Tag Archives: Farm life

Beauty and The Beast

The day before we go to pick up Libby, we tell Farmer, “Guess who’s coming tomorrow?” First his ears perk up, and then, when we say, “We’re going to get LIBBY!” he runs around the living room and jumps up on the sofa to look out the window.  “Where is she? Where is she? I can’t wait! I can’t wait!”

By the time Libby leaves, Farmer is so exhausted that he climbs up on our bed and doesn’t move for two days.

He loves that girl like nobody’s business. And she loves him. A little girl and a dog, made for each other.

This is the kind of weekend when farm chores can be overwhelming, and Farm Dog and Farm Girl are both co-opted into helping. Roy is teaching Farmer to herd chickens. Plus, Farmer has to keep an eye out for customers coming down the driveway and duly alert us when he sees them. Libby, admittedly, is a good deal more helpful than Farmer. Together, we’ve been moving seedlings back and forth from the house to the greenhouse, planting more flower and vegetable seeds, picking lettuce, washing lettuce, packing eggs, putting the covers back on the garden beds that blew off in the wind the other night, and weeding  her garden plot.

Since these two hard workers deserve a break, Roy has taken them for a romp down at Quansoo beach.  Actually, they just got back, blowing in the back door, giggling and jingling. Libby is covered in sand and has a big grin on her face. She fell in the water apparently. Fortunately, Farmer didn’t have to rescue her. All is well. They had fun.

They will both sleep well tonight.




Gone Greenhousin’ — See You Later!

You know those kitschy signs you see hanging on back doors that say “Gone Fishin’’” or “Gone to the Beach?” Well, you’ll have to excuse my silliness this morning, but I am heading down to the hoop house and hanging a virtual sign right here that says “Gone Greenhousin.'” Because I’ve been sitting at my desk all week, aching to get down there to plant and transplant and pot-up and putter. So off I go. If you are looking for me, this is where I will be. In a place that feels like summer–a place that is actually warm!

Though you could say I jumped the gun a little bit, it’s nice to have heat loving plants like cosmos (top photo), nasturtiums, and basil hanging around. I cover them with plastic at night when the temperature in the hoop house goes down to just below 40°F. On a sunny day, it quickly gets up to 80°F, though we bring it down to 70°F by popping in the screens in both doors.

Swiss Chard seedlings, Round Two, are coming, and lots more lettuce, like my favorite Flashy Green Buttercrunch. I’ve already transplanted 400  lettuce seedlings into the garden outside. They’re covered with row fabric.

Today I’m going to fill a flat with more baby bok choy seed, and maybe transplant some dill and parsley seedlings. I’ll dip the pots in a weak bleach solution first and rinse them off.


Cherry Belle and Easter Egg radishes (right), sandwiched between arugula sprouts, will be harvestable in only a couple weeks and I’m still picking from the first planting of this beautiful Red Pirat lettuce.

And if I really want to daydream, I can look out the newly installed rear (eastern) door onto the “back forty” (actually the “back four”) where visions of strawberries are dancing in our heads.







Jumbo Eggs & Chicken Collectibles; Plus A Cabbage Recipe & A Candle for Sixburnersue

Merrily skipping outside with my camera this morning, I had visions of writing about hope and rebirth (jumping right past St. Patrick’s Day to Easter), so I started snapping photos of chives and daffodils poking through the ground.

Then down to the hoop house I went (again) figuring I hadn’t yet inundated you with enough baby seedling pix.


Oh, and the first true leaves on the tomato seedlings under the lights—you’d have to see those.

But very quickly I got distracted. I went to check the nest boxes and found a lovely egg in a sunny bed of straw.

And then I remembered that every night while we’re washing and packing the eggs, I marvel at how striking they look in their almond and apricot and melony hues, so tidily arranged in their cartons. I wanted to show you our cool product.


And then I remembered that I keep meaning to photograph the jumbo and miniature eggs we get. The jumbo eggs, mostly double-yolkers, are so huge (sometimes more than 3 1/2 ounces) that it makes you wince thinking about those 4-pound hens laying them. We get three or four jumbos every day. The minis are more of an aberration. (The egg in the middle, below, is normal sized.)

Off I went to photograph eggs, and in the process, I added a chicken to one of the photos (see top of blog). We have a lot of chickens. Not just live chickens…

…But wooden chickens, china chickens, iron chickens, chickens on dishtowels and pot holders, chickens on plates and mugs. We are guilty of collecting them, and friends and family give us more. (Roy already had the one below when I met him. He and Libby bought the one above for me a couple years back.)


My friend Eliza gave us these great hen and rooster salt and pepper shakers.


My friend  Heidi dropped by yesterday with a cool hen tote bag and some produce bags from her sister’s company, Ecobags.


My mom recently passed along this lovely Nicolas Mosse plate and the great Barred Rock look-a-like (at top).


Our friend Mary gave us this wonderful Bridgewater chicken mug.


Roy’s mom found us an old egg carton stamp in an antique store…


…and Roy picked up this old egg scale at a tag scale.


One chicken-y shelf in our mudroom includes Roy’s egg cup from childhood and a little wooden toy rooster from Portugal I had as a child.

In the end I decided to share our chicken collectibles with you in the blog today. But then I figured I shouldn’t ignore St. Patrick’s Day altogether, so I found the link to this fabulous cabbage and potato gratin I created and posted two years ago. Reading that post, I realized (yikes) that St. Patrick’s Day is Sixburnersue.com’s official anniversary. Apparently you folks have been putting up with me and my rambling blogs for three years now—wow!

I have to thank you for that. And for helping me get through a nasty winter. Whether it’s shamrocks or garlic chives, fresh eggs or baby lambs, there’s plenty about spring to jump start our spirits.


Chicken Farming Runs in the Family

Roy and I spent about 20 hours in the car this weekend, driving down to Delaware and back for a very quick visit with my family. We made the trip to attend the funeral service for my Uncle Rodney, my Dad’s older brother (far right, above). I was glad that Roy had gotten a chance to meet Uncle Rodney a couple years back. Despite the fact that Rodney wasn’t well then, he still had that sparkle in his mischievous eyes and Roy immediately related to his fun-loving spirit—something that both my sister, Eleanor, and my father, Bob, spoke about at the service at St. Peter’s church in Lewes.

And I was glad Roy got a chance to meet more of my cousins and aunts and uncles (although I know he was having trouble keeping them all straight—there are a lot of them!). The summers we spent together at the beach, the family gatherings with lots of good food—always crabs and corn and tomatoes—are just memories now, as we don’t come together much outside of funerals these days.

With Rodney gone, my Dad and his brother Val are the last of their generation. In the photo above, taken at my parents’ wedding in 1954, that’s my grandmother Honey (the one who was such a great cook) flanked by her sons—Val and Bob on the left, and Doug, Bill and Rodney on the right. (Val and Doug were still teenagers then.) There had been six boys, but Honey’s firstborn, my Dad’s oldest brother Jack, died in the war, commended for his bravery on a Merchant Marine vessel bombed near the Sea of Murmansk. Their father, an officer in the Navy, had also died before this picture was taken.

It’s a big family and an interesting family. Uncle Rodney was named for his father, Donald Rodney Evans, Sr., who carried his mother’s family name. The Rodneys arrived in Delaware from England in the 1600s and spawned generations of politicians, including U.S. senators, congressmen, attorney generals, Governors of Delaware, and, most notably, Caesar Rodney, who signed the Declaration of Independence. Many of these family members are buried in the graveyard of St. Peter’s church, where we celebrated Uncle Rodney’s life.

It turns out our Rodney ancestors weren’t just politicians and seafarers, but farmers, too (wheat and barley, mostly). And many years later, my Uncle Rodney did some farming as well—chicken farming! Though Rodney would eventually work for the Delaware Pilots Association and was, in our eyes, most famous for his sailing prowess, he and a friend, as young men, had a broiler bird business. My Dad, who spent a few summer vacations working for his older brother “processing” chickens, couldn’t help bringing up a few chicken stories at the funeral. I noticed he didn’t tell the one about the hundreds of baby chicks they had one year in his grandmother’s attic though. That was during the Depression, shortly after the whole family (10 people under one roof) had moved back to Lewes. Everybody had gardens and chickens in those days.

So maybe Roy understands my farming urges a little better now. Certainly I know where his come from, and he can blame his family, too. I thought it all started with the summer he spent on his uncle’s sheep farm in Scotland when he was 16. But when I asked Roy today what his farmer uncle’s surname was and he said “Fowler,” I got curious. I checked and it turns out the origin of the name Fowler is the Old English word fugelere, which literally means bird-catcher (fowl-er!). Ahh, now, this explains why Roy is so enchanted with all birds, not just chickens.

And here Roy and I thought we had hatched this whole farming scheme all by ourselves. Who knows? Families are with us, inside and out, no matter how far or close.


Forty Days on Green Island Farm: A Year of Moments

January 22, 2012

February 9

February 23, 2012

March 17, 2012

March 18, 2012

March 19, 2012

April 6, 2012

April 11, 2012

April 29, 2012

May 4, 2012

May 10, 2012

May 28, 2012

June 14, 2012

June 16, 2012

June 17, 2012

June 20, 2012

June 28, 2012

June 29, 2012

June 30, 2012

July 18, 2012

August 2, 2012

August 5, 2012

August 21, 2012

August 24, 2012

August 30, 2012

August 31, 2012

September 6, 2012

September 7, 2012

September 9, 2012

October 6, 2012

October 22, 2012

October 23, 2012

October 24, 2012

October 28, 2012

November 10, 2012

November 22, 2012

November 23, 2012

November 24, 2012

December 13, 2012

December 16, 2012

Happy 2013 to everyone, from Susie, Roy, Libby, Farmer, Cocoa Bunny, Ellie the Love Bird, and 254 hens!

The One-Dollar, Five-Minute Christmas Wreath…and Other Small Takes on Joy

All I want to do this week is eat chocolate and go for walks. If I’m to be completely honest, I’d say both of these things have something to do with firing up the endorphins. Thankfully, I’ve always been a bit of a hedonist, so I know how to cheer myself up in small ways when the darkness seems a bit too ever-present.

The sun sets a little after 4 o’clock around here—at which point I feel compelled to curl up on the couch with a good book and not move for five hours. (Well, okay, maybe not five hours, but after we eat supper and put all the chickens to bed, we do seem to auger into the couch.) Fortunately, we did wander out and cut down a Christmas tree last Sunday, so the living room feels at least a little festive with sparkly lights and candles in the windows. We moved the old ship-board pine table out of the living room and into the mudroom, and Libby and I set up the nativity scene with hay from the barn and some dry fountain grass for palm trees. I arranged three Waterford crystal votive candle holders (left over from my old life!) around on the table to light the scene like twinkly stars. With the rest of the lights turned off in the mudroom, the effect is breathtaking and more than anything reminds me that Advent is about hope.

I have an old cloth Danish Advent calendar too, with little pockets for candy. Roy eats the candy every day, only he rarely takes it out of the right date pocket. That’s okay. Roy is in mourning. He lost a close family member last week, and we are just working our way through this with the grace of time. Processing sadness during the dimly lit days of early winter is hard, but somehow also allows for needed reflection.

Me, I am holding extra-tight to the gratitude I’ve got for my life. I’m feeling especially grateful for my sister, who’s helping my parents with a difficult move this Christmas. She is there for them in every way. I wish I could be more help, but I understand that right now my job is just to be supportive from a distance. And to be present for Roy.

My other job is to find (and make) small bits of joy wherever I can. Yesterday, I made shortbread cookies (very buttery!) and a cute little wreath. I bought a miniature vine wreath for $1 from the thrift shop. I came home, pulled my boots on, and hooked Farmer up to his leash. We trotted out to the far field where the bittersweet tangles up on the old cattle fence line. I snipped some bittersweet and on my way back stumbled across a Christmas miracle—a holly tree with red berries! Right there in the middle of a cluster of cedar trees. I’d never seen it before, but it was happy to lend me a few sprigs.

I took my greens back, finagled them into my wreath, and hung my little front porch decoration up on a rusty nail. Feeling festive, I took an extra piece of red ribbon and tied it around Sammy the Seagull’s neck. Having Sammy on your front step is only slightly more dignified than having a flamingo in your front yard, but what the heck. He makes me smile. Just like the little red hen who wandered by my window a minute ago (she takes herself out of the pen every day) and the sheep I can see grazing in our neighbor’s field. And the starkly beautiful frost on the garden greens this morning. And a spoonful of cocoa in my coffee. And a million other little sparkles of light in an otherwise dim December day.

Living Local Suits me Fine

The pros and cons of living in a small Island community year-round are hotly debated, but I am forever in one camp. There is almost nothing I dislike about being on Martha’s Vineyard in the fall and winter. The hiking trails and beaches are wide open and that killer natural beauty I’m always writing about is just one big backyard to play in (if you, ahem, have the time!).

Yes, but what do you DO all winter, people ask? (Other than the obvious things, like work!) We see our friends, for one thing. We gather together after a summer when everyone is too busy to give more than a passing wave at the grocery store, and we catch up, and, well, trade notes. When your friends are farmers, fishermen, cooks, gardeners, landscapers, artists, craftsmen, yoga teachers, carpenters, and small business owners (usually two or more of those things, since everyone does more than one thing to cobble together a living out here), you have funny conversations about what everyone is doing to make a go of it.

I was reminded of this yesterday when we hopped across the street to the Ag Society (the Fair grounds) for the third annual Living Local Harvest Festival, a very cool free event that promotes sustainable living. Our conversations with friends went something like this: “How many turkeys are you raising this year?” “Where do you get your baby chicks?” “How are your hens laying?” “How many of those herbal soaps did you sell this summer?” “How’s the marketing going for your new sea salt?” “Can you donate extra garden veggies to the school?” “Are you scalloping this winter?” “Have you tried that compost tea?” “Did you do the seaweed tasting?” “Are you selling your wool this year?” “How’s that book going?”

The generous exchange of information is part of what makes living in a small community so wonderful. And watching friends get creative with their businesses is inspiring. And I think, too, there’s a little bit of reassurance in knowing that no one has it all completely figured out, but that everyone is going to keep trying, no matter what. And in the mean time, we’re going to eat well, let the kids have a great time, take care of the animals, and enjoy being outside.