Category Archives: spring

Frogs on the Farm

“Frogs on the Farm” was originally written and published on March 30, 2017, a time when I had very few readers. I have decided to share it again today because for various reasons I haven’t got my usual “Spring is Springing” post ready. Be assured that spring is here: the birds have returned from their winter homes, the trees are beginning to bud, the daffodils, iris’s, lily’s and even the garlic are emerging from underground and the frogs are singing. More on that soon. ūüôā

Original Post published March 30, 2017

Last week on one of our sap cooking days, in addition to helping keep the fire going, I took on the secondary chore of raking the leaves out of the pond. As I came up with one rake full of leaves and shook them into the pile just beyond the beach, this frog hopped out of the leaves.

IMG_2362

I felt kind of guilty about awakening him or her, because I was yet to see or hear any frogs this spring. It did however spend a good deal of time sunning itself on the beach. It wasn’t until one of the chickens came running up behind it that it took¬†a three foot¬†leap back into the safety of the pond.

It was two days later that we heard the frogs for the first time this year. I remember my mom telling me, that her mom had told her, that after you hear frogs for the first time in the spring you will have three more freezes.¬†Although I’m always excited to hear the frogs in the spring, I haven’t really tested this theory.

Frogs and toads lived on our farm before we put in the pond. I remember the first spring there were tadpoles that had hatched in a puddle of water and my husband was dumping buckets of water in the puddle to keep it from drying up before the tadpoles reached their adolescent stage of life.

Our property does provide the perfect habitat for frogs and toads. The pond offers conditions needed for frogs to lay eggs, for the eggs to hatch into tadpoles and for the tadpoles to live until they grow legs and their lungs develop so they can leave the water. This can take over a year for bull frogs. Even mature frogs, who can live out of water, continue to need a wet area to keep their skin from drying out. Not only does our farm have the pond but we have wooded areas where the ground is covered with dead leaves that keep the ground moist even in the hot and dry summer conditions.

According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources article that I have linked below of the more than 3400 species of frogs/toads only 13 live in Michigan. I am certain we have at least 4 species that populate our farm.

Frogs and toads are wonderful for pest control. The aforementioned article relates that a single frog will consume thousands of insects per year. Last year we discovered that we were reaping the benefits of this.¬†As we picked¬†our bountiful harvest of strawberries ¬†https://donteatitsoap.com/2016/06/30/strawberries-at-last/¬†last June my husband and I spoke several times about the fact that we did not have any slugs eating the berries. This is a problem the we have had with strawberries we have grown at the house in the past. It wasn’t until my husband told me that he had been surprised by a frog hiding in the strawberry patch, while he was picking berries, that I realized that¬†this frog was probably enjoying a regular diet of slugs and any other pests that threatened¬†to consume our¬†strawberry crop. I am hopeful that a frog will take up residence in the strawberry patch again this year.

Frogs are a good indicator of the health of wetlands, ponds, lakes and such as they do not survive in polluted areas. The Michigan DNR article that I have linked below explains that chemical fertilizers and pesticides are a threat to frog populations; not only can the chemicals kills frogs and toads, but the pesticides also reduce their food supply.

http://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,4570,7-153-10370_12145_12201-35089–,00.html

The frogs on our farm are also entertaining. In the summer time when we walk around the edge of the pond the frogs jump into the pond one right after the next. It’s kind of funny because there may be 50-100 frogs sitting around the outer edge of the pond. The dogs like to chase the frogs but rarely are they able to catch them. Last year Scout spent hours in the evenings looking for frogs along the edge of the pond, he enjoyed the search immensely even though he never caught any. After dark¬†we are often treated to a campfire symphony, in surround sound I might add, as the several different species of frogs sing from different areas of the farm.

While not everyone has the luxury of being able to put a pond on their property I have included the following link for those who may be interested in creating a frog habitat. I would encourage you to read through the end of the article, as it does explain that the best way to introduce frogs to this habitat is to let them come to it naturally and this may take a year or more. It also explains that not all parts of the U.S. are favorable for creating frog habitats.

https://www.nwf.org/News-and-Magazines/National-Wildlife/Gardening/Archives/2000/Want-to-Host-a-Garden-Party-for-Frogs.aspx

At Least We Didn’t Get Skunked

Term “skunked” is sometimes used to define an overwhelming defeat.

If you read my post from last Thursday I am sure you remember that I was quite discouraged about all the rain that we have been having and concerned that we, like most of the farmers in the area, had not been able to get any planting done.

After a dry Friday, but with more rain in the forecast for Sunday night and the week to follow, my husband decided it was now or never Рhe must try to get some planting done. He hooked the rototiller to the tractor and was able to till up a portion of the garden. YEA!!!! Then while he worked on planting some cabbage and tomato plants I worked on cutting grass.  What a relief it is to at least have the planting started.

The term “skunked” is also used to describe going fishing and catching nothing.

Feeling good about what we accomplished Saturday, and wanting to used some of the worms he collected while planting in the wet soil, we decided to do some fishing in the evening. We took our poles and the worm bucket out in the boat and loaded worms on our hooks. I dropped my hook in the water and seconds later had my first bite. It ended up being a 4 inch perch (although my husband remembered to bring the tape measure I neglected to bring my camera).

He caught the next fish – a 10 inch bass. It was not our intention to have bass in our pond. We originally stocked it¬†with perch, a few walleye, a few catfish, a few pike and lots of minnows. We intentionally did not include bass. They showed up anyway. How does that happen??? Apparently water birds like ducks, geese and herons can¬†get¬†fish eggs stuck to their feet in one body of water¬†and deposit them in another.¬†Well we have had plenty of ducks, geese and herons visit so that explains it.¬† After seeing the bass my husband said we probably needed to get more pike as they are predators that would help keep the bass population under control. We had originally only put a few pike in there and hadn’t caught one in several years.

As we continued fishing we caught a quite a few 2-3 inch perch,¬†then we each caught a 9 inch perch. We released them this time, but one day the are going to make a nice dinner. I¬†got the last worm of the night (a very large night crawler). Since we didn’t want it to get nibbled away by small fry¬†my husband peddled the boat around the deeper waters. Suddenly I got a bite. I could tell it was a large fish so¬†I let it play on the line a little and waited for it to relax a bit before reeling it in some. When it got close enough I could see that it was neither a perch or a bass. It also wasn’t a catfish. When it got close enough my husband grabbed the line as I held the fishing pole. As he lifted the fish out of the water “it’s a pike he announced”. Just as he did the fish wiggled and got off the hook. Splash! back into the water it went. We didn’t get to measure it but is was significantly larger than the 10 inch bass he caught. Now we know that the predator fish in there.

Skunked? Not even close! Our Saturday was full of wins!

The term “skunked” can also be used to describe getting sprayed by a skunk.

Sunday morning as my husband and I arrived a the farm we noticed something strange near the pond. The colors were such that, despite never seeing a skunk close up in the daylight before, I knew immediately what it was.

IMG_5189

We had never seen skunks on the farm before, but a couple of years ago Trooper had a smelly encounter with one in the field next door.

IMG_5190

This momma seemed to be as surprised to see us as we were to see her.

IMG_5191

We stayed in our vehicle and watched as she tried to round up her three little ones then hurried them out of sight.

IMG_5192

I suspect our saving grace that morning was that we didn’t have Trooper with us.

IMG_5193

Trooper is a watch dog and would be certain announce to us that he saw something that didn’t belong there. He would do this by barking loudly and incessantly. His barking quite possibly would have made this momma feel threatened. Even if momma and baby had scampered off, Trooper, despite his prior experiences with skunks, would have certainly went looking in their direction¬†once he got out of the van.

Though they are incredibly cute skunks might not be an animal we want inhabiting our farm. Beyond the threat of an encounter with a curious watch dog who doesn’t learn from past experiences, skunks could pose a threat to our chickens. They may not prey on our full grown birds but¬†chicks and eggs may be at risk. Since skunks are generally nocturnal animals and our chickens are closed in a secure coop each night¬†the risk¬†may be low.

Skunks are also know to dine on bees – potentially even honey bees. Again since skunks are nocturnal and honey bees retreat to their hive at night the risk again is somewhat low. As a precaution against wild critters my husband places a brick on top of each bee hive so the critter would first have knock the brick off then knock the top off before being able to get into the hive.

Fortunately the skunks should have a more than adequate food supply on our farm without having to bother our chickens, eggs or bees. There may¬†even be some benefits to having them around¬†according the following excerpt from https://www.nativeanimalrescue.org/got-skunks/¬†. “Despite their smelly reputation, skunks are beneficial to people. They are opportunistic feeders with about 70% of their diet being insects, such as grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, and wasps. They eat a huge number of agricultural pests, such as army worms, potato beetles and squash bugs. One of their favorite foods is grubs, which they dig up from the soil. A hungry skunk can save people lots of money in terms of the amount of pesticides they might use if the skunk was not at work all night. Skunks will also eat spiders, snails, earthworms, carrion, berries, nuts, roots, small rodents and garbage. An easy source of food will quickly become their favorite, so avoid leaving dog and cat food out at night, which will draw skunks and other unwanted wildlife to your home. Skunks are shy, nocturnal creatures and would rather avoid you than spray you.”

After reading¬†this it is my hope that we can have a peaceful coexistence with these critters – and again we didn’t get skunked.

A Blessed Weekend

Before we get to the weekend I have to tell you what happened Thursday. I was standing on our deck when I saw this family of geese walking down the sidewalk in front of our house. I was caught a bit off guard. I have seen geese walk through our neighborhood on a couple of occasions and it always seems strange. This is the first time I have seen them with a gosling. As soon as I saw them I ran in the house for my camera, but by the time I returned they were nearly out of sight. They were headed for a ditch that runs through our community. I pointed my camera, pushed the zoom button to the max and clicked in their direction. I am surprised that I got a decent shot of them.

Looks like a fun family outing.

IMG_4963 (2)

Saturday was the craft sale at Special Dreams Farm and what a great day it was. Like all outdoor events weather is always a concern but this day was blessed. The weather was variable, sweat shirt weather for sure Рsometimes cloudy and sometimes sunny, sometimes calm and sometimes windy but not a drop of rain fell on us and considering how many rainy days we have had this spring we were most thankful for a dry day.

Even better than the weather was the company. I was set up between my cousin Abbey and my sister Kathy. My sister Jamie and my cousin Laurie, Abbey’s Mom, were also there. I guess we¬†could call it a family affair.

IMG_4964

This was Abbey’s first craft sale. In fact I believe it is the first time she has sold any of her art work. Some of her pieces were painted, some were done in pencil and others were done with a wood burner.

IMG_4965

I think she is very talented

IMG_4966and judging from how many pieces she sold I would say that shoppers agreed.

IMG_4967

Like Abbey, I had a good day for sales. My dehydrated Garlic Granules and Garlic Dill Dip Mix were both big hits.

IMG_4968

Kathy sells memory bears that are custom made. Customers provide the garments, usually shirts, that she makes into bears. Often these are done in memory of a loved one who has passed away and the clothing would be something that was worn by that person, other times they may commemorate a special place or event.

There was a steady stream of shoppers throughout the day, some of which included more family members and friends, and many who were there to support this wonderful organization.

I received a follow up email from the Director of Special Dreams Farm thanking me for attending and saying that they are planning to hold this event again next year. I will definitely plan on being there.

Sunday we had glorious weather and the icing on the cake was that my husband had the day off from work. We spent the day together just catching up¬†on things that needed to be done. We potted some more of the plants that he had brought home and made sure all of the plants had water. He got the small lawn mower going¬†and I cut the grass at the house, while he cleaned the chicken coop. He also got the riding mower going at the farm, but the grass there was too wet (muddy) to cut. It’s hard to say when I will be able to start cutting the grass¬†at the farm¬†because today brought more rain.

I didn’t take many pictures of our Sunday activities. In fact I only have this one to share.

IMG_4987

Our cherry tree has begun to blossom, and while I enjoy the beautiful blossoms I will be praying for a good cherry crop this year.

Thanks for reading and I hope your weekend was blessed as well.

 

 

A Dip In The Pond

Our weather has not been warm enough for me to even think about going for a swim yet. In fact it will take a few consecutive days with temperatures in the 80’s Fahrenheit to warm the water to my liking.

Trooper on the other hand found the water most refreshing. Every year he is the first one in.

IMG_4908

He also enjoyed some time laying in the shade.

IMG_4913

I did get some yard work done¬†this week¬†while soaking up some vitamin D (sunshine) and starting on my tan. ūüôā

My dip in the pond will just have to wait.

First Flowers

IMG_4894

 

IMG_4897

 

IMG_4899

These daffodils that began opening yesterday, and I photographed today, were not the first flowers to blossom at our farm.

Earlier this week I spotted these coltsfoot blossoms.

IMG_4886

Although coltsfoot is usually thought of as a weed, this wild plant is edible and offers medicinal properties. Check out this link http://www.ediblewildfood.com/coltsfoot.aspx to learn more about it.

Lastly I will leave you with a photo of these beautiful pansies that my husband rescued for me ūüôā from work today.

IMG_4906

It would have been tragic to let these beauties die when they can instead make somebody smile.

Thanks for visiting and have a beautiful day.