Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Susquehanna Valley Growers' Market

Every Friday from 2 pm-6 pm the Susquehanna Valley Growers Market is on at Ard's Farm Market from May to October. I had gone to the SVGM at its previous venue, downtown in the parking lot by Huffnagle Park and was unimpressed. Things have definitely been stepped up since the move to Ard's.

There were about 10 stalls to choose from offering breads, cheeses, salsas and sauces, produce, tea, meat, and treats. I tasted raw milk cheese from Stone Meadow Farm. The One-Eyed Pepper Jack was really bitter and I didn't care for it at all, but I love the sharp cheddar and bought some. It cost $5 for 1/2 lb. The young man there was VERY friendly and chatty. He asked me all about all the places I had ever lived and told me about all the jobs he'd ever had. He was also selling walking sticks. On to the fresh flowers and baked goods stall next door.  I bought a gorgeous fudgey brownie for $2.25, it was scrumptious. I wanted to buy all her baked goods, but by this point I was running out of cash.

I moved on to Haole Boy Salsas. The owner is a real character. The names of his salsas were really original and humorous. I purchased Sweet Mustard Chipotle Barbeque Sauce and tasted about 7 different kinds of salsa. He had me hold one of the salsa bottles to prove how fresh it was, he had just bottled it a couple of hours before coming to the market. He claimed to grow 26 different kinds of hot peppers in his garden. Next to the salsa stall was Three Belle Cheese, a goat cheese lover's paradise. I tried a sample of their garlic and herb goat cheese and it was superb. I bought 8 oz. of Honey Pecan and Date goat cheese and have been eating all week. It was $5. Their farm is located 3 miles from Ard's, I'd say that's pretty darn local. My son bought an oatmeal whoopee pie for 90 cents from the Amish guy selling baked goods and produce, it was yummy.

I skipped over the produce stalls, they didn't have much to offer last week, I think because it had been so dry. I smelled all the teas at the tea stall. I talked to Mike from Cow-a-Hen Farm which sells nitrate free hot dogs and everything from goose to pig to duck. He told me that pigs are actually omnivores, not herbivores.

Overall, I thought the prices were reasonable for locally grown, chemical free, minimally processed delicious food. All the vendors were very friendly and willing to talk about how the food they sell is grown or raised. I felt a real connection with everything I bought and enjoyed the fact that the ingredients list on the nitrate free hot dogs ($8/pound) only had 8 ingredients and all of them were recognizable. I will definitely go again, but bring more money next time. Check out their website for seasonal recipes using ingredients sold at the Susquehanna Valley Grower's Market.


This week there will be peaches, plums, eggplant, sweet corn, cucumbers, green beans, ripe tomatoes, zucchini and summer squash, Hungarian wax peppers and banana peppers, wheat berries, whole wheat flour, potatoes, multicolored beets, Swiss chard and beet greens, onions, garlic, fresh herbs, farm-fresh eggs, freshly baked artisan breads, sweets and baked goods, dried herbs, blends and teas, pasture-raised poultry, grass-fed beef, pasture-raised veal, farm-fresh pork, raw milk cheeses, fresh goat cheeses, and freshly cut flowers.

Wise Guys Pick Your Own Raspberries

I have been looking for a PYO Raspberry Farm for about 3 years and I finally found one! Hooray! It isn't super close to Lewisburg, but it is the only one I have found in our general area. It is located in Mc Clure, about an hour away from Lewisburg. The farm does not have an official name, but owners Linda and Donald Wise call it "Wise Guys Farm." They have been in operation for 10 years, but just opened up their raspberries for people to pick their own this year. I asked her why they had never done it before and they said that people within a 10 mile radius of the farm seemed to prefer black raspberries and didn't express interest in picking and eating the red variety. Most of the people who come to pick raspberries were like me and saw the sign from the road.

My children and I showed up around 4:30 pm and were greeted by a little blond three year old girl. I had barely opened the car door when she said, "Can those kids play?" Brooke was very friendly. Her job is to go get her one of her parents from the field when a car full of pickers shows up. I don't know if it was also her job to follow kids around and tell them not to eat the berries as they pick, but she did that as well. She also told us about the cow they used to have. When I asked her what happened to it, she said, "We killed her and ate her up. I love beef!" Linda and Donald had us start toward the top rows of the raspberry canes and work our way down. There were rows of delicious red raspberries growing on bushes that hardly had any thorns on them. I asked each of my children to pick a quart and I picked two. It took us about an hour to pick that many. The rows between the bushes were a little clogged with weeds and there were lots of bees and flies and other insects around, but we didn't get bitten by anything. I didn't mind sweating and swatting bugs too much since I was imagining all the freezer jam I was going to make.

The raspberries are $3.50/quart. Linda told me that they will have sweet corn in a few weeks for $3/dozen (not you pick). The currently have blueberries for $2/quart, maple syrup for $7/pint, snap peas for $1.50/quart, and tomatoes for $2/quart. You can call ahead and order any of these items and pick them up. In the spring they have asparagus and sugar peas too.

Directions from Lewisburg

Linda suggested that people call first before coming: (570) 658-6175 or her cellphone: (570) 541-0785. Wise Guys Farm is open on weekdays from 6 am all day, Saturday from 6 am to noon and closed Sundays.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Bella's Gardens You Pick Peaches, Plums, Nectarines and Blackberries

Bella's Gardens located at 5041 Rt. 204 near Kratzerville opened their you pick scheme this weekend and will be open every weekend until all the fruit has been picked. This recently acquired orchard is committed to sustainable and environmentally friendly practices.  The orchard is about 20 minutes from Lewisburg by car.

Bella's gardens has several varieties of peaches and plums that are ripe and ready to be picked. They also have nectarines and apples, but they are not ready for picking yet. There were lots of blackberry bushes, some were even overtaking a couple of apricot trees. We picked 1/2 a bushel each of peaches and plums which cost us $9 total. The blackberries are all you can pick for free. The owner said he would pay someone to get rid of all the blackberry bushes if someone were willing.

I thought we would pick a lot more fruit than we did, but my kids got too hot and tired and so they went into the cashier building and sat in front of the fan while my husband and I picked fruit. It was a very hot day out. 

On weekdays the you pick scheme is open on weekdays from 1-4 pm and all day on weekends. The nectarines will be ready to pick in a week.

The management said they were thinking of putting in a gazebo and playground next year. I also suggested a drinking fountain. They would also probably score some points if they added a small freezer with cheap/free popsicles available.

Good points:
There was plenty of fruit to pick.
It was easy to reach.
The staff was friendly.
The blackberries were free.
They had buckets ready to use.

Needed Improvement:
The workers were quite new and couldn't remember all the varieties of fruit available to pick.
There was way too much spoiled fruit on the ground which made getting around very messy.

Overall, I give the orchard a 7 out of 10. We will definitely return next week when the nectarines are ripe and at a cooler time of day. My plans for the peaches are to slice and freeze them, make a pie and maybe a little jam. If I can find a dehydrator to borrow, I would love to make some prunes out of the sugarplums. I think we'll eat most of the plums as they are and maybe make a plum galette.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Ard's Farm Market Country Store

Ard's Farm Market "where town meets country," is located at 4803 Old Turnpike Rd in Lewisburg, PA across route 45 from the Purple Cow going towards Mifflinburg. Ard's wears many hats: country store, restaurant, farm, home of the Susquehanna Valley Growers Market and family fun hub. This review focuses only on the country store and is pretty long, but gives a very thorough overview of what the store has to offer. (In the near future I will review the other aspects of Ard's.)

The store sells everything from seeds for planting to local produce with everything in between. They offer pies made on the premises in these flavors for $10.99-12.99 per pie: Shoofly, Cherry, Peach, Apple, Rhubarb and Lemon Crunch. They also sell shortcake right next to 6 varieties of fresh peaches. The shortcake has only 7 ingredients, all of them recognizable. Their cornbread is just about the best cornbread I've ever had, probably because the first ingredient is sugar. You can bring it home from the store for $4.29 a slab or eat in the restaurant and you'll get it for free as part of your meal. Ard's also makes its own banana bread with only 8 ingredients for $4.69 per loaf. They carry pretzel buns made by D & L in Mifflinburg (review on them soon), bread and crackers from Rip Rap Bakery in Mt. Pleasant Mills, PA. The crackers come in the following flavors and would be awesome with dip, cheese or all by their lonesome: real salt, seeded, cinnamon sugar, sunflower/pumpkin seed and whole grain. I had the real salt flavor ones during a camping trip in May and had to ask my friend to hide them from me because I couldn't stop eating them.

Ard's produce includes a good variety of mostly local fruits and vegetables with prices comparable to our local grocery store chains. Local blueberries were selling for $2.99/pint (same as Weis), local sour cherries were $3.79/quart, and local nectarines were $3.79/quart. One of the best cantaloupes I ever ate was from Ard's, it was huge, sweet and perfectly ripe. What I really like about Ard's is their Produce Pick-outs section, located to the right hand side of the deli counter. There were quarts of very ripe peaches for 25 cents a quart and 2 cantaloupes for 10 cents each. There were a little bruised, but the unbruised cantaloupes were selling for $2.99 each. Unfortunately, another woman beat me to the cantaloupes. I did snag some picked out peaches and they were delicious.

The deli counter has a good variety of meats (including bacon and ham hocks) and cheeses with 10% off of your order on Mondays if you sign up.

There is a fresh peanut butter machine that makes the most delectable peanut butter known to man. My relatives tasted it and then bought several containers to take back to California with them. The peanut butter is made from honey roasted peanuts. There are saltines next to the machine along with some fresh peanut butter to sample. A small tub sells for $2.69 and a large tub sells for $4.69.

Speaking of nuts, Ard's has a counter devoted entirely to roasted nuts: peanuts, mixed nuts, honey roasted peanuts, pecans, almonds and cashews. The chocolate covered everything counter is the the left of the nut counter. You can buy chocolate covered peanut butter globs, Nutter Butters, peanut butter filled pretzels, marshmallows, Zagnuts, graham crackers, potato chips, apricots, s'mores, Oreos, gingersnaps, raisins, pecan clusters, and Nilla Wafers. The only thing they are missing is some chocolate covered bacon. If you don't like chocolate, they also carry rock candy, honey sticks, old fashioned striped candy sticks, kookaburra licorice, dried peas, dried cranberries, and the list goes on and on.

If you would like to buy a non-food item for a friend or yourself, there is a lovely display of Edelholz rolling pins, plates, chopping boards and bread boxes made from Pennsylvania hardwood.

If you like hormone free milk, you can buy Galliker's for $3.69 a gallon. Raw milk from Swiss Villa Dairy in Lykens, PA can be purchased in a glass bottle for $5.99. If you return the bottle to Ard's they give you a $2 refund. I actually bought the milk for %50 off because the sell by date was the following day. The cashier told me that it would still be good for three days after the sell by date. The cream had risen to the top and the milk itself was very good and creamy. When I return the bottle, I will have only paid $1 for what usually costs $6. The refrigerated case also had raw milk cheeses from Stone Meadow Farm. They also carry cage free eggs, honey butter, pickled beet eggs, beet horseradish and other PA delicacies.

The meat section of the refrigerator contained young goose, chicken, ground turkey, bison, beef, elk and hot dogs (some of them antibiotic and hormone free). Ard's stocks an unusual variety of homemade soup that are served in the restaurant as soups of the day: blt, cream of mushroom, cream of salmon, cream of shrimp, hamburger-bean, hot dog-corn-bean, harvest vegetable, beef rivel, beef noodle, chicken noodle, and broccoli cheese.

The store used to serve Turkey Hill ice cream and now serves Galliker's. At the ice cream counter you can get 1-3 scoops of black raspberry, vanilla, chocolate, chocolate chip cookie dough, coffee, extreme cookies and cream, mint chocolate chip, peach, peanut butter revel and teaberry. One scoop cost $1.50, each added scoop is a dollar more. A waffle cone costs an extra dollar and sprinkles cost 25 cents.

For the most part, I really like the store. I love the peanut butter and selection of dairy products as well as the candy. The staff is friendly, the produce I have purchased has always been of good quality, and I love the quirkiness of the items carried in the store. Occasionally, I can't find something that I need there.
My children love to go there and eat peanut butter samples and cheese samples and pick out old fashioned candy. I give Ard's a 9 out of 10 as a store. They lose one point for not having some of their products labeled with nutritional information and for letting go of Turkey Hill ice cream and the pretzel cone and for discontinuing a brand of milk that made orange creamsicle flavored milk.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Free Family Movies at the Cinema Center in Selinsgrove

Every Tuesday and Wednesday at 10 am from June 15 until August 18th, 2010  the Cinema Center in Selinsgrove is showing free movies. Today, Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs was showing. I woke my kids up at 8:30 am and rushed them through breakfast so we could get out of the house by 9 am to get to the movie theater by 9:30 am. It was raining this morning and when we showed up, the line of people waiting to get in wrapped around the building.

A friend of mine, N, had showed up at 9:15 am and snagged some tickets for me. I jumped in line with another friend, L, I happened to see. The guy behind her grumbled about it, but I figured since N already had my tickets, my place in line wasn't going to make a difference. I met N in the lobby and she gave me my tickets which looked like raffle tickets. She and K, another friend, had saved us some seats inside. L tried to save seats for some friends that were coming later, but the theater workers wouldn't let her save them since her friends didn't have already have tickets. They actually showed up at the theater and tried to meet L in the seats, but were turned away by the staff after already walking into the theater. So L ended up leaving since her friends couldn't stay. The seating is limited, I believe each theater has 288 seats, and so the staff maintains a first come first served policy. The lady sitting next to me went out to get popcorn and when she came back in she said that there were some children in the lobby crying because they came too late and were being turned away.

The theater was very crowded with lots of daycare groups, small children, and crying babies. Two staff members went around making everyone squish together and enforcing the no ticket-no seat rule. The lights went out at 9:58 am and some previews for movies that are already out on video were shown: The Squeakwell, Percy Jackson, Night at the Museum 2, and Aliens in the Attic. The sound quality of the movie was okay, but I did notice a loud buzzing noise during some of the quieter parts of the film. There were also some fine green and red lines running up and down the screen vertically. I think they used a blue-ray disc because the same sequence kept showing over, then the screen turned black and we could see the word play with a green arrow in the bottom left hand corner of the screen when the actual movie started.

The theater was so cold that one of my kids had his legs tucked up in his shirt. I wore flip flops and kept rubbing my feet and legs because I was freezing. I think it is pretty standard for movie theaters to have the AC cranked up full blast during the summer. They had booster seats for the kids. Snacks were sold at the usual inflated price. I opted not to buy candy and popcorn at the theater, I usually don't anyway and I didn't feel like my kids needed that kind of junk at 10 am.

So was this a good deal/experience or not?


  • We hadn't seen the movie before and we were able to see it in the movie theater for free
  • The movie itself was family friendly, but also contained some subtle humor for adults
  • We saw a lot of our friends there
  • Seeing a movie in the theater is always more fun than watching it at home on DVD


  • All of the movies are out on DVD, it might not be worth the gas money to drive 1/2 an hour to see a movie you could get from the library or rent from the redbox for $1
  • It was very crowded
  • For those of us who like to sleep in, we had to get up pretty early to make it as the doors opened

I would give my overall experience a 7 out of 10. I just don't know if it is worth it to get up early, drive half an hour and then wait in line for another 1/2 an hour to see a movie I could check out at the library. My kids enjoyed it, but I don't think we will repeat the experience unless it is a movie we haven't seen before and I have other errands to run around Selinsgrove to make it worth the gas (I did have errands today, so gas-wise it worked out). I think it would definitely be worth it if we lived in Selinsgrove like N does, plus her kids are early risers.

Here's the schedule for the remaining movies:

July 20 &21       Shrek 2
July 27 & 28      Madagascar 1
August 3 and 4  Hotel for Dogs
August 10 & 11 Scooby Doo
August 17 & 18 Stuart Little 2

I wish our local theater, the Campus, in Lewisburg would show free family movies. They do show older classic family movies, but it comes down to the same thing, why pay even a slightly reduced price to see a movie that is already out on DVD?

If I were to make any changes to the way they run things at the Cinema Center, I would suggest that they offer discounted snacks just for the free family movie goers.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Lewisburg Freez Creamery and Deli Part 1

I was really excited when I found out we were getting a Lewisburg Freez Creamery and Deli five minutes from my house. I have been having a love affair with the Lewisburg Freez on I-15 for 7 months of the year for three years. My major qualms with the original Freez are that they only accept cash and it is on a busy street with hardly any seating. The first time I tried out the new Freez, I ended up going twice in one day. I was impressed that they passed two little tests:

1. They made a milkshake for me that was not on the menu and didn't give me a hard time about it. It was mint cookies and cream flavor and it was delicious.
2. The second time I came in (3 hours later) they didn't say, "Hey, weren't you just here a bit ago?"
(No one likes to be called a greedy guts, even if they DO go out for ice cream twice in one day.)

Things I liked about LFCD:

  • Plenty of places to sit (indoor and outdoor with some shade)
  • Lots of parking
  • Real food available
  • Real ice cream available (instead of just soft serve)
  • Very clean
  • Takes credit cards
  • Lets you taste the ice cream before you purchase it

Things I didn't like about LFCD:

  • No kid-size milk shakes
  • The peanut butter swirl ice cream tasted like vanilla with a drop of peanut butter (Turkey Hill's is better)
  • The staff seems confused with the menu, prices and who was in line first
  • They need an "order here" sign and a "pick up order" sign to help with the general flow of the store
  • A staff member takes a very long time to fill your order while other staff members who could help just stand around doing nothing
  • Sometimes they don't have labels on the hard ice cream and so they have to tell you what each flavor is, it seems like it would save time to just label them

My first suggestion for LFCD is to sell kid-sized shakes, after all they sell the other kid-sized items that are sold at the original Freez. My other suggestion is to put 10 times more peanut butter in their peanut butter swirl ice cream or at least change the name to something more fitting like "Hint of Peanut Butter."

A small milkshake costs $2.50. A kid's milkshake at the Freez on I-15 costs $1.75. My kids and I love the kid's size shakes, they provide just the right amount of shake without overwhelming you. My kids ordered a small shake each and then saved half in the freezer at home because they couldn't finish in one sitting. A small is way too big for the average child.

The hand scooped ice cream I had was Strawberry Cheesecake flavor and it was excellent. It was strawberry ice cream with dice-sized chunks of cheesecake in it. I also tried Birthday Cake which tasted like white cake mix batter with tons of sprinkles and Sticky Bun which tasted similar to D & L's sticky buns in Mifflinburg. On a scale of 1-10 with generic store brand ice cream at 1 and Ben and Jerry's or Haagen Dazs at 10, I would rate the ice cream at LFCD at an 8. It was very creamy with a moderate amount of chunks. I should mention that for $1.75, they give you a very generous scoop of ice cream.

Some of the other flavors they carry are Black Raspberry, Vanilla, Teaberry, Cookies and Cream, Chocolate with Chocolate Covered Pretzels, Pecan Praline, Mint Chip, Fudge Swirl and Cookie Dough. It looks like they carry 16 flavors at a time.

I had a great idea for a date night with four other couples. We're going to order the The Big Bubba: 10 scoops of ice cream, 5 toppings, cookies, brownies, whipped cream . . . and all dig in at the same time. It costs $24.95 so each couple will only have to chip in $5. We'll see how that goes in Part 2.