A Tale of Two Tails…

Once upon a time, a long time ago (approximately six years), in a land far, far away (Wisconsin) there was a man who had a few bunnies. Well, a shit ton of bunnies to be more specific. The man loved bunnies. He loved all the little fluffy things that people love about bunnies, but he loved eating them more. So all of these bunnies were destined for the freezer. Until two of these bunnies were taken away to live the good bunny life in West Virginia (short-lived thanks to a neighbor’s dog) and New Hampshire (with a five year stint in Maryland).

This is Hoppers, formally knows as Sir Hops A Lot. He was just a little guy in this picture but anyone who has been to our house in Maryland or in New Hampshire has probably had the chance to pet Hoppers, admire his size, and comment on what a fine pair of slippers he would make.

P1050093 (1)

This winter Hoppers had a stroke. Combined with his age we knew he probably wouldn’t make it to the fall, so we had a few discussions of what to do with the mammoth bunny hutch after he was gone. Although the hutch is big enough to house a young elephant, the sane thing was of course to leave it empty for awhile and make a decision next spring.

I ended up taking a trip to WI for a wedding event. This is also where the Bunny Man lives. Thankfully he did not have any bunnlets in the barn, but he did have four lovely lady rabbits that were housed together. They came right out when I opened the cage and asked for pets, and of course I couldn’t not pet them. And of course I had to point out to the Bunny Man how nice these four girls were.

After I got back home to New Hampshire the Bunny Man called to tell me that I had ruined those bunnies for him. They came to the front of the cage when he fed them, looking for pets and treats. There was no way he could put the in the freezer now, and oh by the way, it turns out that only two were lady bunnies. The other two were males.

It just so happened that Tracy had a trip to WI scheduled that included a 16-foot moving truck and a grizzly bear. Plenty of room in the truck for a couple of rabbits, I said. He told me there was no way he was bringing home the two girls because we didn’t need more rabbits. He was right, but of course he brought them home because he’s wonderful.

Griselda the Harpy Auctioneer is the solid black bunny (she’s with Hoppers in the first picture and me in the third) and Mad Madam Mim is the wild bunny with perky ears. Both lovely girls who’ve seemed to adapt to New Hampshire life quickly. So all was good. Hoppers had a couple of friends to live out the rest of his life with, and we’d still have two very nice rabbits once Hoppers died.

So, there’s a funny thing about getting rabbits from the Bunny Man. They sometimes come with, well, extras (as Cousin Mandy can attest to).

Grizzy and Mim had been with us for about three weeks when I went out to feed them and noticed something odd. Grizzy was stealing and carrying around her hay.


Since rabbits don’t generally carry things around in their mouth, I was fairly sure about what I was going to find when I opened the inner house…


Grizzy was nesting. She actually was pulling hair out of Hoppers to make her first nest (he didn’t seem too concerned by it) but the nest pictured was her second one (after I cleaned up the first and tried to give her a nesting box – which she didn’t fit in).

A quick calculation from the day I left and when the two bucks were removed from the cage did support the pregnancy suspicion. I did some light belly probing and was pretty sure I felt babies bopping around and I could also see movement when she was laying still. Poor Hoppers got moved out of his big house since moving Grizzy could cause stress and result in her eating the potential babies. I also decided to leave Mim with Grizzy since they were bonded and separating them could also cause stress.

During the late morning of June 1st Tracy found that Hoppers had joined the Great Bunny Warren in the Sky and we planted him in the garden. That night or early the next morning, Grizzy had her bunlets.

These pictures are from day 3 or 4 – the first day I just did a quick check to make sure everyone was alive and did a quick count. Five babies. I was thrilled, since five is a very doable number when trying to find homes.

As the babies grew and Grizzy declined to eat them, I learned that there were actually nine bunlets. I also learned that baby bunnies are a lot like popcorn at the beginning…

We’re learning many interesting things about rabbits and mothering practices. Grizzy and Mim are defiantly co-parenting. Mim actually spends more time with them than Grizzy does, and I would say is the more nervous of the two when it comes to possible threats to the children.

Rabbits also carry out speed nursing and only three or four times a day. This is so they don’t draw attention to the nest where the babies are.

The bunlets started occasionally go out on their own, looking for Grizzy if they feel they haven’t had enough to eat…

They opened their eyes on day 12 and really started doing bunny-type things by day 13…

Yesterday I started handling everyone so that they’re fully user-friendly by the eight week mark, which is when they can be weaned. It’s amazing how fast they change in 24 hours. They’ve become quite adventurous.

Today was the first day they started eating rabbit food, which means we can start introducing them to treats. So now, other than slightly squished faces, they look and function like real rabbits. The plan is to keep one of Grizzy’s daughters and find the other eight bunlets homes. Considering the plan for this year was to NOT acquire any new animals and we now have 24 new chickens with another 15 coming, and baby bunnies, who the hell knows how many of the babies we’ll end up with.

The obvious moral of this tale of 14 bunny tails, is no good deed (saving bunnies from the freezer and making your wife happy) goes unpunished. But if the punishment involves fluffy bunnies, count me in.

A Quick Word About Turkeys…

They’re stupid. An example:


This is the current temperature tonight. 29 degrees. It’s cold.

2 turkeys on the roof

These are two turkeys who decided roosting on the top of the house was a better plan than going into the coop tonight with the rest of their turkey family.

Need I say more?

Fall – Tis The Season…

…For Killing Harvesting!

Gloomy fall

But we really mean killing when we say harvesting. Or processing. Which are both nicer words for what amounts to murder. Whether you’re yanking onions from the ground, ripping pumpkins off the vine, or removing the head from a chicken, it all ends up dead and on the table. And I think that’s just fine. I’m all for growing/raising/harvesting/murdering…whatever you want to call it.

Our garden was quite the murder scene this year. And by that I mean it was a big FAIL! We started out strong. I made tons of notes on different veggies and different varieties. We bought seed trays and started them in plenty of time for things to sprout, grow, and harden.

But everything went to hell because life gets busy and weather doesn’t cooperate. So we ended up with a lot of dead plants. But dead in the not useful way.  I managed to kill over 300 hundred plants including a variety of herbs, tomatoes, peppers, squash, and sunflowers.

We’ll try again this winter but scale it back and time things better. It will also help if I actually get things planted in the garden in a timely manner. That was another factor in the Great Garden Disaster of 2018. The potatoes were the only things that went in at a somewhat acceptable time. Everything else was late (like middle of July late) or didn’t go in at all. So we got lots of nice looking plants and vines, but very little off of them.

Tomato risers

I did find out that even though the started tomato and pepper plants looked like hell, they did beautifully out in the garden. The tomato risers that Tracy and Evan built also worked amazingly well, and I think smaller versions would work for other viney veggies.

Here are my sad beets. They weren’t completely sad in this picture, and I actually was hopeful we’d get at least a few small ones this year. But notice how some of the leaves are missing or half missing?

sad beets

That’s because we had this to contend with…

Turky face

The turkeys and chickens played a major role in garden issues this year. Anything that actually got big enough to pick had all sort of holes from these guys. Next year we’ll be putting a fence around the garden. It won’t keep them out completely, but they won’t be able to just take over, either.

Our end of year vegetable total was about 50 pounds of potatoes, a ton of summer squash that nobody else ate so the pigs got it all, 10 good sized zucchini, a couple of bags (sandwich sized) of tomatoes, and about two dozen small onions. Oh, and two very sad little carrots. The blueberries, raspberries, and apples were also a complete loss this year, but I can’t take credit for that. Weather seemed to be the biggest factor and the majority of people I talked to had the same issues with fruit and berries.

So that’s the garden for this year. There are still some tomatoes out on the plants that I’ll pick and put in the freezer, and I may get a few more decent onions. But for the most part everything is done and I would rate this gardening season as a bust.

Luckily the protein end was more successful…


The Bear Facts of Poultry Farming in NH…

“The other day. I saw a bear. A great big bear. Oh way up there!” Ok, so if you didn’t go to Camp Bird during the summers of your youth, you may not be familiar with the song. But the message is the same. The other day (Friday to be exact) I saw a bear. He maybe wasn’t a great big bear, but he was big enough. I wasn’t terribly surprised to see him because he’d made a visit to the turkey coop only a handful of hours prior and left with two of our turkeys. Asshole bear.

Friday morning I went to let the birds out and saw this on the turkey coop door:

bottom of coop door

We had a fisher cat in the yard only a few days before, so I figured he must have been around, trying to get in for a meal. I opened the door and the waterer, which is pretty big, was tipped over. I had just cleaned the coop so I was irritated, but I figured the birds must have gotten into a squabble and knocked it over. I picked it up, headed back out the door and saw this:

door frame

There were large chunks hanging from it (I pulled them off before thinking better of it) and at that point, I knew something really wasn’t right. The broadbreasted turkeys have some mean claws, but nothing that would have done that type of damage to the wooden frame. Finally, I noticed this:

Window inside

Originally fastened securely, the hardware cloth was torn from the building and crumpled quite impressively.

Wooden chunks on the floor of the coop and the window from the outside.

This was our first real attack on the birds, and even though you know it’ll happen eventually – we do live in bear country – you’re still not quite prepared for it. Especially when you realize the bear got away with some of these:

And left you with:

bear poop

As mentioned, he came back later in the afternoon to see what else he could find. The keets were squawking up a storm so Javi Bad Dog and I went out to check on things. The bear popped out of the woods behind the coop, pleased as he could be. I went running down the yard (in my socks, once again), yelling and clapping like a crazy lady. Luckily the bear was feeling accommodating and went back into the woods. Javi Bad Dog was completely oblivious to the bear until after it was gone.

We looked around and it seems like he tested a first window before moving to the window facing the woods, where he would have had more privacy to work:




We now have an electric fence around the coops, and hopefully that will deter the bear when he comes back.

It’s a bad year for bears – the blueberries took a hit with the heat, the drought at the beginning of the summer, and now a lot of rain. The apple trees are also thin, and I was told the acorns are also bad this year. So I can’t blame him for going after an easy meal of turkeys and meatball chickens. Of course, that doesn’t mean we’ll be skipping our bear tag this year.

When Life Gives You Winter…Make Maple Syrup…

bedlam hollow tree with bucket

When you live in New Hampshire there are certain things that are expected of you. You’re expected to drop the ‘a’ off the end of words and insert ‘er’ (and vice versa), ski, grow a beard, and wear flannel. If you’re able bodied and have something to tap, you’re also expected to produce syrup. It doesn’t have to be a large quantity – enough for one breakfast is acceptable – and it can be a thrown together operation – just so you do it. About a week and a half ago we finally joined the rest of the syrup producing population and tapped our first trees…

Tapping a tree and collecting syrup is a pretty straight-forward affair. For optimal collection the temps should be in the low 40’s (Fahrenheit) during the day and the mid-20’s at night. You then have to locate a tree that will produce sap. Ideally you’ve taken the time over the summer and fall to locate good candidates. We didn’t, but we have two very large, old sugar maples on our property that we were pretty sure would work. If you don’t have maples, or you aren’t sure what type of maples you have, don’t worry. There’s actually a fairly extensive list of tapable trees. Maples work well because of the higher sugar content in the sap. 40 gallons of sap from a sugar maple are needed to produce one gallon of syrup. In comparison, it takes 100 gallons or more of birch sap to make one gallon of syrup.

Tracy sap tools

Some items you’ll need for tapping a tree are a drill with a 7/16 inch bit, a hammer, a spile (also known as a tap or spout), a bucket, a lid, and a hook (for hooking the bucket to the spile). If you’re half-assing it because you’re new to the whole tapping process, zip ties and bungee cords are also recommended.

You’re looking for a tree that is at least 12 inches in diameter. You can use more than one tap per tree if the tree is big enough (over 20 inches), but we stayed with one tap per tree for this year. After identifying a tree, examine it to find a good place to drill. You want to drill into the tree between two and two a half inches at a slight upward angle. You can use a twig to clean out the hole (oops) and then insert the spile, tapping gently with the hammer.

sap drip

Once the spile is in place you should see a clear liquid dripping out pretty much immediately. There’s actually a little drip of sap in the above picture, about halfway down. It looks exactly like water. At this point hang your bucket on the hook. If you forgot to place the hook on the spile before pounding it into the tree, pull the spile out, insert the hook, and re-insert the spile. If you haven’t quite figured out how to make the hook, spile, bucket, and lid all work as one, whip out your zip ties and cinch that bitch together. Because at this point your hands are probably frozen and you no longer care about looking authentic.

1st 24 hrs sap 2nd tree

We collected our first sap 24 hours after tapping and got about a gallon and a half between the two trees. The weather was on the colder side so the sap flow was slow and there was quite a bit of ice. The ice has a very low sugar content (we tried some) so it can be thrown out – this just means there’s less water to boil out of the sap. (Note the bungee cord and zip ties in the first picture.)

Collected sap

It’s recommended that you boil the sap within seven days of collection. We have about three and a half gallons sitting in the fridge waiting to get boiled down – and that will be tomorrow’s adventure.

The Brutal Realities of Chickening…

Most people around here have chickens. Depending on who you talk to the chickens might be farm chickens, backyard chickens, or pet chickens. The people I’ve talked to enjoy having their chickens because, let’s face it, chickens are fun. And most people tell me that having chickens is fairly low stress. Until something came in and ate all of their chickens. And then, distraught, pissed off, or just frustrated by the whole process, many people end their chicken adventure.

We knew that we would have chickens on our farm because of the insane tick population and because we wanted eggs. We also knew that free ranging our birds meant we had the potential of losing a quarter to a third of our flock from predators, sickness, stupidity (the chickens, not us), stupidity (us, not the chickens), and death sentences. As we’ve progressed through winter, we found that our estimate was pretty accurate.

About a month ago I looked outside and found the guineas out in the trees. This isn’t something to be alarmed about because the guineas like to perch high when the mood strikes them.

I thought, “what are those foolish birds doing up in the tree?” and grabbed my phone and took pictures and video. As I was taking pictures I started paying more attention to the area around the coop and came across this:

feathers from attack

Feathers, especially lots of feathers, are never good. Especially accompanied by:

What you’re seeing are marks in the snow from the wings of birds freaking out. One or two might be a couple of roosters fighting. But when you have them all over it means a predator came in. In this instance, we know we had two somethings come in because of the tracks. Probably coyotes, one smaller and one bigger. We quickly counted chickens and found out we had a significant number missing. Tracy found one of the largest Ameraucana roosters in the woods still alive but with a huge tear in his back (he died that night). He found our large Barred Rock rooster dead in the woods. Tracy said the smaller animal must have had this rooster because he could see where it had to drag the rooster through the snow and kept dropping it. The rooster finally got lodged between trees and the smaller animal left it. My little Bantam Cochin hen, Tilly, was also gone and we suspect she was taken easily because of how little she was. Tilly was the worst for me because she was our only pet chicken.

We also found several chickens scattered around the property. A group was hiding out in the front of the house and another hen was way out in the yard, tucked up in one of the huge pines.

I had the chickens out for monitored play time around the middle of January and one minute everyone was hanging out and the next there was a large coyote coming down the hill, almost to the coop. The chickens were all calm as could be, standing around without a care in the world. I ran outside, yelling and cursing at it to get the fuck away from the chickens (who were staring at me like I was crazy). It finally turned around and went back up the hill but it took its time and then stayed up on the ridge watching.

A few weeks after that I was looking out at the back and noticed something moving in the orchard.

fox in orchardfox in orchard 2fox in orchard 3

He nicely stayed in the orchard and then turned back and went into the woods behind the pond.

Our latest predator encounter was with a very lovely Fisher Cat. Tracy caught him on the game camera taking a dead rooster (check out our Face Book page for the video).

Which brings up another part of owning chickens. What I like to call “flock control”. We have roosters in our flock. Simeon Smith is our main rooster and he’s honestly one of the nicest roosters I’ve ever seen. He’s fairly gentle with the ladies and he has no problem beating the shit out of a rooster who isn’t nice to the ladies. But we have a lot of roosters, Simeon can’t be everywhere at once, and roosters become redundant.

The Triplets are a perfect example of redundant roosters. Three Sumatra / Cochin crosses that looked pretty much the same.


Our plan was to leave the roosters alone until they started showing aggressive behavior. Things were fairly quiet and then one of the triplets started attacking Old English hens. Breeding is a part of coop life if you have roosters and sometimes breeding can seem a little, let’s say unromantic. If the hen doesn’t seem distressed and the rooster gets through the breeding fairly fast I’ll leave them alone. But the OEs are about a third smaller than the full sized roosters and this guy only went after the OE hens. So he was put on the execution list. His brothers were quickly added to the same list (and met similar fates) when they started going after hens, one after another, during feeding time. I ended up grabbing the remaining two triplets and then watching the hens. It’s amazing how calm things are in a coop when you don’t have aggressive roosters fucking everything up. Needless to say they were dead that afternoon.

So there you have it – two of the brutal realities of chickening. Combine those with the fact that chickens are heartless killers and cannibals, and you might ask, “why bother having them at all?”

There’s nothing like fluffy little chicks, a mother and her babies, roosters crowing in the yard, keets calling from the trees, and farm fresh eggs. That they’re vicious little raptors is actually part of their charm, too.

Know Who You’re Eating…

It’s funny where destiny leads us. Some people are destined to help others. Some people are destined to be famous. And still others are apparently destined to raise and kill meat chickens. I happen to fall into this last category. My destiny was predicted by my oldest sister with the creation of a business card about 25 years ago…

Gutting card

We grew up on a farm where we ate a large portion of what we raised and grew. I don’t know that I appreciated it when I was a kid, but as an adult I am certainly grateful for the skills I learned in my youth. After watching how fast I could kill a chicken, my husband was also appreciative – and a little nervous.

One of our biggest goals for living in New Hampshire and starting a farm is self-sufficiency. Because we moved almost half-way through the year, we knew the first year would be a lot of trial runs, which meant starting small. A small garden with just a handful of different vegetables, hatching out a few more egg layers (ok, the laying flock didn’t stay quite as small as it should have), and raising a small number of meat chickens.

If you ever get the crazy urge to raise your own meat birds, the first thing you have to do is find a reputable hatchery. We bought Jumbo Cornish cross chicks from Cackle Hatchery. This chicken is a cross between a commercial Cornish chicken and a White Rock chicken. They’re produced as a commercial meat bird and grow so fast that their legs can actually give out because of their weight. They also tend to fall over and die from a heart attack if you let them grow past the recommended age (approximately 10 weeks).

About a week after you order, you’ll get an early morning call from the post office letting you know your chicks have arrived. You’ll walk in and you’ll be able to hear the pissed off peeping immediately.

meat chick box

But there is something truly charming about looking into the holes of the cardboard box and seeing this:

through the peep hole

These guys were only a couple of days old but you can see that they were already getting wing feathers, something that doesn’t usually happen for about a week.

Meat chicks arrived

When you open the box don’t be surprised if one or two chicks didn’t make the journey. Cackle throws in a couple of extra just in case someone dies before arriving. We lost one but everyone else was quite healthy looking.

Aren’t they cute and fluffy? And yellow? And identical? If you’ve raised layers, you’ve probably noticed that even if you only have one breed of chicken, they have some individuality about them. A bit of color variety, feathers that lay just a bit different, and of course, lots of different personalities. That’s what makes them fun to watch. Meat chickens are not like layers. They eat, drink, and poop. And that’s it.

little meats in the coup 2little meats in the coup

We moved the meat chicks into the coup at around two weeks. They were quickly outgrowing the brooders and they created so much poop so fast that the garage was starting to smell.

Unsure layers

The layers were not impressed with their new roommates. At this stage in their lives, there isn’t a whole lot to say about them. They ate and kept getting bigger.

This is how they looked at about 25 days. Notice the legs on these suckers…

Meats in the coupMeat legsYoung Meat

They were also already developing a much heavier breast.

This guy is a Sumatra Bantam Cochin cross (Tracy calls them Tillimatra’s because the Bantam Cochin hen’s name is Tilly). This chick is about a month older than the meat chicks but much smaller in body size.

Young Tillimatra

The next few weeks consisted of eating and popping. We finally felt they were big enough that they could hang out in the main coop with the layers.

Meats in the back

You can see them in the back of the herd of chickens. It was one of the snowy days so nobody was particularly eager to go out, but the meats more or less spent all of their time inside. Eating and popping (are you noticing a trend here?…).

There are a lot of good reasons to raise meat birds. You know what your birds are eating, you know how they’re being treated, and there’s something quite satisfying in knowing you were able to grow something to feed you and your family. But there’s also a lot of reasons that raising meat birds is a huge pain in the ass. They’re filthy, they eat a ton of food, you have to clean them out about 10 times more often than layers, and they’re dumb as rocks. I watched one of the roosters try to jam his head through the chicken wire to get at the pan of food on the other side of the wire. All he had to do was move about two feet through the door (like the layers were doing), but nope – instead he kept bashing his head into the wire. Over and over and over again.

We butchered our meat birds just after 10 weeks and I have to say, even though it was cold, windy, and rainy as we did it, and our toes were frozen by the end, our backs ached from bending over, and the boys swore they were going to have dreams for weeks of plucking feathers, it was a very happy day.

Frozen chicken

For a trial run, it was pretty successful. We have a list of things we’ll do different next year when we get a larger batch of meat birds. A different coop arrangement, an automatic plucker, and butchering during a warmer time of the year. But two things were confirmed. The layers are heartless little bastards – they hung around us the entire time to see what we were doing and steal feathers, and farm raised chickens are delicious.

pot pie

Arts & Crafts: Who Said Playing With Dolls Was For Kids…

During a recent conversation with my sister, she mentioned that I really needed a DIY project to write about. I agreed with her, and it just so happened that I had the perfect project waiting patiently in a garbage bag in the garage. That’s right, folks – It’s time to bring out the babies!

head at night 3

Like many girls, my sisters and I played with dolls while we were growing up. As we got older, things became a little more dangerous for our dolls. Hair got dyed funny colors, then it got chopped off. And eventually, a few even started on fire (mom beat our asses for that one). During the baby doll project, I found that I still enjoy dolls. At least, taking their heads off.

baby head 1_1

Some items you’ll need: a few baby dolls, fishing line, an upholstery needle, buttons (I recommend the two-hole variety of medium size), a pliers, a needle-nosed pliers, leather gloves, some type of lighting.

baby 2

The dolls I used were out in the weather for some time so they already had a nice icky dead look to them. This was especially true for the dolls with hair. So start with the baby doll and take the head off. It sounds easy, but depending on the age and condition, this can take some effort. I will also caution those who find babies out on the side of the road like we did – beware of the peeing babies! You will end up with all sorts of foul fluid on you if you brace the baby against your leg and squeeze too hard while pulling the head off!

baby head 2

Once you’ve removed the head, you can either install the fishing line for hanging the head or remove the eyes. I swapped these steps with different heads and found it really didn’t make a difference. We’ll start with stringing the head…

I found that a heavy duty upholstery needle worked well to string the fishing line through the top of the head. I used the needle to go from the outside first, threaded the needle, and then went from the inside using the the needle nosed pliers. I then went through the top of the head another time so that I’d have a loop with the line and both ends of the line inside the head. (As you can see from the picture, I did wear a leather glove for this part of the process, which made pushing the needle through much easier.) I tied my ends on a two-hole button to keep the knot from slipping through the head.

All of the baby dolls we collected have eyes. The scary blinky eyes that get stuck all of the time and look extra creepy. While I appreciate the creepiness, I wanted to have light coming out of the eyes, which meant removing them. In the picture showing the button up inside the head, you can also see two bulging pinkish things just inside the head. They look like hamster cheeks that got packed a little too tightly. Those are actually the eyes. The best way I found to remove them was to take the pliers and just pull gently at the rubber/plastic that’s coating them. Again, our dolls are quite weathered so the material was a little brittle and sort of baked onto the eye. Once I got enough peeled away I pressed on the eye from the outside until it popped out into the head or at least came out enough that I could pry it out the rest of the way. I did press too hard on one of the eyes and it ended up ‘popping’, which was a little disturbing, even though it was a doll. As an added bonus, not only do you get a nice soulless look to the doll, but you get a bunch of eyeballs to use later!

Once the eyes are out of the way, and you have the head on a string, you can start playing with your lighting options. I’m happiest with the little flickering candles. They give the head a good, eerie flickering glow, they’re easy to install, and I think I paid about $2 for six of them. Another option is a string of battery operated lights. I bought several strings at the the dollar store and one longer string for about $5. The longer variety has 11 feet of wiring and a bigger battery box so you do need a larger head if you use that version of lights.

I got lucky with the first head – the flickering candle was a perfect fit. The second head was too small for the candle, and the third head was too big for the candle.

I liked the strings of lights because they put a lot of light into the head, and you have color options. What I didn’t love was the glow spots that were created inside of the head. But, they ultimately did the job. The strings do take a bit of arranging so that all of the light isn’t stuck in the top of the head, away from the eyes and mouth. The smaller set has the on and off switch at the bottom end of the box, making it easily accessible when the head is hanging up. The bigger set of lights has the switch on the side of the box, but still pretty easy once you get used to it.

The top head has the flickering candle in it, the second has the smaller string of lights, and the third has the 11 feet of lights. I do like how the second head looks like it’s combusting from inside…

I hung our baby heads in the front of the house from a very craggy looking tree that was practically screaming for baby heads. They make quite a statement, even during the day.

head at nighthead at night 2head at night 3

And as you can see, they’re quite delightful at night!

So there you have it! Flashy, fashionable, and a real piece of art! Or at least, pretty kick-ass Halloween decorations…

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



(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.)