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Posts Tagged ‘farm show’

Sixty Rabbits from Your Small Kitchen Garden

I lack enthusiasm for weeding, so it might be hard to distinguish the food from the future compost in this photo. However, you can spot a spinach leaf in the foreground at the bottom of the frame under the rabbit’s eye; the rabbit is not eating it. This rabbit raised rabbit calves in my garden and left no evidence of munching on any of my vegetables.

How does this kitchen gardener amuse himself when his small kitchen garden is rock-hard frozen solid? For a day or two each year, he attends the Pennsylvania Farm Show. This year, he spent a lot of time among the rabbits. Rabbits?

Well… Your Small Kitchen Garden has quite a history with rabbits. In at least four of the sixteen springs I’ve grown produce in central Pennsylvania, rabbits have nested in my garden bed before I’ve started working it. Last spring I posted a photo of newborn rabbits I found while assessing my home kitchen garden.

Rabbits: Bane or Baloney?

Rabbits get bad raps from gardeners. I’m sure rabbits deserve their reputation, but I often speak in defense of the rabbits in my neighborhood. To begin, those rabbits are adorable. There are an awful lot of them, so I’ve had plenty of opportunity to watch them in my yard and garden.

I have never seen a rabbit eat any of my produce. I’ve had mother rabbits raise their puppies inside my rabbit fence and I’ve watched them sit among young lettuce and spinach plants without taking a nibble. I once watched a mature rabbit rest on my spinach as it devoured the flower stalks from a dandelion plant growing alongside the spinach plants.

In one day a woodchuck did more damage to my garden than all the rabbits have done in 16 years. Still, I don’t trust rabbits, so I’m glad that my woodchuck fence keeps them out. This one spent many minutes circling the garden and peering through the fence… it was adorable and entertaining.

My carrot tops have succumbed to rodents—in a single afternoon, something cut the greens to half their original heights in an entire 14 foot long row. I assumed rabbits were the culprits until I caught a woodchuck in the act the next day.

A Salute to Rabbits

I’m sure rabbits do an enormous amount of damage in kitchen gardens the world over… they have probably damaged my garden. However, as I said, I’ve never seen them eat my produce so I have no animosity toward them. And, since I find rabbits adorable to look at, it was great sport to hang out among the rabbits at the Farm Show.

I’m also pleased to know several rabbit owners through social networking. With them in mind, and as acknowledgement for the role rabbits play in so many kitchen gardener’s lives, I put together a video titled Sixty Rabbits. Long-time readers of this blog might remember last year’s Sixty Chickens video; this one is quite similar. It runs about three and a half minutes. I hope you enjoy it:

 

 

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Visit the PA Farm Show

Sure, you can see fresh produce all winter in any local grocery store… but can you see vegetables that have been awarded blue ribbons?

Winter owns central Pennsylvania, but even for a kitchen gardener there is respite: The Pennsylvania Farm Show opens to the public in Harrisburg on January 9. I wrote several posts about the 2009 Farm Show in Your Small Kitchen Garden last January. It won’t look much different this year… and that’s a good thing.

Kitchen Gardener’s Haven

The Pennsylvania Farm Show is all about agriculture. Sure, there’s a preponderance of exhibits and competitions involving farming: tractors, horse livestock trailers, cultivators, and harvesters. There are horses, cows, chickens, ducks, geese, rabbits, sheep, goats, and pigs… there are even llamas. If none of these appeal to you; if you’re interested only on growing and eating your own produce; the PA Farm Show still delivers.

You’ll find exhibits of gorgeous vegetables, mushrooms, fruits, and nuts. You’ll find honey products and demonstrations by apiarists. You’ll find gardening gear and supplies, exhibits of cut flowers and potted plants, and even “box gardens;” table-top displays assembled to resemble full-sized courtyards and backyard patios.

At the 2009 Pennsylvania Farm Show, there were dozens of tiny gardens planted in wooden boxes. It’s a compelling idea: can a landscaper create a miniature yard or courtyard using live plants, and pass it off as a full-sized garden in photos or video?

Food at the Farm Show

For a kitchen gardener, gardening and produce aren’t the whole story. The Pennsylvania Farm Show understand this and includes exhibits and vendors of all kinds of cooking-related products. You’ll find terrific cookware, hundreds of bottles sauces and seasonings, and a whole bunch of free samples of foods you might want to use in your own kitchen.

Even if your garden has suffered because of a pesky wabbit, it’s hard not to enjoy a stroll among the rabbit cages at the Pennsylvania Farm Show. This rabbit looked capable of devouring a 14 foot row of carrots in a single sitting.

The Farm Show has a Kitchen Stage where area chefs and culinary students perform cooking demonstrations… and even Iron-Chef-style cooking competitions. You can relax and leave the kitchen stage area with ideas to apply in your own kitchen.

Finally, the food court at the Pennsylvania Farm Show features food that’s produced in Pennsylvania: Honey ice cream and waffles; potato donuts, fries, and baked potatoes; milkshakes, ice cream, and fried mozzarella… the list is too big to include all of it here. I like to grab good eats at the food court and carry them to one of the livestock arenas where I can enjoy a horse show or competition while munching the local fare.

Join me at the Farm Show

I’ll be at the Pennsylvania Farm Show the afternoon of Tuesday, January 12. I expect to attend at least one other day as well… and I’d love to have company. So, if you have any interest in meeting up at the Pennsylvania Farm Show, please contact me. Use this blog’s Contact Us form, or send a tweet to @cityslipper.

Did I mention? IT’S FREE! There’s no charge to attend the Pennsylvania Farm Show, though to park anywhere near it, you’ll pay $10 per car… so take a family of five (or a bunch of friends), and get a day’s entertainment for $2 per person.

Follow this link to the full schedule of Pennsylvania Farm Show events.

More information from the PA Farm Show:

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The 2009 PA Farm Show – 3

If your garden tractor looks like this, why are you visiting a web site called Your Small Kitchen Garden? One large hall at the Pennsylvania Farm Show features all kinds of lawn, garden, and farming equipment.

I’ll get off of this Farm Show kick and back into purely small kitchen garden topics in the next few days. This is the last post I’ll do this year that’s about the Pennsylvania Farm Show in general. I have several topics to cover that arose from my time at the Farm Show, and several will become themes in this and my Home Kitchen Garden blog in the coming months.

I owe you answers to questions you suggested you’d ask of a master gardener, so I’ll try to get that post together soon. As well, I attended several presentations by certified master gardeners at the Farm Show, and each deserves at least one blog post.

But First, Escape

Before I dig back into topics that will be more relevant in late winter and early spring, here’s one more encouragement for small kitchen gardeners to escape the winter. I’m sorry if you can’t head to tropical or sub-tropical climes, but at least find a farm show, a garden show, or home & garden show, and immerse yourself in it for a day or two or three. I’ve added a page to list upcoming shows in various cold places—Garden Shows—perhaps there’s one you can attend. And, if I’ve missed one you’re planning to attend, please share the details and I’ll add it.

The Pennsylvania Farm Show is the only conference I’ve attended that has a stand in the food court spcifically to sell mushrooms. There are also stands selling dairy products, vegetable dishes, potato dishes, and maple syrup products. The maple sugar cotton candy is unexpected and delicious.

I spent four days of the last week enjoying the Pennsylvania Farm Show. I’ve reported on my activities in several posts, and have prepared two videos to help tell the story. The second video appears below and covers events and exhibits that I visited on Wednesday and Thursday of this past week.

Flag Racing

While the Farm Show is all about agriculture in Pennsylvania, exhibits tend toward big-time agriculture. At the same time, the Farm Show is a state fair to which people take their crafts, baked goods, canned goods, and livestock for competition.

Having raised horses as a child, I particularly enjoyed equestrian events at the show. This was my first exposure to flag racing. In this sport, a contestant rides a horse past a barrel, grabbing a flag that sits in a bucket of sand on top of the barrel. The horse must continue down the length of the arena, around a second barrel, and then back past the first barrel where the contestant deposits the flag back in the bucket of sand. All this takes place in about ten seconds.

Here’s a simple project for a small kitchen garden. Find a nice basket and a pan to fit in it. Plant several small flower pots with a variety of herbs and set them in the pan. Distribute moss around the pots to help hold them in place (and to conceal them). Set in a warm, well-lighted place in or near your kitchen.

As simple and silly as it sounds, I found flag racing exciting, and laughed when one of the mounts kicked dirt from the arena up into my face.

Team Cattle Penning

This equestrian event features a herd of 30 young cattle pitted against teams of three horses and riders. Each cattle has a number—zero through nine—painted on its side. There are three cattle numbered zero, three number 1, and so on.

As the horses and riders approach the herd, an announcer calls out a number. The three-person team then chases the three corresponding cattle from the herd and into a paddock at the opposite end of the arena. If too many cattle head toward the other end of the arena, the team fails. And, if the team doesn’t pen at least one of the specified cattle within 76 seconds, they fail.

This event is action-packed. Cattle having minds of their own (and preferring to be with their herds), it takes quick reflexes, excellent teamwork, and a little luck to pen all three cattle. My daughter and I sat in the front row, and we both busted out laughing when we were hit in the faces with dirt kicked up by a charging horse.

Sheep to Shawl

At the opposite extreme from a high-speed running-horse event, the sheep to shawl competition’s liveliest moments came as the handlers guided their freshly-sheared sheep out of the arena. Teams set up spinning wheels and looms before the competition started, and each led its chosen sheep into the arena. Then, on the announcer’s “go,” the shearers harvested wool from their sheep.

After shearing, team members carded wool and spinners started drawing it into yarn. With enough yarn made, a team’s weaver worked the loom, eventually producing a shawl. The whole thing happens in two and a half hours. While the teams work at a furious pace, to a spectator the whole thing looks quite tame. Still, it draws a crowd.

After judges award the grand champion, contestants auction off the shawls. This year’s grand champion (the team’s weaver is from Lewisburg) drew a winning bid of $900. Amazingly, the 6th place finisher went for $3,400 at auction, setting a new sheep-to-shawl auction record.

Here’s a compelling off-season project for the small kitchen gardener: build a mini garden in a box. These were on display at the Pennsylvania Farm Show. The attention to detail makes them compelling, but a kitchen gardener might substitute herbs, vegetables, and dwarf citrus trees in place of the house plants.

For Gardeners

As I said earlier: I attended several talks by certified master gardeners, and all were informative and enjoyable. The topics: Pollinators, Rain Gardens, and Worm Composting. I’ll write blog posts about these in the coming weeks. In the meantime, check out the later photos on this page for projects you could undertake to ward off the winter gardening blues.

Here’s my latest video from the Pennsylvania Farm Show. Please enjoy it:

 

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The 2009 PA Farm Show – 2

Pennsylvania Farm Show poultry judge Paul Kroll holds a superior specimen.

Extreme cold has settled onto my small kitchen garden; cold to make me wonder whether my perennial herbs will survive through winter. We’re supposed to see temperatures below 10F degrees through the week, so I’m very glad I’ve scheduled two more days to attend the Pennsylvania Farm Show.

I went to the Show on both Saturday and Sunday—Saturday to get acquainted with a certified master gardener and learn about chickens, and Sunday for pure escape with my kids. Yep: yesterday my three kids and I drove to Harrisburg to lose ourselves in the unlikely winter elixir that is the Pennsylvania Farm Show.

Pure Winter Escape

The poultry room at the Farm Show features a pen where chickens eat from a trough at (their) head level, and eggs roll into another trough below them. Nearby, chicks hatch out in a larg incubator. The hatching chicks draw large crowds.

I’ve been encouraging readers of this blog to attend the Pennsylvania Farm Show or some more accessible indoor garden show. Every steward of a small kitchen garden deserves a mid-winter boost. Sure, you can get a lift from growing produce indoors, but unless indoor gardening is your only option year-round, you’re probably growing some anticipation for warmer days of spring. An indoor garden show or farm show provides some relief, and the kids and I got our fill on Sunday.

We went directly to the Main Hall where there was a demonstration of beekeeping methods underway. Unfortunately, the demo was on a raised stage, and we were too challenged to get close, so we wandered among the exhibitor booths. Exhibitors selling prepared foods at the PA Farm Show give out samples—ice cream; slushies; barbeque sauces, relishes, cheeses, and crackers and breads to hold them; maple syrup; soups; bologna and other sausages; candies; and more. You’d have to work hard to kill your appetite, but tasting is fun.

Clydesdale draft horses have the second-most attractive legs in the animal kingdom. This pair was on display at the Pennsylvania Farm Show.

My daughter’s interest in horses had us attending a performance by the State Police Mounted Drill Team, a popular show in an impressive arena. My sons had unspecific goals; they were there, I think, simply to experience the Farm Show. We visited all the critters: poultry, rabbits, horses, goats, cows, pigs, sheep, and goats.

Among the most memorable:

  • We petted an alpaca: indescribably soft wool, dense beyond description
  • We saw an angora rabbit: hair triples the size of the animal; the rabbit’s owner was wearing a scarf she’d knitted from the rabbit’s wool
  • We watched teams of gorgeous draft horses pull wagons
  • We reviewed dozens of homemade crafts and food products: furniture, picture frames, shawls, blankets, flower arrangements, canned goods, baked goods, gingerbread houses, needlepoint tapestries, and more.
  • Did you know that Pennsylvania produces the most mushrooms of any state in the US? Speaking of mushrooms, here’s a thought for a small kitchen garden: how about starting a mushroom farm in your basement? Click here to buy a starter kit.

  • We ate lunches of foods that originated in Pennsylvania.
  • We toured horse trailers that would make fine homes away from home for horse owners as well as their horses.
  • We saw a Farm Show livestock handler napping with pigs.
  • We watched chicks hatch from eggs, and duckies splashing in a pond.
  • We reviewed display upon display of homegrown vegetables, fruit, and fungus.

Interview a Master Gardener

I’m looking forward to two more days at the Farm Show. Tomorrow, I’ll watch some horse racing, some of the sheep-to-shawl competition (shave a sheep, spin the wool, and weave a shawl in 2.5 hours), and I’ll visit with a master gardener. If you have questions you’d like me to ask, leave them in a comment before 7:00 AM tomorrow (Wed, Jan 14), and I’ll add them to my list. In the meantime, please enjoy the video I’ve assembled for people who don’t have a farm show near them:

 

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Master Gardener for Your Small Kitchen Garden

Baskets of home-grown vegetables will be on display, as well as Christmas trees, nuts, fruits, honey, maple syrup, and, for those who confuse combine raising poutlry with gardening, chickens.

If you have a small kitchen garden, and you’re not a certified master gardener, here’s an opportunity to advance your skills: Penn State Master Gardeners will attend the Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg from January 10 through January 17. Get to the Farm Show, and you can probably bend the ear of at least one Certified Master Gardener. I’m planning to do just that.

If you can’t get to the Farm Show, but you’d still like to ask questions of a Certified Master Gardener, I offer my assistance: Toss me your questions in a comment, and I’ll take them with me to the Farm Show.

Small Kitchen Garden Doldrums

There’s nothing to do in the small kitchen garden I manage in my yard; it’s nearly a skating rink because of two days of freezing rain. My next outdoor gardening task will be to prune fruit trees in March, and to graft from my red apple tree onto my green apple tree. As well, I have my eye on a neighbor’s pear tree from which I hope to swipe a few tiny branches; I’ll graft those onto my own pear tree.

So, facing nearly two more months of indoor-only gardening, I seek gardening-related activities. As I explained in my last post, next up is The Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg.

This show celebrates all things agricultural in Pennsylvania. Because Pennsylvania is primarily rural, it hosts a huge variety of agricultural activity. The Farm Show presents many entertainment events such as rodeo competitions, livestock judging, cooking shows, sheep shearing and weaving, and honey and maple syrup production. As well, the show boasts several exhibition halls filled with vendors and displays having to do with agriculture.

The Penn State Master Gardeners appear on the Farm Show schedule every day of the show. I don’t know what they present, but I’ll attend on Saturday and find out. With a list of my own questions, questions gathered from this blog, and questions received on Twitter, I’ll respectfully request an interview with one or more of the master gardeners on-hand, and report back to you during or after the show (I’m attending 4 days of the 8 that the show is open to the public).

So, leave your questions. Let’s get enlightened by a master—or see whether we can stump one—and get a little gardening adrenalin flowing.

 

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Escape to the PA Farm Show

If your small kitchen garden is in hardiness zone 6 or lower (numerically), then it’s either totally dormant (and probably iced over), or it’s indoors. I hope you’re reading seed and nursery catalogs and planning your plantings for March, April, and May. But while all of that is fine and good, I always crave more during the coldest winter months. Thank goodness for the Pennsylvania Farm Show.

Goats are among the livestock you can see hanging out at the Pennsylvania Farm Show.

The PA Farm Show is a grand state fair held in January. The Farm Show Complex (a whole bunch of large, connected buildings called The Farm Show Complex) in Harrisburg becomes a week-long home to horses, cows, sheep, goats, pigs, chickens, rabbits, and the people who tend them. People compete for ribbons and prize money in hundreds of categories and the spectacle attracts audiences from all over the northeast.

What for the Small Kitchen Garden?

With so much emphasis on livestock, you might wonder what the Farm Show offers to the home kitchen gardener. Truth is, focus on home gardening is modest. Mid-winter, gardeners here are showing off their canned goods. These represent what grew last season, and what will grow in the spring, but they barely get my gardening adrenaline flowing. Still, you’ll find exhibits of vegetables, fruits, mushrooms, nuts, grains, trees, honey production, and maple syrup production. You’ll also find plenty of exhibits and activities having to do with cooking—an essential part of the kitchen gardener’s repertoire.

One very nice touch is that vendors in the food court represent agricultural special-interest groups: PA Bee Keepers Association, PA Cooperative Potato Growers, PA Dairymen’s Association, PA Livestock Association, PA Maple Syrup Producers Council, PA Mushroom Growers Cooperative, PA Vegetable Growers Association, and many more will be serving foods that incorporate their constituents’ products.

The Farm Show sponsors cooking demos and competitions that might inspire new ways for you to use next season’s small kitchen garden produce.

A jam-packed hall of vendors showcases at least some products that will appeal to any kitchen gardener. Last year, a spice dealer there had seasonings I’ve always wanted for some middle-eastern dishes, but have never found in local grocery stores.

Another large hall at the Farm Show houses farming equipment. If your small kitchen garden just isn’t satisfying, you might find the perfect tractor/plough/harvester combination to help with your expansion project. Just for kicks, tour one of the larger horse-carrying camper/trailers… some are as luxurious as any weekend warrior’s recreational vehicle.

Live Entertainment at the Farm Show

Many people would have to redefine what they think of as entertainment to find any at the Pennsylvania Farm Show. Understand that we are a primarily rural state. We love technology as much as the next state, but we also love our un-tech. Two of the most lively events at the Farm Show are Team Cattle Penning and the Sheep-To-Shawl competition.

Most people wouldn’t do this in a small kichen garden, but penning cattle looks like a lot of fun. No doubt I’ll spend several hours watching the action this year.

In team cattle penning, people on horseback must chase three calves out of a herd at one end of an arena, and into a pen at the other end. I’d never seen this event until last year’s Farm Show; I found it riveting.

In the Sheep-To -Shawl event, contestants must sheer their sheep, spin the wool into yarn, and weave a shawl in just three hours. I haven’t seen this competition, but have been hearing about it for years. Organizers auction off the finished shawls during the Farm Show, so drawing the highest bid at auction has become a sport in its own right.

Go to a Farm Show

In case you haven’t caught on, here’s my suggestion: if you live in central Pennsylvania, go to the Farm Show. It’s open to the public starting on January 10, and it runs through January 17. You’ll find enough related to gardening and cooking to make the trip worthwhile, and you might discover that some unfamiliar activities can be quite entertaining. (There must be fifty types of rabbits on display there… and an even greater variety of chickens.) Follow this link for a schedule of events at the PA Farm Show.

If you don’t live in central Pennsylvania, you’re still welcome at the Farm Show… but I’ll understand if you don’t make the trip. But if you don’t, and your gardening urge is frustrated by the climate, look for something like a farm show in your part of the world. Professional gardeners put on wonderful winter garden shows that at least temporarily lift the weary from the dreary winter muck.

Let Us Know!

If you’re aware of a farm show, or something equivalent in your area, tell us about it in a comment. And, if you attend such a show this winter, leave a comment summarizing your experience.

I’ll be at the PA Farm Show at least three days and will post about it here. I hope you’ll be there too.

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