Tag Archives: Garden

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.


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.










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.



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.


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


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!


Shelter from the Storm: Why Farm Structures Matter

side of shed squibby coopWhen you begin growing vegetables and raising animals on even the very smallest of farms, you quickly learn that there are three uber-important issues to deal with: 1) Land, of course. (How much space do you have? How healthy is your soil?) 2) Water. (Where is your source? How will you get it to where you need it? Will you have enough?) and 3. Structures. (Where will you need them? How will you build them?)

Number three might surprise you. But as I walked around the farm in the snow this morning, indulging myself in photos of frosted branches and frolicking hens, I realized how often I focused on the door of a shed, the mullions of a window, the turn of a gate. Out in the back field, I stopped to turn around and take a picture of the farm from afar, and I realized just how many structures Roy has built since we moved here.

farm from back field

While the chickens are happy to hop about the snow (which they sort of peck at instead of drinking their partially frozen water), they dart in and out of their coops when the wind comes up. (Outside, they keep themselves warm by puffing up their feathers to trap air.) And tonight when the bitter cold and wind comes, they will be warm, bunched up together on their roosts, inside their locked coops, safe from predators.  We have 8 coops now—one in the process of being converted into a duck house. One coop also incorporates a small area for holding grain.

chickens tractor 1 chickens snow coop

ara perky

farm stand snowWe have a farm stand structure, which includes a back room where we do all our egg processing. (The front functions as the farm stand and holds the egg refrigerator for customers.)

We have two tool sheds and one grain bin/shed. Roy has converted part of one of the tool sheds into a “walk-in,” an insulated room for keeping eggs from freezing.

The grain bin down by our five  biggest coops holds some hay for nesting boxes and coop floors, too. But we could use a bigger area to store hay.

hoop house trees

And of course we have the hoop house, where much to my dismay, everything—kale, collards, baby bok choy, lettuce, arugula—is thriving, despite this cold.

kale hoop collards hoop bok choy hoop lettuce hoop

Everything inside the hoop house is also under two layers of cover—one fabric, one plastic. And the actual temperature in there this morning was above freezing!

hoop plastic hoop thermom

The hoop house is an incredible structure—not only does it protect from the elements, but based on what we’ve sold out of it versus how much it cost to build, it’s a money-maker, too.


snowy path

And fencing—well, that is one of your top-of-the-list structures on a farm. Lots of post-hole digging and deer-fence-erecting went on here, not only to protect our crops, but to create very large (semi-)protected pastures for our chickens. (Additional guy wires cover the pens; they’re intended to discourage hawks but don’t always work.) We were lucky to have a good deal of property-delineating fencing (like that above) in place when we arrived.

We don’t have a barn—yet. Roy has converted a small former garage on the property into his workshop. Long ago, there was a grand barn on this farm (the remaining stone foundation is where we housed the pigs this summer), but it would cost a fortune to erect a new one there. (Oh, and the pig pen itself was another structure! The stone foundation formed three walls, but Roy repurposed old railroad ties and wood pallets to make a secure fourth wall and gate.)

green doorWhich brings me around to the cost-of-structure issue. Always a good idea to look far ahead and budget for these things, as we did this year for the farm stand, the new coops, and the grain bin.

And then, salvage, salvage, salvage.

Roy recycles as much old (usable) wood, windows, doors and hardware as he can. (People actually bring us stuff now, too—recycling is a way of life here on the Island. Witness the compost pile, below, of donated horse manure.)

compost pile in snow

But of course you need someone to do the building, too. We are very lucky here on Green Island Farm to have a farmer who is also a licensed builder, but partnering or bartering with someone with carpentry skills can be a good plan. Keeping the structures as simple and efficient as possible is important, too. For a small operation on a budget, fancy is not practical. Also, living with a problem for a little while, if possible, can present the best solution.

milk canAll this reminds me to tell you that I’m pretty excited that some of our resident builder’s designs have been included in a special appendix in my new book. So when you get your copy of Fresh From the Farm, be sure to turn to the back of the book for drawings of a great small chicken coop, a basic farm stand, a covered raised bed, and a seed-starting system. (Thank you, Roy!)

In the meantime, stay warm and dry. (I almost forgot that part—you need a house, too, to shelter the farmers. Nothing fancy, though. Remember, they don’t spend too much time inside.)

buoys snow


Thanksgiving Tinsel

Roy walked in the house this afternoon with an armful of dried Japanese maple leaves. “Wanna see something cool?” he said, as I scraped pumpkin cheesecake batter into a gingersnap-crusted springform pan. I turned around and fell in love at once with this wispy pink cloud of rosy what-nots. Our first holiday decoration, we decided—Thanksgiving tinsel.

It’s funny about Thanksgiving week, how different and special it feels. The normal routine is knocked about just enough to open up space and time for those pause-button moments, when you notice something beautiful that the wind blew in to your back yard.

Sure, it’s cold. The chickens’ water is frozen. Ratzilla is back in the attic. (And his cousin, Ratatouille, is in the kitchen. I found his stash of chocolate chips, toasted almonds, and doggie kibble behind Mastering The Art of French Cooking the other day.) The wind blows through the windows of this old farmhouse like nobody’s business.

But the hoop house is warm and snug in the early afternoon sun—a good place to go and just rest for a minute. And Roy’s newly built insulated “walk-in” shed is keeping the eggs from freezing.

This week the sun is closing down before 4 pm, and the early darkness is startling. But morning brings customers down the driveway to buy three or four dozen eggs at a time. Everyone is smiling, talking about who’s coming to visit, whether the boats will run in the storm, what they’re planning to cook, how the menu’s coming together. For cooks, there’s sheer joy in all the choices, the dogearing of cookbooks and downloading of recipes. The permission to bake everything from dinner rolls to lattice-top pies. Or to completely deconstruct the spice rack, as I did this afternoon. That I admit, was probably not necessary. If the spices are getting a little old, well, at least there are fresh herbs still alive outside. Sage and rosemary—my heroes.

I love this holiday that celebrates food and gratitude. What more do you need, really? Well, a warm house would be nice…not that there’s anything wrong with this one…

Happy Thanksgiving.




Capturing Time in a Basket of Blue Eggs

Just like that, the frost came, the leaves fell, the days shortened, and the blue eggs appeared. Sometimes, there isn’t a logic to what happens on the farm, and since change is constant around here, it’s easy to miss the subtle shifts. But then you walk outside one morning and it hits you—another season on the farm has gone by and while you’re already busy planning for the next one, there’s one right here, right now. A spectacular moment in time, one that can’t necessarily be defined or pinned down, just marveled at.

There’s really no corollary between golden leaves and blue eggs; it just happens that the Aracaunas (who grew big and beautiful over the summer) started to lay in earnest this week and we finally have a whole clutch of blue and green eggs to ogle. We’ve been wondering if all the eggs would be the color of Sugar’s—a paler shade of Robin’s egg blue. So far there’s a murky tidal green, a Sugary blue, and one true teal.

The Aracaunas themselves match the leaves that are falling by the zillions, Roy raking them up in bursts of energy while I avoid that least favorite task as best I can. I do haul a cart or two into the garden every now and then, as I am ripping out dead veggie plants, adding compost to garden beds and covering them up with leaves and mulch for the winter. I am weighing down the leaves with spent sunflower and zinnia stalks, which are as stiff as bamboo.

I am also nursing the hoop house back to life, filling beds with transplants and seeds, harvesting arugula and kale, discouraging mice. We are curing pumpkins and winter squash for the first time in the green house, too. I’m especially excited about the Japanese kabocha squash we grew in the back field, though I hope we didn’t harvest it too soon. The vines weren’t quite dry, but they needed to come out for Roy to finish prepping the new field, which is looking spiffy.

And wouldn’t you know it, just ahead of the freezing weather, Roy reached water with the well pipe he’s been driving, driving, driving down into the ground. The new well will provide a closer water source for the 500 chickens and will also irrigate the new field next summer.

Overnight, the summer veggies disappeared from the farm stand. I decided not to foist any more green tomatoes or free jalapenos off on anyone, though we’re still harvesting greens and packing them up for egg customers to discover in the fridge.

The skies darkened and the first rains came over the weekend, happily driving us inside to play board games with Libby. Or I should say, to lose to Libby while playing board games. The marathon Gardenopoly tournament ended like this: Libby—$8,000 and every single property; Dad—bankrupt; Susie—$1. Watching her squirm with delight is one of those moments in time that I really wish I could pin down. As she barrels (or more accurately, skips and runs) towards 12 years old, I want to stay here in 11-year-old world with her just a little longer.

One thing I know for sure: While my memory isn’t so great any more, and some of these moments are going to get fuzzy for me down the road, Libby won’t forget. She’s got a whole lifetime to carry happy farm memories forward. Blue eggs and crazy colorful chickens. Leaf piles and fairy houses. Blustery days, board games, beach walks. Arrowheads, deer antlers, sharks teeth, starfish. Turtles, garden snakes, baby skunks. Owl spotting, sheep watching, pig petting. And hanging out with her best furry friend—Farmer, of course.

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.

No More Whining–The Tomatoes Are Here

Proof positive that my patience (or lack of) is worsening by the year (and my memory, too): I checked our records (record-keeping nerd that I am), and, in fact, we picked the first of this years Sungolds and Early Girls EARLIER this year than last year–and the year before! (That’s tomatoes from the garden, not the hoop house. The hoop house ones came almost a full month ahead of the field tomatoes.)

So I must officially stop complaining about the tomatoes (and everything else) being late this year, especially because now they’re officially here! Or at least some are; beefsteaks are still mostly green.  And I have nothing further to say on the subject; I simply offer the proof: Sungolds, Sweet 100s, Yellow Pears, Black Cherries, Early Girls, and Juliet Plums above. Ripening now and soon to be taste-tested:  Cherokee Chocolates, below. Time for salsa and bruschetta. Finally.

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.


Summer Farm Frittata with Fingerlings, Fresh Herbs, Greens & Goat Cheese

Late at night, after I’ve spent an entire day fooling around with vegetables, what do I do but curl up on the couch with a book about—vegetables! My new favorite cookbook is River Cottage Veg by the unstoppable British food writer, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. I must admit, I’m fond of his pro-veg (rather than anti-meat) philosophy, because, well, it’s pretty much the point of view I offer in The Fresh & Green Table. But it’s more than that. I just plain like his food—honest and sensible but inspiring too. Somehow, this big hefty book, its thick matte pages covered from ear to ear with colorful but homey food photos and whimsical illustrations, feels like just the right thing to plunk on your lap at the end of a long day.

I only got to page six before I saw the thing I wanted to make for supper the very next day.

And I did.

Only I didn’t exactly follow Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipe. I know, I know. (Insert sheepish look here.) But I’m really in the mode of “use what we have around” so into this lovely early summer frittata went all kinds of interesting things from the garden.

I started with 9 little pullet eggs. These are the smallest eggs our new chickens are laying (many of them have already upgraded to medium and large eggs). We don’t sell a lot of them, so they wind up as house eggs. Voila, 9 into a frittata—way to use those eggs up, Susie!

Next I went out to the garden with my home gardener/home cook hat on. (Not my market gardener/professional cook hat). And I picked little tiny bits of interesting odds and ends that happen to hang around when you grow a few of your own vegetables. I get a huge kick out of these things that you never see in a grocery store—cilantro flowers, pea greens, little tiny potatoes the size of marbles, spring onions, squash blossoms, garlic chives. I picked some flowering oregano, too. A few sprigs of mint. A couple stalks of Swiss Chard. Mature pea pods. A sprig of Purple Ruffles basil. Calendula flowers. Yeah, never in a million years could I get away with publishing a recipe like this in a book or a magazine. (I can only imagine the car trips one would have to make in search of that list of ingredients.) But once in a while, it’s fun to indulge myself, and to give a little not-so-subtle boost to the idea of growing just a tiny bit of your own food. If you like to cook, there’s no better way to become really familiar with an ingredient than growing it.

The two non-local ingredients I used were fresh goat cheese (about 4 ounces) and unsalted butter (a couple tablespoons). Oops, and a splash of heavy cream. (You could omit.)

I got out my 10-inch slope-sided nonstick skillet and melted the butter over medium heat. I preheated the oven to 350°, and put my potatoes in a saucepan of water to boil. I sautéed the spring onions, then the chard and the pea greens, in the butter.

I whisked the eggs, cream, salt, pepper, and all the herbs (chopped) together. I crumbled the goat cheese and added that to the custard. I transferred the cooked potatoes to the skillet with the greens and added just a touch more butter. Turned up the heat to a sizzle and poured in the custard. I scooted everything around with a spatula to evenly distribute it, scattered on the calendula petals, and nestled the nasturtiums in last. I turned up the heat ever so slightly and waited for the edges of the frittata to set. Then I carefully transferred it to the oven and set the timer for about 18 minutes. When it was puffed, firm in the middle, and lightly golden, I took it out to cool on a wooden board. (Frittatas are tastiest warm, not hot.)

I took a picture of this concoction before it went in the oven, thinking the final product might look a little muddled or faded—or something. Well, it actually looked rather comely in the end. And it had great flavor—a big boost from the herbs and goat cheese, and those fingerlings really made it feel filling. Roy ate three pieces—and leftovers for lunch–which is saying a lot, in his language. I thought with all those flowers and herbs he might find it a bit too frou-frou.

The thing is, you can make this frittata with any greens and herbs you can find—no calendula petals or cilantro flowers needed! So take a cue from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (and a couple of budget-minded farmers who live on an Island where meat is very expensive!) and have an all-veggie supper once or twice a week. Next on my list (though I know better than to promise that I’ll follow the recipe) is his “Vegeree”—a spicy rice dish with roasted eggplant. Yum.

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!