We are sporting a serious tomato jungle on the front steps.
It's the only spot on our property where one is not blasted by tempestuous winds. And as I discovered a couple weeks ago, the gales that sweep across the backyard are no place for 'maters. I experimented with some homemade upside down tomato pots along the back fence, which ended in complete disaster. The winds literally whipped the poor plants, roots and all, out of the soil. So we moved tom central to the front entryway where we have about a dozen plants of various Russian varieties growing in containers.
But silly me, I made the novice gardener mistake of watering in the afternoon when the plants looked a bit droopy. Bad, bad Heidi. This little fumble landed me with a gazillion aphids, not to mention white flies and a couple other tiny winged critters. Of course there was not a predator in sight. My first move was to panic. It's what I do best in a crisis. Then I realized this would be the perfect opportunity to buy a tub of ladybugs to provide some summertime entertainment for the five year old. I heard rumor that they have a tendency to fly off if you don't release them at night, so we waited until it was good and dark and then dumped them on the plants. In the morning when we went to check on the progress of Operation Destroy Pests, we found the ladies clumped on top of the tomato stakes
and on the welcome mat,
aphids still a plenty and running amok. What's up with that? First lazy trees and now languorous bugs? Am I the only one working around here?
I'm sure many of you out there are chomping at the bit to get an update on those cute chicks. In general, they are well, though we did narrowly avert catastrophe a couple nights ago. Violet, my Swiss chicken, was looking droopy, doing a weird gaping thing with her beak, and making a slight honking noise. I went to the Backyardchickens.com message board to see what my sweet baby might have and came up with gape worm. This little wriggler lodges itself in the throat and basically suffocates the chicken. Not pretty. I read that sometimes you can see the worm in the back of the throat. So I grabbed my disgruntled farmhand and had him hold the flashlight while I made an awkward attempt at prying the chick's beak open. Easy? Yeah, right. Once those peeps decide they don't want to open up you couldn't jimmy that sucker with a pair of pliers. I held steady, waiting for a squawk, and then jammed my finger in the mouth of the peep. No worm. Phew!
Then I remembered something an old friend, whom also raises citified chooks, told me. One of her chicks had some similar symptoms to Violet, which required her to stay up two nights in a row squirting olive oil down the chick's throat and massaging its crop. When I felt Violet's crop, the lump at the base of the chicken's neck that grinds the food, she had a couple hard things that shouldn't have been there since she has only been eating mashed up feed. So I brought her upstairs, sat her on a heating pad, and went to work. But there was no way Violet was going to let me get any olive oil in her. She clamped her bill shut tighter than a miser keeps a hold of his money. I made several efforts which ended in the bird making desperate peeps for release or flying about the room leaving droppings here and there. I gave up and decided to stick with a plain ol' massage. She acquiesced and began stretching out her neck, looking something like a mohawked giraffe. Boy is her neck long - at least twice the length of the other peeps. After a half hour or so, she began crying for the company of her flock mates. I brought her back to the brooder, keeping my fingers crossed that I wouldn't find her stiff as a board in the morning. The next day she was practically her old self, prancing around, giving herself a little dust bath, and pecking at her friends. Then I witnessed the culprit to this whole fiasco. As Violet pecked at some of the pine shaving bedding on Sweet Pea's back, I admonished her not to eat it. She appeared to have dropped it out of her beak. And then what did she do? She went back for it and swallowed, thus reiterating the stereotypes about chicken intellect.