The Pott. County fair has come and gone. Fairs are interesting conglomerations of people, animals, crafts, food and mystery. Each fair is different and all have an element of the exotic.
My lemon tree is being consumed by 6 weird caterpillars that resemble huge bird turds. My other lemon tree has tiny orange caterpillars. All of these caterpillars will eventually turn into Giant Swallowtail butterflies, the largest butterflies in Canada and the USA. Read more...

9th of September 2013 

Becky Emerson Carlberg

Fairwell Fair

Oh woe, the letdown that follows a fair has come once again.  One could say I am a fair junkie.  I love all the trappings a fair has to offer.  Bonus points are given if I hit the day the chickens have just been judged and are still there to be admired in their cages.

That being said, I cut my teeth at the Arkansas Oklahoma Exposition held every year in Ft. Smith, Arkansas.   The fair ran from the last few days of September into the first few days of October and it was a magical time. The weather could be scorching or chilly.  I knew autumn had arrived and anticipated a trip or two through Winding Stair to the south or the Ozarks to the north.  In a few weeks the trees would be decked out in vivid colors, if it had been a decent year with some rain. 

I raised chickens for my 4-H project, and my blue ribbon winning Partridge Rocks shown at the Armory in Poteau went to Ft. Smith.  I might have shown my White-crested Black Polish, but they kept pecking the feathers out of the tops of their heads.  Their little bald noggins were slathered with this thick red vile tasting (to a chicken) paste to stop the plucking and allow the topknots to grow.  Their feathers did grow back in time, but too late for the fair.

The Ft. Smith fair had the one and only Old MacDonald’s Farm.  It was housed in a small building undergoing a gradual state of decay.  It was falling to pieces year by year.  Along the walls hung old farming implements and there were stalls with hay giving the impression the horses had just gone outside to the pasture.  Old glass jars of something canned way too many years ago sat on counters and the farm had a musty, barnyard smell.  After a visit to Old MacDonald’s, it was usually time to find something to eat.  I do remember one vendor who sold foot-long hotdogs.  His pitch:  “come and get your footlongs here.  They’re nice and greasy and slip down easy”! 

As you can see, my high standards were set years ago, and every fair has certain criteria to meet.  My one sticking point is it has to be a fairly clean fair; one where overflowing trash receptacles are emptied regularly, the pathways are picked up, and most surfaces are not sticky or grungy.  The Ft. Smith fair, the OKC fair, the Tulsa fair, and the Pott. County fair all measure up.  Every fair has things in common with other fairs, but each has its own unique personality.

It was a hot weekend for the Pott. County fair, but I do have a question.  What happened to the Ferris Wheel?  That brilliant rotating wheel that acted as a landmark for the fair and made the nights special was absent.  Did you know the original Ferris Wheel was built in 1893 for the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago?

My prize-winning pumpkin is now sitting on the lazy Susan on top of the table, with lots of room to spare for anything else around it.  I have to watch the cats in case they decide to hockey puck the pumpkin off the table and bat it around the floor until it disappears.  I suppose most people would not have that kind of problem with their pumpkins. 

Giant Swallowtails Enjoy Buffet:

Two potted lemon trees grace my concrete pad.  Both were grown from seed, stand over 5 feet tall and had an exciting experience being flung around the yard by Tornado Bob.  The trees still suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, but now have a new addition to heighten their stress level.  Does the name bird turd caterpillar mean something to you?  If these caterpillars were on oak trees, they would blend in beautifully on the branches and stems, but stand out in stark contrast on citrus bright green stems and leaves. 

For the past several days the leaves on one lemon tree have had more and more bites taken out.  Naturally I blamed the grasshoppers.  No more.  The six caterpillars are now very visible, about 2 inches in length, ½ inch in diameter and are nearing their chrysalis stage.  These are the juvenile forms of the Giant Swallowtail Butterfly (Papilio cresphontes), the large butterfly with black and light yellowish-white wings.  Close examination of the other taller lemon tree has revealed a few very small (less than 1/16th of an inch), orange mini-caterpillars just now eating the edges of leaves. 

These guys start off life as an orange egg on a leaf, and from there expand through several stages eventually turning into this magnificent butterfly.  With a wingspan of over 6 inches, the Giant Swallowtail butterfly has the distinction of being the largest butterfly in Canada and the USA.  Just do not ask citrus growers about their opinion of “orange dogs” or “orange puppies”, their name for Giant Swallowtail caterpillars that munch on citrus leaves.  I must admit their names do sound better than “bird turd” or “bird poop” caterpillars.

After spending 10-12 days in a chrysalis, the Giant Swallowtail will unfold its wings, dry out and take flight.  The nectar plants it prefers include Lantanas, Bougainvillas, goldenrod, Japanese honeysuckle and Pentas.  My lemon trees can sacrifice leaves for a good cause.  Why not! The tomatoes have given up leaves and stems to the Sphinx moth caterpillars (the tomatoes now have grown more leaves and fruits), the parsley was stripped to bare bones by the Tiger swallowtail caterpillars (the parsley has made a come- back), and the okra was eaten by pocket gophers (two out of three ain’t bad). 

This site has some impressive pictures of Giant Swallowtail caterpillars:

Good butterfly information may be found at: