Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Farm Visit

Yesterday we took a scenic drive out to Holtwood, which is situated along the York/Lancaster county borders. Farmer Tom Forrest invited us to visit his new homestead. The weather was beautiful, not too cold, clear skies all in all perfect. An enthusiastic welcoming committee composed of four lively children, Blackie the dog, and a black kitten surrounded us as got out of the van. Tom's lovely wife Holly gave us a tour of the fields, certified processing kitchen and house. The house is a historical wonder. Built in 1740, it has hundreds of unusual features. The wood for the floors and other structures came from the ship that the builder sailed from England. The stairways are all spiral. So many nooks and crannies, if the walls could talk what stories they could tell! A surprise visit by a friend of Tom made the atmosphere quite festive. Justin had returned from a year teaching art in Chile. We also got to meet his sweet wife-to-be.

After a lunch of homemade artisan Brie, tomato soup, breads and meats, we were treated to Pinnacle Lookout. It is the highest point in Lancaster county. The photos show part of the view we saw. Across the Susquahanna River is York county. The original farm covered 4000 acres, extending to the river, the very spot we were standing.

We also saw the kitchen where Tom makes his sausage and sauerkraut. Fascinating stuff.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Holiday , Schmaliday

Where did December go?? Christmas arrived regardless of my preference for two more weeks of preparation. When the children were small and underfoot, thousands of cookies were meticulously baked, presents hand crafted, cards sent, and beautiful hand made decorations adorned the windows. What happened? Farming!!

Planning for the 2009 season dominated all brain cells. Seed ordering became an obsession. The dining room table was inhospitable to food, already a feast of catalogs hogged every surface. A dialog between logic and desire ensued. Christmas baking and embroidery jobs were due now; seeds could be ordered after the holidays. " I'll just take a few minutes to look over these eggplant varieties" turned into three hours later(groan)!! Then we all got sick with sore throat, sinus, cold bugs. Oh no. To make a long story short...........I have never been so unprepared for Christmas. But what does any of this have to do with Jesus-The Reason For The Season????? Nothing. I think it was a very humbling experience. Less is More, so to speak.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

What Month Is It

Throughout November, and now December, rainfall has been keeping my corner of the world very soggy. As soon as it let's up-wham-back to carting umbrellas! I could understand if it was April, but not now. Where are all the lovely snowflakes? There is still too much work to be finished at the plot. So, we wait and wait and wait for a "good" day. Ah well, weather is as weather does, no use fretting what cannot be controlled.

The dining room table is covered with seed catalogs and planning sheets. Whittling down to what is necessary, for this season at least, is proving to be prickly. Some stuff, like artichokes, have been on the "someday" list entirely too long. Waaaah! But they take up soooo much space! How can I justify growing glorified thistles??? How about those blackberries? Heirloom apples? Coveting is frowned upon. Seed catalogs incite a lust of the eyes, and most certainly a lust of the flesh, (that is vegetative flesh). Hopefully tomorrow will be dry. Rosemary and fig cuttings are in the tunnel. I am anxious to check on the temp and humidity level. The min-max thermometer cracked, so a side trip to Tractor Supply is on my "to do". That's alright as I have a bunch of errands to run up along route 10.

Monday, December 8, 2008

More Pics

Like I said-not computer literate. The photos in last post were not in order. First he had to bone out the pork, then grind it, then put in the peppers and onions, then the special seasonings, then pack it into the stuffer, put the casing on the nozzle, then crank the stuffer to press out the mixture into the casing. Here are rest of photos. This was on Saturday the 6th.

Great Sausage Making

December 8, 2008

Farmer Tom Forrest makes sausage at the Swarthmore Co-Op. All afternoon he created delicious ropes of FRESH,( as in he brought a fresh killed hog), Italian Garden, Chorizo and other goodies. The cast iron sausage stuffer was the real deal, which the children had fun cranking.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Bay Laurel

Fresh Bay Laurel will be a lovely aromatic addition to meals. Beside it to the left is ARP Rosemary

A Few Pics From Summer 2008

Here are some open pollinated heirloom Zinnia's

How We Came To Be

The little plot came about during January of 2006. Every year that I gardened in my 15x 15 backyard I desperately tried to plant way more than there was space available. This resulted in lots of frustration, as I always wanted to farm. When a farmer from church asked me what seeds I was ordering I replied " lots of stuff I don't have room for". He laughed and joked that they had a corner of a field I could use. Two weeks later I called him and asked how much did he want for rent. So we agreed on a quarter acre, that had been in sod for twenty years. The farmer agreed to chisel plow and disk the 100x100 plot.

I was very happy. So much space!!! Thankfully I had no clue what I done. During March I stumbled upon PCO, Pennsylvania Certified Organic, a certifying agency for organic growers. Since the plot had been in sod I could become certified without the three year "transition" required of conventional growers. The learning curve was very steep that first season. Tremendous weed pressure, no equipment, no water, no electric, no shed, no truck, and no commercial growing experience made that first year quite an initiation. The fact that I had to drive one hour to get there also created headaches. The children were still in school, so I was tied to their schedule. Thus my time available for farming was a tiny fraction of what it should have been.

The grand venture into the world of selling produce commenced in June. The Food Trust took a chance and gave me my first market stand. To say I was terrified and a ball of knots is no expansion of the truth.
To Be Continued................................

Thursday, December 4, 2008


December 4, 2008

Welcome to Willing Hands Organic Farm. I never thought I would be blogging, but it will be easier to keep everyone informed this way. For CSA members, I hope it will give you an opportunity to find out how your share is growing. I'm not computer savvy, so please bear with me while I learn how to do this.

Yesterday Aaron and I planted garlic. Truly it should have been planted last month, however with all the rain it was not possible. The ground is still wetter than I would prefer for doing any kind of work. Planting garlic is the beginning of the 2009 season, followed in January by indoor flats. Seed catalogs have their beautiful pictures, once again initiating the "eyes are bigger than your plate (plot) syndrome. Potatoes and flowers have already been ordered. There are a few vegetable varieties from Turtle Tree Seeds that I am going to trial this year. It really is a challenge to reign in the desire for "just one more".