Tag Archives: Farm animals

Garden and Fence Hopping on a Clear Blue January Day

photo-367One of the mildly annoying things about writing for magazines and books is that I can’t really reveal what I’m working on while I’m working on it, as that would, you know, spoil things. And I’ve never really been the spoiling type. My sister was the one who would find all the hidden Christmas presents ahead of time.

But I wanted to talk a little about a piece I’m working on, because today it made me think that sometimes my “job” is hardly work at all. More like fun. Of course my “job” changes constantly, depending on what hat I’m wearing. But during the winter, if I’m lucky I get some writing assignments I can complete before the busy farm season returns. Better still is a writing assignment that requires me to go outside and poke around in our beautiful winter landscape—and to visit with some of my friends and neighbors.

So today I had Martha’s Vineyard Magazine to thank for a lovely morning spent in lovely company. The company was the talented Fae Kontje-Gibbs (below), and the mission was to visit a few Island gardens that Fae will be illustrating for the feature I’m writing on kitchen gardens.

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The idea behind the article is that everyone (who wants one) should have a vegetable garden, no matter how small. No big plot needed. In fact, small is good, tiny is wonderful, and medium is dandy if you can swing it.

greens on steroids To that end, my editor and art director decided to use real-life Island gardens as inspiration for three sample garden designs.

Today was Fae’s birthday, so maybe the karma was just good to begin with. And Fae is certainly one of the most positive-seeking persons I know. Also, it didn’t hurt that we began our morning with a visit to my neighbor and friend cook-gardener-quilter-hen whisperer Katherine Long, who is simply one of my favorite people on the Island.

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When we arrived, she was outside letting her hens graze a bit on fresh grass, and we were immediately drawn into a beautiful circle of chickens, and then into a conversation that spanned everything from the merits of roosters to the study of cell biology. Fae got out her notebook and did some rough sketches of Katherine’s colorful chickens and of her garden—a place where practicality and efficiency combine with charm and whimsy in the most delightful way.

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While we were there, Katherine took us into one of the chicken coops to see two baby chicks, recently hatched out by Silkie hens, who are wonderful mamas and don’t seem concerned that January may not be the best time to hatch chicks.

After leaving Katherine’s, we went on to a larger garden where we gently trespassed into a family’s personal sanctuary (with permission) and then drifted over to the neighbor’s fenceline (without permission) to take a peek at some large animals grazing on the other side. They turned out to be alpacas, and one large chocolate brown fellow (or gal?) came to greet us. While Fae gently spoke to him, I tried to photograph his amazing face. Then suddenly he decided to drop to the ground a do a roly-poly, like Farmer does several times a day. I gasped—I’d never seen an animal that large just decide to lie down, roll over, and scratch his back for fun. (Although I do remember being on a horse in a shallow river when the horse decided to roll over.)

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While Fae finished up some rough sketches of a bird bath, a watering can, a pathway and a hand trowel, I simply stared up at the tree limbs etching the blue sky. Stared and stared. As much as my mind likes to travel to unnecessary worry and forethought, I just couldn’t think of anything wrong with our morning, anything to make me fraught. I just thought about how blue the sky was.

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And that I really should spend more time toddling around. Serious work, you know.

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Otters (Yes, Otters) Like Eggs, Too: A Short Tale, Plus A Recipe for Breakfast Tostadas

DSC_0050Of course I wasn’t home. I had left at sunrise to get an early ferry over to the mainland. By the time Roy called I was halfway to Hyannis.

“I think I know why Farmer has been agitated lately,” Roy said when I answered the phone. “I just found an otter in the yard, not too far from the house.”

“An otter? As in o-t-t-e-r?”

“Yes, he’s probably a yearling. Very cute. He was right outside by the maple tree. He’s in the dog crate now. I’m heading for Gus Ben David’s.”

Understand this: Roy loves otters. He wants to write a children’s book about otters. He has seen them here on the Vineyard on many occasions, and he is enchanted. I, on the other hand, have caught a distant glimpse of a couple otters only once (below–photo taken on a walk with Roy).

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Although I was really bummed not to be there, it made perfect sense to me that the otter revealed himself only to Roy. And when I told this story to a group of my friends last night, they immediately agreed. There is something between Roy and animals; he is certainly very calm around them, which I think they pick up on. And when Roy put the dog crate down in front of the otter, who had scooted under a propped-up palette, the otter hopped right inside.

On the way down to Gus (who is our resident Island wildlife specialist extraordinaire), Roy stopped at Alley’s General Store and told a friend who works there about the otter in the truck. The friend, who is a member of the Wampanoag Tribe of Aquinnah, took a look and later told some other folks in the Tribe about the otter. Turns out otters are totems—animals of spiritual significance. When one crosses your path, it may be a message to relax and enjoy the small things in life, to be joyful and playful, to reawaken your inner child! I have no idea what this means for Roy, but there you have it.

egg washWhen Roy got down to Oak Bluffs, Gus Ben David was relieved to see that the otter was perfectly healthy, and he told Roy that likely the youngster hadn’t been on his own for too long (the mother otter kicks the young ones out when she’s getting ready to have another litter) and was most certainly looking for food since the Mill Brook and Albert’s Pond which  are not too far from us (about ¼ to ½ mile) have been mostly frozen lately. And it turns out otters love chicken eggs (who doesn’t?), and for that reason, should probably not be hanging around a chicken farm.

Roy followed Gus back to a body of (unfrozen) water where other otters live, and together they let the otter go. Green Island Farm’s January visitor dove in and swam off joyfully with hardly a look back. Of course, we’ll be keeping our eyes open—it constantly amazes us what shows up on the farm, from baby skunks and box turtles, to stray kittens and turkey chicks. Maybe Ollie will come back for another visit.

My only regret—other than not getting to meet Ollie—is that we don’t have a picture of him. When Roy called me, I of course said, “You’ve got to take a picture!” But digging the cameras out of my office was not high on his priority list, since of course he had a morning of work waiting for him after otter care.

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In honor of Ollie, who probably didn’t manage to get much in the way of chicken eggs while he was here (he was actually closer to our household trash cans than the chicken coops, so likely he enjoyed something!), I made egg tostadas this morning. This is a recipe from Fresh From the Farm that I usually make with fresh corn and summer home-made salsa. But I have been craving these, so I stubbornly went out to the garden and actually picked some frozen cilantro, covered with a light dusting of snow, and I defrosted some of our frozen sweet corn from the summer that I have stashed away. (The cilantro was pretty good!)

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DSC_4020It was a most excellent breakfast. (So good, in fact, that I might make the tostadas again for supper.)

Farmer approved. He is still missing Ollie, though, who he got to meet only from a safe distance while on the leash.

Now he keeps telling Dad, “I told you there was a visitor out there—maybe next time you’ll listen to me!”

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Breakfast Tostadas with Scrambled Eggs, Sweet Corn, Cilantro & Salsa

Recipe copyright Susie Middleton, Fresh From the Farm: A Year of Recipes and Stories (Taunton Press, 2014)

Nothing beats egg and tortilla combos, and the one we like best has fresh corn kernels, fresh cilantro, and fresh salsa layered on top of a crisped-up corn tortilla. We sneak a few refried beans in (and sometimes a dollop of guacamole), but overall this is a breakfast (or supper) treat that feels light but is still filling. We heat the tortillas in a cast iron pan in a little bit of oil so that they get just a bit crunchy. Made to order, these are a farmhouse kitchen classic. If you want to make just one or two, just whisk up a couple eggs and reduce the other ingredients by a third. Makes 6 tostadas

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1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels (from about 2 ears)  

8 to 9 large eggs

Milk or cream

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 cup shredded extra-sharp Cheddar cheese

1/2 cup refried beans

2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1/2 to 2/3 cup salsa (spicy is good here)

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Extra-virgin olive oil

6 small (5 1/2-inch) corn tortillas

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Put the corn kernels in a small microwavable bowl with a few teaspoons of water. Cover with a damp paper towel and microwave for 30 seconds. Beat the eggs with a splash of milk or cream, a couple big pinches of salt, and several grinds of fresh pepper. Arrange two skillets—one small nonstick for cooking eggs, the other heavier (such as cast iron)—on your stovetop. Arrange the beaten eggs, corn, cheese, refried beans, cilantro, and salsa near your stove.

Heat 1 to 2 teaspoons butter in the small skillet over medium heat. Add a portion (about one-sixth) of the eggs to the pan and scramble until just cooked through (they should still look glossy.) Meanwhile, heat 1 to 2 teaspoons of oil in the heavier skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add one tortilla and cook until lightly browned and a little bit puffy or bubbly, 1 to 2 minutes. Flip and cook the other side for a minute.

Transfer the tortilla to a warm plate and smear a few small spoonfuls of refried beans (2 to 3 teaspoons) over it. Sprinkle a couple teaspoons of cheese over the beans. Arrange the scrambled eggs on top of the cheese and beans and sprinkle 2 tablespoons of cheese and a portion of the corn over them. Top with a generous sprinkling of cilantro and 1 tablespoon or a little more of fresh salsa. Serve the tostada right away. Repeat with the remaining eggs and tortillas and serve hot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Year in Photos: Green Island Farm, 2014

January

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2014′s best moment: Little Barney comes in from the cold

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February

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Paulie’s last stand.

March

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photo-12Egg production picks up big-time in spring.

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Turning over the new veg field in the “back four.”

April

10171130_10203818806489450_6846942003228336987_n DSC_4091Onion and potato planting in the damp new days of spring.

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May

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11 may photo-291 photo-293 photo-294And we’re off! Baby kale, Baby bok choy, radishes–and lots of seedlings.

June

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It’s all happening fast now–berries, basil, carrots, and…plenty of daylight

July

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Blueberries, black raspberries,  yellow pattypans, purple eggplants, sunny sung olds, cheery calendulas–June is color at last.

August

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Tomatoes, of course. And new chickens. And lots of ribbons at the Fair, oh yeah!

September

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Serious harvest time.

October

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October is the best.

November

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December

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photo-308 photo-305photo-307And to all a good night. Cheers to 2015!

Making Memories at the Fair

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Every August you nice people put up with me writing about the Fair—my excitement, and my ensuing exhaustion. This year, well, you’re in luck. It was such a busy week with so many late nights and really early mornings getting everything harvested and the farm stand set up, that I missed posting entirely last week and now can hardly put a sentence together.

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I will say just this one thing, and then leave it to all the pictures of the ridiculous food we ate, the ribbons we won, and the animals we admired. That thing is this: The theme of the Fair this year was Making Memories at the Fair, and I realized today that this is exactly what Roy, Libby, (Farmer) and I have been doing since we moved into the farm house in 2010 and started crossing the street every day, several times a day, for four days in a row, the third week in August.

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The Fair has become our only break from the farm in the high season—a mini vacation just across the street, and one in which we relish doing nearly the same exact thing (with slight variations) every year. I have the photos to prove it, of course, and I hope they will be fun for Libby to look at some day. For me, looking at the last few years of them now, the most startling thing is watching this little girl grow up so fast.

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So I’ll start with our healthy food choices:

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Famous Fair fries. Famous Fair Veggie Tempura.

Next, the animals.

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Libby still wants to be a Vet.

Okay, there were rides and games and stuffed animals, too.

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And not necessarily best of all, but certainly wonderful: Eleven ribbons for us this year! (That’s a record, I think.) Six blue, four red, and one white. First place for yellow onions, plum tomatoes, carrots, blackberries, large brown eggs and pullet eggs. Second place for red cherry tomatoes, zinnias, cosmos, and Junior brown eggs. Third place for yellow cherry tomatoes.

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Roy hung up the ribbons back at the farm stand. They’ll stay there for a while, then head off to the place where the rest of the memories live. But this year, Libby took home a Fair poster to hang in her newly redecorated room. Next Tuesday she starts an exciting adventure at a brand new school. Things change and grow, I know. But memories (maybe lightly polished or gently rearranged) remain.

 

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.

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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.)

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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.

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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).

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.