Category Archives: Pond

Staycation and My Favorite Things About Summer

I am really not in to trendy words, or a trendy lifestyle for that matter, but I think the word staycation really does describe our summer recreation. In 2012 when my husband said he would like to vacation somewhere “where we could just sit on the beach with our dogs and relax,” I chuckled, “they don’t allow dogs on public beaches, honey. Why don’t we put in a pond with a beach,” I suggested.

We knew it would be costly to have a pond dug, but we agreed that the money we saved on vacations away from home would easily pay for the pond in a few years.

The farm has many other features that you might find at a campground in the country. We have a campsite/ picnic area with a fire pit for cooking or just sitting around a campfire in the evening. We have both field and wooded areas with paths for walking or riding the 4 wheeler. There are hundreds of species of wildlife that live on or visit the farm and it is a peaceful and relaxing atmosphere. Thus we find it perfect for our staycation or summer recreation.

Our staycation is different than most as we do not have a week or two off from a job and cram all of these activities into that time period. Instead our recreational activities are interspersed throughout the day(s). It might be taking time out for an afternoon swim, spending an evening sitting around a campfire or inviting friends or family over for a day of fun. What I really love about our method of (v)(st)acation is that I don’t have to stress about it. We don’t have to make travel plans. We don’t have to do things according to schedule. We don’t have to pack what we think we will need for our time away. We don’t have to find people to take over our responsibilities at home (dogs and chickens) while we are away, and one of the most important parts for me is that I can sleep in my own bed at night.

With all that being said I wanted to share some of my favorite things about summer. They are not listed in any particular order; it is the combination of these things that make our summer enjoyable.

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Gardening – Planting, weeding, water, – there is something therapeutic about having our hands and knees in the dirt. The results of gardening are also very rewarding (see flowers and fresh produce below).

Riding the 4 Wheeler – A slow scenic tour around the farm, wielding my way though the winding paths through the woods or opening it up on the straight away, this is just pure fun!!!

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Swimming in the Pond – The best way to cool off in the heat of the day.

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Wildlife – The sights and sounds of wildlife create an environment that is peaceful and serene. While I am certainly not the best photographer I love trying to get photos of the wildlife. You can see more of the wildlife on our farm here.

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Flowers – No doubt they beautify their environment but there is so much more. You have probably heard the phrase “stop and smell the roses'”, well roses are not the only flower that deserve this recognition. By stopping and smelling, I have discovered that Canadian Thistle flowers have a sort of sweet scent and the Purple Irises have a spicy scent. This year I discovered that milk weed flowers have a pleasantly fresh fragrance.

While the flower may first draw my attention I will probably observe closely to see what type of foragers it may attract, and if I am not familiar with the plants I will likely try to identify it along with it’s potential usefulness.

Fresh Produce – We are currently picking and enjoying many fresh vegetables, among them are green beans, potatoes, Swiss chard, beets, carrots, celery and tomatoes. The flavors and textures of fresh picked produce simply can not be found in a grocery store. Even if you haven’t grown your own garden I encourage you to find fresh locally grown produce to enjoy this summer. Shop at a farmers market or a roadside farm stand and support your local farmer.

Campfires – Dinner always tastes better when cooked over a wood fire, and sitting around a campfire in the evening, listening to the frogs sing, and watching the moon and stars appear in the sky is far more entertaining than anything you may find on TV.

Visitors – This could be the elderly neighbors who dropped by Friday night for a tour of the barn and gardens; it could be the kids and grandkids coming to celebrate a holiday or a group as large as the family reunion we hosted last weekend. Regardless it is always a pleasure to share the farm with company.

Going Barefoot – Even though I put these in no particular order I did save my favorite for last. I love to take off my footwear and walk barefoot in the grass or on the beach.  According to this article there are many health benefits to going barefoot. I personally don’t care whether they are scientifically proven or not. Walking barefoot in the soft grass or digging my toes into the sand on the beach just feels good. While it feels good physically on the feet and has the potential to relieve other aches and pains, the emotional benefits are probably the greatest. I find walking barefoot to relieve stress – even more than that when I walk barefoot I feel young and carefree. It’s amazing that taking your shoes off can also take a load off your mind.

Now it’s your turn my friend. What are your favorite things about summer? How do you make time for them? When was the last time you stopped and smelled the roses or kicked off your shoes and connected with the earth? If it’s been awhile – I challenge you to make some time to do it this week. You won’t regret it.

Happy Summer! 🙂

 

 

 

Nice Catch

Yesterday evening our youngest daughter, Lindell along with her beau Brycen, took some time out of their busy schedules to visit us at the farm. After dinner my husband, who has been wanting to do some fishing for some time now, dug some worms and he and Brycen, who had brought his own pole and tackle, went fishing.

Lindell and I sat by the campfire and chatted, not paying much attention to our fishermen until we heard somewhat of a commotion. My husband was coaching Brycen, “hold it, give it some line, do you have your drag set?” Lindell and I headed toward the pond knowing there must be a big fish on the line. I quickly doubled back to grab my camera but still arrived in time to capture some photos.

Whatever was on the end of that line was bending Brycen’s fishing rod and pulling the guys in the paddle boat. Realizing that they were not going to be able to lift this fish out of the water on that rod and line my husband decided to take the boat to the beach and pull the fish in from there. This took several attempts as the fish kept dragging the boat in the opposite direction.

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My husband and I suspected that he may have hooked one of the 12 to 15 inch walleye that we had caught last year.

 

but we were all surprised to see what he had actually caught was this monster.

 

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We knew that there were large catfish in the pond, but even using catfish bait we had yet to catch one. Brycen was fishing with just a worm on a small hook. It was a clean catch hooked perfectly into the corner of the mouth. Since we were not prepared to skin a catfish this guy did not become tonight’s dinner but was released back into the pond.

I am so glad I had my camera so this did not become just another “big fish” story.

Nice catch Brycen!!! 🙂

 

We Can Dig It

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This post isn’t really about sitting on the beach or playing in the sand but I thought I would show you where we spent some time relaxing and celebrating Independence Day. Unfortunately by the time I remembered to snap a picture the beach umbrella had been blown down by the wind.

We decided to give our beach a little upgrade this summer, so when we had the stone delivered for the barn floor we also had a load of beach sand delivered. The sand was dumped on the beach and since we haven’t yet had time to spread it we haven’t been able to sit on the beach.

Yesterday my husband fixed that. He just took the tractor bucket and pushed through the middle of the pile of sand forming a small peninsula of sand in the pond. We then spent the late afternoon swimming and relaxing on the beach. It was a very enjoyable day.

Now what the title of this post is really referring to is our garlic harvest. It started today. If you are not familiar with how garlic grows, it is a bulb that grows under the ground. In order to harvest garlic it must be dug out of the ground. While 7000+ garlic plants may seem like a huge number, it is not nearly enough to be able to afford any fancy planting or harvesting equipment. Thus we dig each individual bulb by hand.

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Despite the brutal temperatures today we were able to get one of our three varieties harvested.  We only had two and 1/4 rows of this variety, Red Toch, planted – probably between 1400 and 1500 bulbs. We were thrilled to be able to move them directly from the field into the barn to keep them out of the hot sun.

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Once they were all harvested my husband began tying them into bundles and hanging them from the rafters. Our barn was finished just in time and we are so grateful to have it.

While I have several posts that I am working on and would like to publish soon, this really is a busy time for us. If I seem to be MIA for a while there is probably no need to send a search party. If you do, however, decide to send one make sure they bring a shovel. LOL!

Bonus Photo

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We are not the only ones who enjoy spending time at the pond.

Thanks for visiting and until next time be well. 🙂

Spring Happenings

The last weekend in May is known as the unofficial start of summer and the weather last weekend played right along. Temperatures were around 90 degrees Fahrenheit for several days. Time seems to being going so fast that I am wondering how I missed spring.

I went back and looked at some of my photos from the last few weeks for a reminder.

IMG_4094The fruit trees, including apple, pear, and tart cherry all blossomed and are now setting fruit. Berry bushes, including our blue berry, raspberry, currant and grapes are setting fruit as well.

IMG_4091The dandelions blossomed and my husband helped me pick a bunch for soap making before they went to seed. I have enough for two batches of sweet dandelion soap. Trooper didn’t help pick dandelions but he enjoyed being there.

Speaking of Sweet Dandelion soap, I had just made a batch in May when I received the Mother’s Day gift my girls bought for me. It is a soap stamp. So I began playing with it as this batch was curing.IMG_4128It will be tricky to figure out when the soap is the correct degree of hardness for the stamp to work just right and challenging learning to apply the right amount of pressure to the stamp so I don’t squish the soap. I thought about using some type of coloring to add contrast, but it has to be something natural since I do not use artificial coloring in my soap. In the above photo I used cinnamon in one and turmeric in the other. Learning to use this will be a lot of trial and error.

The dandelions have now gone to seed and last week when I was mowing the lawn I was getting bombarded with dandelion seeds. They were flying everywhere and they were stuck to my clothes and in my hair. I told my husband I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up with dandelions growing out of my ears. He thought they would probably grow from my belly button because “you know everyone has a little dirt in their belly button.” LOL!IMG_4106We have been hearing  pheasants a lot on the farm and in the neighboring field and every now and the we get a glimpse of one. We are glad to see them as it had seemed that the pheasant population had all but disappeared over the last thirty or so years.

IMG_4102We have spotted many new nests around the farm this spring mostly they have been empty when we looked but one had robin eggs in it and I did spot this momma sitting on hers.

IMG_4127We also have a pair of ducks who have been frequenting the pond this spring. My husband and I agree that we will not be surprised if we find out that they have a nest in the woods next to the pond. I guess we will know if they show up with babies.

IMG_4097This past winter was a bad one for bees in our area. We lost four of our five hives so we bought two more packages and installed them into hives. Since my husband installed them on his own I didn’t get any photos.

The garden has been planted. We have tomatoes, bell peppers, hot peppers, egg plant, potatoes, cabbage, cucumbers, cantaloupe, water melon, lettuce, Swiss chard, celery, basil, parsley, carrots, beets, green beans, corn, winter squash and pumpkins.

Along with the hot weather came a dry spell – we weren’t really expecting it because the weather forecasters had predicted that we would get rain and storms as the remnants from tropical storm Alberto made it’s way North into our part of the country. Somehow all that rain missed us.

IMG_1233Fortunately my husband had put the pump in the pond and we were able to take advantage of the wind that we had last week to get the tanks filled and keep things watered as we awaited the rain.

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We finally got rain this morning and what a blessing it is. Not only will it give all of our crops the boost that they need right now, and give us a break from watering, it makes pulling weeds much easier. Pulling weeds is one of the thing we have been spending much time doing this past week as weeds were threatening to take over the strawberry patch, the garlic field and the asparagus patch. Pulling weeds out of dry clay soil is next to impossible so that task will go much quicker now.

IMG_4124.JPGSince the temperatures were so warm (hot) I did spend some time last Friday raking the beach area. If I have to work on a hot day cleaning the pond is the perfect job. 🙂 After I raked the leaves out of the beach area and used our small rototiller to rough up the sand we set up our beach chairs and umbrella. Woo hoo we are ready for summer!!!

The following day when the sun was high in the sky and temperatures soared, a dip in the pond was a refreshing treat.

Thus far we have picked and eaten and froze lots of asparagus and I picked some rhubarb and put several packages in the freezer as well. When I was freezing the rhubarb I discovered one small package of rhubarb from last year. I decided I needed to use it up. I also found the last of my strawberries from last year – another small package. Since there were only about a cup of each there was not really enough to make this into a pie or crisp, so I decided to make strawberry-rhubarb sauce. I put both the strawberries and the rhubarb in a sauce pan then added a bit of water – maybe a half cup. I wasn’t too worried about having too much because I could cook it off to get the sauce to thicken. I simmered this until the fruit was soft. I then mashed the mixture with a potato masher. I continued cooking it until it was thick and added sugar to taste. I can’t really tell you how much sugar to add because everybody likes a different degree of sweetness and some strawberries are much sweeter than others. I just started with a couple tablespoons and tasted until it was right. While this fruity dessert was good eaten plain, my husband used some as an ice cream topping and I mixed some with some vanilla yogurt as well.

They say that time flies when you’re having fun, and I have always believed that time seems to go faster as I get older, so I think both of these combined explains why it is June already and I feel like I missed Spring. Thanks for sticking with me for this recap.

Just curious – does time seem to be flying by for you as well?

Working With Nature

Our farm is our haven.  It is a place where we can kick back and relax but it is also where we work. It differs from most work places in that we do not answer to a human boss or employer; instead we answer to nature. The weather and the numbers of hours of daylight largely dictate what we need to do on the farm. Planting, watering, weeding, harvesting are all tasks that are based on the weather.

Our farm is also a haven for many other living beings. We often celebrate the wildlife on the farm as many of them aid in our farming efforts. Others as less celebrated and require more work from us as we have to guard crops and livestock against them. In this post I want show you many of the critters we share our farm with and discuss what we consider best practices (for us) to deal with them.

Rabbits

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Our farm is home to a large rabbit population. One advantage to having rabbits on the farm is that they are preyed upon by many of the same animals that prey upon our chickens. If a hawk, owl or coyote can fill up on a rabbit perhaps they are less likely to go after our chickens. Secondly, even though we are not hunters, in a pinch hunting rabbit as a source of food would be an option.

The disadvantage to having rabbits is that they do enjoy eating many of the foods we grow. So far it has been our experience that rabbits may eat a partial row of greens here or there, but they have not completely destroyed any of our crops. Even the baby bunnies that we discovered living in our strawberry bed last year did not do much damage. I suspect that since there is so much wild vegetation growing on the farm the rabbits are well fed without needing to vandalize our gardens.

We are happy to share our farm with rabbits, and at this point we have not found the need to use any defensive measures against them; even the four babies that were living in the strawberry bed moved out quickly once we began frequenting the area to pick ripe berries.

Squirrels

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Squirrels are another critter that live on our farm. We have a lot of mature hickory and oak trees that provide the food that they need. Squirrels have not become a problem on the farm and they give Trooper a work out every now and then.

Birds

On any given day during the summer I would guess that we may see and/or hear thirty or more species of birds while at that farm. Some we can identify by sight or sound and some still remain anonymous to us.

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Many of the birds, like this Blue Jay, use the pond for bathing and it always a pleasure to watch them take a dip along the waters edge. Blue Jays are omnivorous, with a diet comprised of nuts, seeds, berries, bugs and more.  Interestingly they are known to store acorns, much like a squirrel, to have for food during the winter. I suspect it is because their diet includes such a wide variety of things that we have not found them to be much of a threat to our crops.

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Some birds, like this Orchard Oriole and the Robin below are more of a challenge. Using netting over the blue berry bushes, as the berries start to ripen, is essential if we want to harvest any blue berries for ourselves.

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Even with netting some birds can find their way to the berries.

While netting seems to be our best option with blue berries I have taken a different approach when it comes to Elder Berries. Our Elder Berry bush that is mature enough to produce fruit is over eight feet tall and on a slope, which poses problems when it comes to putting netting over the bush.  I discovered a couple of years ago that the birds do not wait for elder berries to get ripe, they eat them while they are still green. Since my main purpose for growing elder berries is for the medicinal benefits I began harvesting the flowers which also have great medicinal properties.

Last year when we had our first real apple crop we discovered the some birds were eating the apples as they ripened. Again because of the size of these trees netting does not seem a feasible option, so I think this year we will experiment with some of these other deterrents.

Our pond is a main attraction for many species of birds.

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Ducks and geese will occasionally pay us a visit. Fortunately they have not decided to take up residence and raise a family there. I suspect they do not find it a suitable home because of our presence, thus we are a natural deterrent.

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Occasionally both White and Blue Herons stop by the pond for a snack. We can view them from a distance but if we approach the area they quickly fly off.

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This bird had me stumped for a couple of years. During the summer I would see it (more likely them) eating at the edge of the pond. I looked at many bird sites and books and then sought help from others before I could identify it as a Green Heron. I suspect we had a pair nesting in the wooded area near the pond for a couple of years, but last summer I only saw  them a couple of times so they may have nested somewhere else in the area.

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Wild Turkeys live in the area and we occasionally see a flock of them passing though. They do not nest on the farm, probably because we mow the back field in the fall so it does not offer the protection that is needed for their nest.

Insects

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Many Butterflies, or Flutter-bys as I like to call them, with their beautiful colors and patterns, frequent the farm in the summer. They share the task of pollination with our bees and many other insects.

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They can often be found collecting nectar from flowering plants

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or drinking water on the beach. While we see many different species of butterflies they do tend to be camera shy so I have a very limited selection of butterfly photos.

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Dragonflies and damselflies are probably my favorite insects to watch. Unlike the  butterflies who flutter in a somewhat relaxed nature, the dragonflies movement is swift.

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They too come in an array of brilliant colors. They do not bite and in fact at times seem friendly as they hitch a ride on a shirt sleeve. The fact that dragon flies dine heavily on less desirable insects is a huge plus.

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The Praying Mantis is a unique creature that we see occasionally in our area. I actually had to check the spelling of it’s name as he/she is also a preying mantis. This bug does eat other bugs but is not very selective, so while it might aid in ridding us of undesirable insects, it might also eat honey bees and others that we find valuable. Having just a small population of these is okay.

If you are a regular reader you probably know that we are bee keepers so there are a lot of Honey Bees on our farm. Even though these bees did not arrive on our farm naturally and are living in manmade hives rather than a hollow tree, they are considered part of nature on our farm.

We do try to use natural methods of managing our hives. We do not use chemicals in the hive, we do not split hives to keep them from swarming, we do not replace a queen in the hive because we fear she is too old, and we make sure the bees have enough honey left in the hive so that we do not have to feed them sugar water. We usually even save some of the harvested honey in case we find that the bees need to be fed.

Our belief is that a healthy hive can naturally manage themselves so our goal is to help them remain healthy.

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One way to help the bees remain healthy is ensuring that they have a variety of food sources. I have not seen any studies or reports on this but it makes sense that, just as you or I require different foods to build healthy bodies, bees would also be healthier when their diet is comprised of pollen and nectar from a variety of plants.

To accomplish this we allow many plants that grow naturally, and many would consider weeds, to grow on the farm. Among these are dandelions, golden rod, asters and Canadian thistle – all heavily foraged by bees. We also grow flowers, vegetables, herbs, fruit trees and other plants that bees like. Some of these include lavender, thyme, sunflowers, chamomile, clover, buckwheat, squash and pumpkins and apple trees.

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The other thing that bees need is water and again we feel that having a clean water source can contribute to the health of the bees. Honey bees are frequent visitors to the edges of our pond.

Late spring and summer we usually see the hives swarm. This is how honey bees naturally increase in population. When the hive begins to get too crowded they make a new queen. Once the new queen is hatched the old queen leaves the hive with the swarm of workers and drones to create a new colony.

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Most often we attempt to capture the swarm and put them in an empty hive, but sometimes the swarm lands in a place that is inaccessible to us, like 30 feet up in a hickory tree. In this case we wish them well. Since we live in an area where there are hundreds of acres of mature woods, it is not out of the question that these bees can find a suitable home in a hollow tree and survive in the wild.

In return for our stewardship the honey bees provide us with pollination services as well as honey and bees wax.

Deer

There is a large deer population in the area. They probably draw the most attention from visitors at the farm. While some people see Bambi others see venison steaks. As I mentioned before we are not hunters, and the fact is that warm and fuzzy Disney type critters can be very destructive in real life. The deer have been our biggest challenge thus far.

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Deer will eat or at least taste just about anything. The only way to protect our gardens and trees against deer is fencing.

Reportedly white tail deer can jump eight feet, so 7.5 to 8 foot is the recommended height for deer fencing. We have discovered that for fencing our garden areas and trees 4 foot high fencing is sufficient to keep the deer out.

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My theory on this is that four foot fence keeps the deer out because we have not fenced in the whole property, which would have cut off their travel routes. We have only fenced in sections. There is still plenty of clover and grass in the field for them to graze and they are not standing outside our garden coveting our pumpkin and Swiss chard.

Four foot high individual fences also work to protect young trees from the deer. Once the trees braches are higher than the fence the are usually safe because deer don’t generally eat anything higher than their head.

Aquatic Life

Before I begin talking about the life in the pond I really should point out the earth worm in this picture. Earth worms are probably a farmers best friend. They loosen the soil by tunneling through the ground and also add nitrogen to the soil. We are always happy to see earthworms as we are gardening.

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Earthworms also make good bait for catching perch.

When we dug our pond in 2012 my husband, who is knowledgeable about such things decided to build an ecosystem that would support fish and other aquatic life. At it’s deepest point the pond goes down 20+ feet. Before the pond filled with water we put in two piles of large rocks where fish could potentially spawn, find shade or hide from larger predators.

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Our sand beach also extends at least 12 feet into the pond which makes great spawning ground for perch and the windmill works as an aerator pumping air into the pond. In 2013 we stocked the pond with perch, fathead minnows, some walleye, a few channel catfish, and a few pike.

We know that the perch and minnows are breeding in the pond. We know that there are still catfish and walleye living in the pond but have not been able to establish that they have reproduced. We also know that as of last summer we have at least one large mouth bass living there.

Fish are the only thing we added to they pond. All of the rest of the living beings showed up on their own.

IMG_2911Among those frogs are a favorite. Frogs and toads are very useful on the farm as they eat lots of bugs and slugs and such.

Last year we happened to be at the farm on frog mating day. The frogs were very loud that day. Their high pitched, drawn out, melodious chirps filled the air.

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As we walked toward the area that the sound was coming from it was quite incredible to see dozens, if not hundreds, of frogs gathered in the pond. We have identified several types of frogs and toads on the farm and they are all welcome.

Turtles are also amongst those who have taken up residence in our pond. At this point we have only seen painted turtles which are harmless and at times even humorous.

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They also tend to be camera shy so my photo selection is limited. The turtles are reproducing on the farm as each year we see the cutest little baby turtles.

In touching on the benefits and challenges that these beings provide to our farming efforts I did not mention the greatest gift they offer. “Peaceful” is the word most commonly used by visitors to describe our farm.

Maybe you can picture it – squirrels scampering from tree to tree or rabbits playing tag in the yard; a herd of deer grazing in the field; listening to a symphony of songbirds while tending the garden; being serenaded by a chorus of frogs, in three part harmony, as you sit around an evening campfire.

It is uplifting, it is relaxing, it is peaceful, it is serene, it is tranquil, and it will make you smile. All of the creatures that make up this ecosystem provide an environment that is seemingly anti-stressIt is healthy for the mind, body and spirit and we are blessed to be part of it.

I hope you enjoyed visiting our farm. Please feel free to share you thoughts in the comments section below.