Okay, let me be more specific…..3 chickens!

Lucy, Effie and Flo

My 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.

When 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.

Addy 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.

After 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.

After 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….

It 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.

According 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.

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

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So, how about you?

Have you encountered any unusual friendships between animals?

I would love to hear about them!

Besides eating hot dogs and watching fireworks this past 4th of July, I also spent some time picking apples with my daughter.  We use them to make applesauce.

We grabbed some old Target(r) bags got to picking.

Believe it or not, the two apple trees at Double S Farms produce tons of apples and this was the last of many harvests this year.

I have already made a batch of applesauce and my mother has been making apple butter like crazy.

Some of you may be surprised to hear that apples grow in the desert.  Well, it is quite easy as long as you use a variety that needs low-chilling hours.

Chill hours refers to the cumulative number of hours each year when the temperatures dip below 45 degrees.  In warm areas, you want to use varieties that have a low-chill requirement.

The apple trees on Double S Farms are the ‘Anna’ variety.  They are crisp, sweet and delicious.

As we got into picking the last of the apples, my mother’s dog, Addy, was on the prowl for any apples that we dropped, since she loves them.

You know what?  Apple trees are really the perfect size….

My daughter, Ruthie, was small enough to get into the smaller, interior areas.

While I could reach most of the apples up high.

Of course, apples taste best freshly picked, when they are ripe.  If you plan to store them for a while, it’s best to pick them a week before they are fully ripe. 

After we finished picking, we had 4 large bags of apples.

Perfect for making applesauce!

You can read my post about how I made applesauce here if you like 🙂

Have any of you picked apples from the tree before?

Or, do you enjoy cooking with apples?

What do you make?

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For more information on what type of apples that do well wherever you live, check out this link.  Be sure to curse down a bit to see the listing of apple varieties state by state.  

Yes, you heard me right….a boat race on a farm.

For those of you wonderful people who have stuck around, reading this blog for a while, you have heard me talk about Double S Farms quite a few times.

For those of you who may be newer readers, Double S Farms is the residence of my mother, my sister and her family.  It is actually a mini-farm, or what some call a ‘ranchette’.  Besides two little boys and dogs, there is a vegetable garden, fruit trees (apple, lemon, grapefruit, kumquat, peach and plum) and chickens.

Every Tuesday night, my husband and I load up our family into the minivan and head over to Double S Farms for dinner.  I always look forward to Tuesdays because I don’t have to cook 😉

This past Tuesday, my brother-in-law took my son, Kai and my two nephews out to race boats.

Okay, you may be asking, where can you race boats on a farm?

In the canal, of course!

Double S Farms has an irrigation canal running along behind it.

The boys were so excited to race their boats.

It turns out that they weren’t the only ones excited about watching the race…

The neighbor’s horses came over to see the action.

So did the cattle next door…

Well, I wish that I could say that the race was close, but it wasn’t.

My nephew Finley’s boat lost, while my son’s won.

I must admit that I was kind of routing for Finley’s boat….because my husband made it for him a long time ago.

You know what?

I can’t think of a better way to spend an evening, can you?

When my mother, sister and her family moved to Double S Farms, I had no idea that I would soon be the grateful receiver of their bountiful harvest of apples, peaches and plums.

Peaches

The peaches ripen first and I had the privilege of learning how to make my own peach jam.

I didn’t learn how to do it myself.  My mother, Pastor Farmer, taught me how.

It was a special time for me since she was teaching me something that her mother had taught her long ago.

Besides that, the jam was delicious.

After the peaches ripened, the plum were ready a few weeks later and I decided to try to make jam myself.

I was pleasantly surprised that my plum jam turned out very well.

It is now mid-March and I still have peach and plum jam to spread on my morning toast.

Now it was time to try my hand at making applesauce from the apples.

My mother rejoined me in making the applesauce and I used it later to make my signature Applesauce Spice Cake.

I enjoyed learning how to preserve fruit.  My only complaint is that I wish that I didn’t have to do it in the summer….my kitchen gets quite warm.

How about you?

Do you have a favorite fruit in your garden?

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My latest Birds & Blooms blog post is sure to bring a smile…

What Do You Do With a Dirty Chicken?

All three of these items played a part in how I spent my Saturday.  As I mentioned in previous posts, I spent Saturday over at Double S Farms which was one of the stops featured in the second annual Tour de Coops, which is a tour of chicken coops along with some vegetable gardens.

Okay, for the first item on my list – blue booties.  As you drove up to Double S Farms, you were greeted by the following sign…..

All visitors had to put on blue booties and clean their hands before entering.  This was because it is easy to accidentally carry diseases from one farm to the other.

As you can see, there were quite a few booties ready for visitors to put on.

There were so many visitors that day.  Well over 100 people came throughout the day.  Most were considering raising chickens and asked my sister, Chicken Farmer, many questions.

Some visitors already had chickens but were interested in seeing how others raised theirs.  I was so impressed about how much my sister knew about raising chickens in such a short amount of time.  It was just this past February that her chicks arrived in the mail.

**The pine cones were left there by some little visitors.

I don’t think that the chickens were too excited about all of the extra attention though.

Flo took longer than usual to lay her egg because people kept looking in at her.

The other chickens came up to visit us on the patio where we were sitting.

Lucy was looking around for some crumbs to eat while Effie was interested in the camera on the table…..

Both Lucy and Effie are ‘Easter-Eggers’ which means that they lay light blue eggs.  Flo lays brown eggs.  Effie was not looking her best that day because she was molting.

As the day went on, the second item in my list came into play – Hot Wheels.  While my sister and brother-in-law were kept busy answering questions about raising chickens, I had fun playing with my nephews.  

Little Farmer absolutely LOVES playing with his Hot Wheels cars.  He carries some of them around in a plastic toolbox.  He was kind enough to lend me some so that I could play with both him and Littlest Farmer…..

**By the way….a great Christmas gift for the little boy on your list would be an inexpensive plastic toolbox with some Hot Wheels inside 🙂

**Note to self…..do not leave your knitting out around a darling two-old…..they like to pull out your knitting needles 😉

I had a great time playing with the boys but I did have the chance to answer some questions about the vegetable garden….

The garden is covered in bird netting to help keep the chickens out – they love vegetables.  The garden is full of all different types of lettuce right now.

**Notice Little Farmer is holding a piece of wood he found on the ground?  Why is it that boys love to find bits of wood and carry them around?  It doesn’t really matter what the reason is, I was just wondering 🙂

Among the lettuce and young broccoli plants were Marigolds which drew quite a bit of attention from the visitors.  I explained that the flowers were not planted for looks, but actually help to keep harmful insects away from the vegetables.

So far, we were all having a great day, except for Soda….

She was not allowed outside to visit.  I’m sure she would have loved to and was thinking that she could persuade some of the visitors to throw her a ball.

 Some smaller people came over to visit the chickens as well along with their parents…..

My mother, Pastor Farmer, had fun showing these boys the chickens inside of the coop.  The boys were dying to collect some eggs and so she sent them each home with an egg.

The boys also spent a little time playing with my nephews…..

You know what?  There is just something so cute about a little boy in a cowboy hat and blue booties.

 Some of the neighbors were also interested in what was going on….

The chickens were a bit shy at times being the center of attention, choosing to hide behind the Texas Sage shrubs…..

I had a wonderful time on Saturday and after I left, I spent some time finishing decorating my house for Christmas.  Which leads me to the last item:

Have you finished decorating your house for Christmas?

The chickens have…..

I hope you all have a wonderful week and hopefully you have finished your decorating for the holidays 🙂

I imagine that many of you are busy this week with the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.  My kids love that they only have to go to school for three days this week.  As I mentioned before, I am hosting Thanksgiving this year at our house for my in-laws and my brother and sister-in-law and their two new baby boys.

Do you know someone who loves to entertain?  Or maybe you are that someone?  As for me, I like the ‘idea’ of entertaining but not necessarily the work.  I tend to get a bit distracted as I plan out the details.  So, this post may appear a bit disjointed, which is how my brain works most of the time….so please bear with me 😉

Out in my garden, there are definite signs that winter will be here in just one month.

I always celebrate the first blooms of my Firecracker Penstemon (Penstemon eatonii), which will soon be a favorite destination for the hummingbirds.

If you don’t already have one of these in your garden….rush to your local nursery and GET one.  My Valentine shrub (Eremophila maculata ‘Valentine’) is one of most favorite plants.  Soon it will be covered in red, trumpet shaped flowers that will last through spring.

The yellow blossoms of my Cascalote tree look so beautiful against the blue sky, don’t you think?

Although I do try to include plants in my garden that will bloom through the fall and winter seasons, there is an area that is not particularly colorful…..

Not too impressive….is it?

This is what my Bermuda grass lawn looks like once night time temperatures dip into the 50’s.  Although it looks more brown then green, it is not dead – just dormant.  Once the spring temperatures arrive it will green up very quickly.

Now if you love green grass and your husband loves to have to mow the lawn 12 months out of the year (mine doesn’t), you can overseed your grass with perennial rye grass seed in early fall.  I have done this from time to time, but not for the past couple of years.

The other day as I was up our driveway, I saw that one of my plants had a surprise for me….

My Agave desmettiana is beginning to grow it’s flowering stalk.

It grows at an extremely fast rate and you can actually measure the growth daily.

You know, I have seen hundreds of flowering agave, but it never gets old.  It is particularly special when it occurs in your own garden.

A common myth is that agave flower after being in the ground 100 years, hence the name ‘Century Plant’.  However, and the length of time that it takes an agave to flower is largely dependent on the species.  Some take longer to flower and others do not.

For example, my Agave desmettiana, above is actually the offspring of my previous agave that flowered and then died.  My agave above is only 5 years old.

**You may notice agave that have had their flowering stalk cut off in hopes that this will keep the agave from dying.  This will not work and robs the landscape of months of beauty that the flowering stalk adds.

Before I go, there is an upcoming event in our area that I would love to tell you about.  It is called Tour de Coops and one of the stops on the tour will be Double S Farms!

For those of you who may be newer readers, Double S Farms is the residence of my mother (Pastor Farmer), my sister (Chicken Farmer) and her family.  

 My son Kai loves hanging out with the chickens.

You might have guessed that the tour involves chicken coops.  Actually it is “a self-guided tour of the coolest chicken set-ups” in the Phoenix metro area.

This year’s event occurs on December 4th and you can find more information and ticket information at Tour de Coops.

I plan on being at Double S Farms on that day to help and hopefully be able to meet some of you 🙂

Well, that is about it for now.  I need to work on my grocery list for Thursday.  I have a 21 lb turkey thawing out in my refrigerator, but need just a couple more items including heavy cream for my baked corn dish 🙂

I hope you are having a great week so far!

While we are in the midst of the dog days of August, it is easy to get discouraged when I look out into my garden.  Now, that doesn’t mean that my garden looks bad….actually just the opposite.  Many of my plants are in full bloom with lush, green growth.  It is the lush, green growth that discourages me because my plants are calling to me to come outside and prune them.

Well, what is wrong with that?  Well, it is still rather hot outside and I am so much more comfortable indoors with my best summer friend – my air conditioner.  But, I promise I will soon venture outdoors again.  

Meanwhile, there are many things this August that bring me joy….

Although this photo is rather blurry, it shows my son, Kai, running again – chasing his cousin.  Earlier this summer, he was unable to walk as he recuperated from hip surgery.  He is almost back to normal, which is wonderful especially since he loves to run.

Farm fresh eggs from my sister’s wonderful hens at Double S Farms. 

My daughter, Gracie, picking out sunflower seeds to roast.

Sitting in the garden at Double S Farms, watching a tumbleweed roll by as the temperatures cool down as a monsoon storm approaches.

Toads that venture out when the rain arrives.

Deciding what to plant this fall in our vegetable garden.

The first day of school for Gracie, Ruthie and Kai.

Teaching a beginner’s vegetable gardening class this past weekend.

Now the most important joy of August, is the celebrating of new life.

Some of you may be familiar with my sisters whose gardens I sometimes feature.  Well, I also have a brother.

Me, Daisy Mom of ‘The Refuge’, Chicken Farmer & Pastor Farmer of ‘Double S Farms’.

This past Saturday, we all gathered together to celebrate the coming birth of my brother and his wife’s twin boys.

The babies are due in October, but may make their appearance in September.

Two little baby birds nestled in toasted coconut on top of white chocolate cream cheese frosting……I love baking.

It was a special day with family and friends.  Many people had created beautiful handmade gifts for the babies.  I can hardly wait for them to arrive.

I am grateful for the joys that August has brought, but I am looking forward to what the fall is bringing….

….a trip to the east coast,

planting my vegetable garden,

 two speaking engagements,

and most importantly….

 being able to hold my two baby nephews 🙂

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It is not too late to create your own bouquet for this month’s MGB.  

I would love to see what flowers are growing in your garden.

The sun has set in our vegetable garden.  For the past few months, our sunflowers have brightened up the garden with their sunny faces. 

It seems like just yesterday that my daughter, Ruthie and I planted the seeds (actually it was March).  We planted them near the fence so that it would be easy to support them once they grew tall.

Once planted they started to grow quickly…

I couldn’t wait to see the blooms begin to form…

It seemed to take a long time…but with flowers so large they probably can’t be rushed.

The unopened blooms were far more interesting that I had imagined.  There were so many sepals (leaves) around the bloom and I could already imagine how beautiful it would be.

I wasn’t disappointed….

Did you know that sunflowers point east towards the sunrise?  As the sun moves during the day, they follow the sun.  However, once the flowers mature, they stay facing east.  I need to remember that when I am lost next time and will hopefully find a sunflower growing somewhere (not too likely).

We enjoyed the bright sunny face of our largest sunflower until she began to droop and fade….

You can see why we planted her against the fence.  It provides the perfect support for the large flower, now full of developing sunflower seeds.

It is now time for us to cut off the spent flower and continue to let the seeds mature.

I must admit that I am kind of sad to see her life end, but I am grateful for the time we had to enjoy her sunny beauty.  My kids aren’t sad at all….they can’t wait for the seeds to be ready for us to roast and for them to eat.  I will save a few seeds to plant again for next season.

I can’t wait to grow sunflowers again.  They are such a great plant for the kids to grow because the seeds are large enough for them to handle easily, the plants and flowers grow so large and you get to enjoy sunflower seeds at the end 🙂

It is hard to believe that their story began just this last February.  To be honest, I have been fascinated with their progress and eagerly awaiting the day when our patience would be rewarded.  

Of course, I am talking about the newest residents of Double S Farms…Ramona, Flo, Lucy and Effie. 

It seems like just yesterday that a box arrived in the mail for my sister, Chicken Farmer.

I was almost as excited as she was and they weren’t even my chickens.

Aren’t they the cutest balls of fluff?

During our weekly dinners at Double S Farms, we would all look forward to seeing how quickly they were growing.

Ramona, Lucy, Effie and Flo

As we got to know them better, each of their personalities became more defined and we enjoyed watching their antics.

For example, did you know that chickens like macaroni and cheese?  Especially when it has fallen to the ground from a child’s dinner plate.

They enjoy playing in Little & Littlest Farmer’s sandbox.

They love raiding the vegetable garden and eating the watermelon, until my mother, Pastor Farmer put an end to that 😉  They are now banned from entering the vegetable garden.

 Ramona standing guard to the entrance to the chicken yard.

Their mornings are spent foraging by the fruit trees and along the foundation of the house, hoping to find some juicy insects.

 Flo, hoping that dinner is served outside, so she can sneak some bits that fall to the ground.

Later in the afternoon, they head for the chicken yard and stand underneath the misters, which help to cool them off.

Littlest Farmer and Effie

I know that it isn’t a good idea to play favorites, but admittedly, Effie is our favorite chicken (but we don’t let the others know this because it might hurt their feelings).  She loves people and even lets the boys pet her.  Once she crawled next to Chicken Farmer and laid her head in her lap and promptly fell asleep.

What’s not to love?  Now, Effie may not win any beauty contests, but she has such a sweet personality that it is easy to fall in love with her.

The chickens are all close friends and as evening falls, they venture into their coop without being told and settle upon their roost for a good night’s sleep.

Now as much as we have all enjoyed my sister’s chickens, we have been patiently (okay, impatiently) waiting for them to begin laying eggs.  My sister had put plastic Easter eggs in the nesting boxes hoping the chickens would get the hint about where to lay their eggs.

Well, a few weeks ago, she went outside and guess what she found?

Okay, hopefully you can tell the plastic egg from the real one on the left.  Isn’t it pretty?

In the last couple of weeks all four are now laying and last Thursday, my mother sent home a special surprise for my kids who love eggs….

Effie and Lucy lay the blue/green eggs and Ramona and Flo lay the brown eggs.

 Of course, I had only minutes to take this picture before the kids had me making eggs for their after school snack.

They were delicious….

*Please don’t tell the “girls” but before this experience my only thoughts about chickens were how I was going to cook them for dinner and how many eggs I would need to bake with.  Who knew that chickens could be so interesting?

You can see more of Double S Farms by visiting my sister’s blog Finley and Oliver.

This is the conclusion to a story that I wrote back in January about a dog and her battle with ‘forbidden fruit’.

Sodapop, who belongs to my youngest sister, Chicken Farmer, and her family – is the main character of this story.  Sodapop is the daughter of my dog, Missy (that really has nothing to do with the story, however).  

The ‘forbidden fruit’ for Sodapop was an apple.  However, it was not your ordinary apple….it was an old, shriveled up apple hanging on the top of an apple tree.

We weren’t sure what it is about this shriveled apple that made her want it so badly.  But most likely, it probably because it was out of her reach and that is what drove her crazy….

She was sorely tempted by the sight of the dried up apple and she did her best to reach it, jumping as high as she could, breaking small branches in the process.

As if one forbidden fruit was not enough….there were more hanging in the tree, taunting her.

But try as she might, all she ended up with were small apple branches for all her troubles.

It was small compensation for a lot of work….

*FAST FORWARD TO SUMMERTIME*

Now it is summer and the apple trees are now laden with delicious apples.  Now Sodapop has more apples then she knows what to do with.  First, she enjoyed eating the apples hanging on the lower branches of the apple trees.

However, now that most of the lower apples have either been eaten by her or picked by the residents of Double S Farms, Sodapop has had to content herself with eating the apples that have fallen from the tree….

I wonder if ‘forbidden’ apples taste better then ‘unforbidden’ apples?

**UPDATE – We recently learned that eating too many apples can be dangerous for dogs because their seeds contain small amounts of cyanide.  So, the apple trees will soon be fenced off to keep the dogs out.**

I hope you are all having a great week so far.  We are hoping for a start to our summer rainy season later this week and are keeping our fingers crossed 🙂