It is hard to believe that just two weeks ago, we were first introduced to the newest residents of Double S Farms.  

Newest residents, Two Days Old

Newest residents, Two Days Old

 Two weeks is actually a lot of time to a small chick.  Look at how quickly they have grown….

Newest residents

From left to right, meet Flo, Ramona, Effie and Lucy.

They made their first foray into the great outdoors for two hours.  I don’t know who was more excited…the chicks or my sister, Chicken Farmer.

Their feathers are rapidly forming, especially on their wings.  They still spend the majority of their time indoors as they are too young to be outside other then a couple of hours.

Double S Farms.

They are already trying to fly and one has even managed to escape the brooder and so now the lid will now stay closed.  

Doesn’t that remind you of how exciting it is to see a little toddler take their first steps….until they start getting into things due to their new mobility.  I can definitely see similarities with raising chicks.

Before we leave, please take one last look as the chicks are proudly showing off their newly grown tail feathers for the camera.

Double S Farms.

 Don’t worry…this is not the last we will see of Flo, Lucy, Effie and Ramona.  We will visit again soon…

A few weeks ago, my brother-in-law asked me to come out to the family farm (Double S Farms) asked me to come over and help him to prune their numerous fruit trees.  I had been wanting to work on them because they had been sorely neglected by the previous owners of the farm.

Family farm

Family farm

These three peach trees produced a large amount of fruit that we all enjoyed last summer.  However, they had been badly pruned over the years and their branches reached so high into the sky, that it was impossible to reach all of the fruit.

Why did we decide to prune them you may ask?  Well, besides the fact that they had been disfigured by bad pruning, the other benefits would be numerous.  There would be increased fruit production, strengthened trees, earlier fruit production and easier  maintenance.

Family farm

Our tools – Loppers, Pruning Saw, Hand Pruners and Pole Saw.

The two types of pruning cuts that we used were thinning and heading cuts.  The first type – thinning cuts, removes branches back to the larger branch they are growing from.  So, we concentrated on removing all crossing branches and those growing into the center of the tree.  We did this because peach and plum trees should have an open center.

The second type of cut we used – heading back, removes part of the branch, pruning back to a outward facing bud.  So we made sure that our cuts, were pruned back to an outside facing bud and cut at a 45 degree angle.

Family farm

Farmer Dad, working hard making a thinning cut with a pruning saw.

Pruning should be done while the trees are still dormant, which is January here in the desert.  

Since dwarf forms of peach trees do not exist, pruning is the only way to shorten the tree in order to reach the fruit and also to be able to fit a net over the tree to protect them from the birds eating the fruit.  Unfortunately, a lot of fruit was lost to the birds last year.

Family farm

Family farm

As we pruned, evidence of bad pruning was evident.  The photo above shows an incorrect pruning cut, while the bottom one is the right way to prune.  You want to prune back to the trunk to the branch collar.  

Peach and plum trees can take heavy pruning, but we removed only 20% of the trees branches.  Next year, we may do more if needed.  We felt that is was better not over-prune and stress the trees.

Family farm

You can tell why it is important to prune back to the branch when you see how the cut branch above died back because it was not pruned close enough to the branch it came from.

Family farm

Once we were finished with the peach trees, we started on the two apple trees in the backyard.  Both of these trees were better maintained and so we removed a few of the lower branches and made some heading cuts.

Family farm

Pruning cuts back to the trunk.  You can see the branch collar, which is a specialized area that surrounds branches.  Do not cut the branch collar, but make your pruning cut just before.

Making heading cuts to the apple tree

Making heading cuts to the apple tree.

Apple trees only require light pruning.  They have a different shape then peach trees and do not have an open shape.  Rather, they should have many interior branches.  So, the majority of pruning we did were some heading cuts and just a few thinning cuts.

You know, there is just something so fulfilling after spending the day pruning and seeing the instant results of your work.  A couple of weeks later, I took the following pictures of the now flowering trees we had pruned.

Peach blossoms reach towards the sky

Peach blossoms reach towards the sky.

The apple trees are now covered in blossoms.

The apple trees are now covered in blossoms.

Next year, we will probably do some additional corrective pruning for the peach trees in order to further fix the damage done by the previous owners.  But for now, we are sitting back and enjoying their beauty and looking forward to peach jam and apple butter this summer.

Our guest blogger for today is my youngest sister, Chicken Farmer, who is one of the residents of Double S Farms.  Guess what!?  They are ready for chickens!

Many of you have read Noelle’s post, (A Small House, Transplants and Chickens), about our plans to bring some chickens to Double S Farms.  Well, the time has almost come and our little chicks should be arriving in the mail next week.  We are beyond excited.

Double S Farms

We have lived at Double S Farms for just about a year now and have been toying around with the chicken idea ever since we moved in.  This past October, we went on a self-guided tour of the Valley’s coolest urban poultry set-ups (The Phoenix Tour de Coops).  Talking with the chicken owners, seeing their chickens and coop setups, and learning about the benefits of having our own backyard flock sealed the deal.

Chicken Farmer

Since I don’t do much of the gardening at Double S Farms, I have volunteered myself to be the “Chicken Farmer” and have jumped into the role wholeheartedly.  There are several things I have done to get us ready for our new adventure.

First and foremost, I had to get a pair of boots.  I have always loved and adored boots of all kinds so getting my very own pair of Hunter Wellingtons, was a top priority (well, top priority to me).  I know, I know….seriously, if I have to scoop chicken poop, I’d like to look stylish while doing so.

Pair of Boots

In addition, I’ve read countless books on raising chickens and have spent hours gleaning information from websites like The City Chicken and The Backyard Chicken.  I’ve even joined the Phoenix Permaculture Guild and taken some local classes on raising hens.

The next thing on the agenda was to design the coop.  We explored several different coop setups on the “Tour de Coops” and the coop we liked the best was made from a converted shed.  So we converted an 8′ x 10′ shed of our own.  The chickens will have plenty of room to roam in their 25′ x 20′ fenced in yard around the coop.  We are hoping to let them out into the larger yard a few hours each day to do some “hunting”.  We have a lot of scorpions around Double S Farms and chickens love to snack on them.

Chicken Farmer

The coop is just about finished.  We still need to paint the exterior, finish some work on the fence, and build up a berm around the fence to protect them from the flood irrigation.

Once we finished the majority of the coop, we started on our brooder.  A brooder is a box or cage of some sort where you can raise young chicks and keep them warm until they are fully feathered and ready to move into their coop.  Baby chicks can’t regulate their body temperatures so a heated brooder is essential.  Fortunately, brooders don’t need to be too fancy so a giant Rubbermaid box, some pine shavings, a feeder, waterer, heat lamp and thermometer are all we need.

Chicken Farmer

Once we had all of those preparations in order, we sat down and decided how many and what types of chickens we would order.  Overall, we’d like to have a flock of 8 hens.  Since egg laying productivity starts to decline after a year and a half or so, we decided to order 4 chicks now and then another 4 or 5 chicks next year.  That way, we’ll always have a few hens that are in their egg-laying “prime”.

I have boys that are 2 and 3 years old.  they will be very involved in helping me with the hens so it is essential that we have breeds that are a bit more friendly and social, which is why we chose to order two Easter Eggers (mixed breed), a Barred Plymouth Rock, and a Buff Orpington.  Not only are they better “pets” than some other breeds, they are also hardier to our summer heat (although precautions still need to be taken when it gets extreme).

Chicken Farmer

Buff Orpington Chicken (Wikepedia photo)

About a week ago, we ordered our four chicks from  Sometime next week, they will express mail our little day-old chicks to us.  I’m still baffled about receiving live animals in the mail, but apparently it is very common.  Chicks can live for 2-3 days without any additional food or water since they are still receiving nourishment from their yolk so they should be fine in transport.

I’m sure  Noelle will keep you all posted on our chicken raising adventures and I always appreciate any advice or tips that anyone has to offer a novice like me.

*Noelle here….I will keep you updated as to when the chicks arrive next week.  I will be going with my sister to pick them up at the post office because I am sure you all will be waiting with baited breath to see photos of their arrival 😉

 Many of you have visited Double S Farms with me where my mother (Pastor Mom), youngest sister (Chicken Farmer) and family reside. Well, I have more family for you to meet along with their desert gardens.

I would like to introduce you to ‘The Refuge’ along with it’s residents, their gardens and the beautiful desert surrounding them.  The Refuge is located in the California desert, in the Coachella Valley, and is the home of my younger sister and her family.

desert surrounding

Desert surrounding , The desert drinks up all the rain as it runs through the wash, by The Refuge.

My entire family and I are all native Californians who grew up minutes from the ocean.  Much of our time was spent at the beach.  Some of us were surfers, while others, (my sisters and I), would lay on the beach working on our tans, or lack of – we are fair-skinned.

*Disclaimer – we always wear sunscreen, now that we know better.  Back then, we were young and stupid ;0)

As time passed by, we all eventually found our way to the desert and have made our homes here.  My younger sister and her family live in the California desert, near Palm Springs –  while my mother, brother and youngest sister (and families) live in the Arizona desert as I do.

desert surrounding

Desert surrounding , Washes in the desert fill quickly with rushing water when it rains.

Often, when people think of the desert, they picture barren, sandy hills with small scrubby shrubs and believe that all deserts look the same.  However, there are differences in all deserts.  The California desert around the Palm Springs area is part of the Sonoran Desert as is the larger Phoenix area where I live.  

However, there are some differences between the California  and the Arizona Sonoran Desert, which caused the California desert area around the Palm Springs area to be sub-classified as the Colorado Desert.  You can read more about the differences in an earlier post Journey Into My Backyard – The Sonoran Desert.

desert surrounding

Small pools like this will quickly disappear as the soil drinks up the rain water. A Creosote (Larrea tridentata) shrub is reflected in the water.

As a child, I would look forward to visits with my grandparents who lived in Palm Desert.  The beautiful barrenness of the mountains against the deep blue sky just transfixed me.  My sister has a beautiful view of the tallest mountain, Mount San Jacinto, from her kitchen and it is often covered in snow in the winter.

As we drive through the California desert towards my sister’s home, you are surrounded by the stark beauty of the desert.  As we turn down the street towards her home, it is easy to see why it is called ‘The Refuge’.  A beautiful garden surrounds their home, creating a green oasis with colorful, flowering plants and trees.

desert surrounding

My nephew, Mr. Green Jeans, who is the resident photographer at ‘The Refuge’.

In future posts, we will have more glimpses of the gardens at ‘The Refuge’ and meet it’s residents.  My nephew, Mr. Green Jeans, is not only the resident photographer, but also grows beautiful vegetables.  My brother-in-law, Mr. Compost, is passionate about composting and will perhaps do a guest posting about how he composts.  My sister, Daisy Mom, grows beautiful container plants as well as houseplants.  

We will soon return to ‘The Refuge’ and meet more of it’s residents, view their gardens and the beautiful desert that surrounds them.

I would like to introduce you to one of the littlest residents of Double S Farms.

He is what we call a ‘snowbird’.  Now, where we live, a snowbird is a seasonal resident , usually human, who lives in the desert during the winter months.

However, this particular snowbird is a little hummingbird.

little hummingbird

I first met him when I was taking pictures of the citrus trees for a future blog post.  I was quite close when I noticed him sitting in the lemon tree.  Unlike many hummingbirds, he was perfectly content to sit still and have his picture taken.

little hummingbird

little hummingbird

On another visit to Double S Farms, I saw him perched at the top of the Almond tree. 

little hummingbird

This is his favorite place to perch, probably because the Almond tree is the tallest tree and he can see the surrounding farms all around him.

little hummingbird

Although Costa’s Hummingbirds are year-round residents in our area, this particular one left for the summer, but came back in the fall.

Now every time I visit Double S Farms, I go out of my way to look for my little friend. 

*On another note, I will soon be introducing you to “The Refuge” and it’s garden, surrounding beauty and the residents.

I would like to show you a small farm that is located in the middle of the desert.  Actually, it is 5 minutes from my house and is the home of my mother, sister, brother-in-law and their sons.

Double S Farms

Some of you may recall some previous posts about the Neglected Rose Bush, the Chicken Coop and the Flood in the Garden on Purpose.  Well, these all took place at Double S Farms.

small farm

The residents of Double S Farms, my mother (Pastor Farmer), sister (Chicken Farmer) and brother-in-law (Farmer Dad), are transplanted Californians like myself.  

My youngest sister

My youngest sister, Chicken Farmer.

They moved to Arizona a few years ago..  According to my mother and my sister – if you had told them 5 years ago that they would be living in Arizona, away from Southern California and the ocean, be living on a small ranchette, raising fruit trees, vegetables, getting ready for chickens AND loving it….they would have said you were crazy.  But they do love living in Arizona and all that it has to offer.

Littlest Farmer

Littlest Farmer helping with the lemon harvest last spring.

Fruit trees fill both the front and backyard.  Almost any kind you can think of…..lemon, grapefruit, kumquat, orange, apple, plum, peach and almond trees grace the landscape.

My two oldest daughters

My two oldest daughters, discussing what is the best way to pick fruit from the peach trees.

The bounty they receive include peach and plum preserves, apple butter, lemons, grapefruit and kumquats.

My mother

My mother, Pastor Farmer, planting succulents in containers.

The almost finished chicken coop can be seen in the background.

Little Farmer

Little Farmer, being silly.

Vegetable garden

Vegetable gardens are not only a great place to grow vegetables, but also for playing with cars as Littlest Farmer can tell you.

Lettuce, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower are just a few of the delicious vegetables we have enjoyed this winter from the garden.

small farm

There is something so appealing about a riding lawnmower, a teenage boy (my oldest nephew, who was visiting) and a dog.

Behind the farm is a small ranchette that raises cattle.

small farm

Little Farmer, Littlest Farmer and Farmer Dad flood irrigating.

Double S Farms is a wonderful place where irrigating the land with a flood is a regular occurrence.

Little Farmer and Littlest Farmer

 Little Farmer and Littlest Farmer in the soon to be completed chicken coop.

A chicken coop is next on the list of additions to Double S Farms.  Six chickens will soon be taking up residence in their new coop and chicken yard.

small farm

My sister (Chicken Farmer) and her son, Little Farmer

Double S Farms is also a place for family to gather and celebrate birthdays and holidays.

small farm

A wonderful tree for a pinata, which my third oldest daughter tries to hit.

Thank you for taking the time to visit Double S Farms with me.  

We will be visiting more in the future….  

January is the slowest time of the year for blooms in the desert.  However, due to our year-round growing climate, there are still a lot of flowers to see…

Bower Vine

 Bower Vine (Pandorea jasminoides)

Valentine shrub

My Valentine shrub (Eremophila maculata ‘Valentine’) is in full bloom.


One of my Mexican Bird-of-Paradise trees (Caesalpinia mexicana), happily blooming away…

Desert Sunset

Radiation Lantana ‘Desert Sunset’ is still blooming underneath my Dalbergia sissoo tree.

The tree has protected it from frost damage.

Silvery Cassia

The flowers are starting to peek out of the Silvery Cassia (Senna phyllodenia).

More blooms will soon follow from this Australian native.

Bloom Day

One of the Geraniums in the Children’s Flower Garden. 

In case you are getting tired of the flowers in my garden or just want to see more colorful blooms, I thought I would also show you some of the flowers currently blooming at Double S Farms.

Bloom Day

Baja Ruellia (Ruellia peninsularis) is a reliable year-round bloomer.

Bloom Day

The flowers of the ‘New Gold Mound’ Lantana lighten in the winter, but are still beautiful.

Bloom Day

I found this single flower on the Cape Honeysuckle (Tecomaria capensis)

Bloom Day

Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii)

I’m not sure if fruit counts as a bloom for GBBD, but just in case….

Bloom Day

Kumquats reaching towards the sky.

And lastly, a photo of a single rose from the Neglected, Overgrown, Nameless Rose just before I pruned it back.  I realize I did not take the photo on the 15th, but it would have still been there if I had not pruned the rose bush back over the weekend.

I also wanted it to have one last opportunity to show off it’s flowers before the new flush of rose blooms come in March.

Bloom Day

English Rose ‘Glamis Castle’

Thank you for joining me for January’s Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day.  Please visit May Dreams Gardens for more sites featuring Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day.

The newest addition to Double S Farms is rapidly coming together in preparation for their newest residents…..chickens.

newest addition

Little Farmers #1 & 2 are having fun as the chicken coop is being built. Little Farmer #2 loves to play in the dirt….can you tell?

newest addition

Newest addition, The chicken coop is being put together by Farmer #1, with some help from family members. I think Little Farmer #2 (on the right side) thinks the chicken coop is his own little fort.

The residents of Double S Farms, my mother, sister and brother-in-law, are transplanted Californians like myself.  They moved to Arizona a few years ago and just love it here.  According to my sister, if you had told her 5 years ago that she would be living in Arizona, away from Southern California and the ocean, and be living on a small ranchette, raising fruit trees, vegetables and getting ready for chickens AND loving it….she would have said you were crazy.  But they do love living in Arizona and all that it has to offer.

newest addition

Future Nesting Boxes

The chicken coop is almost finished.  My husband is going over today to help them finish up the coop.  You can see the ramp that the chickens will climb up and the nesting boxes.

Little Farmer

Little Farmer #2 is ready for the chickens.

In a couple of weeks, six chicks will take up residence.  There will be no rooster since the family already have their own alarm clocks and don’t want to irritate the neighbors.

I can hardly wait for fresh eggs…

I will post more as the chicken coop is painted and finished and of course, when the chickens arrive.

*I am spending today at a community Green Fair as part of a  landscape discussion panel.  I am excited to post about it next week.

Living Green in the Desert Garden

little seedlings

Isn’t there something just so wonderful when you see little seedlings start to sprout?  It makes me feel like it is springtime even though it is still the middle of winter when I see the tiny green leaves begin to break out from the soil.  The broccoli sprouted in less then a week.

Many types of vegetables and fruit grow very well in the desert.  Lettuce is the top agricultural product that is grown in Arizona.  Other crops include melons, broccoli, citrus, cauliflower, onions and carrots, wheat and corn.

little seedlings

Growing vegetables is a very popular past-time for many backyard gardeners.  You can find more information on what vegetables grow in the Arizona desert and when to plant them at The Arizona Master Gardener Vegetable Guide .

Now, some of you may (or may not) be wondering what I have to confess now.  I’ve already confessed to not having my favorite flower in my garden, you can read my earlier post here if you like.  What else could there be?

For those of you who have kindly followed my blog for a while, you may be wondering if these seedlings are mine – you may have noticed that I have not shown any pictures of my vegetable garden in the past.  Well, there is a good reason for that….I don’t have one.   Now, I honestly love vegetable gardens and have planted them for others and raised my own as a child.  I’ve also had to grow my own plot of vegetables at college when I was earning my horticulture degree – I had to learn how to do it well because I was being graded 😉

That being said, my true love in the garden are ornamental plants and I only have so much space to fit them all in and still have room for any new plants that I fall in love with.  

little seedlings

I have the wonderful fortune to live only 5 minutes away from Double S Farms, which is the residence of my mother, youngest sister and her family.  They have a wonderful vegetable garden and the seedlings belong to them.  

Since it is important to me to provide information about all types of desert gardening, I will be posting about Double S Farm’s vegetable garden in the future….and Little Farmers #1 & 2 🙂

One of the most interesting things I encountered when I first moved to Arizona was driving down a residential street and seeing front yards full of 3 inches of water.  Imagine my surprise when I learned that this was done on purpose to water the front and backyard. 

Desert dwellers do like to do things differently so why shouldn’t that apply to how some of us water our landscapes?  To view some ‘flooded’ landscapes, please join me for a visit to Double S Farms.  Actually, Double S Farms is the home of my mother,  my youngest sister & her family and they live only 5 minutes from me.

flooded landscapes

Farmer #1 and Little Farmers #1 & 2 (my nephews) opening up the flood irrigation valve.

Now, Double S Farms isn’t actually a typical farm.  It is actually a home on 1 acre, which is called a ‘ranchette’ in our area because it is kind of like a little ranch.  Double S Farms has citrus, plum, apple and peach trees as well as a vegetable garden.  A chicken coop is currently going up and chickens will be moving in in a few weeks. 

*We will be posting visits to Double S Farms in the near future, especially when the chickens move in and to show more cute pictures of Little Farmers #1 & 2.

flooded landscapes

There is nothing more fun then cool water to play in in the middle of summer.

Okay, now back to irrigating – this type of irrigation, known as ‘flood irrigation’ is very inexpensive and therefore cost effective.  Our first home in Phoenix had this type of irrigation back in the 1990’s and it only cost us $56 a year to irrigate both our front and backyard – my current garden uses drip irrigation and sprinklers.

Now not all homes in the Phoenix area are irrigated this way.  Actually only a very few are and you have to live in certain areas where this is available.

flooded landscapes

Addy, Little Farmers # 1 & 2 and Farmer #1 going inside after turning on the irrigation valve. In the background are their numerous citrus trees and an apple tree.

In the summertime flood irrigation occurs twice a month and in the winter time only once a month.  Water sinks deeply into the soil which makes for deep roots for both grass and trees.  It also helps to flush out salts that accumulate in the soil.

Okay, you may be wondering how the water gets from the mountains down into the yard.  Well, the water comes from a series of reservoirs that collect water from snow melt and rain.  Water users (homeowners) sign up each time that they want water and then only the amount needed is released from the reservoirs through the dams.  This water then runs through one of seven major canals where a ‘zanjero’, (Spanish word for ‘water master’), opens a gate from the canal to allow water to flow into smaller lateral waterways that serve certain neighborhoods.

flooded landscapes

This is how deep the water is when the valve is turned off, about 2 – 3 inches deep. Behind their fence are cattle.

omeowners are told at exactly what day and time they can turn on & off the water.  Each property has a certain allotment of water they can use.   

I can tell you from experience that it is not fun when you have to get up in the middle of the night in January to open up the flood irrigation valve and then wait to turn it off.  I have vivid memories of having to walk through freezing water to turn off the water in the middle of winter.  However, nothing can beat how refreshing it is to irrigate during the summer months.  Dogs and kids alike look forward to playing in the water.

my dog, Missy

What could be more fun then playing fetch in the water? *Sodapop is the daughter of my dog, Missy.

Many of you were so kind to comment on my previous post “What Planet Have I Landed On?” and had a lot of questions regarding the photo I posted of flood irrigation.  I hope this has answered some of your questions.  If you would like to learn more, please click here .