Tag Archives: Farm animals

Strange but True — Chickens Chasing Fireflies and Pumpkins in the Piggery

DSC_6695Funny, strange, unexpected things seem to be happening a lot on the farm these days. Never a dull moment, as my father likes to say.

We found a birds’ nest in a tomato plant yesterday. (Four beautiful eggs; Mommy is a fox sparrow.) Farmer found (another) nest of baby bunnies (six of them) in between two rows of onions last week. Then yesterday, he unearthed a pack of snails under a cosmo plant. That’s in addition to the robin’s nest he found a month ago with newly hatched baby birds in it.

DSC_6655

There is a frog living in the pea patch.

At night, two owls talk to each other at opposite ends of the farm. The sound is loud and disconcerting and space-alienish, especially with a full moon on a misty night (like the one we had tonight, above).

There is a group of hens who won’t go into their coops at night, because—get this—they’re having too much fun chasing fire flies. Roy did an imitation of them the other night after trying to corral them, and I was in stitches. Apparently the hens get really confused and practically fall over each other dancing around after the flickering lights.

The ducks—and the Aracaunas—are taking turns sitting on a nest of duck eggs. (We have one male duck, so ducklings are, theoretically, a possibility. A couple of the Aracaunas like to brood on their blue eggs constantly, but little do they know, with no rooster, there will never be any baby chicks.)

DSC_6644

All over the farm, plants are growing where they weren’t planted. We have two  really healthy pumpkin vines in the old piggery. Poppies and tomatoes in practically every garden bed. (We moved a volunteer tomato into Libby’s garden, and it has the first ripening Sweet 100). An entire row of sunflowers and calendula we didn’t plant. There is dill in the chard bed. And cilantro absolutely everywhere.

DSC_6678

There are even blueberry bushes in a chicken pen. That’s right, our new group of 125 pullets (18-week-old chickens) are the lucky owners of a huge wooded parcel of land (fenced off by Roy) that includes wild blueberries and black raspberries that we can’t even get at through the thick growth (and ticks).

DSC_6069

DSC_6085

And weeds? We have more weeds this year then we’ve had total in all previous years. I am completely confounded by this.

And that’s just the critters and the plants. People at the farm do funny things, too. A nice couple stopped by the other day just to give Farmer a present. They were leaving the Island after three weeks and apparently (unbeknownst to me) had bonded with Farmer. Farmer, in fact, is a Rock Star. He has all kinds of fans who ask for him to come outside if he’s not around. Who knew?

DSC_6539

Because of the crap-shoot nature of farming, the surprises are often not pleasant. But it seems, often as not, the unexpected is lovely, even joyous. Bionic summer squash! A towering volunteer sunflower! Peas, peas and more peas. A gift of freshly baked bread from a farm stand customer…chocolates from another…dog bones for Farmer.

DSC_6547

DSC_6686

A customer told me the other morning, “It makes me so happy to come here.” That’s the kind of unexpected surprise that makes my day.

DSC_6641

 

Lovely Afternoon Light for Pea Planting with the Farm Dog

DSC_3963And so it all begins. The outdoor work, I mean. There is daylight enough for me to sneak in some garden time before a late supper, after I release myself from the office and the computer and the deadlines imposed by more travel coming.

DSC_3952

Farmer and I spent a lovely hour or two in the leaf-strewn garden (the leaves were our winter mulch for the beds) planting peas and moving a few odd winter greens around.

DSC_4008DSC_4004DSC_3931

 

 

 

 

 

 

DSC_4015

DSC_3988

We dawdled in the hoop house, too, finally warm and dreamy after days of cloud cover and chilling winds. Farmer is an excellent garden companion.

DSC_3972

DSC_3977

Naturally I brought my camera along, mostly because I find it so interesting to look back at the stark reality of early April when August comes around. And vice-versa—I’ve been deep into my photo archives this week putting together three different Power Point presentations. Looking at all those pints of cherry tomatoes and bunches of zinnias not only reminds me that we do actually manage to grow a lot of food, but that warm (truly warm) days will come again.

DSC_3965

On an early April day, objects that will later fade into the summer collage now pop out in relief.

DSC_3989

DSC_3939DSC_3990 Even not-so-pretty objects look better in early spring.

I could do without the constant fiddling with Remay (the fabric row cover that keeps pests and a little bit of chill off early greens) this time of year, but getting my boots tangled up in it and stabbing myself occasionally with the fabric staples (in the very top photo) is surely a whole lot better than being inside staring at frozen, snow-speckled ground. If early April is what I’ve got, I’ll take it!

DSC_3960

Susie On the Road: A Visit to DC, My Hometown, March 1 & 2

DSC_3123I’m saddling up the horses and heading off to America this week. Actually, driving down to spend a night with my parents in Delaware, then a weekend with my sister Eleanor in Virginia. Leaving Roy alone at the farm with 500 chickens, a farm dog, a frisky kitten, and a lot of eggs to wash. Not to mention about 600 farm chores to start on now that the weather is (sort of) breaking. Lucky Roy.

Hopefully I will manage to pick up some farm supplies while I am off-Island.

Though I hate to be away, I’m looking forward to seeing my family, and of course, my official business for this trip is book promotion, and I can already tell that a visit to DC, my hometown, is going to be swell.

lacuisine photo2

On Saturday from 2 pm to 5 pm, I’m going to be at the very fabulous La Cuisine cookware store in Old Town, Alexandria, Virginia. (The Old Town Boutique District is serious shopping, folks, in case you need an excuse to get out!). I’ve admired Nancy Purves Pollard and her store (mostly from afar in my years away from Washington) for her one-of-a-kind collection of high-quality cookware and cooking ingredients. I’m just afraid of what I might buy while I’m there. I hear she has amazing coffee, too.

lacuisportraitsmNancy and I have cooked up a scheme to serve a selection of yummy recipes from Fresh From the Farm. Nancy’s going to make the Curry-Coconut Butternut Squash Soup and the Southwestern Quinoa Salad with Black Beans and Farmstand Veggies. And I am going to make the Rustic Roasted Tomato Tarts and the Christmas Slaw with Slivered Pears, Cranberries, & Pecans. I’ve even enlisted my Mom to make Libby’s Lemon Blueberry Buckle! (That’s Nancy on the left in the photo at right, with co-workers Val and Larissa and rescue dog Carina.)

While we’re serving tasting samples (I’ll be at the store from 2 to 5 pm), I’ll be signing books, of course, and offering some tips about how to keep a simple, well-stocked pantry for making delicious veggie dishes. I’ll share advice on some favorite tools, as well. (Nancy will have a stash of Fast, Fresh & Green and The Fresh & Green Table available in addition to Fresh From the Farm–at 20% off!–so if you’ve got gifts to buy, this is a good opportunity.)

On Sunday, I’m off to the Dupont Circle Farmers’ Market from 10:30 to 12:30.  I’m excited that my cousin, Dr. Kari Evans, is going to hang out with me at the market, while I do a recipe demo, offer tastings, and sign books. The Fresh Farm Market folks have a program called “Chef at Market,” and I tried to get down to participate in it 3 years ago. Now I am finally making it, though admittedly March is a tricky season. (I will be there, polar vortex or not.) So we decided to pick a fresh, simple, colorful recipe to anticipate the first radishes of spring—it really won’t be too long, now.

9781600859045I have to say, the May Day Radish and Parsley Salad with Lemon and Ginger has the most delicious dressing and really is versatile enough to serve all year-round.  I know because I made a batch yesterday to judge how many portions I will need for the market. I remembered loving this salad when I developed it, and fortunately, my memory wasn’t warped! Of course, I got into a little thing with crystallized ginger while I was developing recipes for Fresh from the Farm, so I actually had to rein myself in and quit using it after a few recipes. It’s an amazing ingredient in vinaigrettes, because the sugar dissolves and the ginger remains spicy, so there is both a nuanced flavor and interesting texture to the dressing.

Yesterday I ate a good deal of this salad right out of the bowl, and then I threw some blood orange segments into the rest (I had half of a blood orange leftover from another test) and wow—loved that color and flavor. Ate the leftovers with roast pork last night.

DSC_3124

While I was photographing the salad, I got photo-bombed again by Barney the kitty. He moves like lightening and goes from floor-to-food-dish in a matter of seconds. He is fascinated with recipe testing.

1621945_10152217617255801_1847068504_nIf you would like to make the radish salad, I urge you to click on over to the Fine Cooking website, where the recipe is now posted as part of a collection from Fresh from the Farm. (Feel free to add blood orange segments!) I am feeling particularly grateful this morning to my beloved magazine for the lovely review they’ve published in the April/May issue, and online. Check it out online, but be sure to pick up that new issue of Fine Cooking on the news stand—it’s one of the best I’ve ever read. Grilled cheese, twice-baked potatoes, tagines, meringues, quick ideas for baby spinach, ham, barbequed shrimp—Oh my!

Hope I can catch up with some of you in DC, but bear in mind I’ll be in Chicago mid-March and Montana and North Carolina in April. (Click here for schedule.) Then it’s home for the spring and summer. Roy will be glad, to say the least.

 

 

And Now, For the Not-So-Cute Barnyard Animal

DSC_2359



Actually, I wanted to title this blog post, “Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.” But you know, I didn’t really want to scare any one.

A few days ago, I posted this warm-and-fuzzy blog about our new kitten Barney and other cute baby animals that we’ve encountered on the farm. (Barney is doing great, by the way. He has discovered curtains, my keyboard, the laundry basket, Libby’s stuffed animals, and even his first mouse. He especially likes to sit in Roy’s lap while he’s reading the newspaper, helping him to turn the pages with frequent pawing.)

But we have this other creature on the farm of whom I am not so fond. In fact, most days, I do battle with him, and currently I have a scrape on my leg that he managed to give me through my blue jeans. It’s Paulie, the Silver-Laced Polish Crested rooster. I’ve mentioned (and pictured) him before, but I bring him up again now, because he has found a new mission in life: He protects the ducks.

And attacks me when I go in the duck pen. Roy, not so much.

DSC_2351

Paulie was a lonely rooster. He never got along with the other baby chicks when he arrived as our speciality “surprise” chick with the batch of Aracaunas last spring. Roy didn’t want to get rid of him, though he also didn’t want him in with our large groups of laying hens, so Roy built Paulie his own little coop and pen. Paulie regularly got out of his pen and free-ranged around, trying to cozy up to our original six Ladies, who are very independent and wanted nothing to do with him.

But when we got the ducks in early January, we set them up in a pen near Paulie’s, and Paulie immediately hopped over and joined them. Little by little, he’s made himself the Boss of the Ducks. He is so happy to finally have something to protect that he is taking his job very seriously.

Every day he seems to get a little bolder, and lately he’s taken to charging at me like a bull running through the streets of Pamplona.

DSC_2339

The only good news about this is that now I am prepared (or at least forewarned). The other day, when I went into the pen to grab the water bucket, I didn’t realize that Paulie was stalking me until he latched on to my leg and started hammering away at me.

When I told Roy this later, he said, “Why didn’t you just swing the bucket at him?”

Oh, right. You know it’s funny what boys automatically think of doing that doesn’t necessarily occur to a girl. Although, I think that probably would have just made Paulie angrier. Paulie doesn’t attack Roy, because Roy has been handling him on a regular basis since he was a chick.

Thinking about this, I went back this morning to read a piece I remembered really liking in Edible Vineyard magazine by Kate Tvelia Athearn, who lives not too many miles down the road from us on another small farm, and writes lovely pieces about small farm life. Her story about Chickenzilla made me feel like I could keep working to improve my relationship with Paulie.

We’ll see.

DSC_2320I could just let Roy feed the ducks, which he does often anyway. But he’s got the 500 hens to deal with, and my route between the six Ladies and the 20 Aracaunas takes me right past the duck pen, so it makes sense. Later this spring, we’ll probably let the ducks free-range a bit, so that might change the dynamics.

But it would be okay with me if Paulie disappeared. I know, that’s terrible, isn’t it? Roy wants to show him in the Fair this year. Fine. Maybe he will get kidnapped. Or, since he can’t see very well due to the mop on top of his head, maybe he could fall off the back of the truck on the way home from the Fair, and he wouldn’t be able to find his way home. I wouldn’t do that though, either, because then my friend Joannie Jenkinson, the town animal control officer, would get one of those calls to come rescue a rooster. And, unfortunately, she already gets too many of those.

So I guess I’m going to have to learn to put up with Paulie. Or not.

DSC_2335

 

 

 

 

Too Cute: A Little Girl + Baby Farm Animals

DSC_2073DSC_2052Libby and I were watching a show on Animal Planet this weekend called Too Cute. It’s a good name for a program about puppies and kittens and other baby critters that happen to wander into people’s lives. Because honestly, who doesn’t find baby animals cute?

Around here, I’m embarrassed to say, we’re rather obsessed with baby critters. In fact, we weren’t just watching them on TV this weekend. We had one (have one) right here in our living room.

We have a new kitten.

He is 9 weeks old.

He is black and white and cute all over.

DSC_2119His name is Barney, because he’s been living in the barn. That is, after he got separated from his mom, a feral cat, and Roy began to feed him and talk to him. Eventually, Roy scooped him up and put him in a crate. It was just a matter of time before crate and kitten moved indoors.

After his first night in the house late last week, Barney came with us for a visit to our fabulous vet, Animal Health Care. There we learned that Barney was in fact Barney, not Barn-ie or Barnadette. He was a he. And healthy. And apparently, on the far side of too cute. Everyone at the vet held him, passed him around, snuggled him, hoarded him.

“Wait, that’s our kitten!” I said.

“Sorry, we’re kidnapping him,” they said.

IMG_1243DSC_2068Finally, we did make it out of there with Barney, and we spent the rest of the weekend watching Farmer and Barney become friends. Farmer was beside himself with excitement. He always wanted a playmate.

As for Libby, well, nothing’s better than a baby animal.

Who knew this crazy farm life would offer up so many great opportunities for a girl who loves animals to interact with such an interesting menagerie of critters, from snakes and turtles and butterflies to calves and lambs and kids and fawns? You can’t predict this stuff or make it up. It just happens.

Proof is in the pictures. Shameful, yes. Too cute? Definitely. But it’s cold and dreary today; we’ll take a little warm-up, however we get it.

DSC_6382_01

DSC_7640 DSC_6593_1 DSC_6079_1 DSC_0440 IMG_3923_1 IMG_3918_1

 

 

DSC_0259  bottle fed05 The Piglets_1IMG_9438_1_1IMG_1966_1

New Video, New Logo, New Ducks—New! New! New!

screen shot back and front covers

Waiting for a new book to come out is anxiety-producing, at least for me. T minus 30 days and counting for Fresh From the Farm. Until the official pub date (Feb.11), that is. But actually, the very first advanced copies have arrived at The Taunton Press in Connecticut, and one is on its way to me via Fed Ex. So this morning I have been clicking on and off the Fed Ex tracking site, following the package. (It’s currently in Middleboro, Mass.) Even if it gets to the Island tomorrow, that’s no guarantee it will get to me. But if I keep tracking it, once I see it’s on-Island, I could always go over to the airport, where the Fed Ex office is, and terrorize them, hoping not to get arrested. But I’d have to beat Roy over there, as he’s the one who told me to call them this morning! He’s excited too. (Screen shot above is galley of front and back covers).

corn fieldBiding my time, I walked a few laps around the cornfields out back (each is about the length of 5 or 6 football fields, so the fact that I am circling is not too obvious.) That took care of some of my energy.

So now I am back to my desk, doing “my job”—the only job an author with a book coming out in a month can do: Working on promotion. Honestly, it’s not nearly as much fun as writing the book, as I hate having to put myself out there. But I am fiercely determined to do what I can with this book. (The whole getting-to-write-books-for-a-living thing is huge incentive. And that all goes away if your books don’t sell well. Hence, you get off your butt and promote yourself. Right, Susie?)

This time around, putting myself out there also meant doing a promotional video. As with a lot of things, it had to come together pretty quickly last fall before the vegetables all went away. But that was a good thing, as it didn’t give me time to fret, or do things like hire a makeup artist or wardrobe consultant. (It’s a farm, after all and it is what it is!) But the whole experience was very positive because I did it with two wonderful friends, Katie Hutchison and Chris Hufstader. Thankfully, this wife-and-husband duo has experience filming and editing videos. (See architect Katie’s many talents on her website. And here’s a video Chris worked on as part of his job in communications with Oxfam America, which takes him all over the world.)

Now I have finally managed (overcoming my technological limitations) to get the video to go live on YouTube and here on Sixburnersue. (You can watch the short version by clicking below, or the longer version, which includes more about the food in the book, in the sidebar of the blog, at top right.)

I’m also happy to report that some nice early press has come in for Fresh From the Farm already, including a recommendation from Country Living magazine in the February issue (see p. 10!) and a mention on this list of Ten Exciting Books to Look For in 2014 from Wall St. Cheat Sheet.

I’m planning some fun book signing events in Washington, D.C. and a bunch of other places so please visit my events page to stay posted. I’ll soon have a date for a great local event at Bunch of Grapes Bookstore, too. By the way, if you are a social media person, please visit and like my FaceBook business page, Susie Middleton Cooks, and follow me on Pinterest and Twitter @sixburnersue. (Sorry, I had to ask—just doing my job!)

Unsaved Preview DocumentBook or no book, life moves forward on the farm, and there are, in fact, new things here to celebrate, too. The first is our very own Green Island Farm logo. Roy and I wanted something very simple and iconic (an egg!), and my old friend and former Fine Cooking Art Director/now-fine-artist Steve Hunter was incredibly accommodating and refined our thoughts for us. (Tilting the egg was his idea, which I love, and which is very Steve.) We picked the blue-green color of our Aracauna eggs because, of course, it is so pretty. So there you have it. Tee-shirts to come!

And lastly, we have 5 new additions to the farm—ducks! These beautiful creatures—three black Indian Runner ducks and two Welsh Harlequins—are a belated birthday present for Roy, who grew up with ducks and has wanted some here on the farm for awhile. It was Libby’s idea to get them for his birthday (which was in December, but the weather has stalled us). And our dear friend Elizabeth Packer at Springmoon Farm made the whole thing possible.

ducks square

Last weekend, while Libby was here, we all (including Farmer) piled in the car, popped a hay-lined dog crate in the way back, and drove down to Liz’s place in Vineyard Haven. We got a chance to see all the beautiful birds that she and her daughter Lucy Thompson are raising, included Royal Palm and Red Bourbon turkeys (gorgeous), peacocks, and several kinds of ducks and chickens.

DSC_1437We wrangled the ducks (4 females, 1 drake) into the crate and into the car, and Farmer hung over the back seat the whole way home, wagging his tail. Back at the farm, Roy unloaded them into their new pen, where they paraded around and around like a proper flock. Lovely.

Lastly, not to be outdone by a book, the farm got its  own piece of press (its first) courtesy of Martha’s Vineyard Patch, a couple weeks ago.

Now if we could just get Farmer on the cover of Lab Monthly, I’d feel really good about all our promotional efforts around here. With his bad teeth and crooked ears? Not happening.

 

 

A Tale of Two Rooster-ettes

Way back in May, we got 26 baby chicks: Twenty-five Aracaunas, who are about to drop blue eggs any day now, and one “bonus” exotic mystery breed chick, which turned out to be a Silver Polish Crested.

Now that the girls are four months old, we have to face the reality that not all of the girls are, well, girls. Though they don’t seem to actually know that.

Polly, our Polish Crested, didn’t get along with anyone right from the start, so she had to be separated. She had her own special dog crate in Roy’s shop for the first couple months. When it was time for her to graduate, Roy fashioned her a special little coop-within-a-coop that opens out onto her own little pasture-pen. It’s no wonder Polly is fond of Roy. Only problem is, Polly is really Pauley. She crows. (Or tries to crow—it sounds painful.) And she doesn’t cock-a-doodle-doo at the usual rooster-crowing times, like sunrise. She crows when Roy gets home from off-farm work in the early afternoon. And she crows at sunset. (See, I still refer to her as She.)

She also stays happily in her outdoor pen until dusk. Then she decides to roost on top of the deer fencing between her pen and her neighbors until Roy comes along, plucks her off, and tucks her into her little coop for the night. She could fly out and wander around (any time of the day), but she doesn’t. Okay, I mean he doesn’t. It doesn’t look like a terribly comfortable spot to hang out, but apparently it appeals to him.

Over at the Aracaunas’ coop, we have Henzilla (above). We started calling her that when clearly she was growing twice as fast as the rest of the girls. Honestly, we knew she wasn’t a hen, but the name kind of stuck. And the funny thing is, though Henzilla wanders around the pen towering over all the other girls, she doesn’t seem to be very aggressive and she hasn’t learned to crow yet. She’s pretty mellow in fact. (If you can describe an Aracauna as mellow—they’re all pretty skittish. If you want docile, go for a Buff Orpington like Martha.) Anyway, I feel sorry for Henzilla, because she just seems like a really awkward teenager to me (handsome though she is!). And plus, once she  does get her Superman cape on and transform into a real rooster, she (he) might not be around for long. Roy has always said, “no roosters.” Except Polly/Pauley, who he thinks is special just because she looks exotic. Which he does. If you like feathers.

Well, who knows what will happen. With 550 chickens, 9 coops, and several large chicken pastures (not to mention 450 eggs a day) to manage, Roy is always fine-tuning the chicken operation. If I were a rooster, I might try and impress Roy, too. Considering it’s all about the eggs around here, just being exotic might not cut it.

 

Blue Ribbons, Burgers & Blackberry Ice Cream

A light rain drizzled down on us tonight as we trudged back across State Road from the Fair grounds to the farm. Looking back, Libby noticed our feet left a pattern on the rain-glossed blacktop. It’s almost as if we’d worn a path in the road with so much criss-crossing. You could even see Farmer’s paw prints. (Yes, Farmer got to go to the Fair—three times. French fries—yes; cotton candy—no.)

Now we are all a little comatose, having eaten ourselves silly for four days. Because of these darn free passes the Fair folks give us every year, we indulge ourselves ridiculously and eat nearly every meal at the Fair. This year we made a habit of trying as many different things as we could—barbequed ribs, chicken tacos, steak tacos, pizza, burgers, veggie tempura, sausage and peppers, French fries, corn on the cob, strawberry shortcake, fruit smoothies, ice cream, fried dough, cotton candy. Yes, you read that right—it is not the healthiest list of food. But we had a blast and took Iphone pictures of most every dish to document the extravaganza.

Back at the farm, at least Libby and I added some veggies and fruits to that list, since we were harvesting (and snacking on) tomatoes, green beans and blackberries together in between Fair forays. But then we had to go and make ice cream. I know, I know—what a crazy weekend to make homemade ice cream. The problem was, I had promised Libby that we’d make our annual batch of berry ice cream while she’s here on this visit. A promise is a promise. And this year, we are overflowing with blackberries, and I’ve been picking and freezing the ripe ones every day.

Fortunately, making ice cream happens in small steps which you can squeeze in between Fair visits. You make berry puree. Chill it. Make custard. Chill it. Combine puree and custard. Chill it. Put mix in ice cream maker (the old ice cream maker that doesn’t freeze very well). Put ice cream maker back in freezer and stir every once in a while. Give up on getting anything that’s really completely frozen. Eat soft-serve blackberry ice cream: The absolute most delicious stuff in the whole world. I promise. Libby promises. Even Roy raved.

And speaking of raves. We’re voting MV Ag Fair 2013 our fave so far. Not that winning a blue ribbon for our eggs, our green beans, our cosmos, and Libby’s plum tomatoes has anything to do with it, mind you. But it did put us all in a dandy mood Thursday. And then the sun shone bright in a picture-perfect blue sky for three days. There was a soft breeze and there were stunning sunsets. We saw lots of friends. A mommy sow had 10 piglets in the animal barn Thursday night. (We went to look at these little tiny creatures maybe 12 times after that.) Roy won stuffed animals (a pig and a frog) for both Libby and me. Farmer made new friends and ate his first onion rings. He and Libby are passed out on the couch, side by side. Exhausted, stuffed, happy.

The Fair, the Farm Stand, and all the Festivities

There’s barely a minute to breathe and yet I am practically hyperventilating. I’ve never been good at containing my excitement, and this year, I seem to be more excited than ever about Fair Week.

You could get really cranky around here during the third week in August when traffic tangles up and thousands of people descend on the Island. And I must admit, after an onslaught of farm stand customers—and traffic jams in our own driveway—yesterday, I was just plain exhausted. But I woke up to the clear air and blue skies today feeling giddy.

This year the President’s family vacation overlaps directly with Fair week, making things even more exciting (or more frustrating—depending on your point of view) than usual. We happen to be on the excited end of the spectrum on this one, too. Friday we were given the opportunity to contribute to a gift basket of local food heading directly to the chefs who will be cooking for the Obama family this week (at a house only a couple miles up the road from us). We sent cherry tomatoes and eggs, and a pint of Fairy Tale eggplants, too, which apparently the chefs especially liked. Roy is really hoping that the President is waking up to a breakfast of Green Island Farm eggs—but who knows?!

Across the street, the carnival rides on trailers are lining up at the Fair Grounds. Tents are popping up; the hall doors are open wide while workers set up the display tables inside. Hay for the animals is moving in to the barns, bleachers are lining up, and the fireman’s burger booth is already in place. Best of all, two people on bicycles came down the driveway this morning to give us our four free tickets, which we receive for being abutting neighbors to the Fair Grounds. (The best part about this is that we get to smell the pigs smoking all day. Um, other pigs, not our pigs. Who are really big, by the way.)

Wednesday, we’ll all go down to Oak Bluffs, pick up Roy’s parents at the Island Queen ferry, and spend the evening at Illumination Night at the Camp Grounds. After an old-fashioned sing along, at exactly 8 pm, thousands of paper lanterns will light up on the front porches and walkways of every gingerbread cottage in the Camp Ground. It is breathtaking and stimulating and enchanting all at once—even if you do, once again, have to negotiate the crowds.  (If we can pull it off, we’ll go back to Oak Bluffs for the big fireworks Friday night, though the Fair may keep us away.)

The Fair begins on Thursday, and our friends will come and park at our house and join Roy, Libby and I to walk over for dinner. By then, we will have already raced over once in the afternoon to see if the Hall has opened and the vegetables have been judged. I don’t think this is going to be a big year for us, ribbon-wise, but you never know.

We’ll still have to gather, wash and pack 500 eggs every day. And harvest tomatoes, eggplants, beans, zucchinis, peppers, cucumbers, kale, chard, flowers, and basil every day for the farm stand (and set up the farm stand every morning.) But we’ll squeeze in all the time we can over at the Fair. Roy and Libby love the rides, and we all love the animals, especially the oxen, and the um, piglets. (The theme of this year’s Fair is going hog wild!) So by Sunday we will be exhausted. But I don’t care. Did I mention I love Fair week, that we wait all year for this excitement, that this is one of the reasons I love my life and my farm and my family and my Island? Yep.

Where the Wild Things Grow

I swear, the garden (and the hoop house, too, for that matter) have a strange and wonderful life all their own. Who knows what goes on behind the gate when you’re not there?  Start with bees, birds, butterflies, moths, spiders, beetles, chipmunks, crows, sparrows, slugs, crickets and frogs. Add blossoms, shoots, vines, suckers, spores, weeds, seeds, fruit. Then Water. Wind. Sun. Pollination. Photosynthesis. And all that above ground—you can’t even begin to name the players down below.

Now throw in some man-made stuff. A trellis, a fence, a rope, a pot, a stake, a spade, a cart, a bench. At night, the wild things secretly romance and spar and dance and croon and sidle up and tangle over and generally do what they do. Because you’re not looking.

It’s only in the morning when you shuffle across the dewy grass and open the gate…or in the evening when the light is dying and you finally remember to check on those hoophouse tomatoes…that you see. And even then you must be paying attention or you will miss something great or weird or funny. But you will always find something satisfying, something that’s grown another foot or finally started to bear fruit.

Here are a few surprises from this week on Green Island Farm. (Admittedly, not all of them are nature-made. There are two farmers working on this farm, and very often one is doing something that the other doesn’t even know about it. Until stumbling upon it.)

This is definitely the weirdest thing I’ve seen in a while: A Patty Pan squash plant on steroids, I guess. I have no idea why this happens, but where one or two blossoms are supposed to be, there are literally hundreds–and dozens of fruits already forming. This surfaced beneath the UFO-Saucer sized leaves (right) of one of the hoop-house squash plants.

Also seemingly overnight, the cucumber plants climbed up to the top of the hoophouse, unleashed a shower of little yellow blossoms, and began to spit out little spiny cucumbers.

By sunset, the cucumbers were full-grown. Okay, maybe not sunset of the same day, but it really seemed that way.

 

Out in the garden, there were strange going-ons everywhere. One day I found Farmer meditating by the bush beans. Or perhaps he was praying, I don’t know. But the next day, I collected our first nice batch of beans. Farmer might have some special communication powers I don’t know about.

 

Weird balloons, fake birds, fake snakes, and other puzzling man-made objects also began to show up in the garden this week. Then one day, the plastic falcon moved, presumably to protect a ripening Early Girl from a sparrow attack. He knows his job.

The balloons with the eyeballs are just plain creepy (wait until Libby sees these), and I do a double-take every time I see them. They seem to be working though; nothing goes near them. Go figure.

Of course, there are some pretty accidents, too. (Or maybe they’re not accidents.) This year, the daisies, coneflowers, and daylilies made friends, completely unintroduced by us. Who knew they would get along so well?  (About as well as the eggplants and green peppers, which are neighbors, too.)

And finally, there are just some things that happen on the farm that you really can’t explain. If you remember, we brought home two pigs a few months ago. If you look very carefully in this photo of our pigs, there are three heads. I couldn’t get them all to look at the camera at the same time, but trust me, we’re feeding three fast-growing, mud-loving, root-grubbing pigs. Which is why their pen doubled in size. (How that happened, I’ll never know.)

 

 

You really have to keep your eyes open around here.