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I don’t think that my sister’s chicken has ever seen a caterpillar that large before.

Do you think she will eat it?  Or will the caterpillar emerge victorious?
I’ll let you know at the end of this post…

Those of you who have ever grown tomatoes probably recognize this green, horned caterpillar.


If you are not familiar with this green menace, let me introduce you to the ‘tomato hornworm’.

As their name suggests, they love to eat tomatoes and the leaves on their plants.

What you may not know is that also like to eat potato, pepper and eggplants as well.

What is even worse, is that they can be a little hard to find.  With their green color, they blend in well with the tomato plants.  Tomato hornworms also tend to hide underneath the leaves.

At this point you may be wondering if you have these pesky caterpillars on your tomato plants.  How can you tell?  

Well, some telltale signs include holes eaten from the leaves and tomatoes.  You may also see little green pellets (caterpillar poop) on the leaves.

The only way to know for certain is to go looking for them.


So what do you do if you find out your tomatoes are infested with these caterpillars and how did they get there in the first place?


Well, tomato hornworms grow up into moths who in turn, lay eggs on the underside of tomato leaves.  The eggs hatch in about a week and the newly emerged caterpillars start eating non-stop for 4 – 6 weeks.


As if that weren’t enough bad news, as the caterpillars grow larger, they eat more.  After about a month on gorging themselves, they drop into the soil where they form a cocoon and transform into a moth who will start the cycle again by laying eggs.


How can you do to get rid of them?


Well, there are a few ways to get rid of them and even help to prevent them in the future.


– The easiest way to get rid of a current infestation of tomato hornworms is to simply pick them off and dunk them into soapy water, which kills them.


– If pulling off large, green caterpillars isn’t your thing, then you can spray them with a product that contains Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), which infects the stomach of the hornworm, killing it.  Bt is safe for animals and plants.


– There are some wasps that will act as parasites to the caterpillars and lay their eggs directly onto them.  The eggs hatch and the larvae eat the caterpillar.


Now, I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not have to deal with tomato hornworms at all.  So, I am all about prevention.


– In the fall, till the soil around your tomato plants.  This will unearth any cocoons that are attempting to overwinter in the soil, which kills them.  Do this again in spring, before planting new tomato plants.  This is usually 90% effective in getting rid of tomato hornworm cocoons before the moth emerges.


Okay, so back to the chicken, caterpillar face-off…


My sister’s chicken Francie is a ‘naked-neck’ chicken and yes, she is supposed to look that way 😉

It turns out that the chickens were a little put off by the large size of the caterpillars.  So, they wouldn’t touch them.


That is until… the caterpillars were cut up into smaller pieces.  Then the chickens couldn’t eat them fast enough. (I know, kind of gross, isn’t it?)


**I want to thank my sister, Grace, for her fabulous pictures.  You can find out more about her photography, 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

 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.


*****************************


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 🙂

I have enjoyed having a first row seat as my sister raises chickens on Double S Farms.  

Lucy is an extraordinary layer and produces light-blue eggs.

My sister is now on her second batch of chickens and they are getting along well with their ‘bigger’ sisters.
Minnie lays light-brown eggs.
So what is the difference between big and little chickens beside age?
 
They lay different sized eggs….
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I am enjoying being at home with my kids for spring break this week.  But, I still have a bit of work do to.
– I’m writing a feature article for Birds & Blooms magazine.
– Preparing for 10 garden how-to videos to be filmed in my garden next month for SheKnows.com
 – Designing and implementing a butterfly / hummingbird garden on a golf course.
&
– I will be debuting a custom blog design and logo.  I have been working with a wonderful graphic artist and am so excited at what she has done so far.  I can’t wait until she is finished!
I hope you have all had a good week.  I must apologize for not getting my act together enough to write any blog posts.  But thankfully, my sister ‘Chicken Farmer’ and resident of Double S Farms has given us an update on her new baby chicks and their new home….
We’ve been going back and forth trying to decide whether to build a new coop for the chicks or to put together something smaller and temporary until they are old enough to move in with the big girls. I figure the lumber and time alone would get a little pricey so I scoured Craigslist last weekend and found what we thought was a pretty cool coop at a steal of a price. We could tell by the picture that it was a pretty wonky coop but we loved the character.
Once we got it home and had a closer look, I could tell that we overpaid for this coop. It was literally staple gunned together! A strong gust of wind would have taken this thing down. Lucky for me I have a very handy husband who was able to give it a little TLC.

It’s a lot smaller than our existing coop so it fits nicely in the chicken yard. Once we got it to a state where we felt it was livable, we moved the chicks out and they have been in heaven ever since. The coop has three levels, four levels, and all kinds of little ramps up and down for them to run across. It reminds me of a dollhouse (I’m not sure how functional it will be for full grown hens though). 
The boys literally spend hours each day sitting next to the coop and watching the chicks.

The older hens didn’t notice the new girls at first but once they finally did, they’ve been keeping a close eye on them. 
We will keep them in their new coop until they are big enough to meet the older girls. At that time, they’ll be able to free range during the day and go in to roost at night. Until then, they seem perfectly content in their new, if a little awkward, digs.
***********************************
Seriously, these chicks are so much fun to watch and they are growing so fast.  They are getting along with the older chickens who aren’t quite sure what to make of the little ones.
You can read more about the chickens in my sister’s blog – Finley and Oliver.
I apologize for not writing more posts this past week.  But as I mentioned before it has been a busy time filled with landscape consults, a speaking engagement, helping my mother-in-law with her landscape (who is doing pretty well since my father-in-law passed away 2 months ago).
This week I did spend lots of time visiting my new granddaughter.  She is just darling and I love to hold her.
I hope you all have a great weekend and week ahead.  I promise to start writing more 🙂

I always look forward to Tuesday evenings.  

Why, you may ask?

Well, every Tuesday we all get into the car and make the 5 minute drive over to Double S Farms, which is where my mother, my sister and her family live.  

In addition to hanging out with everyone, including my very cute nephews, Finley and Oliver, we also get to enjoy a delicious dinner that my mother prepares.  I just love not having to cook dinner one night a week 🙂


While we were there, I decided to take a look at my mother’s vegetable garden.  

The last time I saw it a few weeks ago, it looked like this….



Did you know that unused vegetable gardens are a great place to play with trucks and tractors?

Well, the trucks have now left the garden and it is now newly planted with transplants from our local nursery.


Leaf lettuce, dill, cauliflower, basil and other vegetables are already growing.

Interspersed in between the rows of vegetables are two flowering plants that my nephews picked out for the garden…
Finley and Oliver’s petunia plants make great companion plants for vegetables – especially leaf lettuce  broccoli, potatoes and squash.  

Did you know that petunias repel aphids and beetles?  


As the sky began to darken, we made our way inside to see the newest additions to the Double S Farms family….

They have four new chicks that are growing very rapidly and are almost ready to be moved into their new coop outside.

My sister, Chicken Farmer, likes people to hold them often so that they learn to be friendly with people.


I don’t mind holding them….they are awfully cute.  Especially, the ‘Naked Neck’ chicken, Francie.


My son, Kai, got to hold the friendliest chick, Lottie, who is a ‘Buff Orpington’.

Well, the chicks were getting tired, so the kids decided to hang out with grandma and see some fun Halloween games on her computer…




***************

I hope your week is going well so far.  As I am writing this, we are experiencing wind, thunder, lightning and delightfully cool temperatures.

Which reminds me that I need to buy a pumpkin…..




**You can read more about my sister’s new chicks here.

As many of you know, my mother, sister and her family are residents of Double S Farms, and live only 5 minutes away from my home. 


I love to share tidbits about desert ‘farm’ life, which really isn’t all that different from that of a normal farm.  I enjoy posting about their resident chickens and dogs, their citrus, peach , plum and apple trees and of course, Mr. Toad.  


Earlier this week, they received some new arrivals on the ‘farm’.  My sister, Chicken Farmer, has her own blog and here is her latest post:

“I got a call early this morning from the post office that a box had arrived for me that was marked “live animals” and was making noises. Oliver and I high tailed it over to pick our special delivery up. The chicks came all the way to Arizona from Connecticut (1 day express) which seems like a pretty hefty trip for these tiny things. Because of this, I’m always a little apprehensive opening the box in case one or more didn’t make it. Fortunately, the box was very loud and I could feel the girls moving around inside.



We carefully opened the box and found our newest little pets all snuggly and sweet inside.



Meet Lottie the buff orpington



And Cookie the black australorp



And Minnie the silver laced wyandotte (Can you tell Finley named this one? Although I’m sure I don’t spell it the way he’d want me to)



Any my personal favorite…Francie the naked neck. 



Once we got the girls unpacked, we carefully placed them into the brooder which will be their home until they are fully feathered (around 6 or 7 weeks) and ready to move outside.



They immediately dove into their food and water and filled their little bellies until they could hardly stand up. These girls are pooped out! Francie (the naked neck) could hardly hold her head up she was so exhausted.



The girls have a heat lamp in their brooder (which is why the photos have a red tinge) that will keep them at a warm 95 degrees for their first week. They all huddled together and had a nice, well deserved snooze. Again, poor Francie is face down in the pine shavings.



So far, they seem to be adjusting really well. They are well protected under the watchful eye of Sodapop. She won’t get her first (supervised) face to face meeting with them until they are older and bigger. She’s great friends with the big girls but these little ones might be a bit too tempting.



We are excited to have little chickies around again. I forgot how cute and tiny they are! My next task is to do some more research and come up with a plan of action for introducing them to the existing flock when the time comes. That part makes me really nervous… if anyone has any experience with that, I’d love some tips.
************************

I hope you don’t mind me borrowing my sister’s latest blog post, but I frankly find baby chicks adorable.

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.
*********************************
So, how about you?  
Have you encountered any unusual friendships between animals?  
I would love to hear about them!

Did you travel out of town for the 4th of July?  We normally don’t.  But before you start to feel sorry for us, I would love to share with you what we did this 4th.

We spent it with my sister and her family on their farm, which is located just 5 minutes from our house.  Their farm is a fun place to visit with dogs, chickens, a pet toad who lives with the chickens, fruit trees, nut trees and a vegetable garden.  I love sharing their farm with you all.


So we started out our evening with an all-American meal of hot dogs, chips and watermelon.  I brought Rice Krispy treats with both milk chocolate and white frosting on top.  After we ate, we went outdoors and watched the kids play.

In the distance, we could see a thunderstorm brewing, but it didn’t look like it was going to hit us.
As I usually do each week when we visit, I decided to check out the fruit trees and vegetable garden see what was growing.
The green fruit that you see above are grapefruit that will be ripe this winter.  Other then watering deeply (3 ft. deep), there is nothing to be done for citrus trees this month.


There was a single kumquat hanging in this tree.  Later the tree will be covered with them.


I love growing gourds and have 4 big ones in my own vegetable garden.  But, there are 3 large ones growing in this vegetable garden.


Both the watermelon and gourd plants are growing like crazy.  It is probably not a good idea to plant these plants close to each other.


The chickens, Effie, Lucy and Flo were out enjoying the early evening along with us.


Do you remember the frost-damaged tree that I wrote about a few weeks ago?  Well, look at how quickly it has grown!

My nephew Oliver, my son Kai, my daughter Ruthie, my nephew Finley and my daughter Gracie.

The kids were getting very excited about seeing fireworks.


Gracie may have been born in China, but she is a proud American citizen 🙂
Notice her shirt?  Gracie just loves Sonic the Hedgehog and couldn’t believe it when we saw this t-shirt at the store the other day.  It didn’t matter to her that it was in the boy’s department.  She used her allowance to buy it.  She wears it everyday until I tell her that I have to wash it 😉
Finally, it was dark enough to set off the fireworks in the front yard.



I don’t know who was most excited, the kids or my brother and brother-in-law who were going to set them off.


We started off small, with sparklers.


My daughter, Rachele, and I were happy to just watch.


Some of the fireworks were a bit loud for Gracie.


We had such a fabulous time watching our small firework show that we didn’t even venture into the backyard where our town’s firework display could be seen.

How about you?  
What did you do this 4th of July?

I was planning on continuing my series of posts of “Lesser Known Plants for the Garden” today…..that is until I saw my sister’s latest blog post.

Now for those of you who may not be familiar with my youngest sister; she is a resident of Double S Farms where she lives with her family and my mother.  They are just a 5 minute drive from my house.


Last year, my sister decided to start raising chickens.  She took some classes and built a chicken coop with her husband’s help.  Then the chicks arrived in the mail…..they were absolutely adorable.


Since then, we have been witness to their antics….

 They love eating food that drops from the kid’s dinner plates.  In this case macaroni and cheese.
 Trying to find some vegetables to eat….


And grateful recipients of their eggs…..




For those of you who have raised chickens, you know that sometimes they get dirty (you know where), and that can cause their eggs to also be dirty when they are laid.
Well, this was happening to my sister’s chicken, Flo.  And so something had to be done to solve Flo’s dirty problem.
Well, I learned something this week.  
Did you know that you can give a chicken a bath?
 I have mentioned before that my sister is somewhat of a trendsetter.
Just look at her gloves…..aren’t they so cute?


There was no way around it….Flo needed a bath.  Now you would think that chickens would hate baths….kind of like cats.  My sister fully expected to have a fight on her hands involving scratches from Flo’s beak and claws.
  Well Flo had some surprises in store for my sister…..

Little Farmer and Littlest Farmer decided to help their mother (Chicken Farmer) to get Flo clean.
Once she was put into the warm water, she was very calm and stayed still while she was being washed.  She actually seemed to enjoy it.
The weather was in the upper 70’s that day (warmer then usual this time of year) which was perfect.

You can see how dirty the water got (Flo had just gotten done rolling the dust).  
Now Flo was a clean chicken.
But my sister wasn’t through yet….

Flo needed to be dried off.  Believe it or not, she didn’t mind the blow dryer at all.
I am sure that my sister never thought that she would ever be using her hair dryer on a chicken 😉
 
The other chickens were very curious at what was going on with Flo.  Maybe they were even jealous of the beauty treatment that Flo received. 

 Next week, my sister is expecting a special delivery of some new chicks.  She had so much fun picking out the new breeds that they will add to their flock.  You can read about them and see pictures from her blog post.

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I will get right back to blogging about some more lesser-known plants for you to try out in your garden.  
So stay tuned 🙂

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.