Tag Archives: Garden

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.





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.





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!


It’s Not Too Late to Plan a Veggie Garden

garden_b_0Seems like I keep forgetting to tell you Sixburnersue folks about a really cool article I had a chance to work on for Martha’s Vineyard magazine about starting a vegetable garden. The story, aptly titled “Holy Homegrown!” (this is exciting stuff after all!), begins like this:

“What if the secret to happiness lay right outside your kitchen door? In a pretty little garden, full of delicious things to eat?”

And honestly, having spent the last week digging in the dirt, I think that just might not be such a far-fetched thought. Growing some of your own food is satisfying on so many levels, from physically stretching your body and taking in the sunshine, to watching the tiny miracles of seeds sprouting, to (already) eating some of that arugula you might have thought to plant a few weeks ago (Yes I am; yes I did!).

DSC_0025So I just want to say this. Now is your time. If you’ve always wanted to start a little veggie garden, but are worried that you’ll get overwhelmed, click here and you’ll get all kinds of tips about how to make it as small as you want it and about how to keep it manageable. (Better yet, pick up the magazine on the newsstand if you’re an Islander.)

And if I can’t talk you into it, then just look at the beautiful and tantalizing illustrations of three real Island gardens that artist Fae Kontje Gibbs drew for the story. The designs are all based on classic square and rectangular patterns and almost all of them include several of the veggies that I compiled in a list of “top ten favorite veggies to grow” (Salad greens, kale, basil, cherry tomatoes, etc.).

But each garden also has its own distinct personality, with quirky garden objects and a lesser-known vegetable or two to keep things interesting (lovage or paw-pay anyone?). (That’s Fae’s drawing of my friend and neighbor Katherine Long’s garden, at top.)  I think, in fact, that Fae’s drawings are probably the most inspiring thing about the article, because they invite us to be creative, which is really the most fun part about having your own little garden. No two are alike and each truly is a canvas for you to paint on—though you’ll really have no idea what it is going to look like until it all grows in! A garden has a mind of its own. But you can count on delicious surprises.

And one last cool thing about this Home and Garden issue of Martha’s Vineyard magazine —the photo on the cover (see below) was taken by Susie Middleton! How fun is that? My first ever cover photo. You just never know where this vegetable thing will lead!




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.


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.







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.


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.


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.



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.)


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.


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

rooster 2

The Year in Photos: Green Island Farm, 2014


Barney 4

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





farm dog



Paulie’s last stand.




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


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


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

DSC_3977 DSC_3972 DSC_4126



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


DSC_5912 DSC_5637 land bank path DSC_5576

photo-298 DSC_0769


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


photo-296photo-301 photo-300 blues under tulle DSC_7339


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


DSC_6069 DSC_7006 DSC_6634 32 ribbons 1


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


photo-303 photo-302 photo-114 photo-304


Serious harvest time.




DSC_6744 DSC_6849 DSC_7593 DSC_2497 DSC_3033 DSC_3313

October is the best.



DSC_2469 photo-194




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