Yesterday, I spent the morning on the family farm pruning apple trees.

It was a nice break from a very busy week of landscape consulting and I was looking forward to spending time with my mother, who resides on Double S Farms with my youngest sister and her family.

 The sun was rising up in the sky and the day promised warm temperatures in the upper 70’s with our unseasonably warm winter.

Now at this point, you may be noticing that the trees were already in flower and that we were getting to pruning them a bit late in the season.  Ideally fruit trees are pruned just before the buds begin to open.

But, even though we were pruning them late, it won’t make a huge difference and will improve the size and quality of our apple crop.

 You’ll notice that the apple trees are located behind a wire fence.  Well, there is a good reason for that…

 And their names are Sodapop and Johnny.

Soda is the daughter of our dog Missy, who passed away last year at the age of 13.

Johnny is a 3-legged doberman rescue dog who is so friendly and exuberant.

You see, the dogs love to eat the apples from the trees.  Especially Soda who does her best to reach them up high.  
You can read about Soda’s previous exploits here.

 The problem is that the seeds of apples contain small amounts of cyanide and if dogs consume too many, they can have problems.  So the fence is up, much to the dismay of Soda and Johnny.

Pruning trees is one of my favorite things to do and although as a certified arborist, I talk to my clients a lot about trees, I don’t prune their trees.  Instead I give them advice on how to prune them theirselves or refer them to a certified arborist company who does it for them.  So, my tree pruning is primarily focused on my own and my family’s.  

Armed with a pair of loppers, hand pruners and a pruning saw, I took a moment before beginning to smell the sweet fragrance of the apple blossoms.

In the midst of our pruning, my granddaughter, Lily, showed up.  She proved to be a good helper and moved the small branches into a pile.

We focused on cleaning out the interior branches, which are hard to get pick apples from.  In addition, we also pruned off some of the taller branches so that come apple-picking time, we could more easily reach them.  Once we finished, we had pruned away a quarter of the tree, which will allow it to focus its resources on growing the remaining flowers, which will turn into apples.
For info on how we have pruned fruit trees in the past, click here.

My mother took a few of the cut branches and brought them inside and put them in a vase where they will offer beauty and fragrance indoors for a few days.

Now it was time to turn our attention to the vegetable gardens.  My mother has two large, raised beds where she grows a variety of delicious vegetables.  

Lily wanted to feed the chickens some lettuce from the garden.

The resident chickens of Double S Farms, love lettuce.

Next, great-grandma needed Lily’s help to pick a cabbage from the garden.  It was huge!  I only wish that I liked cabbage.

I asked my mother how she uses it and she told me that she uses it in soups, but blends it ahead of time so no one knows that it is in there.

Lily wondered if the chickens would like cabbage and it turned out that they liked it better than the lettuce.

Before leaving the gardens, Lily had to pick a flower.  Like many little girls, she loves flowers and carries them around smelling their fragrance.

The white petunias belong to Finley, my nephew, who gets a small plot in the vegetable gardens to plant what he likes.

As we got ready to leave, I noticed a beautiful, little bouquet made up of petunias on the kitchen table.  Who knew that petunias could make such a sweet bouquet?

Visits to the family farm are always refreshing and it was great to enjoy a morning out in the sunshine gardening.

This gardening story is all about one particular rose bush which is located at our small family farm, affectionately called ‘Double S Farms‘. 

I first posted this story about an overgrown, nameless rose 2 years ago.

Since it is time in areas with warm winter climates, to prune back your roses, I thought you would enjoy this story as much as I do 🙂

This poor rose had not been fertilized, deadheaded or pruned for a few years.  Personally, I think it looks fantastic considering the lack of care it has received.  The residents of Double S Farms, (my mother, sister and her family), had only recently moved to the farm, so this rose had been neglected by the previous owners.

I decided to focus on this rose because I wanted to show how to prune a rose and I don’t have any roses that need pruning right now.  So, my mother and sister (residents of Double S Farms) graciously granted me permission to prune their rose bush.  Actually, they were more then happy to have me do it so they would not have to 😉

I had no idea what variety this rose was.  I was pretty sure that it was a shrub rose and it had a lot of old, unproductive growth that needed to be removed.   When finished, it would be rejuvenated and ready for the beginning of it’s new life with it’s new homeowners.

So I got started….

My tools – hand pruners, pruning saw and loppers.
Oh, I almost forgot – gloves!  I also recommend wearing a long-sleeved shirt as well to protect your arms from being scratched from the thorns. 

First, because there is so much thick growth, I just started to cut branches in order to make a ‘hole’ like this, which made it easier for me to reach inside with my pruners to remove the interior wood.  It is much easier for me to remove the larger branches at the beginning of the process instead of making multiple cuts of the smaller branches and working my way down.

Normally, I remove about 1/2 of the height of the rose bush.  But, in this case, I decided to remove quite a few of the large, old branches (canes) at the base of the rose as they no longer produced as many newer branches and roses as the newer canes do.  This neglected rose bush has a lot of old growth that had to be removed, so I would be pruning it back by 2/3.

First, I removed the old and dead canes.  Then I selected the green, healthy canes that I wanted to keep and pruned back to an outward facing bud and cut at a 45 degree angle.

Okay, you may be wondering why I am included this gross picture of a borer cut in half.  Well, borers burrow into the center of the rose canes, causing damage as you can see in the cane to the right.

My son thought it was so cool….he likes anything that is gross.

*To help prevent borers in the future, simply apply some wood glue to the top of the newly pruned canes, which helps seal them out.

Surprise!  As I continued pruning, I discovered that there were actually two rose bushes which had grown together.

Every January, it just kills me to prune back roses and watching all the beautiful blooms fall to the ground.  But, beauty hurts and pruning will ensure that there will be more beautiful blooms for these rose bushes in the spring.

Here is an example of a cane that has been pruned incorrectly long ago, (I told you this rose bush had been neglected and mistreated).  You can see where it turned brown and died.  When pruning the canes, be sure to prune back to a bud or back to the base of the larger cane.

I really did the pruning myself and am not just taking credit for someone else’s work 😉

I was almost done.  I continued cutting away all the remaining small canes and dead growth with my hand pruners.  I used my loppers for the large canes that need to be removed.

I enjoy pruning very much, but I hate this part….

But, I was lucky.  I was able to bribe my son and daughter to help me clean up.

Now all I had left to do was to remove all leaves remaining on the roses and clean up any leaves lying around the area surrounding the roses.  I do this because the leaves can harbor fungal diseases that will reinfect the new rose leaves.

Guess what?  I found the old tag from when the rose bushes were planted.  It is a ‘Glamis Castle’, which is a David Austin English Rose.  I put the tag back on one of the rose bushes.

I finally finished.  The roses were no longer “Nameless, Overgrown or Neglected”.  Pastor Farmer (my mother) came outside to see what I had done to her roses.  She was a bit dismayed to see so little left of her rose bushes.  But I assured her that they would be happy and healthy and covered with blooms in spring.

Fast forward a few months, and these formerly neglected rose bushes were thriving again!

And the flowers were so beautiful and fragrant…

It never ceases to amaze me how pruning, done the right way, can bring new life to an old, neglected rose bush.

Do you have a birdhouse in your garden?  Is it decorative or do have there ever been birds taking up residence inside?

This is a story about the birdhouses on the family farm, including one that has an unusual function.

Double S Farms is five minutes down the road from our house and is where my youngest sister and her family live along with my mother.

I am over at the farm at least once a week – usually for the weekly dinner that my mother cooks for our entire clan.  It is a special time when I get to spend time with my siblings, their spouses and kids.  We get to catch up with each other’s lives and get to enjoy delicious food, cooked by my mother, Pastor Farmer. 
(My mother is a retired pastor who loves growing food on their small farm).

The backyard is dotted with numerous trees including apple, kumquat, almond, pecan, peach, apricto, plum, orange, lemon and grapefruit.  But, I always seem to find myself strolling by my mother’s raised vegetable beds to see what she is growing.

This past week, she was excited to show me her newest birdhouse.

Now, my mother has is a collector and has passed that gene along to her oldest daughter (me).  One of her collections consists of birdhouses.  Over the years, she has pared this collection of aviary homes down.  But there is still a small collection of birdhouses in her garden…

I love this birdhouse, which is purely decorative.  But, the chickens seem to find it a nice perch back when it stood in the chicken yard…

Now it sits with in the fenced-in vegetable garden area.

The gardens are now fenced in because the netting was not enough to keep the chickens out – including ‘Francie’ my sister’s naked-neck chicken (yes, her neck is supposed to be featherless).

If you look closely behind the first birdhouse, you will see one that looks like the ‘Tin Man’s head’ from the Wizard of Oz. 

Like the other birdhouse, it is also decorative.  I remember being with her when she bought it at a roadside nursery just outside of Carmel, Indiana during our Midwest road trip.

There are many nesting sites around Double S Farms and the birdhouse below, is one of them.

This birdhouse hangs from the Mesquite tree.  It is made from a gourd that I grew, dried and then made into a birdhouse for her.  I love this gourd birdhouse and have one in my own garden.

Well, now to the unusual birdhouse…

It doesn’t look all that unusual at first glance.

But, what this birdhouse is hiding is not a nest, but my mother’s hand tools that she uses for her vegetable garden.

They are easily accessible and are always on hand when she needs to harvest vegetables, remove weeds, etc.

She came up with this idea herself and just loves it.  The birdhouse was bought at our local Ace Hardware store and the top lifts up, making it easy to access her tools.

What types of birdhouses do you have in your garden?  

Are they decorative or have you had birds set up house in any of them?

This past Memorial Day, my mother had the entire family (minus my daughter, Rachele, who is in the Navy) over for brunch to celebrate the beginning of summer.

As we drove up to the farm, we were greeted by the following sight…

My nephews along with my son, Kai, were selling lemonade made from the lemons from the backyard tree.

They had quite a few people buying a refreshing cup of lemonade, including my son-in-law, Jeff.

Kai and the boys were kept busy filling cups with lemonade.  In addition, they also sold homemade jam made from the peach trees.

My daughter, Brittney and Lily (my granddaughter) came over too and Lily got her first taste of lemonade.

As we entered the house, we were greeted by delicious smells of eggs, sausage, fruit and cinnamon rolls.

I couldn’t wait to finish eating so that I could go outside with my mother to see what was growing in her vegetable garden.

She was most proud of her Russian gourds.

Okay, they really aren’t Russian, but my sister-in-law brought the seeds in Russia for my mother.  You can buy the same gourd seed in the US.  

But, we like calling them Russian gourds because it sounds more fun and exotic.

Her pattypan squash is also growing well, above.  This summer squash is a lot like zucchini.  My mom plans on cutting it into small pieces and adding to salads, much like you would cucumbers.

Her sunflowers provided much appreciated shade for the garden as well as seeds for the birds.  My brother considered trying some of the seeds.

If you want to keep the birds from eating the seeds, you can place a paper grocery bag on top of the flowers.

Lots of zucchini were beginning to form.  If you are relatively new to vegetable gardening, then zucchini is a great vegetable to get started with in the summer.  They are easy to grow and there is something so satisfying when you bring a large one inside.

My 2-year old twin nephews took some time to play in the toy front end loader…

Then it was time to celebrate Kai’s birthday.  He is now 11 years old.

His favorite gift was a ‘Navy’ hat from his big sister, which we bought at the Naval base after we saw our daughter graduate.

His second-favorite gift was a huge squirt gun from his grandma.

Late May is also the time that we pick peaches from the trees.

So my mother and I headed out to pick some peaches for me to take home so that I could make peach jam.

I love making peach jam and enjoying it throughout the year.

The peaches, above, were picked from my own peach tree.  We planted it in January and I was quite surprised when it produced so many peaches.  But, I certainly wasn’t complaining 😉

Of course, I didn’t have enough peaches from my own tree, so I used those that I picked from my mother’s trees to supplement my own.

When you pick peaches, use them the same day if possible because they are so soft and bruise so easily.  I waited only one day and already had some soft spots on my peaches.

My mother taught me how to make peach jam a few summers ago.  I blogged about it back then in “A Harvest Of Peaches and Jam”


I wanted to thank those of you who left such kind comments regarding my last post about my daughter Rachele’s graduation from Navy basic training.

Spring is my favorite time in the garden.  Is it yours?

Plants are in full bloom and my vegetable garden is filled with both cool-season and a few warm-season crops.

Today, I thought that I would take you to the ‘farm’ to see how my mother’s vegetable garden is growing.

The ‘farm’ is nicknamed “Double S Farms” by the family.  It is just down the road from our house and is a favorite place for all the family to gather.

My mother has two raised vegetable beds and she loves tending her vegetables.

One bed is dedicated to cool-season crops that will soon give way to warm-season vegetables.

She still has lettuce growing, which she uses to make delicious salads when we all gather together for dinner on Tuesday nights.

The broccoli has gone to flower, but it looks so pretty, that she keeps it in the garden.

Do you see the orange flower in the background of the photo, above?  That is a marigold, which is a great ‘companion’ plant for the vegetable garden because it helps to repel bad bugs who might eat her vegetables.

While we spend time looking at the vegetable gardens, the neighbor’s tortoise stops briefly, to see what we are doing from the other side of the fence.

The second vegetable garden was built by the family as a surprise for my mother’s birthday over a year ago.

She has started her warm-season crops in it, including tomatoes, summer squash and gourds.

Sugar snap peas (one of my favorite vegetables) hang from vines growing on a small trellis.

The newest vegetable bed is also home to…

A toad, which is helpful with insect control.

He recently moved from his previous home next to the chicken coop.  My nephew, who is a Star Wars fan, gave him a special name.

While the toad keeps bugs in control around the vegetable gardens – Francie, the resident ‘naked-neck’ chicken, patrols for bugs outside of the garden.

As you can see, spring has sprung at the family farm.  

Soon, summer will be here which heralds another favorite activity…

Picking peaches and making jam!

How about you?
What is growing in your garden this spring?

Will you grow something different this year?

Some of you may remember my “Goodbye to a Special Friend” post back in May, when we all said “goodbye” to my father’s dog, Addy.

She had lived a long life and was happy living on Double S Farms, where my mom, sister and her family live.

Now, there is a new resident living at Double S Farms….

 Meet ‘Johnny’.   
You might notice that he is missing a leg, but as you can see…that doesn’t slow him down 🙂

My sister has written a wonderful blog post about her new friend that you can read here:

Last week, our family said “goodbye” to a longtime member of our family.

Some of you may remember ‘Addy’ from my posts about the residents of Double S Farms.  

She was originally my dad’s dog.  He just loved her.  Addy came from the local animal shelter in California.  I remember my dad sending me a letter telling me all about her.  He couldn’t wait for us to meet her.

Addy moved out to Arizona when my parents relocated and we enjoyed seeing her much more often.  Back in California, she was obsessed with cats.  She would stalk them.  Once the cat passed away, Addy would stalk the squirrels that would dare to venture into her backyard.

When my dad died suddenly 5 years ago, Addy became my mother’s faithful companion.  When my mom moved to Double S Farms with my youngest sister and her family – Addy happily took up residence as well.  She loved the large area for exploring.  Her obsession moved from squirrels to gophers, which she did her best to try to catch.

We all had noticed Addy slowing down lately and having difficulty walking.  We knew she did not have long left to live.  Last week, Addy passed away.

My 5-year old nephew, Finley, said that Addy is now in heaven playing with my dad and chasing cats, squirrels, etc.  I like that vision and I will hold onto it.

Below, is a post I wrote about Addy last summer about her unlikely friendship with three chickens.

I hope you enjoy it:

“A Dog’s Best Friend Is a Chicken?”

Okay, let me be more specific – 3 chickens.

Lucy, Effie and Flo

mother’s dog, Addy, is a very sweet Australian cattle dog mix.  My
parents adopted her from the animal shelter back in 2001, when she was 3
years old.  My dad just loved Addy.

we adopted our son, Kai, from China we spent a few days at my parent’s
house, who were living in California at the time.  Addy was the first
dog that Kai had ever met.

My dad assured Kai that Addy was friendly and loved kids.

is a ‘herding’ dog by nature.  The first object of her herding instinct
was my parent’s black cat.  Addy was obsessed by her and would spend
all of her time keeping track of the cat.
the cat died (from old age), Addy transferred her attentions to the
squirrels in my parent’s backyard.  I don’t think she was ever
successful in actually catching one though.

my parents moved to Arizona and my dad’s death, my mother along with my
sister and her family moved to a small farm, which they call Double S Farms.  Addy was in heaven with a huge backyard and plenty of gophers to go after.
The other day as we were sitting on the back patio, I noticed 4 figures around the apple tree in the distance….

was Addy and my sister’s 3 pet chickens.  Now, I knew that Addy got
along with the chickens, but I didn’t know that the chickens just loved
being around her.

to my sister, the chickens just love to hang out with Addy, even when
she is sleeping outside.  They just settle in around her.

At the ripe old age of 14, I guess Addy finally got to lead a flock, so to speak 😉

Addy was my dad’s special dog and although my mother loves her and takes care of her, I still think of her as my dad’s dog.

So, as I see her slow down, it is rather sad, because she is a link to my dad, who has been gone for 4 years now.

she isn’t going anywhere soon…. except to run inside to escape the
coming thunderstorm, along with her feathered best friends.


Thank you for letting me share the story of ‘Addy’ with you.

Tomorrow, I will be leaving on the first leg of our road trip.  Since I plan on blogging from the road, I’d love it if you would like to follow along 🙂

During our weekly gathering at my mother’s house at Double S Farms, we enjoyed the cool evening outdoors and watched the kids playing.

My mother, my sister and my brother-in-law.

As we sat there talking, we noticed my little nephew, Oliver, trying to keep up with my niece, Sofie….

Oliver, Sofie and my son, Kai.

You see, Sofie has recently had surgery on her feet and is confined to a wheelchair for six weeks.

The kids think her wheelchair is very ‘cool’.

So Oliver decided to sit on his plastic dump truck and was turning the wheels of his ‘makeshift’ wheelchair to keep up with his cousin.

It was so sweet and Sofie didn’t even notice that she had a ‘follower’.


I hope your week is going well.  Yesterday, I spent time placing plants for the new Butterfly/Hummingbird garden that I had designed.

I can’t wait to show it to you in a few days…

I hope you all enjoyed a wonderful Easter day.

Our family gathered at Double S Farms, which is where my mother, sister and her family reside.

We had delicious lasagna (courtesy of Costco), herb corn, artisan bread, salad and of course, dessert.  I love to make dessert, so I brought over a Lemon Trifle (made with crushed lemon sandwich cookies, lemon pudding, cream cheese, sugar and whipped topping).  I also made Easter nests filled with M&M’s (the nests were made from rice krispy treats and formed into a cupcake liner).

I had a great time with my mom, sisters, brother, kids, nieces and nephews.  We also spent the day with my cousin and her family.

Here is part of our day in pictures:

The men in the family typically hide the Easter eggs.
My husband puts out some eggs that will be easy to find for the younger kids.
My sister, Jennifer, is in charge of the hunt and checks to see where the eggs are being hid.
I love my sister.  We are only 16 months apart in age and she just moved down the street from us!
The peach trees make a great hiding place, as my brother-in-law discovered.
A peek over the backyard fence shows my mother’s two vegetable gardens.
For some reason, the women joined in hiding the Easter eggs this year.  Maybe the guys were taking too long?  The kids were having a hard time being patient.
Some of the hiding places were pretty ingenious.
The plum tree also makes a great hiding place.
My other brother-in-law decided to make it hard for the older kids.
My sisters, Jennifer and Grace.  Grace is a great photographer and blogs at  
My cousin, Laurena, and her family came.  Laurena and I grew up together in California.  She lived only 1 hour away when we were kids.  Now, we only live about 40 minutes apart in AZ.
A rose bush also makes a great hiding place.  This is the rose that I pruned back heavily a few years ago and blogged about it in “A Neglected, Overgrown Rose”
My sisters and I
Now the kids finally get to come and start the Easter egg hunt.  My nephews, Finley and Oliver are among the first out the door.
My mother, my son-in-law, daughter and granddaughter.  Next year, she will be old enough to participate in the hunt.
Some of the eggs were really hidden high up.  But that didn’t stop my cousin’s son.
Sometimes when you run very fast to find eggs; you fall – as my son Kai discovered.

Lily wouldn’t look up for the picture because she was interested in her egg.
My nephew, Finley, found a lot of eggs.
Linnea and Camille are my cousin’s twin daughters.
One of the last eggs, was found high up in the plum tree.
My mother, my son-in-law and my granddaughter, Lily.
Isn’t she simply darling?
My twin nephews also were ready to enjoy the Easter egg hunt.  This is Danny – doesn’t he look ‘spiffy’ in his Easter vest?
Here is the other twin, Dean.  He preferred to sit and enjoy his eggs.
It is so fun to see the older cousins take care of their younger cousins.
Cousins, Danny and Oliver, checking out what is in their eggs.
I hope you enjoyed the photos of part of our Easter day.
I hope your week is off to a great start!

Living close to Double S Farms, my mother’s residence, means that we get to enjoy some of the bounty from her large lemon tree.

My nephew, Oliver, helping with the lemon harvest.
 Now, I could grow own lemon tree in my back garden, but I really don’t need to since my mother has more lemons then she knows what to do with.

Unfortunately, lemons don’t grow year round and I am stuck getting mine at the grocery store.
Have you seen how much a single lemon costs at the grocery store?
I can’t remember the exact amount, I just know that it is a lot.
So, whether you have a ready supply of lemons fresh off the tree, or even if you have to buy yours at the grocery store – here are some tips to make the most of each lemon:
Let’s say that you have a recipe that calls for the juice of half a lemon.  Well, after spending up to a $1 a lemon, the last thing you want to do is throw away the other half, so why don’t you save the juice?
Whenever I get lemons from Double S Farms, I juice them and pour the juice into ice cube trays.  Then I freeze the ice cubes and then remove the frozen cubes of lemon juice and store in a plastic freezer storage bag in my freezer.  
Then whenever I need a bit of lemon for cooking, all I have to do is grab a frozen cube of lemon.
In addition to saving lemon juice, did you know that you can also save and freeze lemon zest?
Now this step should be done before you cut and juice your lemons.
I actually forgot this step until it was too late, but I was still able to zest a somewhat squishy juiced lemon, although I wouldn’t recommend it.
Remove the outer yellow skin of your lemon using a microplane tool.  Take care not to remove the white of the peel, which is bitter.
Store your lemon zest in a plastic freezer bag and put in your freezer.  Whenever you need lemon zest, just grab a little.
Whether you want to make the most out of your expensive lemon purchase or if you want to preserve your yearly bounty of fresh lemons, try out these tips.