Sunday, July 31, 2011

One Year!

I started this blog exactly one year ago today with the words....


Welcome to Fitzgerald's Family Farm! Our previous name was Cheery Hill Farm, but we kept having confusion with the Cheery part of our name - everyone kept saying Cherry Hill Farm. 
I live here in north central Pennsylvania with my two beautiful children and my wonderful, hard-working husband. 
Our mini-farm is located along with our home on a six-acre plot. We have vegetables inside a high tunnel and in outside plots, lots of chickens - laying and meat, 2 pigs, herb gardens, 2 beehives, 3 dogs, 2 cats, and 2 guinea pigs. We tap about 1000 maple tree taps on leased lands. I also have apple trees, pears trees and blueberry bushes. None of the fruit set this year due to the darn caterpillars.
My goal is to feed my family with healthy, nourishing, non-chemical laden foods. My family would like to become as self-sustained as possible. I also want to participate in the Eat Fresh Eat Local campaigns that are going around the country by offering CSA's (purchased weekly baskets of vegetables and other foods) to my community. We will be selling honey and maple syrup as well as fresh vegetables and eggs. 
I dabble a bit in painting and paint antique maple buckets with scenes of tapped maple trees, evergreens in the winter, maple leaves, flowers, etc. 
There's always a lot going on here and I hope you will enjoy stepping in and seeing a bit of our farm life.


A few weeks ago I asked my blog visitors to help me go over the top of more than 30 followers and more than 7000 visitors.  You certainly came through!  We've progressed to 41 Followers and at last count... 7116 visits from 35 different countries!  The past year has been a bit of a roller coaster ride with good weather, bad weather, advances, and set backs.  I wouldn't trade a bit of it, I've enjoyed sharing it with you, and look forward to next year!  

Thank you all and I hope you enjoy what's yet to come.  

When tillage begins, other arts follow. The farmers, therefore, are the founders of human civilization.
 - Daniel Webster

Friday, July 29, 2011

Mr. McGregor's Pain

From:  The Tale of Peter Rabbit

"First he ate some lettuces and some French beans; and then he ate some radishes;

And then, feeling rather sick, he went to look for some parsley.

But round the end of a cucumber frame, who should he meet but Mr. McGregor!

Mr. McGregor was on his hands and knees planting out young cabbages, but he jumped up and ran after Peter, waving a rake and calling out, 'Stop thief!'"

Peter pigs out

I feel Mr. McGregor's pain.  

For a number of evenings, a rabbit has been making his way into my garden and filling itself on my broccoli, cabbages, zucchini, bean plants, lettuces, and even sunflower leaves!  Beautiful little zucchinis lie half eaten and I can even see the buck-toothed teeth marks in their flesh.  Green beans that were growing strongly have been eaten down to just a stub sticking out of the ground.  Broccoli  and cabbage plants that have been heroically fighting an onslaught of flea beetles show up in the morning with a number - if not all -  of their leaves missing.  

This is no cute and cuddly little Peter Rabbit coming into my garden!  It's a horrible eating machine!

For the past two nights, as I've gone down to check the chickens and shut the chicken coop door I've seen the rabbit running away from my garden.  For two nights, I've run to get the BB gun, pump it up, and juggling a flashlight and gun I've tried to rid my garden of this voracious pest!  I'm sure I've missed.

One day soon, I hope the family of this bunny, who insists on eating from my garden, hears these words from The Tale of Peter Rabbit :

"'Now my dears,' said old Mrs. Rabbit one morning, 'you may go into the fields or down the lane, but don't go into Mr. McGregor's (insert here, Mrs. Fitzgerald's) garden: your Father had an accident there; he was put in a pie by Mrs. McGregor (Mrs. Fitzgerald).'

 Old-English Rabbit Pie

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Japanese Beetle Strategy

The Japanese Beetles have arrived.  They aren't doing too much damage to my garden (yet), thank goodness, THAT has enough problems with drought, flea beetles, grasshoppers, rabbits, and groundhogs.  But the beetles are decimating my peach trees!  

Part of my daily routine is to put a little bit of water into a bucket and tap the beetles from the leaves into the bucket.  The little bit of water in the bottom immobilizes them and when they fall down into the bucket it keeps them from flying off.  

Japanese beetles are sly!  When you try to pick them off the leaves they feel the disturbance and just let go of the leaf, drop onto the ground, and disappear.  Put a bucket or cup with a little water in it underneath them and they'll fall neatly into it.  

Chickens LOVE to eat Japanese beetles.  My chickens have figured out to look around when I pour a little bit of water onto the ground and find the beetles.  I've even poured a bit of water into my Japanese beetle trap and then turned it upside down and dumped it out onto the ground (a bonus to this is that I can rehang the same bag).  It's totally disgusting to see the big clumps of Japanese beetles fall out, but those chickens come running!

Monday, July 25, 2011

"Oh My Gosh!" Update

You'll remember a few weeks ago I had an "Oh my gosh!" moment when I was working in the high tunnel and came across this nest in my tomato plants...

Eventually the little sparrow laid five eggs in the nest and now...

There are chicks!  It looks like there are maybe four chicks.  The drought has probably affected them a bit and all the eggs didn't hatch.  It's a tough time for birds!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Itchy, Happy Pigs

I filled the pig's water barrel this week and while I was at it I thought I would give them a little bit of a spray.  

The weather has been so hot and dry and and the flies have been really biting.  To gain some relief I noticed the pigs have been wallowing in the dust, but they just couldn't get comfortable.  I knew the dust baths weren't working so well because as soon as I sprayed a little bit of water on the ground the pigs came running and flopped themselves down into the damp earth.  They immediately started rolling and frolicking around in sheer relief!  

It looks like I sprayed a lot of water, but I really didn't.  I'm being SO careful with the amount of water I use.  The ground in the pig pen is so dry, hard, and dusty that as soon as I put down a little bit of water - which wouldn't soak into the hard packed earth - and they started rolling in it, it turned into soup!  

This is one happy pig!

Daisy was not impressed with the pig's antics.  The galloping around and playing kind of freaked her out and she started barking at them.  

After a nice mud roll, when all those little "itchies" come to the surface, one must have a really good butt rub!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Hot, Dry Summer Weather

It's just too darn hot to work out in the garden and high tunnel today!  I'll make sure all the animals have extra water today and then I think I'll organize my nice cool basement.  

Salvador Dali "Melting Clock"

I think everything is melting!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Star Light...

Last night I went out to cool off and look at the stars.  There wasn't a cloud in the sky and what joy it was to clearly see a great swath of brilliance, including the Milky Way.  I love Wikipedia's definition of the Milky Way's "Appearance from Earth," "All the stars that the eye can distinguish in the night sky are part of the Milky Way galaxy, but aside from these relatively nearby stars, the galaxy appears as a hazy band of white light arching around the entire celestial sphere."

Until I moved here, - one of the darkest places in the northeastern United States - I don't believe I'd really had a good look at the Milky Way since I was young child and my friends and I would camp out under the stars!  I didn't really realize how much I'd missed seeing those brilliant little specks until I could see them again clearly.   

File:Perseid Meteor.jpg

This made me think about why I hadn't seen the Milky Way in all those years and I thought about the places I've lived over the years - Washington, DC; Okinawa, Japan; Alconbury, England; Denver, Colorado; Columbia, Maryland; and Berlin, Germany.  Sadly, in all of those places, light pollution has almost always made it hard to see stars clearly and certainly impossible to see the Milky Way.  

 Tomorrow night, I think I'm going to be sure to take my kids out with some blankets and pillows, we're going lie on the ground, and we're going get a really good look at the stars!  Truly the greatest show on earth!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Beautiful Garlic

Alvie, from Wooleylot Farm, gave me these beautiful garlic bulbs while we were at the Farmer's Market on Saturday. The picture really doesn't do them justice.  I think they're so attractive they should be in a still life painting!

Alvie has saved and cultivated these lovely Pennsylvania heirloom garlics.  The garlic bulb on the left is Vkoos Odena "Taste of Odin," from Potter County and Alvie calls the one on the right  Ohman Red, from McKean County.  

This splendid still life painting features garlic...

~ from Fine Art America by Virgilla Lammons

But mostly, I can envision these gorgeous purple-streaked bulbs painted to lie at the base of one of these lush 18th-century still lifes.  Can you see it?

Van Dael painting, Roses, Tulips and Poppies
~Roses, Tulips and Poppies by Jan Franz van Dael (1764-1842)

“Tomatoes and oregano make it Italian; wine and tarragon make it French. Sour cream makes it Russian; lemon and cinnamon make it Greek. Soy sauce makes it Chinese; garlic makes it good.”
                          ~Alice May Brock

Please be sure to hop on over to Homestead Revival for the weekly Barn Hop - and to Wooleylot Farm for more information about the garlic in today's post.  

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Meet Shadow the Guinea Pig

Usually, when I write, I write about all of the outside farm animals.  Meet an "inside the house" critter:  

Shadow, the guinea pig, is my daughter's pet and resides in her bedroom.  He doesn't do much of anything, but she loves him!      

Friday, July 15, 2011

CSA Cancelled

I am so bummed that I had to write this e-mail to my CSA members.

Hello all,

I am so very sorry to write this, but I am going to have to cancel the Fitzgerald Family Farm CSAs.  I have found, with the drought that we've been having, that my garden is just not growing as well as it needs to and the dry weather is creating intense insect pressure (leaving me with unappealing produce).  I would like to water much more than I am, but I fear that if I do, my well will run dry!  So, I have not been getting the volume of produce that I expected to get.  My number one priority with this CSA is that I want to give you good value for your money and I don't feel that I have been, or will be able to, do that in the near future.  I would rather cancel the CSA than have you come away unhappy from the experience.

I will refund you the CSA amount you have paid, minus $30.00 for the four weeks.  Please e-mail me if you would like to pick up a check at the Farmer's Market on Saturday, or if you would like me to mail it to you.

I will still be setting up my stand at the Coudersport Farmer's Market on Saturdays from 9 a.m. - 2 p.m.  As my valued customers, you will receive 10% off your purchases from my stand for the 2011 season.

I have SO enjoyed meeting every one of you.  I hope that I will see you at my Farmer's Market stand on Saturdays!

Hope for rain!

Sharon Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald's Family Farm, LLC

Since June 1st, the weather channel reports that Coudersport has received 2.64 inches of rain - and I know there were a few rain showers in there that didn't touch my dusty little patch!  Looking at the forecast, the most immediate relief we may receive is on July 17, 18, and 19 with 30 and 40-percent chances of rain.  

My commitment is to a high standard of quality with my CSA.  I prefer to bring what great produce I can  to the Coudersport Farmer's Market so that my customers can buy what they want, rather than give them sub standard goods!

Life on a farm is a school of patience; you can’t hurry the crops or make an ox in two days.
                                                          ~ Henri Alain

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Bees Can Be Pretty Dumb!

A couple of weeks ago, we had a swarm come out of our hive over at Jennigans Auto Body.  I went and got it, boxed it up, and brought it home.  

While I was getting these bees moved and situated in their new home I got stung (right through my suit!) and had a pretty bad reaction - hives (yes, I get the irony!) from head to toe.  This has never happened before, so I'm going to have to be more careful working with the bees - no more working on my own!   

I put these bees in a beautiful hive with a nice drawn out comb of honey to entice them to get to work.  Later I came out and where where they?  Hanging in a clump from the top of our second high tunnel! 

Yup, bees can be pretty dumb.

I"ll admit, I was afraid to mess with them on my own and had to wait for Fitz to come home in a few days.  Sadly, by then, they had moved on.

All the honey a bee gathers during its lifetime doesn't sweeten its sting”
~ Italian Proverb 

Be sure to see my previous post for the challenge I've put out!

Monday, July 11, 2011

A Challenge...

I began this Fitzgerald's Family Farm Blogspot on July 31, 2010.  I wonder if it would be possible to get 7000 visitors and 30 followers (or more!) in the first year of its life?  Pass the website along ( to friends and family and let's see if we can do it! 

I thank all of you for your interest in this blog.  It makes me look at my daily activities in a totally different way.  I have a blast doing it and hope I give you some joy in reading it!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Chickens Are Fenced

If finally came... I had to break down and fence in the chickens.  The other day Heather was walking out by the back forest and said, "There's and egg here!"  I've been having a diminishing egg count lately, so Heather and I looked around and found a big pile of eggs!  The chickens weren't laying in the nest boxes anymore.  
We had no idea how old these eggs were - and I would never think of giving them to my customers - so they ended up being fed to the very happy pigs.    

I put a fence around the chickens and boom!  The egg count went right back up.   

There are a few miscreant chickens who have been flying over the fence, but I caught some of them the next morning and clipped one of their wings... no more flying.  
To clip their wings, I grab a chicken, extend it's wing out, and use heavy duty scissors to clip the feather tips as close to the body part of the wing as I can.  The feather shaft is like fingernails and it doesn't hurt the chicken.  

I've lost quite a few chickens to predators over the years and I hope them not being able to go back into the edge of the forest to hang out will cut down on their losses.  

There are a few other reasons why I decided to fence in the chickens....

.. shredded hostas.  I can't begin to say how many times I have planted landscaping around my house to have the chickens come up and dig it up or crush it.

... holes for their dust baths everywhere.  This particular picture is an area where John and I had spent the day planting pole beans and the chickens came in and dug everything up while making dust baths for themselves.  

... and chicken pooh everywhere.  This batch is on the walk behind my house.  They pooh all over the yard and I've even had them pooh when they come into the garage to eat dog food!

The chickens will be let out of their fence in the evening for an hour or two of eating green stuff and catching bugs before they go to roost at night.   That way they'll still give good healthy eggs but will hopefully not have time to get into trouble!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Piggies Are Growing Up

Remember those adorable little oinkers that came in April?: 

They are growing SO fast!

Every once in awhile they play this funny little game in the evening as I bring their food.  They'll all run around in circles until one of them makes a barking noise.  Instantly, they all thunder off and lie down to hide in the tall grass.  I can see them watching me!  I figure it's some kind of alarm thing?.... but they've made it into a game?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Fourth of July/Independence Day!

You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness.  You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism. 
 ~Erma Bombeck

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Salad Greens

These are the salad greens I've put into the CSA/Farm Shares and sold at the Farmer's Market.  I'm buying them from a gardener, Natalie, who grows the most delectable greens ever!  My garden is one or two weeks from truly producing...  we've had a very slow growing season!

Doesn't this make you want to just dive in and eat salad
every day of your life!?!

If you have a complete set of salad bowls and they all say Kool Whip on the side, you might be a redneck. 
~Jeff Foxworthy 

Friday, July 1, 2011

Tomatoes Are Coming And "Oh My Gosh!"

I have lots of lovely green tomatoes on my plants in the high tunnel.  I hope the cherry tomatoes will get red quickly!

As I was picking suckers off the tomatoes - it is utterly amazing how fast they grow - I had an "Oh my gosh!" moment.  Can you see it?

There's a little bird's nest in the tomato plant!

This morning, when I went back in, there was a tiny speckled brown egg!  The bird (I believe it's some kind of sparrow) will have to live with me coming in and out though.  I can't work my high tunnel to it's schedule!  I think we can peacefully co-exist...

... I'm not sure though.  I have a birdhouse on the side of the chicken coop and a pair of swallows set up housekeeping in it this spring.  Now, their little babies are getting bigger (I saw one wobbly little head peeking out the opening - cute!) and when I go to the garden I get dive bombed the entire time I'm working!  

"Today I am sure no one needs to be told that the more birds a yard can support, the fewer insects there will be to trouble the gardener the following year."
-  Thalassa Cruso