The Art of Seeing

I’ve been using my garden to teach me the art of observation. If I didn’t, there wouldn’t be much garden left! Yesterday I noticed that the rutabaga leaves were chomped. I looked, but didn’t see anything other than caterpillar poop. I looked again. Turned the leaves over. Swatted a mosquito. Looked again. Finally, my eyes focused. Rather like those 3-D pictures that you have to look cross-eyed at to see the image hidden in the squiggles or the drawings in Highlights Magazine for Children that have things like toothbrushes hidden in tree bark.

Once I saw, really saw the leaves, then I could also see the caterpillars. Dozens of them. They’re the exact same color as the leaves and they even align themselves with the stems. Are these rutabaga caterpillars? They’re not on anything else.

The most amazing garden pest is the Tomato Horn Worm. One day you go out to your garden and your tomato plant has no leaves. It takes ages to find the culprit – and when you see it you can’t imagine that it’s been there, eating away, without you noticing. These worms are a good four inches long and as fat as a thumb. How does one miss them?

After all of this looking, I really did see other things differently. For the first time I noticed that Maizie’s comb was big and falling over a bit. Rather like a healthy leghorn’s comb. But the comb on my other Wyandotte, Alma, wasn’t big and floppy. I looked again. Hers is a pea comb, (sort of like a crew cut.) How could I not have seen that before? I guess I should thank those caterpillars. But I won’t. I think I’ll go pick them off the plants and feed them to the girls.

rutabaga caterpillar

The weather has chilled off and the meadow is filled with late-summer blooms. Here’s Lily in front of a 7-foot tall Joe Pye Weed. The butterflies love it. The photo doesn’t show the dark purple flowers too well, but doesn’t my dog look gorgeous?

dog and joe pye weed


I’ve been reading, “Hit By A Farm” about an urban couple who decide to buy land in the country and farm. Here is my favorite line:

I should have realized what the future held the day I looked up and caught her giving me a dreamy look from across the kitchen table. Touched, I reached over and took her hand in mine. She squeezed it gently, and said, “God, I love chickens.”


I’m quite exited to show you the cover of my picture book, Tillie Lays an Egg. Yes, that’s Snowball. Her name was changed to Tillie for the book. It was a marketing decision, and I’m fine with that. Rather like how Lassie wasn’t really “Lassie.” In fact, Lassie was a boy (well, several boys.) At least Tillie/Snowball is a hen!

book cover for "Tillie Lays an Egg"

The book has already been reviewed on-line. One reviewer said that the book was “hilarious” and “a hoot” and another said that I’m “very slightly chicken-mad.” Slightly????

Tillie Lays an Egg will be available in January. You can check it out on Amazon now.

Harvest Time

A cold front moved through this afternoon and all of a sudden it is goose-bump chilly, breezy, sunny harvest weather.

I picked over a hundred peaches from this little tree.

peach tree and vegetable garden

My fenced vegetable garden is behind the tree. Good-sized but not huge. I have raised beds, and pathways that take up a lot of what could be growing space. But it is a comfortable garden to work in and gives me plenty of produce. This time of year it seems like too much!  You can’t set it aside. It’s ripe. It’s ready to be eaten or cooked or preserved in some way. The good thing about chickens is that they are grateful for my sloth if I don’t manage to harvest or preserve everything.

What to do with all of those peaches? My favorite way is to simply eat them out of hand – they are tree-ripened, soft, fragrant, juicy. But I can only eat so many. About 20 got turned into two large pies this morning. More got stewed. Some became sauce. I dream of having more fruit trees. An orchard! But I can barely keep up with what I have.

I baked the Golden Hubbard Squash seen in last week’s blog. Something went wrong! I sliced it in half, scooped out the seeds, put it face down on tinfoil on a greased baking sheet and set it in a 375 degree oven. It’s how I always bake my winter squash. When knife-tender, I took it out of the oven, turned it over and found that it had baked up slimy. Yucky. Eww. What went wrong? Any ideas? The raw squash looked fine. Firm. Perfect color. Does it need to be stored for awhile before baking? Set on the vine longer? Help! Or the chickens will be eating a lot of Hubbard Squash.

Speaking of what the hens are eating – they are omnivores. In their minds, squash and bruised peaches are good, but bugs are better. I’ve heard of some hens eating baby mice, and I’ve seen mine eating small frogs. Lulu was scratching around on the lawn today and I saw her struggling to eat what looked like a large worm. I went over to check it out and was surprised to see that she was trying to swallow a baby garter snake! Tougher than a worm, I guess. After awhile, Lulu managed to get it down. She was one satisfied chicken.

Weather Whine

I haven’t posted in the last few days because if I had, all that I would have written would have been a rant about the daily downpours, the window rattling from thunder, the soggy mess, the clouds of mosquitoes, the tomatoes bursting not with flavor, but swollen from water, the miserable basil complaining that they’re Mediterranean plants and not meant to have muddy roots. There. Boring, isn’t it?

But, today it is SUNNY and I hope that by evening I’ll have a ripe tomato.

The one plant that has exuberantly greeted the daily deluges is the Golden Hubbard Squash. This vegetable needs a lot of water. Look at it!

golden hubbard squash

The girls don’t like torrential downpours, but don’t mind drizzle. They like drinking from puddles and they like to peck at sparkly raindrops on the fence. All of my chickens are hardy breeds. I don’t have to worry about feather legs getting muddy or a soggy top knot of feathers making a hen chilled and sick.

Candy is not so pleased with the weather. She has a toy in her hutch – a hanging chain with chew blocks and a bell at the bottom. The other day, bored, Candy positioned herself under the bell so that by moving her head a tiny bit she could get the maximum noise out of it. Lazy rabbit.