Tag Archives: Farm animals

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.

 

Famous Farm Dog Finds Nirvana in the Garden

There’s no doubt who is top dog around Green Island Farm. But lately, what with the addition of more baby chicks and pigs, too, Farmer has been feeling a bit insecure. (He tends to be a little clingy, anyway, having been a rescue dog.)

Normally he lies outside the back door on his lede, where he can watch all the activity and greet the farm stand customers. He is especially fond of the ladies (lots of tail wagging, no barking), but can be skittish around certain large men with deep voices and lots of facial hair! And the ladies love him. In fact, a woman I had never seen in my life got out of her car the other day, rushed over to him and said, “Hi, Farmer!” Turns out she’s been reading the blog for a long time and knew who Farmer was, only this was her first visit to the farm. Lots of regular customers greet him by name and regularly coo over him. He loves it. (Joannie, Sarah, and MJ all bring him biscuits, too–so spoiled.)

But he doesn’t like losing site of Mom and Dad, so lately he has started whining when he can’t see us. Usually I am in the garden harvesting or working.

At some point, it became clear to me that Farmer wanted “in” to the garden. I was pretty hesitant to bring him in there with me, because when I’ve done this in the past, he’s started running around in circles, tearing through beds willy-nilly. But, you know, he is two years old now, very mature. And with the raised beds and paths clearly delineated, he has pretty much learned to go up and down the paths in a polite manner.

Besides, I soon learned, all he really wanted to do was lie on a nice soft bed of hay mulch and rest, keeping one eye on me and one on the sparrows swooping everywhere. Occasionally he’ll get up and sniff around a bit (he likes the strawberry plants), or move to the shady side of the pea trellis. If a customer comes right up to the garden fence, he might get a little excited and trample something (nothing too major), but mostly he is happy to be leash-free and in the thick of things.

For a real treat, Roy will come get him and take him out the back gate (leash back on) to visit the piggies. He desperately wants to be friends with the pigs and will stand up, his paws on the edge of their wall, and whine. He and Wilbur reach out to each other, nose to snout, and seem to be saying a pleasant hello.

Back to the garden Farmer goes, where from a particular vantage point, he can also keep an eye on “his” 500 babies—the chickens. All is well in Farmer’s kingdom. As long as he doesn’t get left alone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three Peas, Two Piggies, One Baby Skunk & A Farm Update

We’ve entered that zone—that zone where time disappears and you simply move from one thing to the next on the farm and wind up at the end of the day exhausted and dirty (and eating a hot dog at the picnic table)—but happy. And ready for the bliss of the outdoor shower.

The summer visitors have reached the Island (how they get here so fast, I’ll never know), and all day folks are coming and going down the driveway to the farm stand.

And now, all of a sudden, with the summer light-switch flipped on, all kinds of things are happening in the garden. I don’t want to miss anything, so I took a break from salad duty this morning (right) and did a farm check.

The America rose (above) that Roy gave me for my birthday last year is blooming. Stunning.

The blackberry plant that my friend Cathy gave me (also for my birthday last year) is shedding its rosy blooms to make way for huge berry clusters. The blueberries are fattening up too. At least the ones that I managed to cover up before the birds got the blossoms. I thought you were supposed to protect the berries from the birds—I had no idea the birds ate the blossoms, too.

In the hoop house, the first of Roy’s early tomatoes are blushing red (and we’ve got 80 more planted outside in the garden). Also in the hoop house, we’ve got cucumbers coming up, and some patty pan squash plants that look like they’re on steroids. And the basil couldn’t be happier.

Just north of the hoop house is Roy’s potato field—the French fingerlings are blooming and it won’t be long now before we can dig some plants up.

Over at the pig pen, the two pigs are as happy as can be. They eat, root around, make mud baths, and mostly sleep in a nice comfy hay mulch bed. They always look very relaxed. (Update: Libby did name them this weekend, and I’m sorry to say that she did, in fact, pick Wilbur as one of the names. The other (bigger one) is Dozer, short for Bulldozer. Feeding them apples, cereal milk, Ritz crackers, and pasta was a big activity this weekend.)

 

In the garden, the first row of green beans is flourishing and two more are germinating. Forty eggplants are in the ground; a new variety called Orient Express has gorgeous purple leaves.

I’m growing three varieties of shell peas this year to compare. The first is called Coral and it delivered on its promise of being early. But these short vines bloomed all at once and produced a very low yield. (This sort of defeated the purpose of having early peas, as I didn’t have much to sell every day.) The second variety—a gorgeous deep-green plant with a profusion of tendrils about 2 feet up—is delicious and sweet. Called Easy Peasy, it is definitely yielding more than Coral, but still looks like it will end production without anywhere near the yield that my Green Arrow gives. Green Arrow grows very tall (vines curl off the top of the trellis as in the photo at top left) and blooms all up and down the vines, not just in one spot like the others. And it blooms over a longer period of time. The pods are extra-long and the peas delicious. I think I’ll go back to just this one variety next year.

 

The chicks in the barn are getting really big—which means that Roy has to build another coop! The brooder is now the entire length of the barn, because we had to add two additions for two chicks that we separated out from the rest. (One of them has been living in a box in my office, the other in the living room.) Here is Polly, the Polish Crested. Her other nickname is Don King.

Yes, it is Animal-Central around here. In fact, this weekend we cared for an ailing baby (and I mean baby—a few weeks old) skunk that stumbled into the driveway. Libby took to little Skunky in a big way and did her best to nurse it along with milk and cat food. But most likely it was not going to make it from the start, and Libby understood that. No, the little skunk did not have a functioning sprayer, and truthfully, it was the cutest darn critter you’ve ever seen. But I never would have taken it in myself. Leave that to my two National Geographic nature/animal lovers who also had a snake in a bucket this weekend and a collection of sand crabs in sea water.

We got Libby’s garden planted, too, with two tomatoes, one pepper, a row of green beans, sunflowers, cosmos, carrots, and two squash hills—one of pumpkins and one of summer squash. I can’t wait for Libby’s school to end and we’ll have her out more. Because any “work” we do with Libby is always fun. The only problem is that the days fly by even faster. Pretty soon, it will be August and time for the Fair!

 

Two Little Piggies Come Home to Green Island Farm

There we were, breezing down North Road in Roy’s truck yesterday, Farmer between us hanging his head out the window in the cab, looking back and whining at the cargo in the truck bed—two pink pigs in dog crates. Never in my life. Okay, so we have talked about pigs for a long time. And I love pigs. But now that we have them, I just can’t believe it. Roy and I are both kind of wandering around chuckling to ourselves —and going down to the pen to check on them quite a bit.

And listen, I have news for you. Pigs are only tiny little cute piglets for a very short time. We saw some newborns yesterday (those are the ones you just want to pick up and cuddle in your laps), but our two weaned pigs are a good 50+ pounds and wicked fast and strong. How strong? Well, we found out yesterday.

The owners left us alone to load our two pigs onto the truck. We corralled the first guy into the crate, lifted the crate, and the crate came unhinged. Out came piggy and off he went to run God knows where. Roy managed to steer him back towards the barn, but once inside, he wasn’t so interested in getting back in the crate. After a lot of squealing and darting on his part—and wrestling on Roy’s part—back in he went. (I took one stab at grabbing him and decided I will never enter a greased pig contest.)

All this Farmer watched from the truck with much concern.

Once we got the piggies home and into their new pen, they were fabulously happy, immediately rooting around in the compost-rich dirt.

It took them only a matter of minutes to dig a trench big enough for them to lie down in and cool off.

And all that before a delicious meal of hog mash.

Then I got to take pictures of Roy communing with the pigs. He was so cute.

Neither Roy nor the bigger pig who did the run-about yesterday seem to harbor any ill-will towards each other!

Roy is very proud of his pig pen, too, which he should be, as it is located in a perfect spot.

Little by little we have been clearing brush away from around an old stone foundation that once supported a big barn decades ago. The foundation was built into the side of a hill and three sides still remain. The eastern side is open at ground level, so after a last round of clearing, Roy built a low wall from railroad ties that a friend gave him.

For covered shelter, Roy re-erected the Ladies’ original outdoor (chicken) pen, which had a tin roof.

A bed of shavings and hay mulch is a comfy spot for napping (which is pretty much all they’ve been doing since yesterday afternoon), and a canopy of shady trees will make this a great place for pigs in the heat of summer.

Eventually, we can turn them out to a slightly bigger area that will have a cattle-wire fence. But I’m not in any rush. For now, I am happy that they have a secure spot. I’m not looking to chase any pigs, greased or not.

All the Signs are Pointing to a Great Season

You never know what’s going to pop up next on the list of farm chores this time of year. Actually, there isn’t enough time to make a physical list, as we start working the minute we get up and don’t stop until the sun sets. So we just juggle priorities in our heads and move from one thing to the next—transplanting, seeding, mulching, watering, harvesting, egg collecting, packaging, checking on the baby chicks, setting up the farm stand, mowing, raking, staking, fencing, you name it. So when Libby was here last weekend, a chore bubbled to the top of my brain that I thought might actually double as a fun activity. Kind of a Tom Sawyer trick—sign painting.

We spent the better part of the afternoon painting signs for the chicken coops (each one has the name of a town or place on the Vineyard) and various signs we need around the farm. We even painted a bench. We laid newspapers on the picnic table, opened every half-used can of paint we had, and set ourselves up near the farm stand so we could greet customers, too. I think Libby enjoyed this, though the best part of the whole day was the laugh she got when I toppled over the Adirondack chair while backing up to take a picture of her. For a 10-year-old, it doesn’t get much better than that.

Later in the week, I sat down at the picnic table and made up more signs—this time for our tomato plant sale this weekend. Roy has a most excellent scrap pile of shingles and odd pieces of wood for making signs, so there’s no lack of material. Talent is another thing—this kind of crafty stuff is not my forte, although I sure enjoy the relaxation of sitting down and doing it, and it has to get done. (Better that than say, fix the lawn mower or build nest boxes like Roy was doing!) The signs are important too—the chalkboard sign by the side of the road has brought in lots of tomato plant customers in the last two days. (Today it is covered in plexiglass because of the rain.)

 

Yesterday, in fact, was an excellent day for farm stand business, and Roy and I are feeling good about all the improvements and additions we’ve made for this season, because we can already see our goals being realized. It doesn’t mean there aren’t setbacks, but after three years of doing this, we’re finally hitting our stride. There are good “signs” everywhere—from blossoms on the peas in May to gorgeous basil and fledgling tomatoes already in the hoop house. So it’s good to stop the chore frenzy for a minute, plop down on the farm stand porch, and look around at everything the work has produced. The satisfaction doesn’t last long though, because our eyes always land on something that needs fixing. Oh well! There’s always winter for relaxing.

P.S. Checking up on the baby chicks is not such a bad farm chore!

 

Waiting for Sandy: Hurricane Prep, Farm-Style

I’ve lived my whole life within a few miles (sometimes a few feet) of major coastlines, so hurricane prep is something I’m accustomed to. However, the possible combination of frequent 70-mile per hour gusts, 60 live animals, and a recently constructed parachute-like structure called a hoop house is a new one for me. And I noticed yesterday that Roy was being particularly meticulous about nailing and weighting and tying things down. Hmmm. The last time we had hurricane warnings, he seemed fairly nonplussed. This one, not so much.

So it is safe to say we have a healthy degree of concerned anticipation (I wouldn’t call it anxiety) about what Hurricane Sandy might bring our way. Frankly, I’m more worried about my parents in Delaware and my friends in Connecticut, where the storm will bring much more rain and flooding. But we do have a responsibility to protect live critters. We’ve done our best to secure the hoop house, and even if the greenhouse film rips and writhes in the wind, leaving us with a mess, we can replace it and fix it, no problem. The hope is that no other supposedly immovable objects start acting like projectiles around the yard, with the potential to hurt us or the animals.

Moving Cocoa Bunny into the barn was the first and most obvious precaution. (We’ve done this with previous storms.) Her cage is easy to lift, and she will be happy and snug through the two days of high winds. (My lifelong friend Liz Pardoe Gray is here visiting and snapped the pic of Susie and Roy.) Also obvious this time was clearing the farm stand completely and turning it over before the wind has a chance to do that (like it did in last fall’s Nor’ Easter). We had to wait until later in the afternoon to do this, though, because we had the farm stand open to sell eggs today. We put out 7 1/2 dozen—everything we collected yesterday and today, thinking we wouldn’t put out any tomorrow or Tuesday—and they all sold. Not surprising, really—Vineyarders may be hunkering down, but they’re still going to eat well!

For the seven older chickens, we’ll let them go into their coop tonight, supply them with extra water and feed, and not let them out into their yard in the morning. They have spacious digs, so they will be fine hanging out inside the coop. This afternoon we corralled the bigger flock of 48 into the small permanent pen adjacent to their coop—much less area for them to roam around in, but also much less chance of breaking tree limbs crashing down on them. (Some of them needed more convincing than others to leave their new grazing area, so Roy helped them along.) We will probably let them go back out into that limited area in the morning, though we’ve put an extra waterer in the coop in case that turns out to be a bad idea. They’d probably rather wander in and out of the rain and wind instead of being “cooped up” together all day. We’ll also need to get in the coop to collect eggs and that can be difficult with all of them in there. But we’ll have to see what we think in the morning.

Most importantly, Roy has filled a big trash can with water for the chickens in case the power goes out and we can’t use the well. Chickens drink a lot of water, and going even a day without is not an option.

There wasn’t much I could do in the vegetable garden. Nature will take its course out there and I am fine with that. I harvested some lettuce and arugula and green beans for our dinner tonight (first bay scallops of the season), and picked the prettiest zinnias, as I know those plants are going to get nailed. But otherwise, I mostly just picked up any tools or random stakes I could find and tucked them in the shed. I moved pumpkins and potted plants under the covered front entry, and I stacked random outdoor furniture in the outside shower.

With everything as secure as we could manage, Roy and I moved inside to enjoy the kind of Sunday afternoon only possible when a good friend is visiting and a hurricane is threatening (even the ferry boats to and from the Island have been canceled so we are essentially  marooned!). Being forced to slow down for a few hours is actually a gift for us; so no matter what Sandy brings, we are glad for the interlude.