About Joanna

Joanna manages many behind-the-scenes aspects of work on the farm, taking primary responsibility for vegetables & other cultivated plants; she selects varieties, develops and implements the planting plan, monitors and identifies problems, and saves seed. She also takes charge of recordkeeping, database management, scheduling, technical aspects of web development, and accounting. A geologist by training, Joanna enjoys landscape exploration in various forms, including hiking, canoeing, and nature observation, especially bird watching. She also enjoys cooking and eating really good food.

Prairie Kingsnake

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This is a snake we really appreciate having around, as Prairie Kingsnakes eat rodents, and we often see them hunting in rodent burrows in the vegetable fields.

Western Worm Snake



An uncommonly encountered species at Chert Hollow Farm. I found this one on the forest floor while raking leaves for mulch in March 2007.

Cooking with kid: Introduction to a series on preparing goat

Joanna and CrystalWe recently butchered our last two goat kids of 2014, and we’ve designated one of them for a bloggable project in the tongue-to-tail cooking genre. I’m taking responsibility for preparing one whole goat, cooking it in many different ways to practice as many different meat-cooking techniques as possible to compensate for the fact that I’ve never really learned how to cook meat.

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Luna Moth

Luna Moths are large, showy moths that we see infrequently, maybe one every year or two on average. (Sightings sometimes involve only a wing of a bird-eaten moth, not a live specimen.) So when Eric returned to the house from morning chores on July 13, 2013 with a report of a mating pair, we grabbed the camera and went back for photos. These were on a Cup Plant (Silphium perfoliatum) near a woodland edge, not far from the main vegetable field.



Brown Recluse


The Brown Recluse is a common venomous spider that we encounter almost exclusively in the house, though they are reported to live outdoors as well. We tend to find them in corners of rooms and other locations that get little disturbance. The one in the photo was hanging out in the guest bedroom shower (shortly before I cleaned the shower in anticipation of the arrival of a guest). Brown Recluse are good motivation for keeping piles of clutter to a minimum and piles of clothing off of the floor, since these locations provide them with habitat and hiding places.

In spite of the commonness of these spiders, neither of us has ever (to our knowledge) been bitten, although we have jumped on more than one occasion as a result of a close encounter.

White-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatches are common permanent residents at Chert Hollow Farm. In four years of regular record keeping, not a single month has passed without seeing one (as of Dec. 2014). Though very common, they tend not to occur in large numbers, and sightings usually include one or two at a time.


Tufted Titmouse

Tufted Titmice are common permanent residents at Chert Hollow Farm. In four years of regular record keeping, not a single month has passed without seeing one (as of Dec. 2014). They are among our most common birds.


Wild Turkey

Wild Turkeys are resident breeding birds at Chert Hollow Farm. Observations are somewhat erratic. Sightings are most routine in March, April, and November. Summer months are hit or miss, and deep winter months include the fewest sightings. The regularity of summer sightings in a given year seems to relate to breeding success and foraging opportunities, as well as some degree of observational luck.

Trail cameras are good at documenting turkeys and reduce the observational luck (though we don’t always have trail cameras running year round). This is a trail camera photo from the drought of 2012 (in August, at the pond edge):


We’ve found two nests, in different years and at different locations, but both in the woods not far from our main field. Here’s a photo of one nest:bio_wild_turkey_nest

Eric took this photo of a mother hen who was circling an area near the house, distressed because one of her poults had gotten trapped in an open crate.

bio_wild_turkey_henDuring fall months, we generally see sign of Wild Turkeys more often than we see the birds themselves. A collection of bare-ground patches, roughly the size of dinner plates, is a good indicator that a flock of turkeys has been foraging.


We generally enjoy having turkeys around, but they can at times be responsible for crop damage, usually minor in our experience. We’ve documented minor sweet corn damage from Wild Turkeys, and we’ve also seen them eating freshly planted cover crop seed (rye/vetch) in the fall. One year, we planted some wheat that we intended to feed to the chickens; we didn’t get to the work of harvesting it in a timely fashion. In the end, we left it as a food plot for a family of Wild Turkeys that we were able to observe routinely that year.

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpeckers are common permanent residents at Chert Hollow Farm.



Eric took these photos of a female (top, no red) and a male (bottom, with red) at/near our bird feeder.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpeckers are common permanent residents at Chert Hollow Farm. In four years of regular record keeping, not a single month has passed without seeing one (as of Dec. 2014).


This adult female Red-bellied Woodpecker has been a regular visitor to our bird feeder, and Eric photographed her in that context. Females have red only on the nape; males have red that extends onto the top of the head. The red belly tends to be subtle, and is not visible in this photo.

We learned in the summer of 2015 that Red-bellied Woodpeckers can eat lots of fruit, including apples and tomatoes, as described in this blog post.