and advised me. 

 

In order to grow plants in the winter without any supplemental heat, excess heat during the day must be stored for use at night.  I accomplish this through a variety of methods.  First, the greenhouse is covered with one layer of plastic.  Some growers use two layers of plastic with air blown in between.  I might try this in the future but I have not found it necessary yet.  Second, the rear masonry wall and the ground itself stores heat.  These surfaces gather heat from sunlight and slowly release it after dark.  Third, I have about 15 plastic barrels filled with water or about 300 gallons of water.  Water stores heat even more effectively than masonry and moderates the temperatures in the greenhouse.  Fourth, I constructed bunkers and filled them with animal manure.  As the manure breaks down and begins the composting process, it releases heat and carbon dioxide.  Since plants need carbon dioxide, this is another benefit of the bunker system.  Finally, I cover the bunkers with a layer of plastic.  This holds heat from the composting process and keeps it closer to the plants. 

 

 

To construct the bunkers, I stacked 4” concrete block about 4 levels high.  I loaded the bunkers with horse manure and cow manure.  I discovered that some people use wood shavings for bedding and that adds too much carbon to the composting process.  Effective compost requires a carbon to nitrogen ratio within a certain range.  I am not able to use horse manure exclusively, so I added cow manure mixed with straw with the horse manure.   For my small greenhouse, this meant hauling about 3 tons of ‘organic matter’ through the snow in my wheelbarrow.  I especially want to thank Jim for doing some of the hauling.  It was quite a job.  However, the beds have been producing heat since mid-February and should continue until the end of April.  I have noticed that the volume of material in the bunker has decreased by about 12” already.  Some people have asked me about the smell.  I do not smell any manure smell after about day 2.  I also do not set seedling trays on top of raw manure.  The manure is covered with a layer of finished compost and then a layer of landscape fabric. 

 

 

 

In February, there were many nights when temperatures dropped below 20 degrees and even down to 10 degrees.  When this happens, the plastic covering the greenhouse has a layer of ice on the inside.  However, the temperatures inside did not drop below 30 degrees.  I did not take temperature readings on top of the bunkers, but I’m sure that it never dropped below 35 degrees.  I could take additional steps to increase the nighttime temperatures.  As I mentioned earlier, I could add another layer of plastic.   I could add more water storage.  I could seal the edges of the greenhouse more carefully.  I could insulate the east and west walls.  I could add the manure in January to start producing heat earlier in the winter. 

On sunny winter days, the greenhouse temperature soars to over 90 degrees.  This happens even when the outside temperature is 30 degrees.  When the outside temperature is over 60 degrees, I am still learning how to keep the greenhouse temperature below 100.  I may have to use a fan – especially when there is no breeze. 

This is a very simple system that functions by capturing sunlight.  I have to open the greenhouse almost every morning and close it every night.  On sunny days, I have to water at least twice.  If these tasks are neglected even once, I could lose the plants.  So far it works very well and I will continue to learn how to make even better use of this greenhouse. 

 

 

Posted 2/8/2011 6:29am by Reuben DeMaster.

Last week, I attended my 3rd PASA conference.  I really enjoy seeing fellow farmers and meeting so many people who care deeply about creating a truly sustainable agriculture that preserves and improves the soils that we farm.  One interesting person I met this year was Ken.  Ken manages a website that shares ideas for vegetable gardening.  A short review of his website impressed me with the topics and well written articles.  His latest article describes the conference well.  I hope you take a few minutes to look at his website.  www.veggiegardeningtips.com  

 

 

 

2011 PASA Conference: Strength from Our Roots

February 2, 2011

While many are looking to that famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil for signs that spring is near, I’ll look no further than the arrival of the annual Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture’s conference that kicks off today in State College, PA.

This will be the 20th PASA gathering and the theme for this year is; “Strength from Our Roots: Claiming Our Food-System Future” to highlight the relationship between our quality of life and a healthy food system!

Pre-Conference Educational Tracks

Mushroom Foraging Lecture 300x225 2011 PASA Conference: Strength from Our RootsEvents begin today as some of the pre-conference tracks get off to an early start with sessions focused on Forest Farming, Homesteading 101, Soil Management and Assessment, the Promises and Perils of GMO’s, Sustainability in the Classroom, Alternative Energy on the Farm, and more.

I attended the pre-conference track on Forest Farming last year and learned a lot during the two day program. They’ve added some new topics to the track such as Managing Forests for Wildlife, Growing Native Medicinal Forest Plants for Profit, and Producing Mushrooms using Logs and Biomass.

PASA-bilities Leadership Award Series

This year’s opening keynote speaker is Wes Jackson. Wes has authored various books including; the “New Roots for Agriculture,” “Becoming Native to This Place,” and “An Ecological Approach to a New Agriculture.” Wes also just happened to be a keynote speaker at the very first PASA conference nineteen years ago.

PASA Keynote Session 300x225 2011 PASA Conference: Strength from Our RootsThe closing keynote session will introduce the new PASA-bilities Leadership Award Series with messages to be delivered by the winners of the Sustainable Ag Leadership Award and the Sustainable Ag Business Leader Award, with an aim of recognizing and utilizing some of the home grown talent from within the ranks of PASA’s membership.

Sustainable Agriculture Workshops

As always, conference attendees are likely to have a hard time deciding between the many concurrent workshops that will be presented on Friday and Saturday. Topics will include:

•    Dig This! Farm & Garden Tools That Work for Women

•    Getting the Most Nutrition from Your Harvest

•    Fossil-Free Agriculture: Kicking Farming’s Addiction to Oil

•    Getting Started with Beekeeping Organically

•    Developing & Integrating Outdoor Classrooms at Your School

•    Family Fish Farming for Fun & Food

•    Swap Your Seeds: What to Know Before You Get Started

•    Human-Powered, Low-Input Vegetable Production System

•    Walk Through the Orchard Season

•    Advantages of Movable High Tunnel Technology

Food Prep Workshop 300x225 2011 PASA Conference: Strength from Our RootsHigh on my list are the sessions on beekeeping, seed saving, and school gardening programs. Then there are the potentially charged discussions; “Let’s Talk GMO’s,” “Save Our Seeds (SOS): Strategies to Curb Corporate Control & Promote Local Control,” and the “Corporate Takeover of Organic/Sustainable Agriculture – Who Owns the Organic Label & Controls Local Food?”

New Events at the 2011 PASA Conference

Bring along a few of your favorite heirloom seeds as there is a seed swap being organized for the first time. Also new on the schedule this year is a New and Beginning Farmers Mixer that will be held on Thursday evening. Those of you interested in fiber crafts may want to head over the knitting circle to learn a new stitch or two.

Don’t forget about the usual PASA auctions, youth programs, ag venders and displays, great food, regional breakout sessions, the winter picnic, a sustainable film theater, and plenty of music including performances by Philadelphia-based Hoots & Hellmouth!

Lots of good stuff for sure, so if you’re in the Central PA region it’s definitely an educational and worthwhile event with a great crowd of farmers, gardeners, families, and friends gathered to learn and share information and practices related to sustainable agriculture. For more information and to see the entire schedule you can download the conference brochure.

Posted 1/21/2011 12:59pm by Reuben DeMaster.

     On Wednesday, I attending a gathering of farmers who operate CSAs ranging in size from 2000 to just beginning.  We listened to the stories of how various farms began and grew and what challenges they faced along the way.  Each farm had its own unique style and mission and each farm had overcome many obstacles to acheive their success. 

    One thing that I noticed during the meeting was that each CSA struggled with both share size and price.  Farmers generally want to provide vegetables at a price that people can afford yet they constantly face steep labor, energy, and equipment costs.  Many farmers find that shares with too many vegetables can have a negative impact on customer satisfaction.  When people are not able to use all of the vegetables in their share, they feel like the food is wasted and do not continue with the CSA.  Several farms have started comparing the cost of the CSA vegetables with the cost of purchasing from a farmer's market.  At the end of the year, a farm can then show the cost effectiveness of a CSA membership. 

     Different CSAs also differ significantly on the question of how much choice to provide.  The CSA model began with almost no choice offered, but it has become more common recently.  After talking with several friends about the issue, I have decided to offer some choice in the Willow Haven CSA this year.  Members who pick up at the farm will be able to choose some of the vegetables that they receive.  For example, members might be able to choose 8 items out of a possible 10.  Members might also choose to pick two of the same item.  I will have to work out more of the details this spring and throughout the season.  Pick-up times for this option will also have to be limited so that the vegetables do not sit out for too long. 

     Farm pick-up customers will also receive more cut flowers this year and I may consider offering a flower share next year. 

      Members of the Willow Haven CSA should also realize that the home delivery service is not offered by most CSAs.  While it may become more common in the future, this service is still unique. 

      I hope that some of you will enjoy the farm pick-up option this season.  Please let me know how we can make it work for you.

Posted 1/16/2011 8:48pm by Reuben DeMaster.

            I remember the first season that my wife and I joined a CSA.  We lived in St. Louis with no chance to grow vegetables.  When we heard about a farm that would drop off a bag of vegetables each week, we knew that we had to try it.  Each week, we drove 10 minutes to the drop off site.  It was a treat to eat those vegetables because they tasted more like the food we had grown up eating than anything that the stores sold.  There were several items to get used to like kale, arugula, and a few other leafy greens but we soon grew to enjoy everything.

             Now that I am the one growing the vegetables, I am interested in what makes some families enjoy the CSA so much and what makes some families unable to adjust.  I receive many kind comments from families who appreciate the weekly surprise of fresh vegetables.  Yet I know that others do not share the same excitement. 

             For those families who might be considering a farm membership this year, I would like to give my perspective of what type of people fit the best with a CSA. 

 1.  You have to enjoy vegetables – or at least be willing to learn to enjoy them more.  Many people think vegetables are a tasteless but necessary addition to a perfectly good meal.  This often is the case when vegetables come out of a can, are not prepared well, and are not eaten fresh.  My experience is that children will eat vegetables when they taste good.

2.  You have to cook 3 times/week.  I know that many families do not make regular meals. Families who cook daily and who enjoy vegetables have no trouble eating the weekly delivery of vegetables.  Families who do not make regular meals and do not eat as many vegetables have trouble eating all of the weekly vegetables.  If you are willing to make at least 3 meals per week, I believe that you not have trouble finishing the vegetables. 

3.  You have to be willing to try new things.  Each week, I attempt to grow a wide variety of vegetables.  Most of the items in your box will be common vegetables that you will recognize.  However, each week you will receive 1 or 2 items that you might not regularly eat like kale, turnips, or beets.  These vegetables require some research, creativity, and willingness to eat new flavors.  Improving your skill in making soup and in stir frying is essential to using new vegetables. 

4.  You must understand the value of a farm membership.  Each week for 22 weeks, you will receive fresh picked, organic vegetables delivered to your home.  This might be more expensive than purchasing vegetables that the grocery store stocks.  However, my vegetables do not travel as far, are handles less, have less time from harvest to your house, and come from a known source.  It will also be more expensive than driving to a farmer’s market each week.  However, you do not have to spend the time driving and shopping.  I understand that most of us shop for the lowest possible price.  But if price is your number one concern, then maybe you would be better off buying vegetables at a discount store or even growing your own. 

       I hope this helps you to decide if you would like to join the Willow Haven Farm CSA this year.  Thank you to all of you who continue to support the local food system. 

New recipe: Simple Sauteed Yellow SquashJune 20th, 2017

-adapted from www.food.com   3 medium summer squash, sliced 1/8 cup butter 1/2 medium onion, sliced thinly or diced 1/2 to taste salt & pepper   Melt butter in large skillet. Add on

New recipe: Sauteed ZucchiniJune 20th, 2017

2 medium sized zucchinis, washed and unpeeled 1/3 cup pine nuts (or slivered almonds) 1 tbsp butter 1 or 2 cloves of garlic minced Grated cheese (optional)   Cut zucchini in bite sized strips. M

New recipe: CUCUMBER ALMOND COUSCOUS SALADJune 20th, 2017

1 1/2 tsps salt, divided                   3/4 cup plus 2 Tbls couscous* 1 cup slivered almonds    &

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