Week 9 – August 15, 2011

It’s rained again here at the farm!  Most folks like to lay in bed at night and listen to the rain come down.  Farmers, on the other hand, lay awake wondering about what’s being affected by all this rain.  Are the windows up in the truck, is the foundation we dug for the pizza oven filling with mud, are the rain barrels overflowing, is the chicken feed getting wet?  And it just goes on and on. . . .

We’re in the height of the growing season now – and both Kristin and I are starting to feel the impact of being pregnant and farming full time.  Last year we canned about 150 quarts of tomato product, oftentimes staying up until 1 am to finish the job.  We can barely think, let alone chop tomatoes after 10 pm.  It sure seems like we’re going to have another good year for tomatoes – so, if you’re interested in doing a bit of canning (or freezing) – let us know and we’ll sell you a 1/2 bushel of tomatoes at a great CSA discount.

Animals on the Farm

Remember those baby chicks I mentioned a few weeks ago who so bravely weathered that big storm? Well, now they’re 3 ½ weeks old and growing fast! They’re at that cute and awkward stage where they’re losing their chick ‘fuzz’ and starting to feather out. We lovingly call this the teenage phase. You might notice that they look different than our usual meat bird chicks. We have mostly raised the white Cornish Cross in the past but have made the decision to re-visit the Freedom Rangers.

These guys and gals originate from France where they were bred to meet the high standards of the French Label Rouge Free Range program. They’re widely used in ‘alternative’ non-factory farm models all across Europe. They’re a bit smaller and slower growing than the Cornish Cross but are also healthier, hardier and have natural instincts to be better foragers. In addition, they are a much tastier bird. We cannot get over how smart, active and healthy these birds are and how pleasant they are to raise. They’re so active, in fact, they’re hard to capture in photos!

Some folks who visit our sheep, or have seen the back of the farmhouse may have noticed the large rain barrels arranged against the buildings. These rain barrels are part of an experimental plan for the farm which will include moving more water to different parts of the farm for irrigation and for animal production.

We are blessed in western Pennsylvania with an abundance of rain!  As a nearly pure and free resource, it is heavily under-utilized in our culture, while a large percentage of the world’s population rely on rain as their primary source of clean water.

In our region, we have an average rainfall of 23.73 inches – which is ONLY from April through October when a rain capture system would be used.  In the winter months, the system would need to drain the barrels won’t get damaged by the ice.

For example, on a 1,000 square foot roof this would mean a total of 14,793 gallons of water during the growing season!  A family of 4 would need about 11,300 gallons for the same time period according to the Pacific Institute – which includes drinking, cooking, bathing, laundry, and sanitation (flushing toilets).   Leaving an extra 3,400 gallons for watering the gardens!

However, to understand the reality behind our roof – we needed to physically install the system.  Each rooftop and especially downspouts – divert different volumes of water depending on their orientation and location.  Our house (a rectangular ranch house, oriented north to south) was built with flat gutters.  Like most homes, our downspouts are placed so that they blend into the architecture, and not to carry water “equally” from the roof.

Other parts of the roof face in different directions, which, when accompanied by wind, creates in-equality in the distribution of the rain into the downspouts.  This causes some tanks to fill more quickly than others – and to completely capture the water becomes more difficult without buying one giant tank!

To accomplish our experiment, we set up several “banks” of rain collectors on the buildings.  A total of 5 “banks” exist – 3 that are 550 gallons (2 barrels), one single barrel system and one 10 barrel system (2750 gallons!) which we built on the back of the house.  This is a total collection volume of 4,675 gallons, and we have captured and released enough water to fill the system 3.5 times so far this year (which has had about twice the usual amount of rain).  So, we’ve captured (and drained) about 16,500 gallons of water.

We estimate that we are only using about 1/4 of the current rooftops on the farm – which when considering that we are only half way through the growing season, means that we could catch about 120,000 gallons of water per growing season.   At this rate, setting up the full system would save the farm about $650 per year in water costs.


We could use some more plastic grocery bags in the barn on Wednesday – if you have a load of them piling up in a closet somewhere, we’d be happy to take them off your hands!


We’re attending the Red Ripe & Roasted Festival at Phipps on August 28th.  We’ll have our various heirloom tomatoes on display and will be bragging about having the strongest garlic around!  Come down and visit with us!

Need more local products? If you belong to the Boyd, Phipps or Summerset drop offs and would like any of the additional items (see the “Who Else?” section in the right hand column) we sell, please send us a note and we’ll make sure we bring it to you.  That said, we have a limited supply of eggs at the moment (until July/August), and they are sold on a first come first served basis.  Particularly, if you’re interested in purchasing chicken – please let us know.

The barn is open on Wednesdays from 11 am – 7 pm.  If you think you might be running late – just give us a call (724 226 3939).  The Phipps Market/CSA runs on Wednesdays from 2:30 pm – 6:30 pm, on Saturdays from 9 am – 11 am we’ll be at the Boyd Center, and at the Summerset at the Frick Community Center from 2pm – 4 pm.

Be sure to bring your own bags.

Frankferd Farm orders should be placed by August 31 for delivery on the first week of September.  Click on the link above to view their on-line catalog.  We also have hard-copy catalogs available in the barn.  Mention that the orders are to be picked up by Blackberry Meadows Farm.  We’ll have those items available for pickup on the week of September 1.  Email jen@blackberrymeadows.com and let her know if you’ve placed an order for August.  We will bring orders to Phipps, Boyd and Summerset too.

Frankferd Farms – a natural foods distributor.  Place an order with them once a month and we’ll have it on hand at your CSA pick-up
Wild Purveyors – join their Cheese/mushroom CSA and get speciality PA Cheeses and mushrooms on a monthly basis.
Natrona Bottling Co. – Brewed fresh here in Natrona, this beverage is made from early 1900‘s recipes – before High Fructose Corn Syrup!
Uppity Women Soaps – locally handmade soaps and creams.
Allegro Hearth Bakery- Fresh bread available at the farm pickup only.
Jarosinski Farm – we’re excited to be working with Kevin, a young fellow in Buffalo Township who is tending high quality pasture raised chickens for eggs and meat.
Building New Hope- a great fair-trade coffee with a great cause and always out there to support the local farms.
Kopar Honey Farm – talk about local!  The Kopars keep bees on our farm, as well as many other locations in SW PA.
Clarion River Organics – we purchase potatoes, winter squash and other items from them that we may not be growing this year.
Conneautee Creamery – fresh raw milk cheeses from grass fed cows in Erie County.
Riverview Dairy – local artisan made goat cheeses (Chevre and feta).
Flower & Bee – a new grower on our farm is growing and selling beautiful bouquets and is happy to supply your events with seasonal flowers.

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