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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.

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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. 

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.

 

Farm Made Holiday Cookie Plates Made To OrderDecember 9th, 2017

Dear Friends, The Farm Girl bakes delicious cookies and handpies for our markets all summer long. Now she is offering Holiday Cookie Plates for your parties, exchanges and celebrations. All cookies a

Extra Vegetable and Meat Delivery Available Now!November 27th, 2017

Last week, as I was looking at all the vegetables that are still growing, I realized there may be some who would be interested in one more delivery of fresh, organic vegetables before winter comes. M

Extra Vegetable and Meat Delivery Available Now!November 27th, 2017

Last week, as I was looking at all the vegetables that are still growing, I realized there may be some who would be interested in one more delivery of fresh, organic vegetables before winter comes. M

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Willow Haven Farm, 7686 Herber Rd., New Tripoli, PA 18066

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