Tomato Hornworms

Every summer, we wait for them.  Even when it looks like maybe they won’t come, we know it’s inevitable, only a matter of time.  Sure enough, summer after summer, they arrive with their voracious appetites and wreak havoc in the garden.

You know them, I’m sure.  Tomato hornworms.  Those nasty fat caterpillars that love tomato plants.  The ones the with the spike sticking up from the rear end.  The ones who look like they’ve come from another planet.

There’s only one thing to do once the tomato hornworms launch their attack on our plants: fight back.  A garden war.

Don’t worry, dear readers.  Although it LOOKS like our garden was totally decimated, in reality only three out of about 50 tomato plants suffered any extensive damage.  Go ahead, breathe a sigh of relief.

Friday on the Farm

Today has been a glorious day – and it’s only noon!  We’ve still got plenty of this amazing day left ahead of us!

Early this morning, while the dew was still hanging like diamonds from the leaves, we ventured into the garden to do some weeding.  Look what we found!

Cucumbers! Lots and lots of cucumbers!

Nice, big, succulent cucumbers!

We couldn’t resist chomping into a few.  Mmmm… there’s nothing better than food fresh off the plant.  The taste is unbeatable!

While we were weeding, we found something else in the garden – something we’d rather not have found.

Cabbage moth caterpillars, all over our Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and kholi rabi plants.  Argh!  Luckily, my children found great fun in plucking the caterpillars off of our plants, and happily spent over half an hour carefully examining each leaf on every plant, and dropping the caterpillars into a bucket.  By the time they were finished, they had over one hundred cabbage moth caterpillars in their bucket.  EWW!

So, what to do with all these garden peskies?

Feed them to the chickens!  Now THAT is natural pest control!

While we were busy plucking cabbage moth caterpillars off our plants, wee Robin was doing what he loves best -

- hanging with the goats!  This child loves, LOVES to be with the goats.  They are his favourite creatures, and he will spend hours following them around the yard as they graze.  They seem to love him too.  Maybe it’s the treats he happily hands over – apple cores, carrot stubs, melon rinds – or maybe they just sense how much he cares for them.  Whatever the connection, I’m glad they have it.

As I went about my farm chores this morning, I thought to myself that “chores” is really the wrong word to describe what I’m doing out there.  None of it feels like a chore, none of it is work.  It’s a daily dose of connection to the Earth, connection to our animals, fresh air, glorious sun.  It’s invigorating, uplifting, fulfilling, and all-around enjoyable.  The farm work grounds me, calms me, and fills me with purpose.  There is no place I’d rather be than out there in the yard taking care of this place.

Raw Milk, Broody Hens, and Annoying Mice

Life has been oh-so-busy lately! Almost every day over the past week or so has been spent away from home, and I feel like I’m scrambling to get the farm chores done. I’ve been so blessed to have my brother around most mornings, helping out and giving me a chance to have a lazy start to the day. He built a wonderful milking stand for the goats and has come to milk Bella several times.

The kids (human kids, that is) have been enjoying fresh, raw goat’s milk on their oatmeal and cereal. They are both dairy intolerant and can get very sick if they consume pasteurized goat’s milk or cow’s milk – even the smallest traces of milk ingredients in foods will give them diarrhea. I was very hesitant to introduce our farm-fresh, raw goat’s milk to my kids given the extent to which they can react, but I had read quite a bit about dairy intolerant folks handling raw milk just fine. So, we went with it – and the kids are A-OK! They love their goat’s milk in the morning and it doesn’t upset their tiny tummies in the slightest. I’m relieved, and thankful. I’ve been thinking a lot about raw milk lately, and have it on my to-do list to write up a blog post about it.

The other morning, my brother went up into the hay loft of the barn to pull down another bale for the goats. Up in the hay he found Lady Rose, one of our Red Sussex hens. She didn’t move when he approached her, so my brother lifted her up to send her on her way. Underneath Lady Rose, there was a PILE of eggs! Three weeks’ worth of eggs, to be exact, and there she was just sitting on them! I thought she had stopped laying when we moved her into the new coop, but in fact she just started laying somewhere else – somewhere where this nosy farm mama couldn’t disturb her in her broodiness. Lady Rose will make a fine mama hen in the spring!

The mice in the house are really starting to bother me. We got a kitten about a month ago with the hopes that he would become a good mouser, and he is! The other day, the kids found him in the kitchen playing with a mouse, batting it back and forth and knocking it around. Apparently he didn’t seem to understand that he should kill it, because he merely played with it for a while before letting it get away. I’m sure as he gets older he’ll become more ruthless! I’ve set live traps out for the mice, and take them far out into the fields to let them go – though I wonder if it’s not far enough, and I should take them down to Cedar Creek instead? At any rate, I want the mice out of my house.

So, life has been busy, but good. I find that even at our busiest here, the days feel so much more relaxed than our city life ever did. Time ebbs and flows, the kids grow, the seasons change, and I feel thankful and blessed for the beauty and joy of this life I am living.