Category Archives: gardening

#622: Garden Tour

For those of you who don’t live on Nantucket
but wanted to tour our garden,
here you go:

Last March it looked like this.
A few leeks hanging on.
Mostly cleaned out by the chickens.
August. Come on in.
This Sweet100 tomato vine is at the garden’s entry.
In theory, tiny tomatoes are ready-to-eat.
In reality, if I don’t get this plant tied up soon,
the ants are going to get all the tomatoes.

The source of our fertile soil, the henhouse.
The 6-week old chickens are allowed in the popcorn garden.
They eat all the weeds and leave the corn alone.
Milkcrates cover the sweet potatoes.
No way they’ll leave those alone.
We do let them have whatever escapes the crate.

Interlaken grapes. 
Safe from the chicks but not the crows.
 We might have to cover with deer netting
to keep them out.
This has been our best grape year yet,
due to some expert help in the spring.

Little Finger eggplant, ready to pick.
Stir-fry here we come.

Butternut squash, a favorite.
Mostly because vine-borers leave them alone.
Cutting out vine-borer grubs is my least favorite garden chore.

Kale. And more kale.
No such thing as too much kale.

Pumpkins on the chicken yard fence.
This one will have to go in a net bag to hold its weight.

Lots of cukes this year.
Also lots of cucumber beetles.
Every morning, after breakfast, it’s bug squashing time.

Lavender along the path releases its scent.

Zinnias, red, orange, then yellow.
The grayest rainy day can’t overpower zinnias.

Echinacea attracts bumblebees.
If the plants survive this winter,
we’ll harvest buds next year to make an immune-boosting tea.

Onion tops tipping, Ready to pull.
Potatoes, mostly Yukon gold, are in the process of being dug.
It’s a bit like a treasure hunt.

Garlic already harvested, fourth of July.

The garden in full production:
food, flowers,
and two chairs for sitting and chatting.
The perfect spot to listen for the Lord’s voice.

#528: Chicken Spring

It’s a grey day today but still Spring with a capital S.
Here’s some joy of spring, from above:
Yellow tulip, safe from the deer
due to extensive 6′ fencing.
First egg, from one of the Americanas.
The first egg of any hen is cause for celebration.

Chicken run–they’ve been scratching in the grape arbor
all winter but now I need to plant popcorn there.

So we built them a run to their new yard.

It took a while for them to figure it out.
Our chickens are sweet, timid and not very bright.

Becky’s Bantam’s are a bit feistier.
And super cute.

They love the feeder she made them
 from a piece of bamboo.
I love hearing them peep all day, and night.
So much about Spring is delightful,
even on grey days.

#472: Year-round gardening

I am planting garlic in December.

I’ve only just finished harvesting this bed.
There was still enough kale for spring rolls and kale soup.

 Two heads of garlic, broken into cloves, 
planted 4″ apart, in rows.
Supervised by the cat.
Proper mulching requires eelgrass.
David, Becky and I take no more than 1/3 of what’s
high on the beach.
Have to leave the rest for the beach critters.
Older eelgrass has the salt already rinsed out by rain.

Still, plenty for our garden.
This looks like a lot but it will dry out and shrink,
so we’ll need to add another layer.
The garlic will be free from frost heaves over the winter
as the composting eel grass revitalizes the soil.
The best thing about eelgrass?
No weeds!
Can’t wait for the garlic to poke through in the spring.

#458: Home-grown Popcorn

30 days of thanks, day 12
Yes, today I am especially thankful for popcorn.
We planted in April and harvested in October:

When you garden organically,
the worms get the tips of your corn.
We pick them out and feed them to the chickens
as soon as we notice.

Popcorn is harvested when everything is dry.
Then, while you’re waiting for the internet to come back,
you can twist all the kernels off the cob.
Use that frustration!
I am so thankful for food for movie nights
all winter…

#432: Nantucket County Fair

Finally, the Fair!
Every fall, just after school starts, Nantucket
has a tiny county fair.
Here’s our livestock entries, 
only four hens this year (the others were molting)
including Bo Cho, the Best in Show hen.

Three little pigs (plus one)
were brought over for Sack-a-Pig.

The kids in the ring enjoyed chasing and catching,
but we felt sorry for the piglets.

On to flowers, nothing traumatic here.

Then to canned goods,
lots of entries this year,
is it possible Nantucket is losing her dependence
on the Stop and Shop?

First Prize, Pickles with Cauliflower.
Don’t know who made these, it’s anonymous judging.
As anonymous as one can get on an island.

The honey sellers let you try before you buy.

Fried clams, of course.

Ray Owen’s giant pumpkin.
Usually there are a dozen or so.
Where are the rest of them???
The giant pumpkin weigh in is quintessential fair fare.
We really missed this!

This year, there was a guy with a chain saw,
making sculptures.
When asked why he does this he said:
“I just got so bored one winter.”
I hear ya.

Carrot hugs.

The vegetable table.
David’s not a judge but he’s dressed for it.
Our sweet potato got an honorable mention.
A tiny fair by the sea,
where we reconnect with friends after
a frenzied summer.

#414: Threshing Grain

Usually we turn the winter rye
into the garden as a green fertilizer.
This year we let a patch grow to harvest.
Farmer Tobias

The harvest, one generous bushel.
As the ‘farmer’ didn’t line up the heads,
I cut them off to thresh them,
in my handy-dandy new invention:
The oscillating floor fan.

 Fill with rye heads.
Put guard back on and cover.
See? The grain falls out the bottom.
Only it doesn’t work.
The blade won’t spin with all that stuff in there.
Plan B:

Cut a hole in the screen with wire cutters.

 Feed the heads into the blades.

Head full of seed.

Four seconds later–no seed.

Little Red Hen,
I’ll help thresh the wheat.

#396: Nantucket Mint

Mint loves Nantucket.
It grows wild all over the place.
 As all mints are invasive, they have their own mini-garden.
Which, in a mere month, is already trying to escape.
We also planted spearmint near our 
outside faucets, to use the drips efficiently.
I harvested some and got:
A whole countertop full!
Five bunches were hung to dry,
out of the sun, for tea.
 Becky blended two cups in the Vitamix,
strained it out,
added half a cup of organic sugar and a spritz of lemon,
then half froze it.
Mint sorbet, mmmm.

#391: Spruce tip ‘balsamic’ vinegar

Also known as poor man’s balsamic.
No, balsamic vinegar isn’t made from balsam,
it’s made from grapes, then aged 12 years.
I don’t have time for that but spruce tips
make a summery substitute:
 As soon as the brown sheath falls off, pick the new tip.
 I get about two cups, eat some while you pick,
they’re yummy.
Not too many from one spot or your tree will grow lop-sided.
A few here, a few there.
This was one of our Christmas trees, years ago.
It’s still blessing us.
 See? The tree is taller than our house.
Chop the tips roughly.
Lean in and smell.
 Add enough apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar to float the tips.
 Plus a half dozen peppercorns and a dollop of honey.
Rosemary is good if you plan to use it in a reduction.
Screw on a plastic lid and set next to the sink.
Shake daily for the next three weeks.
Do your happy dance while shaking.
God is so good!
Now strain and enjoy.
In salad dressing, sprinkled over veggies or
straight up as a pick me up.
Who needs yucky old coffee?

#322: Hubbard Squash

That’s what they called the squash vines
which grew out of the compost pile at Hummock Pond Farm.
Volunteers are such a fun part of gardening.
All the work we do to grow what we planted
and God says, ‘How about some of these?’
The vines turned out to be Blue Hubbard squash.
This variety came north on a sailing ship to Marblehead
in the late 1700’s.
They grow bigger than your head!
Seeds are baked and lightly salted.
(saving a few to plant in the spring…)
The flesh makes yummy pies and soups and sidedishes.
I bake it then freeze the extra in 2 cup portions.
An unexpected gift for the winter.

#308: Frost Predicted

It’s supposed to get down to
20 degrees tonight. 
Time to enjoy the last fresh salad:
With nasturtium blossoms and greens from the garden:
And cranberries gleaned from the bogs:
Or not, depending on if that’s now considered thievery.
Islanders have traditional harvesting spots–for berries or
shellfish or whatever else the land has to offer, which
have become private property over the years.
Most landowners don’t mind but some can get
downright obstreperous about it.