TUESDAYS AND THURSDAYS!

For the last week, Megan and I have tried out having a full market stand in the parking lot between Ace Pawn Shop and the Downtown Post Office. It has been going great and we have been meeting a lot of great people happy to see local produce so close to part of their weekly routine. So far our tentative hours have been from 8am to 1pm, but we will probably change as change makes sense. Cabbage is growing to maturity and the last of our summer produce is reaching ripeness as kale, chard, lettuce and fully grown acorn squash hit the ground.

Thanks to all the great pawn shop and post office customers that have welcomed us. Especially thanks to Ace Pawn Shop for allowing us the chance to use their parking lot and all the support they have given us and the local community.

Please come by the next several Tuesdays and Thursdays to enjoy our Plum Tomatoes, Heirloom Tomatoes, Slicing Cucumbers, Pickling Cucumbers, Yellow Squash, Zucchini, Acorn Squash, Basil, Lunchbox Peppers, and possibly a few pints of raspberries.

New Wednesday Pickup!

From our recent survey, we found that Wednesday is the best time for folks to pickup farm goods downtown. Our pickup is in the Ace Pawn Shop parking lot, next to the post office from 5-6pm on Wednesdays. We send out an email on Monday with what we have available and folks can submit their orders by Wednesday afternoon.

Harvesting squash is occurring a few days a week now, with both yellow squash and zucchini. We recently planted our winter squash too. Next week on the schedule is planting our kraut and storage cabbage. Can't wait to make kimchi this fall!

With all the produce coming in, we decided to convert a freezer into a refrigerator to give us some time to move produce. This has helped the frequent occurrence of what I call the squash tumble (a fridge so full of squash that inevitably a squash falls out when you open the door.

We've been grilling a lot of our squash, but I also fell in love with our recent experiment with making scalloped squash. It went over really well at a July 4th potluck! Join our newsletter to get similar farm recipes!

Scalloped Squash

2 cups squash
2 cups milk
2 cups of cheddar cheese
2 Tablespoons arrowroot powder or non-GMO cornstarch
1 onion
garlic
Basil
Salt
Pepper

Cook onions and garlic on stove until onions are translucent. Add milk, arrowroot powder, salt, and pepper, and stir constantly on low-medium heat until it thickens (if you use arrowroot, be sure not to turn up the heat too much or it will start to breakdown). Add basil after thickens and stir for another minute or two. Butter or oil glassware, layer squash, cream mixture, and cheese. Bake on 350 degrees for a half hour with foil. Take off foil and bake for another 10-15 minutes until cheese starts to brown on top.

Megan & Elliot

Mail Chimp!

Sunny branch farm has moved our buying club emails to Mail Chimp. We will be resuming Thursday pickup this week with beautiful cut peonies added to the spread.
If you have already been receiving our emails, you will now receive them mail chimp style.

If you have not signed up for our email buying club, please do so below.












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Hello from Sunny Branch Farm!

Hey Bloomington!

Sunny Branch Farm is starting an email list to let you know when we are having in town pickups and farm stand operations.
We sent out an email to everyone that showed interest and if you let us know by email, phone or google form, we will keep you up to date with where we will be peddling our nutritious wares!

Below is a little run down of what we're up to and how you can purchase from us if you're interested. We'll only send 1 email a week if we have products available. We'll also try to include fun things like tasty recipes you can try out.

Thanks,
Megan and Elliot

Submit Your Order for This Week's Produce!
Fill out our simple Google Form if you're interested in picking up tomorrow! No worries if you're not up to it this week, we'll give you more advance next week!

Cooking Spinach Leaf: $4/bag (1/2 lb.)
Pac Choi Leaf: $3/bag (1/3 lb.)

Sunny Branch Farm Online
We're juggling a new redesign of our website with spring farming chores, but we do have a map and an about us section if you want to learn about the farm. I'm a total social media nerd and am always posting pictures from the farm on Facebook. We also have Twitter and Pinterest if you're into those mediums too. Follow us @sunnybranchfarm. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest.

Farm Stand Progress
We're finishing up our farm stand and hope to have things finished up by June, when the farm stand will be open. This is our first farm stand, so we'll be tweaking our hours as we go. Weather permitting, the plan is to be open from 4-6pm, Tues-Fri, and 2-4pm on weekends if we have farm products available and aren't attending to family obligations. Closures will be posted on FB and our website, or sent in our weekly email.

This Year's Menu (subject to change and based on season)
Simple flower bouquets
Herb starts
Medicine plant starts
Farm crafts
Tomatoes
Cucumbers
Summer Squash
Zuchs
Winter Squash
Kraut Cabbage
Lettuce
Spinach
Kale
Chard
Radishes
Beets
Carrots
Ground Cherries
Berries (if we don't eat them all ourselves!)

Weekday Pickup Downtown

Tuesday Newsletter Sent
On Tuesday's we will send an email with the prices of produce and plants we can bring to the pickup. We'll also let you know what we intend to have at the farm stand. This is our first year of production on this new land and so we're still in the experimenting stage, trying out different varieties and production methods.

Thursday Pickup at Ace Pawn Shop, 5-6pm
It's amazing the places you'll find local food supporters. The Ace Pawn Shop parking lot (on 1st and Walnut, next to the post office), will be our pickup site during the week. Please park in the side lot, so we don't crowd out the customers near the shop's front door. If you have a diy project planned however, we encourage you to check out all the good deals on tools, electronics, and other doo dads.

Payment Options
Cash or Checks (written out to Sunny Branch Farm) Only...for now.
In the near future we plan to accept credit cards, we'll let you know in our newsletter when we're ready to take credit cards.

Submit Your Order for This Week's Produce!
Fill out our simple Google Form if you're interested in picking up tomorrow! No worries, if you're not up to it this week, we'll give you more advance next week!

Cooking Spinach Leaf: $4/bag (1/2 lb.)
Pac Choi Leaf: $3/bag (1/3 lb.)

Winter Farmin!

We're still farming in the winter. It looks a little different from the summer when we're sweating and weeding every other minute. Instead we've been busy drawing up infrastructure (literally!) for the spring and making final touches on our crop plan. We finished building the hoop house at the beginning of September and have been harvesting lots of spinach lately.

So Much Spinach!
I did make an amazing creamed spinach soup today with all the excess spinach, but we still have too much to consume! While we contemplate getting some kind of vacuum sealer to freeze the tasty greens, we're offering the spinach to neighbors and the community at $3/bag (1/2 lb.). Email us at sunnybranchfarm@gmail.com if you'd like to purchase some spinach for your next soup or casserole. We can do deliveries in town or you can pick-up on the farm.

Bees, Tools, and Mammoth Cave!

White Peonie

The last peonies have bloomed and the weeds are flourishing, ha ha! Sometimes I feel like we're growing weeds! Two weeks ago our amazing Valley Oak wheel hoe came was delivered to the farm. We had been using our hands and our Hook 'n Crook Hoe, which works great for getting directly around plants, but we had these large spaces between some of our plants that were getting rather weedy. The wheel hoe covers a large area pretty efficiently. You get a bit of an upper body workout after using the hoe, but it really beats hand weeding or using a small hand hoe for hours and hours. It's especially great for our widely spaced trellised berry plants.

We have so many blackberries that are starting to flower, thanks to the many plants gifted to us from Leslie Burns of Smith Pike Farms. We've bought some wine making equipment this year from our friends at Butler Winery and we hope to make 5 gallons of blackberry wine for a summer farm celebration. With all of our flowers blooming, we're hoping our new Russian bee friends are finding their way to feed on them. We made a trip to the Walter T. Kelley bee company this spring to pick up our first package of Russian bees! A little vacation away from the farm was needed so off we went to visit Mammoth Cave National Park with some friends. We honed our Ladder Ball skillz and feasted on campfire classics like pudgie pies and venison burgers and enjoyed the tours at the cave. I was amazed to see the outfits some of women wore when they guided or toured the cave back in the day. They were pretty hard core wearing fancy shoes that probably hurt their feet. One of the tour guides, who was a 4th generation tour guide, told me they have found quite a few corsets in the cave, ha!

Anyways, back to our bees!

We drove along the Scenic KY Byway from Mammoth Cave and took a ferry across the Green River. I really suggest taking this route, which will take you past farmland and rolling pastures, instead of a boring interstate. We decided to go with the Russian bee variety because of their resistance to the varroa mite. Some local beekeepers have said that they haven't gotten as much honey with the Russians and they saw no difference, but we're going to give them a try. They have different behaviors than Italians, so you have to adapt a bit as a beekeeper to their quirks. We figure we'll have a learning curve these first few years and if we do get honey, it will be mostly for home and our friends and family who support our farm.

With our four visits to the hive for maintenance thus far, Elliot and I have both been stung once. Since our stings the first time around, we have decided to forego much of the full beekeeper outfit. When we're sweaty and our eye site is compromised by the veil, we get stressed out much more and I believe the bees can sense that. We've had success without all the heavy duty clothing, so we're sticking with what we call our "naked beekeeping." Okay, so we're not really naked, but we're not all bundled up. Smoke is used to get them out of the places we want to be, and while they will climb all over us, they don't tend to sting. For those wishing to get into beekeeping, I highly suggest reading Ross Conrad's Natural Beekeeping. Ross doesn't suit up for bee maintenance either and I like how he sees his occasional sting as preventative healthcare. Studies have shown that bee stings prevent against arthritis! I also learned that contrary to popular belief, most people who are stung over the long term actually decrease their sensitivity to bee stings, rather than develop a severe allergic reaction. Nevertheless, we have Benadryl and Calomine lotion at hand, just in case!

Okay, well there are still weeds growing out there so it's back to the Hook n' Crook!

Spring is Here!

The trees are all past green tip, the blackberries have tons of leaves and the peas are up! Spring is here, yay! We're figuring out how to etch in farm work between the not so predictable spring rains. We managed to plant a couple hundred feet of spinach, beets, and swiss chard the other day with our new Jang Seeder. The seeder does really well with round seeds, the more spiky chard seeds have a hard time falling into the holes in the roller that shoots the seeds out. Also, it works way better when there are a lot of seeds in the hopper, so that seeds are forced into the holes in the roller. You end up sacrificing a few seeds at the end that you can hand plant if you really need to. Thankfully, seeds are pretty cheap, so we buy a lot that we can always use later. We've just purchased 3 more rollers for our seeders so that we can plant lettuce, spinach, and lots of herbs. With the little bit of online research we've done on the the Jang, it seems like planting the larger seeded plants like corn, squash, and beans doesn't work as well. Thankfully, it's pretty easy to plant the larger seeds by hand.

Our brocolli is being hardened off this week. We're a little late on planting this year, but it's been a pretty cool spring, so I think we'll be alright. We're anxious to get these in the ground so we can get our peppers under the lights. Our eggplant is growing pretty well in our make-shift cold frames outside. I'll have to post a few pictures when I get a chance.

The weeding regimen has started! Today I'm weeding around the comfrey that came up around the fruit trees. We planted a few comfrey cuttings last spring, but it wasn't too successful. We might buy some comfrey from Bread & Roses Nursery or if the Community Orchard is being overtaken, we can transfer some to our orchard. Big thanks to the Bloomington Community Orchard for the free strawberry plants! Last weekend they had a planting day and thinned out strawberries that were encroaching on their pathways. I was able to partake in some of the oh so tasty and sweet strawberries at a work day last year, and hope they taste just as good in our soil.

Hawk in a fence!

We had our first scare with a predator hawk. I was sitting on the front porch when I heard the chickens squawking. Our chickens are on pasture most of the time, so they don't tend to fight with one another. I assumed one of the hens became separated from the rest, which often happens when one of the hens goes to lay an egg then gets out of her box to realize she’s by herself. I checked out what was happening anyways and found one of our little black hens stuck in the wire fence that borders my neighbors house. Six inches to the left of her, also stuck in the fence, was a huge hawk!

Our little hen just had her foot stuck, so I could easily extract her, but not before scratching myself in all the brambles along the fence. I went in to find the number for DNR to see what could be done about the hawk, but when I came outside I saw her fly away. She flew up to a tree near our barn, so I stuck around awhile. What a sight to see such a majestic creature up close and so vulnerable. Our hens are pretty smart and edged their way deep into the brambles, with our rooster King standing guard. I thought about taking them into the barn, but that defeats the purpose of our hens being on pasture. The hawk flew away eventually, but I do worry that she will come back to try again. Here’s to hoping that the experience with the fence was enough for her. I guess you can get a permit to dispose of hawks that threaten livestock, but I feel a bit queasy about that idea.

New Ducks!

I picked up our new baby ducks today from a friend down the road. She took them in from the Monroe County Humane Association who rescued them from a fraternity prank gone wrong. I wish people understood what attention it takes to raise animals. Thank goodness for the kind hearted folks at the MCHA who have the compassion to take care of our little animal friends.

We've named them Bethel and Lane, after the road (well, lane to be exact) that our friend Jana lives on. Jana has been keeping chickens for a long time (check out her posts on Indiana Public Media, but had her own ducks coming this spring, so I volunteered to take them in. We're hoping to build a pond in the near future for them, but for this spring, we'll just use a small kid's pool or something similar.

Elliot chipped up some of our donated christmas trees for some nice bedding for them and we have a big water fount they're splashing . They're very curious about their new space and are making us laugh with their funny slurping noises when they drink.

Our New Rescued Duckings!

Our First Chickens

Young Chickens

My nieces and my sister visited me in early April to drop off our new baby chicks. My niece Ava and her preschool class incubated the eggs from a local farm in Zionsville, IN. These chicks were second-chance chicks for Ava's class. The first set of eggs they incubated never hatched due to a problem with maintaining the temperature of the incubator. Sad for preschoolers, but it gave the instructor a chance to talk about the circle of life with the students, a theme common to farming. My initial motivation for taking the chicks from the preschool class was more for the privilege to be the aunt that's taking care of my nieces chickens. I mean how great would it be to have my nieces visiting in a few months to enjoy omelets and see how the chicks develop over time.

Looking back on it now, maybe I should have been a little more questioning when my sister told me they were Rhode Island Red Chickens. The chickens are black and white and Rhode Island Reds are traditionally rust colored and brownish. We put them in our unfinished basement in a dog kennel with a light to keep them warm. A little doll rod hung inside for them to hang out on. We were so excited the first time they perched! We soon grew tired of cleaning their small home every other day. They grow so quickly! They had pretty much lost all their fluff before we moved them outside to our diy chicken tractor.

Elliot gathered wood that the previous owners had left around the property. He used the wood and some emt tubing, from an old urban high tunnel he had built last season, to make the frame. We covered the structure with chicken wire we had around and twisty ties to fasten. I think the only thing we spent $ on in the beginning were the twisty ties and the wheels. We believe in the philosophy of thrifty farming.

We weren't sure about what to do about the roof. Elliot put a simple tarp on top, but it soon disintegrated once the bad weather set in. Our goal was to have a structure that was easy for one person to move. That was possible with the tarp, but just wasn't going to work for any other durable roof material. We decided to buy a piece of corrugated roofing to attach to the top. It's not quite light enough for one person anymore, but it's not really an issue, since we're usually home or a friendly roommate can help with a move.

The chicken tractor was put inside our electric fence as an extra layer of protection from predators, but mostly to utilize our chickens awesome fertilizing capabilities. Inside the fence is a small mixed fruit tree orchard, with a large field behind for future crops, and a line of berries and grapes along the edge. From our porch swing at the back of the house we can see where the chicken tractor has been. The grass is more green where the tractor has been.

By late October we realized we had a rooster problem. I'm not sure if it was the Bloomington Birdbrains Facebook group or from a friend that I had heard that too many roosters can inhibit egg production. Our hens weren't laying at 8 months. A few months prior I had the opportunity to work with Josh and Laura Beth Engenolf of WE Farm. They raise poultry for their Grass-fed Meat CSA they offer every year. I needed to learn how to process our roosters, so when their Intern Elisia said they were looking for help, I excitedly said yes yes! WE Farm doesn't have the capability to process a lot of chickens on their farms, so they rent out the outdoor CPU (Chicken Processing Unit) at Maple Valley Farm. I just love our farming community and how collaborative we are. Maple Valley charges a reasonable price per bird and in exchange WE Farm gets to use their nice stainless tables, scalder, and plucker, all outdoors, which makes for easy cleanup and a nice day with new friends.

I was surprised that the culling part wasn't as difficult as the evisceration. Later on, Elliot and I realized it's much easier to cull another's chickens than your own that you've raised and gotten to know. We fashioned our own "killing cone" to be similar to Maple Valley Farm. Big enough to hold a large chicken, but a short enough bottom to pull a chicken neck through. It's amazing what a person starts to acquire over the years, we just happened to have some aluminum sheeting around, so we just had to buy some rivets to fasten it together. We decided to attach the cone to the back of our tall hops trellis. We knew we wanted to use the blood for crops and it's just easier to pour it right there into the soil that will feed our hops.

Technically, culling a chicken is a lot easier than evisceration. To cull a chicken, you just need to find the jaw line and cut the arteries on both sides just below (they're upside down at this point) and life leaves them in about a minute. We have a sad moment. Some people don't name their animals, we do somewhat, when a particular animal's behavior gives us a reason to. I'm okay with having feelings for them and feeling sad. I think I would be more worried if I took their life without a little hurt in my heart. We thank them for their gift at our table and move quickly before the early winter night falls.

We have a few friends helping us for our first time. I set up tables next to the garage with tarps on top and our roommate Matt wheeled out our grill for our make-shift scalding pot. We bough a few nice knives from Ace Pawn Shop and used a simple camping cooler with cold water to hold the finished chickens before bagging.

While most farmers will not feed their chickens prior to culling, we decided to let them free range. That decision was at first practical, but it also made it easier to find their crop and cut in out, which is sometimes hard to differentiate from fat if it's not full of seeds.

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