Sunday, December 30, 2018

Year End Review (Part 1)

The last week of the calendar year following the frenetic week before Christmas is winding down as I sit quietly in the windowed living room, watching the sun go down. I've been trying to write this post much of the afternoon but it's been a day of some sort of perverse celebration for our neighbors - a celebration punctuated by shooting all kinds of guns and even those ghastly loud and obnoxious exploding targets. For most, that kind of celebration might just be a mere inconvenience, but to me, gunshots never fail to trigger unwelcome PTSD symptoms. So the setting sun is welcomed this afternoon for the trigger-happy folks down the road won't be able to set their sights on the targets- exploding or not.

2018 was a good tomato year
The 2018 season took shape far from Potter County at our winter roost in eastern Washington. The organic system plan that would set our course for the growing season was submitted to PCO.  Word that Rytz and Laura were contemplating returning for another go at "sharecropping" set the plans in motion for our return to our farm with new resolve and new plans for marketing the products of our small organic farm.

And thus, the Metzger Heritage Farm CSA took shape. Rytz and Laura returned to the farm in April and immediately put into action plans for providing a weekly basket of organic vegetable goodness for 12 customers.

Japanese long turnips

early season spinach

spicy mesclun mix
Rytz packaging greens

(to be continued ...)

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Peter Piper Picked ...

a selection of hot peppers from the 2018 garden
at Metzger Heritage Farm

According to Paul Rozen of the University of Pennsylvania, about a third of the people around the world eat hot peppers every single day. Why? Because they "love the burn."
A quick internet search leads me to believe that Dr. Rozen is an expert on the psychology of food choice.
When we eat hot food, Rozen reports, the brain secretes endorphins (a substance that blocks pain). That sought-after feeling of well-being heightens awareness, helps to block unpleasant thoughts and is what keeps us going back for more.
It follows that one can become "addicted" to the intensity of flavor and once you've become accustomed to the heat, food seems bland without it.
We like to grow an assortment of hot peppers in the garden. This year we added the Sarit Gat to our spice repertoire. It's the long yellow pepper you see in the above picture. This pepper originated in Kosovo and has heat similar to the cayenne pepper.
It is said that drying Chile peppers can increase the relative hotness of the dried pepper by as much as 10 times. Time in the dehydrator increases the rich, sweet flavor characteristics of peppers.
Many of our hot peppers are dehydrated then pulverized in the food processor - a job best accomplished on the back porch to avoid the eye watering, choking surprise that greets an unexpected visitor to the kitchen.
It's become a holiday tradition for our family and friends to find a little jar of hot pepper flakes as a Christmas surprise. One of those little bottles is on its way to Alaska as I write this!

This Caribbean Mix (from Peaceful Valley Organic Seeds)
is a mix of different colors of Habaneros and Scotch Bonnets.
These hot fruits - 1000 times hotter than JalapeƱos -
are prized not only for their heat but for their
fruity and smoky flavor.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Chicken-less Coop

I've had a love-hate relationship with keeping chickens. We haven't had chickens on the farm for several years, mostly because we have been spending chunks of time in the winter away from the farm.
Over the years, our flocks have been housed in this old chicken coop that sits not far from the shop and house. At various times, it's been surrounded by a chicken fence but the chickens were free-ranging more often than not. Our children can tell stories about gathering eggs and encounters with a miserable rooster!

Pa's chicken coop captured in the late-summer sunshine
still bearing scorched siding from a fire in the 1970s.
Imagine how delighted we were to come across these old photos documenting the construction of this venerable coop.
Dawn Metzger Newton hanging out the window
Carol Metzger Wilkerson (in the overalls) playing in the
chicken yard

J. Walter Metzger (known as 'Pa' to grandson Artie)
appears to be cutting tarpaper siding.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Grandma Metzger's Apple Cider Pie

Thanksgiving this year marked our Metzger Matriarch's birthday and we have been celebrating with her for days. Wanda has enjoyed the company of both her children this week.
The old farmhouse kitchen has seen lots of activity with many hands contributing to traditional and untraditional holiday treats.
Thanksgiving/birthday desserts featured Wanda's favorite yellow cake with lemon filling courtesy of her niece Paula. Sister-in-law Dawn offered mincemeat pie with homemade mincemeat
And Carol Metzger Wilkerson created two pies - pumpkin pecan and the special pie you see here.

Carol and her husband Roger make their home in Portland, Oregon and her Thanksgiving table wouldn't be complete without apple cider pie. This recipe came from Grandma Thelma Metzger and when Carol heard of our bumper crop of apples plus fresh cider from our organic apples, she knew what she'd contribute to the meal.

Notice Wanda's initial decorating the crust

With her permission, I am sharing the recipe. We still have lots of USDA Certified Organic apples staying fresh in the cooler. Contact us to make arrangements for purchase. We made a cider run on Monday. Our organic cider is offered for sale at Costa's Shursave Food Shop and Schoolhouse Natural Foods in Eldred. You can also make arrangements to buy it from the farm by calling 814-274-8004 or emailing

Grandma Metzger's Apple Cider Pie
1 unbaked pie shell (with top crust or consider topping with a crumb topping)
6 cups apples, peeled and sliced
1 cup cider
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
2 Tbs. corn starch
2 Tbs. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 Tbs. butter

In saucepan, combine apples with cider, sugar and salt. Bring to a simmer and cook until apples are barely tender. Drain liquid and add additional cider if necessary to give 1 1/2 cups of liquid. Set apples aside. Return liquid to pan and blend with cornstarch, lemon juice, spices and butter. Simmer together until thickened.
Layer apples in unbaked pie shell, pour liquid in unbaked shell. Add top crust. Bake at 350 until bubbly and crust is browned.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Potter County Organic Apple Cider!

We're offering our first-ever commercial run of apple cider using our USDA Certified Organic Apples for sale for a limited time.

You can find it at Costa's ShurSave Food Shop in Coudersport while supplies last. Gallon and half-gallon sizes are available.

Arthur and Todd Williams, Produce Manager at Costa's

You can also contact us to buy directly from the farm. Email or telephone (814) 274-8004.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

How Many Apple Varieties On Crandall Hill?

Here's information on the 2018 crop of USDA Certified Organic Apples. Call 814-274-8004 or email us at for additional information.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Faded Photograph

We've recently come across a couple of old photograph albums filled with memories of farm life in the 1940s and 1950s here on Crandall Hill.
This photo is of Arthur Metzger Sr. (on the right) and his father, J. Walter Metzger. They're tending to bees in the back yard, circa late 1940s. It's not surprising that there are still remnants of that beekeeping endeavor put into service in the 2018 version of beekeeping on the farm.
I  blogged about our honey bee adventure in 2017. In October last year, our Washington grandchildren enjoyed helping their Grandpa harvest honey.

Rowan was excited to use the smoker

Straight from the hive

Tasting is the best part!

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Late Summer

The school bus rumbling by this morning sends yet another signal that summer is winding down. My last blog post was months ago as we looked forward to summer and the plants featured there have long since made their way into CSA shares.
I've done a poor job of chronicling life on the farm this summer for our 92-year-old Metzger family matriarch has faced a health crisis, bringing many changes to our world here on Crandall Hill.
But, due to the diligent and loving efforts of Laura and Rytz, CSA customers have enjoyed the bounty of our little USDA Certified Organic farm.
They've also had a major presence at the Potter County Farmers' Market each Friday in downtown Coudersport. This is the time of year that customers can enjoy the best of the season with tables laden with heirloom tomatoes, peppers of all colors and heat, cucumbers, beets, kale, chard, garlic, ground cherries, tomatilloes, cabbage, cauliflower, herbs, flowers... and early season apples.
The USDA Certified Organic designation assures you that your food is grown to exacting standards.  And with stories like this in the news every day, it becomes even more important to seek organic foods to nourish yourself and your family.
See you at the Market!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Pops Of Color

I downloaded a camera roll of 52 pictures today and discovered photos of the fields shrouded in snow at the beginning ...

... and tomatoes reaching for their trellis as photo 52.

What a crazy spring we've enjoyed this year! And adding to the craziness is planning - and planting - for our first-ever CSA. If you've already joined, we thank you and provide you with a peek at what we're growing for you.

on the way to becoming red cabbage

Mesclun Mix
Mixed Lettuces
Baby Ruby Chard

And if you've not signed up yet, maybe the anticipation of enjoying vegetables such as these will prompt you to take one of the last available spots. Sign up today!

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Certified Organic CSA!

Nobody can deny that this has been a very cold spring. I hear the furnace rumble in the cellar as I   and look out over frosty fields this morning. There's a hint of green only where the spring runs behind the house. Will the patches of snow in shady spots melt into the ground on this day?
Here on the farm Rytz and Laura are busy getting ready for our first-ever CSA, set to launch on June 8. We've had a great response but still have space for more members.

Have your ordered your CSA share yet?
Click on the link below for information and pricing.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Announcing Our CSA

Ever since I learned about CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) in a long-ago conversation with Joe Bailey and his mother Natalie Phelps, it's seemed like a great way to run a small farm.
That's why it's such exciting news that 2018 will be the year that Metzger Heritage Farm CSA boxes will find their way off Crandall Hill each week. There's nothing better than sharing our best produce with our community.
The Metzger Heritage Farm Organic CSA will be lovingly managed by Rytz Bowman and Laura Mangan, who joined us on the farm last summer to put into action the concepts they'd learned in Maine and Florida. They're back this summer full of enthusiasm and bursting with plans!

A “CSA Share” is a simple idea (very much like buying a magazine subscription) in which a “member” buys a “share” of a farmer’s harvest at the beginning of the growing season, and then comes to the farm each week to pick up their “share” of the farm’s vegetable harvest. Other pickup options are also available.
To celebrate this day, we are offering an additional $10 off of full share signups from through midnight March 30.  Just use coupon code SUPPORT during checkout. 
Head over to: to sign up for yours.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Consider These Tomato Varieties

New Girl Tomato - Johnny's Selected Seeds
Are you thinking about planting tomatoes in your home garden this summer? Why not consider one of the USDA Certified Organic varieties we can start for you.

Pictured above is the New Girl tomato. We grew this tomato for the first time in the 2017 growing season. Vigorous plants yielded cluster after cluster of good-sized, flavorful fruits until frost claimed them in October. With its short (62 day) season, you should have good luck with this variety.

Oregon Spring Tomato - Fedco Seeds
Oregon Spring is one of the earliest tomatoes at 58 days from transplant. The Fedco catalog says it's "recommended as a hedge in northern climates for cold summers." This variety has been a favorite of northern growers since the 1980s.

Stupice Tomato - Uprising Organic Seeds
Stupice has been part of my garden forever! It's often the first tomato (55 - 70 days) to ripen and continues to produce through the end of the season. Stupice bears smaller-size fruit (2-3 inches) with a deep red color. It's described in the seed catalog as a "reliable old friend." The biggest problem is how to pronounce it!

Moskvich Tomato - High Mowing Organic Seeds
The Moskvich tomato is another old favorite of mine. The seed catalog describes it this way: "...deep red color and luscious, rich flavor. Great eaten fresh or processed. Like all Russians, it can stand up to cool conditions."

Other varieties include: Rose De Berne, German Johnson, Sweetie Cherry, Black Cherry, Weisnicht's, Brandywine, Sophie's Choice, Silvery Fir Tree, Cherokee Purple, Cherokee Chocolate, Amish Paste, Northern Ruby Paste, Roma.

Let's have a conversation so I can get your plants started in time for transplant when frost danger has passed at the end of May.

Let's start the conversation via email:

Monday, March 12, 2018

Fast Time

Metzger Heritage Farm, late winter 2018
stubborn snow drifts
Arthur's grandfather used to call it fast time. Along with most of the country, we dutifully reset clocks ahead one hour Sunday morning and today fought to to arise early to capture the daylight we've saved.

Daylight Savings Time is the final buzzer of the farm planning season for me. I've completed the seed orders and the fat envelopes have begun to arrive. The pots, seed trays and potting mix are stacked and ready. I keep my fingers crossed that when the time comes to turn on the water in the greenhouse,  we will be awarded with instant gurgling and a steady stream of water.

Have you given thought to your home garden needs as the days have lengthened? I am happy to offer you a selection of USDA Certified Organic plants so you can grow your own organic vegetables. 

Most consumers don't realize that commercially-produced vegetable and flowers are grown with large amounts of chemical fertilizers to promote lush plant growth, boosted by systemic and sprayed pesticides to control insects. You have no way of knowing exactly what has been done to those plants!

All our plants are started in a heated greenhouse with a supplemental light source. At Metzger Heritage Farm, we have always used organic methods. Our USDA Organic Certification is your assurance that our plants are grown to exacting NOP standards, beginning with certified organic seeds.

I'll post additional information in coming days but let's have an email conversation to discuss your needs - I will need to have all orders for seedlings by March 25 to allow enough time to have plants ready for transplant after frost danger has passed.

garlic under its protective mulch

"No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn"
- Hal Borland

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Certified Organic Plant Starts

Seeds have been ordered and I'm anxious to get growing!
For the past couple of years I have been growing USDA Certified Organic plant starts in our heated greenhouse for sale to home growers who are looking for vegetable plants grown without the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fungicides or fertilizers. They're the same plants we use in our USDA Certified Organic operation.
In 2018, I will be happy to start plants for those who pre-order and make a small deposit. I will need to have your orders by March 25.
Because your plants will be grown specifically for you, we will need to communicate about your needs. Please send me an email at to begin the conversation. Prices per tomato or pepper plant (in 3- or 4-inch pots) will be between $3.50 and $4.50 depending upon seed costs.
In past years I have offered tomato and peppers only. This year I can also provide squash (winter and summer), onion plants, cucumbers and more. Prices for these will be based on my costs.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Tomatoes in February

This photo captured my attention last week when looking for something else in my photo files.

late season tomato harvest 2017 on Crandall Hill
I'm not sure how many tomato varieties are represented but I can quickly identify Green Zebra, Yellow Pear, Sweetie Cherry, Cherokee Chocolate, Black Cherry, Roma Paste, Amish Paste, Black Sea Man and Stupice. I can almost smell the particular tomato scent, almost taste the sweet, complex, deep flavors, almost feel the splash of sun-warmed juice on my chin.

But, it's February, and it's cold, and it's snowy and these tomatoes are but a colorful memory.

Author Barry Estrabrook writes:

"I think wanting a tomato in the dead of winter - or wanting a little bit of orange on the plate inherent in a lot of our shopping decisions. We expect an ingredient to be on the supermarket shelves 365 days a year, whether or whether not it's in season or tastes any good. It's the price we pay for insisting we have food out of season and not local." 

supermarket tomatoes
"We all know what industrial tomatoes taste like (or don't)
but they have only a fraction of the vitamins that the tomatoes
my mother fed to me in the 1960s did" - Barry Estabrook
"Tomatoes are bred to be perfectly formed so they can make their way across the United States and onto your dinner table without cracking or breaking," writes Estabrook in his best-selling book, "Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit."

"Corporate agriculture does one thing, and only one thing, extremely well. It puts incredibly cheap food on our tables. But that cheapness comes at an incredible cost to the environment, to workers, to rural communities, and to food quality - in terms of both nutrition and taste...
We foodies and people in the sustainable food movement chant these mantras, 'local, seasonal, organic, fair-trade, sustainable,' and they almost become meaningless because they're said so often and you see them in so many places. If you strip all those away, they do mean something, and what they mean is that you end up with something like a Florida tomato in the winter — which is tasteless."

In this interview, Estabrook, elaborates on changes since "Tomatoland" was published in 2011.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Candlemas Day

... half our wood?
Everybody's favorite psychic rodent, Punxsutawney* Phil, tells us we're in for six weeks of winter.
The day we in the USA have come to know as Groundhog Day is known as Candlemas Day across the pond in Europe. And here's where Phil gets his authority.
If Candlemas day be sunny and bright, winter will have another flight; If Candlemas day be cloudy with rain, winter is gone and won't come again.
Candlemas comes 40 days after Christmas. Origins of Candlemas date to a Celtic holiday, Imbolc, where participants carried torches through the fields in rites of purification, welcoming the fertility of the coming spring. The church adapted the tradition into the blessing of the candles, reminding all the Christ is the light of the world.  It is also observed as the day when Jesus was presented at the Temple. (Luke 2:22-40).
February 2 marks the midway point between winter solstice and spring equinox and through the ages, folks, weary of winter, have turned to traditions of weather observation to bring some hope for better days to come.

The English can be thanked for this old agricultural adage
"The farmer should have, on Candlemas Day, half his straw and half his hay"
However, when those farmers moved across the ocean to New England, the last line underwent a change to reflect the danger of the long, cold winters in New England where keeping warm had to be a priority.
"The farmer should have, on Candlemas Day, half his wood and half his hay."
A tip of the hat to my friend Louise Aucott who posted this on her Facebook page a couple of days ago. (Her post sent me googling for more information about Candlemas)
"Half of your wood and half your hay must remain on Candlemas day."
Then today, neighbor farmer (and cousin) Kent Kenyon posted this:
"Half your straw and half your hay shall remain on Groundhog Day"
Next year I think I'll celebrate Candlemas in the French tradition. La Chandeleur  (from chandelle meaning candle) grew from the notion that a long-ago pope distributed pancakes to pilgrims arriving in Rome to celebrate Candlemas. Thus the French serve crepes on February 2. The luscious round buttery pancakes are symbolic of the sun returning to warm the Earth and Jesus as the "light of the world."

*Thanks to Mr. James Berger, my high school Pennsylvania History teacher, I can spell Punxsutawney without the spell check!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018


There's a sprinkle of snow coming from the cloudy sky. Everywhere I look, it's either white, gray or brown.  But, in some peculiar way, I look forward to days like this in the heart of summer.
I've written before about the particular joys of preserving food - especially the food you've planted, tended and harvested with your own hands.

On those summer days, when I'm lining up the shiny glass jars full of tomatoes on the old rough shelves in the cellar, my mind jumps to a day much like today.  I see myself making a trip to the cellar to retrieve a couple of those jars. And later I will hear the ringing pop as I break the seal. I will catch the scent of tomatoes as the fruit splashes into the pan.
Today there's a pot of bolognese simmering on the stove, the complex aroma of tomatoes, onions, garlic and peppers rising with the steam.
I reach for the smaller jars of dried herbs from Thelma Metzger's old Napanee cupboard, their faded colors belying the crisp sharpness within the confines of glass. It's summer again as I carefully cut the stalks of basil, gently rinse and dry them, arranging the leaves just so on the drying racks. A bit later the delightful signature basil fragrance spills out the open windows as the leaves curled to store their goodness for a day like today.

Monday, January 15, 2018

2018 Farm Bill

I admit the Farm Bill is hardly at the top of the mind for most folks. I never gave much thought to the enormous impacts of this behemoth until I heard Wes Jackson speak at the PASA (Pennsylvania Association For Sustainable Agriculture) Conference in State College several years ago. Jackson, President Emeritus of The Land Institute in Kansas, was advocating for a longer view for the Farm Bill. His organization's point of view is detailed in this New York Times op-ed pieceThe op-ed is co-written by Wendell Berry.
"Thoughtful farmers and consumers everywhere are already making many necessary changes in the production and marketing of food. But we also need a national agricultural policy that is based upon ecological principles. We need a 50-year farm bill that addresses forthrightly the problems of soil loss and degradation, toxic pollution, fossil-fuel dependency and the destruction of rural communities. This is a political issue, certainly, but it far transcends the farm politics we are used to. It is an issue as close to every one of us as our own stomachs."
Congress tackles Farm Bills on what should be a five year cycle. In recent history, it's common for delays to trigger extensions of the current bill for periods of a year or more. The Agricultural Act of 2014, or the 2014 Farm Bill, is set to expire, for the the most part, at the end of September 2018.
If you're interested in reading more about how the Farm Bill works, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition has this primer. 
The House Agriculture Committee has recently launched a website detailing components of the Farm Bill that will be debated in the coming year.
Our Congressman, Glenn Thompson, is vice chair of this committee and we all need to raise our voices to bring our concerns to his attention. The Local Food and Regional Market Supply Act being proposed by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is a good starting point.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Listening At The Farm Show

On Saturday, January 6, our Congressman, Glenn Thompson hosted a listening session regarding the 2018 Farm Bill and agriculture policy on the opening day of the Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg. Thompson serves as House Committee on Agriculture Vice Chairman.

According to a report in the Centre Daily Times, the price of dairy products was an overriding theme as farmers addressed the panel. But it was this comment by one of the panelists, U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, that captured my attention.
"They need to get Coca-Cola in there to show them how to mark this stuff. I'm serious because part of the problem is that they're not making consumer-friendly products that look attractive. I think if we changed some of that we'd make a big difference on consumption," 
The idea of considering that it's just a "marketing" problem misses the mark. There are many reasons why the dairy industry continues to struggle and marketing is the least of them.

Daughter Kate Metzger Day (on the left drinking from a jelly jar)
and her pal Melanie Butler Connell.
These photos are from a 1980s-era
June Is Dairy Month promotion in the local newspaper.
Read more about the Pennsylvania Farm Show Listening session in this article in the Centre Daily Times.

Thompson took time on Monday to trumpet the Pennsylvania Farm Show on the floor of the House of Representatives. He acknowledged the important role that agriculture, as the state's biggest employer, plays in the lives of Pennsylvanians. I'm wondering who penned the words he delivered.

You can listen to his address here. (This is a link to C-Span and you'll need to scroll down to find his address.)

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Bleak Midwinter

Cold, cold and more cold!
That topic seems to be first in every conversation as folks find ways to cope with winter's deepest chill.

winter on Crandall Hill, circa 1950s
Wanda Gooch Metzger on her way to work in town
I remember many sub-zero winter days on the farm where I've made my home for more than 40 years. Most center around frozen water pipes. (How about Sharon Fitzgerald's recent blog post about water struggles?)

Arthur and sister Carol making the most of winter
During this second week of January in 2018, the weather predictors have promised some relief with temperatures warming above the freezing mark by mid-week.

And, it's only 72 days until spring!

For those who have an interest in such things, this website is one of many where you can find information about temperature and precipitation in Pennsylvania.