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Posted 12/7/2010 7:52am by Reuben DeMaster.

The following was written by my mother-in-law, Lois Miles.  She grew up on an Illinois farm and has lived on this PA farm since 1985. 

picking wineberries

Posted by lommiles on Jul 16, 2010
After 4 weeks without rain, our raspberries shriveled up on the brambles. But I vaguely hoped that the wineberries might survive. Wine berries? I had never seen or heard of them before about five years ago. They look  like juicy red raspberries in a fuzzy husk that opens when they’re ripe. Thanks to the internet, we could find out what these odd berries were and whether they were edible berries, “bird berries” or if, upon eating them, we would experience an excruciating demise.  We certainly didn’t plant them. The birds must have sown them as the meadow is full of not only black raspberries not planted by human hands but also these never before seen wineberries. And they are really good. Really, Really, Good! Sweet. Juicy. Not as seedy as other berries. And sooooo delicate that one can only pick them oneself – I doubt that even Farmers Markets could carry them. One of the luxuries of farm living!
Picking bramble berries requires one to wear clothing that completely covers the body no matter what the temperature might be. Closed shoes and socks. Jeans. Long sleeved shirts. And a bandana to keep loose hair from being grasped by thorny twigs. Mind you, I don’t wear gloves and therefore end up with plenty of scratches on my hands. But gloves are not conducive to gently picking hands full of delicate tenderness. Happily, wineberries don’t seem to be as vicious as the other berries we pick. But they resemble berries covered with thin layer of honey. Really sticky! And we are lucky here in PA with a noticeable lack of mosquitoes even in the meadow woods. In IL, I had to use the extra strong woods and camping brand of mosquito repellent in order to pick berries. And reapply every half hour. Annoying. But not here. I heard a few mosquitoes but managed to shoo them away without being attacked and carried away.
I spent two lovely solitary hours harvesting eight quarts of  sweet berries in the meadow sauna.
Well, the temperature is in the nineties again. Or still. I think this is the fifth “heat wave” of the summer with two days of high eighties to “break” the heat each week. I’m loving it. But I thought about the joys of cool showers unavailable to our predecessors even fifty years ago. And I thought of many other things.  And it occurred to me that my urban friends who think we live a pioneer existence might find such activities monotonous. Far from it! Such a wonderful time for ruminating. Or singing. Or storytelling.  So, I now post a selection of my berry picking meditations for the interested and/or the unwary!
On Mosquitoes. What purpose do mosquitoes fulfill? What is their niche in the evolutionary chain of life? Is life simply “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”? violent and bloody?  What purpose other than malaria and other diseases? OR on the other hand, is the mosquito a result of the Fall? A failure of insects to live out their God-given telos? Is there grace for mosquitoes?
On Silence. People speak of the silence of the country. Living here, we listen to the noises of the farm: birds chirping loudly and constantly; hens in hysterics for who knows what reason; roosters defending their cackling harem; dogs announcing farm visitors or the movement of other animals. Song birds singing; locusts and mosquitoes, flies and bees buzzing; wind blowing through the leaves and pine needles; twigs crackling with no visible cause — we don’t have bears here. Do we? We aren’t that far from the mountain. Cats don’t make noise walking through the meadow. Unless they’re large cats. Do we have mountain cats here? Some say so. Foxes for sure since they kept taking our chickens and I think I saw a coyote on our road today. Snakes? We rarely see them but certainly have them.
Spiders are quiet. At least, they make no noise that I can hear. Shelob is probably not a quiet spider but then, what indeed is Shelob? Spiders contribute to the joys of berry picking. And the conversation of grandkids when we pick together. Screams! There’s a spider! Oh, that’s just a nice Daddy Long-legger – he won’t hurt you. But he’s REALLY BIG – I don’t LIKE spiders. But even for confident grandmothers, spiders cause thoughtfulness. Or the webs do. Huh! I didn’t see that web. Oh, there’s a web, where’s the spider? What kind of spider is it? a nice Daddy Long-legger or a tricky harvest spider? Hmm. Never seen that little chartreuse one before. So, self, shall I go around this web or just barge right through? How many berries are on the other side? Yes, this time it is worth whacking one web to pick a quart of berries.
On Children. Children are less of an expense and more of an asset to the farming family.  Farm clothes are different than “going somewhere” clothes that will eventually turn into “staying at home” clothes. Stains are not a problem since very little on the farm does not cause a stain. And, therefore, going somewhere clothes are NOT worn outside the house on the farm. Friends who come must bring play clothes that can endure stains and rips and tears. As long as one has a couple outfits to “go somewhere,” other clothes just need to cover the essential (depending on the project) parts of the body.
Children are capable of an amazing amount of work from an early age. Berry picking is fun, entertaining, delicious, useful, memorable, character building, and productive. Three year olds can pick berries. Really! I heard a story this year that my grandparents discovered their son’s color-blindness when he kept picking unripe berries. Since the berries went to market, he was given other jobs that didn’t require seeing color. Three year olds pick a lot of  berries but a whole afternoon of picking may only produce a single layer in the bottom of the pail — besides the full tummy. Fresh organic snacks, seconds from the source. Five year olds can pick a half a berry basket while words and questions pour out of their mouths non-stop. (Help! I’m talking and I can’t stop!) They can even talk with their mouths full of berries. What kind of spider is this? Is this berry good to eat or just for the birds? What kind of grasshopper/bird/tree is that? Don’t pick up the deer poop – those are not good eating berries. Spiders build webs to catch pests and eat them. Stop pesting your sister!
On Memories. Picking berries with the children creates memories that expand to fill a lifetime.  Daughters-in-law state that their husbands insist  ”we did this every year.” Yea, not so much. We did this a few times; we did that only once! But the memory is so vivid that it saturates their entire childhood. Not every year produces every thing. Some years are good for berries; some are too dry, too wet, too cold, too hot. Some years produce cherries, some do not. This year gave a bumper crop of apricots – that happens about once every five years.
On Luxuries. Ordinary farm life produces luxuries one cannot buy. Hearing and smelling the rain before one feels it. Eating berries plucked seconds ago. Eating berries too delicate to transport. Gorging on berries. Gorging on anything in season. Eating cantalopes by the bushel. Tossing out the ones not sweet enough.  Sweet corn in the pot within five minutes from the stalk. Picking tomatoes and peppers for supper — at five o’clock. Composting produce of the quality one sees for sale in town. Bouquets of roses in every room of the house. Rooms fanned with the fragrance of outdoor lilies. Or lilacs. Perfume of wild honeysuckle that produces berries for birds not us. Watching a tiny bird build a nest.
Remembering that a warm shower is a luxury that grandparents did not enjoy. Indoor plumbing can still be a luxury. Knowing that without electricity, we can still use an old outhouse, butcher  our own meat, pick berries and dig fresh potatoes. And spin yarn and weave cloth. Someone needs to buy some sheep soon.

 

Posted 11/12/2010 5:45pm by Reuben DeMaster.

 

Contributed by Christa Held.

Christa is a friend of the DeMaster's who took Reuben up on the offer to barter services for food this summer at the farm. Her tasks included washing and packaging the vegetables; filling the boxes; and a couple trips to the fields. Christa helped at the farm every Tuesday morning throughout the season, including the days that were cold and/or rainy (which were thankfully--for the food and for her--few and far between). Besides her stint at the farm, Christa is married to Chris, manages her home and coaches her children, ages 3-11, through cyber school.

 


This week marked the end of the CSA season and, with it, my summer 'job'. As I sit here on a cold, rainy morning knowing the farmer will be out again harvesting today, I am somewhat glad to be in my warm house. On the other hand, it was such an awesome experience for my family that part of me wishes I was there today so I could enjoy just one more handful of fresh, organic veggies.

This week's box was no disappointment. Again, it was so full of fresh greens that the box was hard to close. Next season, I definitely plan to take pictures of each week's offering so everyone can see how much food we get. Our two favorites--fresh lettuce and butternut squash--were included again. The farmer also shared onions, cabbage (which I immediately shredded and added to my sauerkraut experiment), chard, kale, arugula, turnips and carrots.

The food seems to be absolutely delicious in the fall. I don't know if it's because I know the season is ending or, as the farmer explained, the cold weather causes the sugars in the food to intensify. Regardless, it makes each bite one to savor and a memory of a season well-lived.

Since my children were such an integral part of this experience, I wanted them to share some thoughts about the summer. When I asked the kids for their favorite memories, they shared the following:
Rachel (age 11) – Knowing that the food I ate for dinner was still in the ground this morning. I thought she would say playing with the new kittens or visiting the horses on the neighboring farm with the farmer’s daughter.
Zack (age 8) – Tell them about how I rode the little bike into the ditch and that riding a little bike is not a good idea. Seriously, he did get the worst injury of his life at the farm this summer. Thankfully, it only involved a brush burn from his forehead to his chin, across his arm and on his knee. From my perspective, it’s the perfect summer injury for a boy—the tough look with no trip to the ER!!
Becky (age 3) – I liked helping with the boxes. Indeed, we were lucky to have the help of one to six kids on any given day.

The kids’ favorite food this summer was the lettuce. Their dislike of hot vegetables led us to be big salad eaters for the past year or so. It wasn’t a huge transition to serve the farm lettuce. The big change came on the few weeks during the summer that we had no farm lettuce and bought salad at the store. We ate it, but knew it just wasn’t the same and we probably shouldn’t waste our money next time. The last week we brought home our farm box, we savored every salad, knowing it would be months before we had anymore.

My favorite food this summer had to be the winter squash. Whether it was an acorn, butternut, or kabocha, it became my focus to find a new and exciting way to prepare a food I had once overlooked as useless (and tasteless). Just a few ways I prepared the squash include baked with butter and brown sugar; filled with a spinach/ricotta mixture and baked; and pureed into a hearty, warm soup. There is one last butternut squash still waiting to realize its purpose. I imagine that, being the last one of the season, the outcome will be amazing!

My initial goal in taking this job was to save money on our grocery budget by bartering my time for some delicious, local, organic vegetables. I left the farm every week knowing that what my family took home (literally and figuratively) was much more than we could offer the farm. My kids were able to spend time in the great outdoors with some truly awesome kids. They learned about food, farming, bugs, and hard work. I learned about farming and was able to pick the brains of the farmer and his wife on everything from baking bread to making yogurt and canning (trust me, they are real experts). I gained a greater understanding of the commitment and heart involved in growing and offering a quality product to people week after week. Finally, I became part of the food chain—so much more than being a consumer or even buying organic. I was able to participate in bringing healthy, new foods to families throughout the Lehigh Valley (and even further in a few cases). I was truly blessed not only to eat this great food and share it with my family, but to know that other families were getting that same experience.

Posted 11/3/2010 11:37am by Reuben DeMaster.

     All of us are used to eating cheap food produced from our super efficient food system.  We have been told to trust the FDA, the EPA, and other government regulators.  But more and more people have been questioning food safety and for good reason.  Here is an example of why you may want to reconsider what you are eating:

SECRET CHEMICALS

     About 84,000 chemicals are used commercially in the United Staes - of these, some 17,000 are kept secret not only from the public, but also from doctors, state regulators, and emergency responders, according to a report in the The Washington Post.  The 1976, Toxic Substances Control Act requires manufacturers to report to the EPA any new chemicals intended for market, but there's a caveat:  they can request that a chemical be kept secret if disclosure "could harm their bottom line". 

      When the 1976 law was enacted, there were "only" 60,000 chemicals on the market.  Since then, the EPA has restricted or banned five and has required testing on another 200.  The agency reports that in recent years 95 percent of new-chemical reports from manufacturers includes a request for secrecy.  Ten of these secret chemicals are used in children's products.  Congress is expected to tackle reform of the 1976 law this year. 

Printed in Acres USA magazine.  Volume 40 No. 3

 

 

 

Posted 10/28/2010 5:56am by Reuben DeMaster.

       It looks like Wal-Mart intends to sell food that it claims are sustainable.  The largest grocer in the world has set a goal of buying 9 percent of its produce from local sources.  It apparently intends to purchase this food from farms within the state from farmers with 50 acres or less.  Wal-Mart will attempt to measure the sustainability of farms by asking questions about water, fertilizer, and chemical use.  http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/15/business/15walmart.html

      At first glance, this seems like a step in the right direction.  Wal-Mart has enough influence to change our food system very quickly.  For many year, Wal-Mart has successfully sold products that people want to buy at prices they can afford. 

     Small farmers like myself, however, have a lot of questions about what this means.  First, we are concerned about the definition of sustainablity.  Does Wal-Mart really have the expertise to decide what is sustainable?  What kind of farms will Wal-Mart support?  Is it really a good idea to purchase local food from states that has water shortages?  What about the southwest United States?  Is Wal-Mart going to examine the labor practices of the farms that it buys from?  Are farmers going to be paid prices that allow them to continue farming?  http://civileats.com/2010/10/22/wal-mart-goes-local-and-big-ag-gears-up-to-fight/#more-9787

     As more and more producers enter the sustainable system, I encourage all consumers to be extra cautious about what you purchase.  Your purchases shape and change the food that is available.  I am glad that Wal-Mart sees an opportunity to buy from local farms.  I just hope that Wal-Mart's choice does not end up reducing the choices that you can make. 

Posted 8/9/2010 8:30am by Reuben DeMaster.

     Last night I did something that Ididn't want to do.  I started watching a video called "The Future of Food".  I didn't want to watch it because I guessed that it would be full of disheartening information.  It is much easier to think less about our food supply.  After all, we enjoy an abundance of inexpensive food that is always available.  What could be wrong with that? 

      Everything seems fine until we start asking questions.  The first question that someone might ask is, "Where does this food come from?"  You might then discover that almost all of our garlic is grown in China.  China?  Well then, can I trust the source?  Do I want to support a food system in which I have to depend on growers across the country and world?  Who is doing the work?  Who makes the profit?  What sprays or preservatives are applied to the food?  Why is this particular variety being grown?  If you purchase a processed food, you might start to ask, "What are the ingredients?"  The answers to these questions are sometimes troubling and often difficult to discover.  Yes, it much easier to just buy the cheap meat, milk, soda, and lettuce from the shelf and go about your business.

     I did not start farming to challenge "big food" or to criticize conventional agriculture; although I knew that I fit in easily with those who did.  I farm because I love growing and eating fresh food and I find satisfaction in helping other people do the same.  However, as I learn more about the way that our food system works, I feel disheartened and upset at the same time.  I disagree with the ability of corporations like Monsanto to patent seeds.  I'm suspicious of the influence that seed and chemical companies wield.  I too wonder about the future of food and I hope to join others in creating a more hopeful future for our food supply.

 

 

Posted 8/1/2010 8:54pm by Reuben DeMaster.

     Several weeks ago, I visited a nearby farm for what was called a 'Bug Walk'.  A Penn State Agricultural Extention agent had organized a time to walk through several vegetable fields accompanied by an entymologist.  As an added bonus, I was able to take my 8-year-old son with me.  He has been showing a normal boylike interest in bugs this summer. 

     I will admit that I have never been fond of insects.  When I was young, I remember the mosquito swarms of the upper midwest, and the fly populations on the dairy and hog farms.  To someone used to "real" bugs like scorpions, my small ticks, ants, and spiders might not seem like a big deal, but I still did not like them. 

      Armed with our nets and our expert, the group of 25 people began searching.  After several hours, the group had discovered a cabbage worm, several colorado potato beetles, a lacewing, several brown beetles, and a cucumber beetle.  However, the most remarkable thing to me was the lack of insect life that we found.  That is, it was surprising unitl I discovered the type and frequency of sprays that they were using on their vegetables. 

      Back at my farm, as I thought more about the insect life that I encounter every day, I am more amazed than ever at the diversity of insect life on this farm.  Each week, I see new insects with a dazzling variety of shapes, colors, and sizes.  Many of these insects are familiar and destructive to the plants that I am growing.  However, many insects are beneficial and harsh chemical sprays would destroy them along with the pests.  For example, I have thousands of ladybugs all around the farm.  I also have an insect called a wheel bug.  Its main task in life is sitting on a leaf and waiting for another bug to get close enough to eat.  I have seen wheel bugs up to 2 inches long and they look vicious.  I guess they are if you happen to be the wrong kind of insect.  Bees are also among the beneficial insects that would be harmed by chemicals.  The farm has many different kinds of bees and each of them seems to prefer pollen from different types of flowers. 

     As an organic farmer, I have chosen to manage insect pests without sprays that would eliminate the good with the bad.  This challenge will require years of observation and trial and error.  There is a chance that I will not be successful with certain crops.  However, the attempt seems valuable to me.  I might even learn to appreciate insects more.  They certainly are fascinating. 

 

Posted 6/8/2010 7:58pm by Reuben DeMaster.

We like to stir - fry garlic scapes, sprinkle them in salads and omelettes, or put on a pizza.  I recently heard about making pesto with them as well.  That would be fantastic, if you have enough. 

Here is an article with more information about garlic scapes and the recipe for the pestohttp://www.ehow.com/how_2325835_use-garlic-scapes-shoots-recipes.html

Have fun cooking and eating!

Tessa

Posted 6/5/2010 9:03pm by Reuben DeMaster.

 

Here is a website to help with your rhubarb questions.  http://www.recipetips.com/kitchen-tips/t--1372/all-about-rhubarb.asp

Also, we've included some recipes for rhubarb in our recipe section.  Our family truly enjoys eating a bowl of rhubarb sauce for dessert.  Look up Sam's Rhubarb Sauce for great directions for this simple treat. 

The first dessert we always make with our first picking of rhubarb is Rhubarb Kuchen.  This is a delicious and easy cake type bar that turns out wonderful every time.

We hope you enjoy!

Posted 5/1/2010 5:48am by Reuben DeMaster.

Last week, the farm received a certification called Certified Naturally grown.  This organization was started as an alternative to the federal Certified Organic program.  It was designed to meet the same standards while avoiding some of the costs and recordkeeping for small farms. 

Willow Haven Farm is still in a period of transition to organic.  In order to receive certification, a field must be completely free from synthetic fertilizers and chemicals for 3 years.  Some of my production areas are in their second year. 

You can read more about the Certified Naturally Grown program at www.naturallygrown.org.   

Posted 4/14/2010 6:34am by Reuben DeMaster.

     It appears that nanotechnology is being used on our food.  It is not being regulated or disclosed to consumers.  Most likely, large food corporations are denying their use of nanoparticles.  We do not know if there are any health risks involved with these processes.  In other words, the same thing is happening as does with many of the other foods that we commonly eat. 

     My question is, "Why?".  Why do we need to manipulate flavors and extend shelf life?  What is wrong with eating food grown on healthy soils and purchased locally?  Will we ever consider or know the true cost and the risks of the additives that we insert into our foods? 

http://www.aolnews.com/nanotech/article/regulated-or-not-nano-foods-coming-to-a-store-near-you/19401246

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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