Invasion of the Tomato Hornworms…

This post is rated M for mature audiences due to sexual situations and violence…

We have a sort of tradition in my family. We like to send disgusting pictures, stories, and articles to each. This can be pictures of a surgical procedure one of us had, something one of our kids did, but it’s often inspired by something we’ve found in our gardens. The top picture was sent by my sister. In case you aren’t sure what’s going on in the picture, it’s slugs having sex. They’re attached to a string of slime, which is attached to the side of her house. (You’re welcome.) The bottom two pictures were sent by my cousin after a discussion on wasp nests. I found them horrifically fascinating, and I really considered stringing up one of the baby dolls in an apple tree to see if the wasps would go for it.

Today it was my turn to share. I actually have to give credit to my sister-in-law, because she’s the one who pointed these guys out. She was looking at our garden yesterday evening and asked me if I had seen the green worms on my potato plants. I had noticed the plants were looking chewed on, but didn’t examine them too close because I was planning on pulling them this weekend. When I went out with her to look, this is what we found:

hornworm on plant

Introducing the Tomato Hornworm, also known as “Eww, eww, eww, that’s disgusting!!” Ok, not really. The scientific name is Manduca quinquemaculata, but I’m pretty sure that translates to “eww, eww, eww, that’s disgusting!”

They’re easily recognizable because of the markings on their bodies, as well as the horn on their asses. They would be almost charming if the ass-end was the head. Like fat, green little unicorn ponies.

hornworm & finger

Although they’re called tomato hornworms, these suckers were on my potato plants, and they actually stick to plants in the nightshade family, including eggplants and pepper plants.

They’ll completely decimate your plants, as you can see in this picture:

potato plants gone

One of the ways you can tell if you have them (other than your plants suddenly looking like complete shit) is little berry-looking worm poop. Think the berries in Captain Crunch Wild Berries:

hornworm poop

lots of hornworm poop

If you see berry poop, look over your plants and you’ll probably find these guys:

2 hornworms on plant

They do the most damage in the caterpillar stage. This time of year, the big caterpillars will start dropping off of the plants to begin burrowing into the ground for the winter. Like this guy:

hornworm digging2

They stay in the ground over the winter and emerge as big moths in the spring. The moths are often referred to as “sphinx”, “hawk”, or “hummingbird” moths. The moths eventually lay eggs on leaves, and the whole nasty process begins again. So the question is, how do you get rid of the little bastards?

Till heavily in the spring. This kills about 90% of the caterpillars still in the ground. You can also plant things like dill, basil, and marigolds around your plants to keep the caterpillars away. Wasps are also your friend when it comes to hornworms. The braconid wasps actually lay eggs on the caterpillars, and the babies eat the caterpillars from the inside out. So if you find one of these guys and he looks like he has rice stuck all over him, leave it alone! The wasps are working.

If you do find them on your plants, they’re pretty easy to pull off (but don’t squeeze too hard!). Chickens supposedly eat them, but ours weren’t impressed. One of the girls pecked at one a couple of times and then left it alone. If your chickens are picky, or you don’t have chickens (why don’t you have chickens!?), you can put them in a bowl of soapy water. Like so:

They get pretty pissy when you first put them in but die fairly quickly. I ended up with a fairly healthy worm-crop – eleven. This doesn’t count the three we pulled last night. The most I had on one plant was four. I will warn you that if you accidentally dump your bowl of worm-water over, you may get this:

javi rolling in hornworm water

Javi Bad Dog was a big fan.

After I had already taken mine swimming, my cousin mentioned that lizards and tarantulas are HUGE fans of hornworms because there’s no exoskeleton. They’re also full of nutrients. We just happen to have a nice, big bearded-dragon in our house, so I madly looked over all of the potato plants. On the very last one, I came across this guy!

final hornworm

Yay! The lizard was over-joyed and had him gone in about 30 seconds. Check out https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100018478174998 to see the video.

If you’re feeling really adventurous, or if your tomatoes took a beating from the worms, get some payback! Eat those bitches! Fried Green Tomato Hornworms – the recipe can be found at:¬†https://www.thedailymeal.com/recipes/fried-green-tomato-hornworms-recipe

Mmmmmm….

hornwormsrecipe

(Many thanks to my sister and cousin Mandy for your thoughts and suggestions. Credit also to http://www.extension.umn.edu/garden/insects/find/tomato-hornworms-in-home-gardens/ for additional information.)

 

Moving Day!

Chicks are like children. They’re all sweet and innocent when they’re babies…

And we really like them when they’re sleeping…

sleeping chicks

But as they get older, they get funny looking, moody, and they start to smell bad…

When that happens, there’s only one thing you can do – move them in with someone else. Like these fine, unsuspecting folks!

chicken barn

Yesterday was moving day for the oldest chicks – about 26 chicks in all, made up of a mix of Barred Rock, Ameraucanas, Old English, Sumatra, and Sumatra Cochin crosses. Along with making the garage smell horrible (even the boys had started to comment on it), the chicks were starting to give us looks. Looks like, if I could, I would peck your eyes out.

So Tracy and Gus spent the bulk of the day making a temporary enclosure in the chicken barn for our broody teenage birds.

enclosure started

Tracy and I added the wire in the afternoon, and they were moved in soon after.

There’s a very nice video on our FaceBook page that shows the chicks getting to know each other (fighting) and their new home. They got it figured out fairly fast, and this morning everyone was sleeping together. Behind the waterer, of course, instead of under their light.

The older birds still aren’t sure of what to make of it, and so are mostly ignoring the chicks. We can’t wait until Simeon realizes he’s supposed to keep track of all of these, too. They still have a few weeks before they’ll be allowed into the run, and then another several weeks before we allow them to free range. By then, they should be out of the moody teenager stage and safely into the young adult ‘you’re stupid and I know everything’ stage. It’s at that point we’re expecting the older chickens to start asking for new accommodations.

Chickens Are Fickle & Heartless Creatures…

This past week we’ve been witness to the fickleness and overall meanness of chickens. To be fair, it’s really just one hen that’s being nasty and fickle, the other hen is just fickle.

Here are our three broody girls. Tilly is the little poofy one with white splashes. She’s a Cochin Bantam. She’s nesting on the floor. The middle lady is Ursula and she’s a Black Sumatra. She pecks at you when you reach under her to see how things are going. The third is Nancy/Gladys and she’s an Old English hen. We have two OE hens who are identical, hence Nancy/Gladys.

Gladys/Nancy started sitting first but was pushed off her eggs by Ursula. I gave Nancy some different eggs and then Ursula stole those. Tilly pretty much stayed out of it and kept to herself on the floor. Gladys continued to nest-hop for a few more days and then finally settled on one and has remained consistent.

Ursula hatched out two chicks about a week and a half ago.

Sumatra chicks

Aren’t they darling? But where is their fine mother? Down in Tilly’s nest. She decided she wanted more eggs so she left the chicks in the nesting box and took over Tilly’s spot. I tried some rearranging so that Tilly wouldn’t lose her eggs but Ursula would move wherever the eggs went, regardless of where the chicks were. (Not sure if this will work but we’ll try it – https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100018478174998 )

Urula on the floor w chicks

We went from the ground nesting box to…

T&U with older chicks

The two girls co-parenting on Tilly’s nest. That was fine with Tilly, and Ursula even started leaving the chicks with Tilly at night so she could go sit in the nesting box (on wooden eggs). Well, yesterday Tilly’s eggs started hatching.

She had two chicks hatch out, a little black Cochin and Sumatra cross, and the little yellow guy under her wing, who could be a Sumatra splash. The problem was that she kept leaving the nest to go with Ursula and Ursula’s chicks. One of other things that I found concerning was that Ursula attacked the yellow chick. I hoped it was a one time thing, scooted the chicks back with Tilly and left it. Then we found Tilly’s chicks outside the coop after dark last night, both outside of the netting of the run. One was tangled in the netting, and the other was tucked under the outer wall of the coop, a little dark puffball, and it was pure luck that we found it.

This morning, Tilly had a third chick and her fourth egg was pipping (starting to hatch out). She was again off the nest with Ursula and all four older chicks. The newest chick had just hatched and wasn’t even fluffed yet.

Tilly and chick 3

I ended up giving the new chick and still hatching egg to Gladys/Nancy, who all this time, has been gazing at the peeping chicks longingly. She wasn’t sure what was going on at first but was soon busy tucking it underneath and making it warm.

Meanwhile, the other ladies were back outside. It appeared to be a peaceful scene of co-mothering.

Until they got up to move again and Tilly’s two chicks came wandering out – the yellow chick with a bloody gash on the side of its head.

bloody chick

After doing some research, I found that a lot of people report that their chickens will attack chicks colored different than most of the brood. There doesn’t seem to be any pattern to it – sometimes the white chicks get attacked, sometimes the black ones, sometimes the red ones. Both of Ursula’s chicks are dark and she seemed fine with Tilly’s black chick.

If the hen is protective enough, she’ll keep the other birds away from her chicks. Tilly doesn’t so I took Tilly’s two away from her and put them in a brooder. So far both look like they’re doing okay and Tilly is still busy with Ursula’s chicks. Next year we’ll create some hatching cages so the girls sitting can stay with their chicks, and not worry about one of the other hens getting nasty.

As for Ursula, she’s off the ‘good with children’ list…

Bedlam Hollow Welcomes…

Ode To Joy!

Ode by the barn

 

When we decided to move to New Hampshire we knew we would one day have a horse. Having both grown up with horses it was one of those things that was just going to happen. Of course, ‘one day’ ended up coming sooner than we thought it would, but much like a pile of old baby dolls, you just don’t pass up a good horse when you find it.

We went and met Ode and his wonderful owner Sherry at the end of July and after spending some time with them we knew that he was going to be an excellent fit for Bedlam Hollow. But first we needed a barn…

 

 

And fencing…which led to more poison ivy…

 

On August 6th, Ode finally arrived to bring that wonderful smell of horse to the farm. And to improve the view from the sun room…

 

Ode is a 13 year old Percheron gelding. He’s 18 hands (for those unfamiliar with measuring horses, that means really big) but he’s a very sweet boy and a big fan of grass.

Ode first night

Ode already has many fans in the area so if you’re in our neighborhood please feel free to drop by and visit. Just remember to bring the carrots.

 

 

 

 

I Know He Loves Me…

wedding

Five months ago today I married an amazing, wonderful man. A man who knows me better than anyone I’ve ever met. A man who loves me, adores me, and truly wants me for who I am. How do I know this? Baby doll heads.

baby dolls

That’s right. He knows me so well that even when I completely missed a pile of perfectly icky and broken baby dolls, he had my back and pointed them out. And took pictures! On top of that, my wonderful and amazing sister-in-law made a call and asked if I could go and collect the baby doll heads. Well, I’m pretty sure she asked about the full babies but she knew what I was really after.

 

Thank you to my husband and our family – I’m truly grateful to have you all and to be in the wonderful state of New Hampshire. And just remember – Halloween is right around the corner and you can never have enough baby doll heads!

We Got His & Her Matching…

Poison Ivy! Yes folks, that’s right! Because the couple that scratches together stays together!

Mother. Fucker. That’s really all I can say about it. I hate poison ivy. He hates poison ivy. On the positive side, the area that we cleared out by the shed looks very pretty.

 

The Peepers…

Tuesday was a big day for us. Actually, let me back up a bit. When we decided that we were going to move to New Hampshire and, among other things, try our hand at farming, Brother John started trolling Craigslist for us. One of the ads he sent our way was for a cabinet incubator (holds something like 300 chicken eggs), an electric scalder, and a brooder. I was actually only interested in the scalder (we’re talking turkey-sized, people!), but it was a package deal at a ridiculously low price. Brother John and his brother the Champion Snorer went and checked them out for us, declared it an excellent deal AND talked the guy into selling some beehives.

So now we had this incubator. Our options were to use it as a funky end-table or attempt some hatching. Since we need chickens we decided to go with the hatching option and put our first dozen in at the end of June.

eggs in incubator

Since the incubator had been sitting in a barn for awhile we weren’t sure of our hatching rate so we set two more batches. And then we were given a dozen Barred Rock eggs and a dozen Ameraucana eggs (thank you Lee & Cindy!).

So we set those, which brought us to 52 eggs. And then I may have set another dozen….

Anyway…Back to Tuesday. Tuesday was Batch #1’s hatch day. This egg happened to be in the front so the first one I noticed, but I think it was actually the third to hatch.

First egg first hatch

Below is actually the first chick to pop out. And it was a naughty chick. I intended to keep new chicks in the incubator for 12 to 24 hours. This chick insisted in hopping out of the tray to the back of the incubator and then screaming bloody murder. After the second rescue I pulled it out and put it in the bin.

We ended up with eight out of the first dozen. Which is higher than what we predicted our hatch rate to be.

egg break

The above is the egg from the first picture. We have video of the hatch on our Facebook page…

 

three fluffy chicks8 chicks first batch

We think we have four Old English chicks, three Sumatra chicks, and one Sumatra/Bantam Cochin cross (that should be an interesting chicken). Tomorrow is the next hatch day so make sure to check back for news on The Peepers…The New Batch!!

Our First Turtle Rescue…

We went to Plymouth today to buy shavings for the birds, a spray bottle (completely forgot to pick one up) and pieces to fix the sink. We were just tooling around on the back roads and came across a very nice turtle in the middle of our lane. Having heard my stories of rescuing snakes and turtles off the road, Tracy didn’t even blink when I yelled “turtle!” and he just pulled off the road. There was another car that turned around, too but I already was out of the truck with turtle in hand by the time they stopped.

turtle1.jpg

He was quite shy to begin with but was soon trying to walk around the truck.

turtle2

turtle3

We decided to take him home since we have the pond, streams, woods, and fields on the property so we felt pretty sure whatever type of turtle he happened to be, he’d be happy. And far away from the road.

turtle4

He sat this way, contemplating the pond, his life, or possibly sex with an ostrich, for over an hour. We finally just left him to his thoughts and when we went back about a half hour later he was gone.

After looking him up, it turns out that he’s a wood turtle. They like slow moving streams, fields, wooded areas, and sandy ground. We don’t really have sand but everything else is covered so hopefully he’s happy. And stays away from ostriches.

Bitchy Blueberries…

At the beginning of July we got a lot of rain. Like A LOT of rain. The Baker River is across the road from us and is usually a nice walking river. Meaning you can wear an old pair of shoes and shorts and have a fairly leisurely stroll through it without fighting rapids and fearing for your life. Well the rain that we got on the 1st of July brought our nice calm river up at least 5 feet. I shit you not. We witnessed entire full-grown trees being taken down by the water. Very impressive.

(The Baker River & one of the rain induced ponds in our yard)

The point is we’ve had a lot of rain this summer. Being a recent transplant I can’t say for certain that this is an abnormal amount of rain for a NH summer, but it’s a lot of rain. Which does not explain why our blueberries are being bitchy.

Remember the blueberries that I posted about? (It was only a few days ago so it shouldn’t be that difficult.) To give you an idea of what I was up against…

The first picture was before I even went over the bridge to get behind the pond. The second picture is what it looked like before I attacked it.

Here it is cleaned up. 15+ blueberries – easily identifiable from all of the other craziness growing up there. Yes, they need to be pruned and cleaned up but at least we can now get to the bushes. And we can see a bear before being mauled by it.

BlueBerry Bushes

As beat up as the bushes are, each one had tons of non-ripe blueberries on it. We walked up last evening to check their progress and color me surprised when I found this…

withered blueberrieswithered blueberries2withered blueberries3

Withered up little bastards! And from what I read, they’re withered up because they’re dry! WTF! With all the rain we’ve had, you’d think these guys would be swamped. Mostly we’re glad that it doesn’t seem to be mummy berry (as fun as the name is it doesn’t sound fun to deal with), and I’m also glad it rained most of the night and today. Because I really don’t want to explain this one to the bears.

And He Said We Have No Wildlife…

Deer

We’ve been living in the house for roughly six weeks now and considering how much of our property is made up of woods, it’s a little surprising that we haven’t had more four-legged visitors. Hoppers might disagree with us because the other night he was kept quite busy thumping out warnings to whatever it was that was pissing him off. Anyway, we were just talking this morning about how little wildlife (not counting little birds) we’ve seen. The turkeys haven’t been around for about a week and no deer since before that.

Well earlier today Javi Bad Dog started barking in the other room. I was in the office on the computer and as I often do I just told him to stop with the barking. I then happened to look out the window to see a deer walking by the garden (the little f*ker – like the cucumbers need any help dying). I went to the Florida room where Javi Bad Dog was staring intently out the window at not one, but two deer. I think we may be putting the fence up this weekend. (Sorry about the quality of the picture – my phone only zooms in so far.)

20160721_195943

While the deer are a pain in the ass but not particularly exciting, I received this picture about an hour later (thanks Ray and Lauren!). This was actually taken a year ago but the fine marshmallow bear was in our front yard at the time. We have seen evidence of bears out by the blueberries as well so I’m sure we’ll see one or two eventually.

For now, we’ll be content with these questionable characters who have taken to begging at our door.