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Posted 4/10/2010 5:12am by Reuben DeMaster.

     Last month, I enjoyed a book that was both an introduction to growing plants, and an in depth study of biology and chemistry.  This man has a teaching gift that makes the complex understandable while challenging common assumptions about plants.  In some ways, this book pulled together my past science classes and helped me to apply it to a farm.  For me, chemistry, biology, and entymology becomes fascinating when the concepts can be applied to an ecological system like a farm. 

     One of the main assertions of the author is that insects, diseases and weeds attack unhealthy plants that are grown in unbalanced soil that is low in organic matter.  Balanced soil does not mean simply bringing the PH close to neutral.  That helps farmers effectly apply water soluble fertilizers, but it does not necessarily help plants to grow better.  Instead, Walters believes that balancing the Calcium, Magnesium, and Potassium levels are more essential to grow healthy plants.  This must be done in the context of about 5% organic matter in the soil. 

     Now comes the interesting part.  Walters claims that insects and diseases primarily attack weak plants that are stressed.  Does this sound unlikely or far-fetched?  Another great part of farming is that the land can be improved over time to find out if this is true.  On my farm, the fertility levels are generally good and the nutrients are generally balanced.  However, the shale soil is not very deep and does not have a lot of organic matter.  My challenge will be to use an aggressive rotation while growing a lot of cover crops for the next few years. 

     "Eco Farm" would be a very good introduction to soil fertility, nutrient availability, and the fascinating life of a plant for both farmers and anyone who enjoys plants.

Posted 3/12/2010 5:49pm by Reuben DeMaster.

      At last, the shed has a roof!  A friend and I finished yesterday just as the sun was setting.  Let the rains come!  As I was working, I watched the clouds build, the wind pick up, and the air change.  It felt like a race and I won.  Today, I feel relieved and happy that I do not have to do any more roof work for a while. 

      Last week was an even better week, because I finally built my attached greenhouse.  After consulting with my local experts and reading several books, it was time to 'just do it'.  I decided to use standard 2x4 lumber and I painted it with an oil paint.  I used the recommended wall angle in order to capture the most Winter sunlight and reflect the most Summer sunlight.  I purchased enough plastic barrels to hold 450 gallons of water.  The heat capacity of water is very high which helps capture heat during the day and slowly release it at night.  I also built 3 bunkers full of aged horse manure mixed with hay and sawdust and some leaves.  I hauled 5 pickup loads of manure and shoveled it in the bunkers.  As the mixture decomposes, it produces heat and eventually a bunker full of compost.  I covered the greenhouse with 6 mil plastic and shoveled dirt over the edges. 

      Now I have happy, warm plants that should not freeze on cold nights.  You can see pictures of both projects in the picture gallery.  When you visit the farm, I'll show you the greenhouse and let you know how it works. 

Posted 2/21/2010 8:04pm by Reuben DeMaster.

     I have finally been able to enjoy a few books this Winter.  The first book "Slow Food - The Case for Taste" by Carlo Petrini, gave an interesting overview of the slow food movement throughout the world.  From a grassroots movement in the Italian town of Bra to an international organization with thousands of members, the slow food movement seeks to promote a local food system.  Words like 'good', 'clean', and 'fair' are used to describe the type of food system that this movement advocates.  It is about healthy food that tastes excellent and that people are able to afford.  The movement believes that the solution for mass produced food with no taste and for fast food is educating our tastes and those of our children. 

      I support many of the ideas in the movement and I expect that many people reading this would too.  You can learn more at www.slowfoodusa.org or by reading the book. 

     This weekend, I read a short novel by Wendell Berry that I also recommend.  It's title is "Hannah Coulter" and it is one of a series of novels about a small community in Kentucky.  The main character tells the story of her life from a pre-WWII farming community through to the present time.  The community suffers as times change and young people decide to leave the farm.  Farmers are told to 'get big or get out'.  Education promises a way to a better life, but this book asks us to consider what is being lost in the process.  What are the consequences of fewer and larger farms?  This book is a great story that could help many of us to understand the fate of the small farms that helped build our strong country. 

 

    

Posted 1/21/2010 5:52am by Reuben DeMaster.

     I enjoyed driving the delivery route last year.  It gave me a break from the hot sun, and it made me happy to think about all of the people who would be eating the fresh vegetables.  However, it took a lot of time and I expect the farm to grow this year.  Therefore, I am asking for help this year with the task of delivering fresh vegetables to your home.  

     I am looking for several people to come to the farm once a week after lunch and deliver 10-20 boxes of vegetables to people living near your home.  This is not a difficult task and you will have the same route each week.  You only need to be punctual and drive a vehicle with air conditioning.  I will load your vehicle, provide your route, and help you with directions.  I will even ride with you the first week if you would like.  

     In return, you will get your weekly vegetables at no cost and I will provide a fuel stipend.  Please call or send an email if you are interested. 

Posted 1/14/2010 8:04pm by Reuben DeMaster.

This year's CSA will include several changes based on my experiences last year and on the surveys that I received.  The biggest change I expect to implement is that I will only offer one size of vegetable delivery.  I am doing this because of the difficulty in determining 'small' and 'large' portions.  Instead, all members will receive the same size share which will be similar to the large size from last year. 

I will also be offering egg shares and meat from Rainbow Farm.  I do not have the capacity (or time) to provide all of the eggs so Rainbow Farm will be offering some of the eggs.  Because of this, you will not be limited to one dozen eggs this year.  Meat will also be offered on a regular basis throughout the season or you can choose to sign up for a meat share similar to the vegetables.  Steve Schoninger owns Rainbow Farm and operates it with organic practices similar to Willow Haven Farm. 

Finally, I will again be planting a wide variety of vegetables but I try and include a lot of familiar vegetables in your delivery.  For example, members received potatoes, carrots, lettuce, onion, and squash the majority of weeks last year.  When I do include vegetables that people might not be used to eating (like beets), they are given less frequently.

I have been selecting varieties the past few weeks and am looking forward to starting seeds next month.  I hope this year is even better than last year.  That hope is what makes farming indescribable. 

Posted 1/7/2010 7:15am by Reuben DeMaster.

     The survey results are in from about 2/3 of the CSA members.  Thank you all for your participation, support, and kind comments.  Your feedback has helped guide the changes that will take place this year.  Here is some of the feedback that I received:

     Most people liked the varieties of vegetables and the quality of what they received.  Respondents appreciated the familiar types of vegetables such as beans, potatoes, carrots, lettuce, onion, broccoli, peppers and tomatoes.  The less familiar varieties were appreciated, but people do not want them too often. 

     Only a few survey respondents found the quantity to be too large and more people wished that there were more vegetables.  Additionally, people wanted more of a variety when it was included.

      From this survey, I learned that most of the CSA members really enjoy fresh vegetables and eat a lot of them.  I commend you for your healthy eating habits.  At times during the year, I hesitated to add extra vegetables because I didn't want people to throw out that extra cucumber, zucchini, or pepper.  This illustrates that challenge of getting food from a CSA instead of a grocery store.  I am not able to match the amount of food to the eating habits of different families.  My goal is to overcome this challenge by helping you enjoy more vegetables and by providing taste and quality benefits that are superior to other sources of food. 

     Almost all of the survey respondents indicated that they would continue their membership for another year.  I again thank you for your support of locally grown, healthy vegetables and of Willow Haven Farm.  Please continue to tell your family, friends, and co-workers about the farm.

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.

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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