Tag Archives: Farm life

Walking the November Road with The Farm Dog, and Other Clever Ways to Procrastinate and Contemplate

photo-539Now that our second photo shoot for the new cookbook is behind us, I am back to work in the kitchen and at the computer developing the last batch of recipes for the book. This means, of course, that (as with any self-propelled creative endeavor) there is some clever procrastinating to accomplish every day. You simply must get up from your computer or get out of the kitchen a few times a day to reboot your creativity!


I’ve been spending an hour or two every day cleaning up and mulching the market garden, hauling the tomato vines out of the hoop house, ripping the twisted dried green bean vines off of the trellising, and moving strawberry plants around (they’re everywhere).


Incredibly, there are still things growing in the garden. Every year I am amazed at how temperate the Island is in late fall, with the warm ocean waters still surrounding us. But this year it has been especially warm.

DSC_0108Since I topped off the Brussels sprouts plants, the little buds have grown bigger, and I’ve popped enough off the stalks to sell a pint or two at the farm stand a few times a week.


And I just pop the baby ones in my mouth, too; they are sweet, nutty and crunchy.


I even managed to grow a few kalettes; I was very excited about trying this new vegetable (a cross between kale and Brussels sprouts) when I got the seed, though I did read that they would take four months to mature. Unfortunately, I was late getting my plants in the ground, so the vegetables really only started to take shape a few weeks ago. I don’t know how much they will grow once the daylight seriously wanes, though I imagine they are pretty frost-hardy.


We’ve got a last patch of salad greens under cover, and there are a half dozen magnificent and terrifying Ruby Streaks mustard plants that I never cut back sprawling three-feet round in a spiky pinwheel of purple teeth.


So once a week or so I can make a small batch of salad mix.


The parsley patch is epic.


And, I have a bunch of flowers in my little secret side flower garden that seem to have no idea that winter is approaching.


The calendula and snapdragons couldn’t be happier. I have to remember that—it really is cheering to have fresh flowers in November.


Cheering is good, as I find November a bit foreboding and contemplation-inducing. Unlike my favorite month, October, when the buzz of summer is gone but the sky still swims with sun, November, with its spackle-grey horizon, its sticky wet leaves, its frisky wind gusts, is decidedly Act I of winter. I know how the rest of the play goes, and last year sitting in the seats until the curtain went up was torturous.


But I am trying not to project, as the best thing about November, as opposed to real winter, is the walking. I can still get outside, it’s relatively warm, and actually, all those sticky leaves on the ground are a gorgeous kaleidoscope of texture and patterns. My favorite procrastination activity is walking with Farmer along the Land Bank path behind the farm, down across Mill Creek and over to Old Courthouse Road.

Technically, the path is closed for hunting season, so there is a point when we get to a locked gate and we both stop and stare at each other. Should we turn around? Go around? Jump over? And if we do, should we take the right hand fork, or the left?

Every time we are there, I can’t help thinking of Robert Frost’s classic poem, The Road Not Taken (which can be interpreted several different ways). So I leave it with you today, in case you’re walking the November road, or just contemplating winter.

The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;


Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,


And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.


I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.





An End to the (Thankfully) Not-Endless-Summer

DSC_0037Don’t get me wrong. I love the beach and lobster rolls and fireworks and the Fair. Especially the Fair. But there wasn’t exactly a lot of down time to enjoy these kinds of activities this summer. The farm was busy because we grew many, many, more vegetables. And many more people came to the farm stand (and bought those many more vegetables and every single egg). That is a good thing, of course.


But the many (!) more hours spent planting, weeding, watering, staking up, pulling down, covering up, replanting, reseeding, weeding (yes, I repeat myself), mulching, harvesting vegetables, washing vegetables, packing vegetables, collecting eggs, washing eggs, packing eggs, stocking the farm stand, restocking the farm stand, closing up the farm stand every night, and doing it all over again, with dirty fingernails, dirty clothes, dirty hair, squash-juice stained tee-shirts, seriously ripped jeans, and pockets full of the weirdest stuff (rubber bands, shriveled green beans, plastic zip-ties, chalk, dog biscuits, pocket knives, seeds, bugs, nails, clothespins, three kinds of twine…and scissors, always scissors) – well, you can see how it felt a little bit like Groundhog Day, the movie. Doomed to repeat ourselves every day.

DSC_0005The good news is that the spell has been broken—Labor Day weekend has come and slipped away into the cool nights and shorter days of September. And hopefully, like Bill Murray in the movie, we’ve learned a few things about what works and doesn’t work when you’re in an endless loop.

DSC_0002One thing I know for sure—the best thing we did this summer was hire our friend Laura Watt to come work with us. (That’s her with her prize-winning turnips on the opening day of the Fair.) That girl is seriously energetic and noticed even the smallest of details, helping us to figure out all kinds of enigmas that pop up daily on a farm. She went from 0 to 60 in no time. And she did it laughing. (She is damn funny, and for that I am eternally grateful.) Plus, Farmer fell in love with her. He waited for her at the end of the driveway every morning and when she arrived, they would go for a walk together. Laura even filled his water bowl with her own Poland Spring water.

Roy, Laura, Farmer and I had a “company party” on Laura’s last day this weekend. Ice cold cokes, treats from the local bakery, dog biscuits  and party favors.


(Okay, and we did pat ourselves on the back just a little for our 10 blue ribbons at the Fair this year.) We were very sad to say good-bye to Laura, but she promised Farmer she’d come visit.

DSC_0009Of course we still have fall to get through and we are still harvesting like crazy (literally hundreds of pounds of beefsteak tomatoes every few days). But there’s something in the air. Something good. Yeah, summer’s great, but fall is better.



Of Eggs and Cherry Tomatoes

DSC_0003Summer creeps up and then whizzes by here on the merry Isle of crazed vacationers. And I mean crazed. More like frenzied, now that it is August. There are an extraordinary number of people here. Normally our population swells from 20,000 year-round to 100,000 in the high season (August), but I think each person has brought four more friends with them this year. And they are hungry. (Plus the President arrives in a couple days. Traffic? Oh, my.)


Grocery store shelves are empty at noon time. Our own farm stand customers race each other to the refrigerator to grab the last dozen eggs (by 11 am they’re all gone) or the last six ears of corn (we have a lot of back-up there, thanks to Morning Glory Farm). Cherry tomatoes are disappearing like M&Ms at midnight.


Keeping up with the vacationers is exhausting (add heat plus little sleep and you have cranky farmers), but of course we wouldn’t have it any other way.


And there are those moments—the ones when you see how happy people are with their goodies. And I mean really happy. Beaming, grateful, excited. I totally did not expect that when I got into this.


Or this: One of our farm stand customers, who’s been shopping here since the very beginning, is spending her last days (cancer) at home with her family up the road. She is a lovely lady, and she came by a month ago to tell me this news and to see if we had any of her favorite green beans, and eggs. Last week her daughter came by and said that what her mother is mostly feeling like eating right now is our eggs. Wow.

That’s all.





Farm Dogs, Fresh Flowers & Ferdinand The Bull

DSC_0331 51gQ1zSyL-L._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Picking flowers last night, I looked over at Farmer lounging in the grass and was reminded of my favorite children’s book, The Story of Ferdinand (The Bull). Just like Ferdinand, Farmer likes nothing better than to lie around outside peacefully, watching the world go by and literally, smelling the roses. Poor Ferdinand got hauled off to the bullfights when he accidentally sat on a bee and jumped so high that folks thought he was a lively sort. But it all ended well when Ferdinand refused to fight and simply sat and sniffed the flowers in the hats of the ladies in the arena. It’s a story of contentment and peacefulness, two things that are a bit hard to come by on a busy farm during the high season.


But now the flowers are coming in. The zinnias and cosmos and sunflowers are blooming, the dill is 6 feet high, the calendulas are everywhere.


Which means that now, after an exhausting day on the farm, I can look forward to my favorite zen farm chore–collecting flowers in the cool of the evening with my very Ferdinand-esque dog at my side (or rolling in the grass nearby). A most excellent antidote to the day’s stresses!


Flowers and dogs are really two of life’s greatest joys, so listen, get yourself one if you don’t have the other.




An Evening Stroll Around the Farm

DSC_0173On my way out to the compost pile tonight with my kitchen scraps, I stopped to say hello to the pullets, who are grazing out on one of the nicest spots on the farm. They are just starting to lay in earnest; once a few of them really get going, it’s like the rest get the hint. We collected 24 eggs two days ago, 35 yesterday, 48 today. It will be 150 or so before we know it. That’s good–we’ll certainly need them this summer, if Memorial Day is any indication–over the weekend, we sold more than 100 dozen eggs (from the older hens, of course, not the pullets!), all at the farm stand!

DSC_0222That’s the way it goes around here…I can hardly believe how fast things are moving now. The potatoes are already up. Not just up, but tall enough that Roy did the first “hilling” on them (raking soil up and around the base of the plant).


I spotted the first pea blossoms yesterday on the sugar snap peas (a particularly early variety) and sure enough, there were dozens this evening.


It’s lovely to walk around in the evening light and see all our hard work taking shape. We are both exhausted and yes, occasionally cranky, so we have to stop and look around and see how beautiful everything is and also to realize that we’re pretty much on schedule–as much as you can be in a year when everything is late because of the winter. Now if we can just get those tomatoes in the ground …. and more carrots sown, and the brussels sprouts transplanted, and the rest of the squash seedlings started, and…well, you get the idea!

How Can You Forget About Homegrown Asparagus?

photo-411I forgot about the asparagus. I mean, I forgot to go check and see if there was some to harvest this week. How could that happen? I mean it’s only the coolest and most delicious thing growing right now. Fortunately, when I went down there this afternoon, only a few spears had gotten away from me–shot up into the sky, tips set to burst open like little rockets.


It happened because we are busy. This is a snapshot of the market garden which I took this morning. This year, the market garden is going to be filled almost entirely with greens and other things that require cover at this point, so it is not a very bucolic look. Waves and waves of Agribon (fabric row cover). Underneath lie baby bok choy, kale, chard, germinating carrots, japanese turnips, radishes and lettuce–all things we  have been planting like crazy. Fitting all that row cover over the hoops and stapling or weighing it down is a particular nuisance (it has to be uncovered for watering), but yes, we did sign up for this!


We’re still moving some seedlings (like the basil above) in and out of the house every morning, which is a bother, but until we get warmer nights, even the hoop house won’t quite do for these things.


Fortunately, I think our timing in the hoop house will be good–not long after these baby bok choy are ready to harvest, it will be time to plant the basil where they came out.

salad bowlYou’ll be happy to know that I haven’t forgotten to harvest the salad greens in the hoop house (unlike the asparagus). That would really be impossible since we are starting to sell them at the farm stand. Naturally, some of these make it into the house, so we are enjoying some mighty fine salads around here. Might be time for a little asparagus in that salad.

Or we might make asparagus fried rice! Yet another thing I forgot about–this recipe I developed for the latest issue of Martha’s Vineyard magazine!


One Little Farm, Thousands of Things To Do

little gem 2For once, I am not exaggerating. There are literally thousands of reasons why I ran out of time to write a blog post last week–and for why my posts are going to be a bit less frequent and hopefully a lot shorter this farm season. Here are some of my excuses:

flats smaller

1. We’ve planted more than 3000 seedlings in the hoop house (in flats mostly, but also in the raised beds.)


2. The onion sets arrived — 1800 little onion plants that all have to go in the ground. Soon.

pea sprouting

3. I have 1400 peas and sugar snap peas sprouting, ready to be planted tomorrow and the next day. Roy used our new tractor attachment to till up a big new pea bed in the lower field, and then he built a three-row trellis from bamboo and monofilament. All afternoon today I stared up at the blue-blue sky (yay-yay) as I tied deer fencing on to the trellis.


4.  We have 200 new pullets (16-week-old hens) arriving tomorrow. Roy has moved his new coop and one of the old coops out to a new area of the back-4. Each has fresh shavings, food, and water. Ready.

eggs with border

Oh, and #4B: Currently, about 350 eggs to wash and package every day.


5. I have what seems like hundreds of recipes to develop for various projects and deadlines. One is a story I’m doing on things to make with a spiralizer.  I’ve been given a Paderno model to work with, and so far, though I’m not a gadget person, I’m getting a kick out of it. And when you crank those veggies through the blades, you can wind up with one long ribbon that is practically the length of your kitchen (or my kitchen anyway!). Veggies by the thousands, who knew?

cuke spirals

I will spare you the rest of my excuses–until next week. At least there were a thousand rays of sunshine to soak up today. Spring, at last.

Follow me on Instagram for quick bites throughout the week.


Here We Go Again–Green Island Farm Turns Five

DSC_0014All of a sudden, just like that, there’s work to do. Lots of it. Winter has hung around so diligently (two more inches of snow last night), that spring now comes with a decided urgency.


Hard to believe we are starting our fifth season on the farm. It feels almost comfortable now—this routine, this life. But still, I find the promise of the very long hours and long days ahead a little daunting.


It isn’t pretty out there, but there’s been just enough melting, just enough warming, to let us get into the hoop house and the storage sheds and start cleaning and repairing—and seeding.


Roy patched up the hoop house on Sunday, repairing tears and replacing and removing lumber here and there.


Amazing that the hoop house came through the winter without major damage.


I cleaned and organized all the clutter, dumping over buckets of odd tools to sift through the detritus of fabric staples and worn gloves, balls of string and clothespins, and yes, plastic snakes.


I cleaned out one of the storage sheds, too, effectively meaning I just moved things from one place to the other…


…Things lIke fluffy clouds of fabric row cover, which I finally shoved under the potting bench in the hoop house, where they can live scrunched up until needed.


The Aracaunas stood outside the shed while I was working, shaking their heads.


Only a few heads of lettuce survived the winter in the hoop house.


So we went ahead and started clearing out the beds, bringing in some compost, and getting them ready for kale and arugula seeding.


This is the easy stuff, this little hoop house, that little storage shed. But you have to start somewhere.


A Winter Farmers’ Market Book Signing, plus Family Time

photo-398Saturday morning early-early, we (Roy, Farmer, and I) saddled up the little red Honda and boarded the ferry (aka the icebreaker) and whooshed our way over to Woods Hole. We picked up Libby in Falmouth and drove up to Wayland, Massachusetts, just west of Boston, where I was scheduled to do a book signing event at a winter farmers’ market held inside Russell’s Garden Center.

I had tried to get to the Wayland Winter Farmers Market in January, but that time we had boarded the boat, only to get backed off due to high winds. No way was I going to miss it this time.

Now, I only wish I could go back to the market next Saturday (which will be the last market for the season) as it was truly wonderful. I was so busy at the signing table (a very good thing, of course) that I didn’t get to poke around as much as Roy and Libby did.

ask dr. cheese

Ann StarbardHeld inside a big greenhouse (my table backed up to an orchid display), the market was packed with farmers and vendors from all around New England. In fact, this Saturday was New England Cheese Day at the market, and next to me was Ann Starbard from Crystal Brook Farm (right) with her award-winning fresh goat cheeses. I could have spent a good bit of time sampling!

I brought along my own samples—three loaves of Spiced Butternut and Cranberry Quick Bread (top photo), a recipe from Fresh From the Farm. We cut the loaves into small pieces, but nevertheless they disappeared! Along with almost all of the books we brought with us.

Susie M and friends

The best part was meeting quite a few readers of my cookbooks—and friends of friends—who made a dedicated effort to come to the market.  (Sisters Gail Lilligreen, right, and Linda Ohsberg, left, in the photo above, drove up from Rhode Island.) Such nice people.

The nicest of all was market manager Peg Mallett, who is not only super-organized and friendly, but saved me with three bottles of water and a cool spot to sit for a minute when I unexpectedly felt very light-headed and momentarily thought I had come all that way only to fall ill…’Jeesh, Susie,’ was all I could think.

Ron & Libby

While I regained my equilibrium, Roy and Libby manned the table, holding would-be book buyers hostage with farm stories until I returned. After that, Roy and Libby had a well-earned (and delicious) lunch of thin-crusted pizza from the Vesta mobile wood-fired oven at the entrance to the greenhouse. And then they gave Farmer a tour of the (outdoor) grounds.


We were all so tired at the end that we drove straight back to Woods Hole (one quick stop at Lowe’s) and got on an early ferry. There’s just only so much you can do in one off-Island excursion.


DSC_0001Now, as if Libby doesn’t get inundated enough with everything food-and-cooking (like trips to farmers markets on her school vacation!), we decided to do some cooking lessons together this week. First assignment: Making and baking Tollhouse chocolate chip cookies, solo. (Well, solo, with a few tips from teacher.)

Happy to say she got an A+ on this assignment. (Yes, that is Barney on the kitchen counter in the background of the photo at right.)

The cookies were a surprise for Dad, who is truly swamped with work, both on-farm and off. On Sunday he was starting to build a chicken coop in the yard on a trailer—until we got the call that our 200 new birds won’t be coming this week, after all, but three weeks from now.

What a relief.


The snow is beginning to melt, and it is predictably swampy out there now. But at least we can think about getting the spring work rolling. Oh goody.


Photo credits: Cheeses, courtesy ask.dr.cheese.com; photos of all people at market, Peg Mallett; photo of wood-fired oven, courtesy Vesta Mobile Wood-Fired Pizza; all others, Susie

More White on the Way? Think Pink!

DSC_2054Karma paid me a visit this week with a head cold. We very rarely get sick around here, and I am fond of bragging about this, citing all the studies that show children who grow up on farms are healthier…because they are exposed to more germs! But apparently I have made this point one too many times, because this week I got sick.

Also (you’d think I’d learn), I’ve been going around saying that we’re lucky we haven’t had quite as much snow as our friends a little to the north of us. So of course, the next blizzard, sporting hurricane-strength winds and a foot of snow, is heading right for us this weekend.

Lastly, it has been kind of a sad week, national-news-wise.

And now it is Friday the 13th. Therefore, I’m not taking any chances and am going to stick with something cheery for the blog this week.


My favorite color is pink. I like to wear pink, eat pink, grow pink. Someday I would like to walk in the (pink) Avon Walk to End Breast Cancer, in Boston, maybe with my friend Eliza (she doesn’t know this yet).


It just so happens that I got some pink cookies in the mail from a friend today, a thank you for sending her a book. They cheered me up.


So did the raving pink color of the beets I pickled, during the hours between the pounding sinus headaches. (Did I say I wasn’t going to complain?)

radish bunch green island farm 1

All that pink got me thinking about looking through those rose-colored glasses and pulling up a few of my favorite pink things.

DSC_7829_01 Like pink ice cream.


And pink zinnias.


I like pink zinnias. A lot.


The America rose Roy gave me for my 50th is a swell coral pink.


Pink onions are swell, too.


So are pink beans.


This cherry tree across the street from us will be blooming in only a few months—YES!

mag 1 As will the magnolias.

flowers coneflower honeybee

I’ve been dreaming of pink coneflower (aka Echinacea, which perhaps I should have been taking to avoid this cold.)

DSC_0078 I’ve been pickling radishes, too.

IMG_5992_1 But seriously, nothing’s pinker than chard stems.

potatoes, red gold harvest L & R

And of course, my favorite potatoes are pink. Sometimes, so is my favorite little girl, who, um, isn’t quite so little any more…

photo-382Okay, if that all doesn’t cheer you up, I will try harder next week.

In the meantime, stay warm–and wear a pink hat, like I do! (I’m so attached to my hat that I wear it inside, too. Forget I told you that.)

I hope you have a warm and cozy Valentine’s Day.