Category Archives: Animals

Strange but True — Chickens Chasing Fireflies and Pumpkins in the Piggery

DSC_6695Funny, strange, unexpected things seem to be happening a lot on the farm these days. Never a dull moment, as my father likes to say.

We found a birds’ nest in a tomato plant yesterday. (Four beautiful eggs; Mommy is a fox sparrow.) Farmer found (another) nest of baby bunnies (six of them) in between two rows of onions last week. Then yesterday, he unearthed a pack of snails under a cosmo plant. That’s in addition to the robin’s nest he found a month ago with newly hatched baby birds in it.


There is a frog living in the pea patch.

At night, two owls talk to each other at opposite ends of the farm. The sound is loud and disconcerting and space-alienish, especially with a full moon on a misty night (like the one we had tonight, above).

There is a group of hens who won’t go into their coops at night, because—get this—they’re having too much fun chasing fire flies. Roy did an imitation of them the other night after trying to corral them, and I was in stitches. Apparently the hens get really confused and practically fall over each other dancing around after the flickering lights.

The ducks—and the Aracaunas—are taking turns sitting on a nest of duck eggs. (We have one male duck, so ducklings are, theoretically, a possibility. A couple of the Aracaunas like to brood on their blue eggs constantly, but little do they know, with no rooster, there will never be any baby chicks.)


All over the farm, plants are growing where they weren’t planted. We have two  really healthy pumpkin vines in the old piggery. Poppies and tomatoes in practically every garden bed. (We moved a volunteer tomato into Libby’s garden, and it has the first ripening Sweet 100). An entire row of sunflowers and calendula we didn’t plant. There is dill in the chard bed. And cilantro absolutely everywhere.


There are even blueberry bushes in a chicken pen. That’s right, our new group of 125 pullets (18-week-old chickens) are the lucky owners of a huge wooded parcel of land (fenced off by Roy) that includes wild blueberries and black raspberries that we can’t even get at through the thick growth (and ticks).



And weeds? We have more weeds this year then we’ve had total in all previous years. I am completely confounded by this.

And that’s just the critters and the plants. People at the farm do funny things, too. A nice couple stopped by the other day just to give Farmer a present. They were leaving the Island after three weeks and apparently (unbeknownst to me) had bonded with Farmer. Farmer, in fact, is a Rock Star. He has all kinds of fans who ask for him to come outside if he’s not around. Who knew?


Because of the crap-shoot nature of farming, the surprises are often not pleasant. But it seems, often as not, the unexpected is lovely, even joyous. Bionic summer squash! A towering volunteer sunflower! Peas, peas and more peas. A gift of freshly baked bread from a farm stand customer…chocolates from another…dog bones for Farmer.



A customer told me the other morning, “It makes me so happy to come here.” That’s the kind of unexpected surprise that makes my day.



The Lion and The Lamb


You can just forget about those beautiful little bok choy seedlings I showed you in last week’s blog. They are, well, dead. As are four of our original hens (the “Ladies”) including Martha, Opti, Sugar, and Oreo—whisked away by a mysterious predator. You know that I usually take the high road in this blog, so, like Forrest Gump, that’s all I have to say about that.

Except for this one other thing: If October is my favorite month, March (especially this one) is my least favorite.

But there is an antidote to this frustration. And I am freely availing myself of it. Quite simply, it’s baby lambs.


The lambs were all I could think about when I was flying back from Chicago on Monday. I love Chicago—the architecture, the people, the music, the food—and I loved getting to see a lot of my Fine Cooking magazine pals and other old friends at the annual International Association of Culinary Professionals Conference. Heck I even got to listen to the most famous chef in the world, Ferran Adria, and to eat fabulously awesome food at the Girl and the Goat. I navigated the subway to the airport and back without getting lost, managed to pack as light as I ever have—one carry-on bag—and didn’t have too much trouble slipping back into the meet-and-greet mode.


But it was noisy and over-stimulating and crowded (especially with St. Patrick’s Day revelers tumbling tipsily in and out of the hotel lobby and elevators) and, these days, I’m really not into drama and buzz anymore. In fact, that’s why I originally came to Martha’s Vineyard six years ago (in February, and it just happened to be a lovely sunny winter that year!)—to quiet down my over-stimulated brain.

DSC_3709Wouldn’t you know it, I hadn’t been here a month when I encountered this phenomenon of baby lambs. Not only are they ridiculously cute and fascinating to watch, but they show up all over the Island right about the time little green shoots of chives and grass are popping up. (You know rhubarb and asparagus won’t be far behind.) By the time the daffodils are in bloom, most of the Island lambs have been born. And if you’ve never seen a grassy field of daffodils and frisky lambs, well, you can only imagine how good that is for the soul.



This year (this weekend) Roy and Libby did the first lamb visit without me. We’re lucky to have newborns less than half a mile up the road at Whiting’s Farm. Their mommies are handsome Cheviot sheep, so they’re quite a site all together, munching and snuggling on fresh hay, with the beautiful sheep barn behind them. Roy and Libby gave me the report over the phone on Saturday, and as soon as I could this week, I spun my tires through the mud to get up there and gaze and photograph.


Soon our friend Liz Packer will have baby brown and black lambs (extra cute), so we have those to look forward to. Since I turn around and go away again in two weeks, I guess I’ll think about Liz’s lambs as a treat waiting for me when I get back. It will be April by then, so good riddance to March. It certainly lived up to its reputation, coming in like a lion. Let’s hear it for going out like a lamb!


And Now, For the Not-So-Cute Barnyard Animal


Actually, I wanted to title this blog post, “Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.” But you know, I didn’t really want to scare any one.

A few days ago, I posted this warm-and-fuzzy blog about our new kitten Barney and other cute baby animals that we’ve encountered on the farm. (Barney is doing great, by the way. He has discovered curtains, my keyboard, the laundry basket, Libby’s stuffed animals, and even his first mouse. He especially likes to sit in Roy’s lap while he’s reading the newspaper, helping him to turn the pages with frequent pawing.)

But we have this other creature on the farm of whom I am not so fond. In fact, most days, I do battle with him, and currently I have a scrape on my leg that he managed to give me through my blue jeans. It’s Paulie, the Silver-Laced Polish Crested rooster. I’ve mentioned (and pictured) him before, but I bring him up again now, because he has found a new mission in life: He protects the ducks.

And attacks me when I go in the duck pen. Roy, not so much.


Paulie was a lonely rooster. He never got along with the other baby chicks when he arrived as our speciality “surprise” chick with the batch of Aracaunas last spring. Roy didn’t want to get rid of him, though he also didn’t want him in with our large groups of laying hens, so Roy built Paulie his own little coop and pen. Paulie regularly got out of his pen and free-ranged around, trying to cozy up to our original six Ladies, who are very independent and wanted nothing to do with him.

But when we got the ducks in early January, we set them up in a pen near Paulie’s, and Paulie immediately hopped over and joined them. Little by little, he’s made himself the Boss of the Ducks. He is so happy to finally have something to protect that he is taking his job very seriously.

Every day he seems to get a little bolder, and lately he’s taken to charging at me like a bull running through the streets of Pamplona.


The only good news about this is that now I am prepared (or at least forewarned). The other day, when I went into the pen to grab the water bucket, I didn’t realize that Paulie was stalking me until he latched on to my leg and started hammering away at me.

When I told Roy this later, he said, “Why didn’t you just swing the bucket at him?”

Oh, right. You know it’s funny what boys automatically think of doing that doesn’t necessarily occur to a girl. Although, I think that probably would have just made Paulie angrier. Paulie doesn’t attack Roy, because Roy has been handling him on a regular basis since he was a chick.

Thinking about this, I went back this morning to read a piece I remembered really liking in Edible Vineyard magazine by Kate Tvelia Athearn, who lives not too many miles down the road from us on another small farm, and writes lovely pieces about small farm life. Her story about Chickenzilla made me feel like I could keep working to improve my relationship with Paulie.

We’ll see.

DSC_2320I could just let Roy feed the ducks, which he does often anyway. But he’s got the 500 hens to deal with, and my route between the six Ladies and the 20 Aracaunas takes me right past the duck pen, so it makes sense. Later this spring, we’ll probably let the ducks free-range a bit, so that might change the dynamics.

But it would be okay with me if Paulie disappeared. I know, that’s terrible, isn’t it? Roy wants to show him in the Fair this year. Fine. Maybe he will get kidnapped. Or, since he can’t see very well due to the mop on top of his head, maybe he could fall off the back of the truck on the way home from the Fair, and he wouldn’t be able to find his way home. I wouldn’t do that though, either, because then my friend Joannie Jenkinson, the town animal control officer, would get one of those calls to come rescue a rooster. And, unfortunately, she already gets too many of those.

So I guess I’m going to have to learn to put up with Paulie. Or not.






Too Cute: A Little Girl + Baby Farm Animals

DSC_2073DSC_2052Libby and I were watching a show on Animal Planet this weekend called Too Cute. It’s a good name for a program about puppies and kittens and other baby critters that happen to wander into people’s lives. Because honestly, who doesn’t find baby animals cute?

Around here, I’m embarrassed to say, we’re rather obsessed with baby critters. In fact, we weren’t just watching them on TV this weekend. We had one (have one) right here in our living room.

We have a new kitten.

He is 9 weeks old.

He is black and white and cute all over.

DSC_2119His name is Barney, because he’s been living in the barn. That is, after he got separated from his mom, a feral cat, and Roy began to feed him and talk to him. Eventually, Roy scooped him up and put him in a crate. It was just a matter of time before crate and kitten moved indoors.

After his first night in the house late last week, Barney came with us for a visit to our fabulous vet, Animal Health Care. There we learned that Barney was in fact Barney, not Barn-ie or Barnadette. He was a he. And healthy. And apparently, on the far side of too cute. Everyone at the vet held him, passed him around, snuggled him, hoarded him.

“Wait, that’s our kitten!” I said.

“Sorry, we’re kidnapping him,” they said.

IMG_1243DSC_2068Finally, we did make it out of there with Barney, and we spent the rest of the weekend watching Farmer and Barney become friends. Farmer was beside himself with excitement. He always wanted a playmate.

As for Libby, well, nothing’s better than a baby animal.

Who knew this crazy farm life would offer up so many great opportunities for a girl who loves animals to interact with such an interesting menagerie of critters, from snakes and turtles and butterflies to calves and lambs and kids and fawns? You can’t predict this stuff or make it up. It just happens.

Proof is in the pictures. Shameful, yes. Too cute? Definitely. But it’s cold and dreary today; we’ll take a little warm-up, however we get it.


DSC_7640 DSC_6593_1 DSC_6079_1 DSC_0440 IMG_3923_1 IMG_3918_1



DSC_0259  bottle fed05 The Piglets_1IMG_9438_1_1IMG_1966_1

A Black and White Gallery of Winter Farm Photos

DSC_1525DSC_1645My neck aches from sitting in front of the computer too much. It’s all book promotion, all the time, right now, as we lead up to the publication date. So between emails and phone calls and this and that, I don’t get up and walk around enough.

DSC_1583In the afternoon, I try to do my laps around the corn field. And I did (reluctantly) help Roy clean one of the big chicken coops yesterday.


Of course, I have to walk Farmer now and then. And I feed and water the hens in the small coops first thing in the morning.


And, like a new mother checking on a sleeping baby, I always visit the hoop house, lift up the covers, and make sure the lettuce is still alive.




But about mid-morning, I need a blast of mind-clearing fresh air.


DSC_1572I use the camera as my excuse to go outside. Not a very good excuse though, since lately the light has been dingy and the colors rather cranky and evasive.


What still interests me, though, is texture and pattern.


A grey day on a farm makes you look differently at the odd mish-mash of shapes and materials that lie still in the cold, waiting for the warm day they’ll be useful again (or not).


So after I took my photos this morning, I found looking at them in black and white was much more interesting than in color. (Even the birds looked cool.) So I’m posting a gallery, just for fun. I can think of any excuse to avoid work!


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.



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


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.

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.