Category Archives: Tadpoles

Sights of Spring

This is the day the Lord has made…

I didn’t make it out to the farm until yesterday afternoon. As I walked past the prayer garden I and looked for the killdeer eggs this is what I saw.

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“They weren’t hatched this morning” my husband said.

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Both parents were near by screeching and doing the broken wing act to try to get us out of the area. I expect the babies will be running all around the area soon. I am happy that I can weed that side of the prayer garden now.

My husband’s main task for the day was cleaning frames from the bee hives. He first lets the bees do their part. He sets out the frames that still have honey and wax and lets the bees take what they want. Once they stop visiting a frame he finishes cleaning it before putting it back in a hive.

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As I walked around the farm I observed bees foraging amongst the apple blossoms. I made many attempts at photographing them. They were too busy to pose for a picture, so this was the best I got.

IMG_2573The bees were also collecting a lot of dandelion pollen. This lady stopped for a few seconds, so I was able to get a clear shot before she moved on.

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Last week we observed something that neither my husband, who has spent much of his life around ponds, creeks, rivers and lakes, or I have ever witnessed before. The toads had all made their way to this shallow grassy area of our pond and were mating there.

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There were too many to count and as we stood there watching more toads were arriving for the party.

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Yesterday as I walked by that area of the pond I noticed tiny black tadpoles apparently just hatching.

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We also spotted minnows swimming in the beach area.

For the past two years only one of our young lilac bushes has blossomed. When I mentioned this to my son-in-law last summer he suggested that I spread wood ash around them. Last fall I did spread wood ash around all of the lilac bushes and some of our apple trees as well.

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This year 10 of our 15 lilac bushes have blossoms.

Our apple trees also have more blossoms than they ever have before.

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Several years ago around just before Mother’s day my husband and I planted some trilliums in a wooded area of our farm. These were one of my mom’s favorite wild flowers, and we planted them as a tribute to mom who passed away the same year we bought our farm.

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Mom’s trilliums are beginning to bloom, appropriately, in time for Mother’s day.

Visitors are another common sight at the farm during the warm weather seasons, and it was good to have our first visitors of spring.

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Two of our daughters, Kara and Lindell, stopped by for a visit yesterday afternoon. They were dancing as they came up the driveway since my husband had a classic rock station playing on the radio.

Let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24

 

Frogs on the Farm

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.

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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 am 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

Spring 2016

I do love spring in Michigan. I’m not really sure that I’d call it my favorite season. In fact I am happy to live in a place where we can enjoy the unique qualities of each season, seeing the earth come alive in the spring, then the summer heat and growing season, followed by the crispness of fall and the glorious colors when the leaves change, and while I’m not a huge fan of cold weather I do enjoy a fire in the fireplace and snow in the winter.

To me spring seems to be a magical time. As we walk our farm I am fascinated by seeing the life emerge from below the ground. I observe the daily changes in the vegetation as the trees get their buds then the  buds turn to leaves and blossoms. I enjoy walking in the wild areas of the farm and trying to identify the various plants, as much as I love seeing our first asparagus shoots appear, the blueberries blossoming, or picking a piece of green garlic and chewing on it.

I have to say that I am truly thankful for my husband who also has a great appreciation for nature. We shared the excitement of watching the daffodils flower, we were delighted to see the bees foraging on the dandelions, and we marveled this year as our forsythia’s, that were just small twigs 4 years ago when we planted them, have brightened the back of the pond with their beautiful yellow blossoms. Yellow is the color of early spring on our farm. A very appropriate color in deed. Yellow is a happy color. It makes me smile.

My husband doesn’t think it’s corny when I give him daily reports about what is blossoming. He indulges my crazy ideas, and he will help preserve the natural beauty of our farm by doing things like moving wild rose plants before we disturb the ground in which they reside.

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These rocks have become my rose garden. Four wild roses have been relocated here. They are all doing well.

He has also designated an area where we can transplant Mullein this year. We have discovered mullein coming up in several areas where we will be mowing, and rather than kill these valuable plants we have decided to give them their own spot. Mullein is a medicinal plant which I will use for teas, infused oils and tinctures. This website explains it’s uses http://www.herbcraft.org/mullein.html

We also enjoy bringing new life to our farm. So far this year we have planted 4 basswood trees, 3 willow trees, 25 new asparagus crowns which are sending up small shoots, a row of potatoes which are beginning to grow, a small row of sugar peas, and two rows of cabbage.

We also planted my Mother’s Day gifts from Tina and her husband Ken. Tina knows of my love for growing things so she called me a couple weeks ago and said rather than her just picking out something, she thought it was a good idea to ask what I wanted.  Upon going to the website of the nursery she shops at I discovered that they had the one plant that I thought would be hard to find. Solomon’s Seal.

Solomon’s Seal grows in wooded or shady areas, and although we have some wooded areas where Solomon’s Seal might grow wild I had never noticed it growing on our farm. It is another plant that has desirable medicinal properties, and even though I will not harvest it this year I intend to use it for teas, infused oils and tinctures in the future. You can check out this website to learn more http://www.herbcraft.org/solseal.html I also planted the three Thyme plants, that Tina and Ken brought me, in the prayer garden.

The new life of Spring is not limited to plants. We had the first hatching of tadpoles in the pond this week. I believe these are baby toads since we have seen many toads in the pond lately. Toads are beneficial for the farm as they live on the land and eat insects, grubs and slugs that that might cause problems in the gardens.

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Another part of spring in Michigan that we enjoy is seeing the birds return to the area. Seeing the first Robin and Red Winged Black Bird are sings that Spring is here. We have fun watching the Killdeer protect their nest by doing the broken wing act to make the dogs chase them in the opposite direction. We also try to identify birds we are not familiar with.

This year we have two birds that have become rather annoying. One is a duck who is visiting our pond regularly. Since we use our pond for swimming and fishing as well as irrigation we really don’t want ducks in the pond. There are many other ponds in our area that go unused where this duck could stay and no one would care. Even though we tell Trooper and Scout to chase it away whenever we see him, he just keeps coming back. The second is a robin who likes to sit in the maple tree outside our bedroom window and sing. There is no nest being built there, and there are plenty of other trees in the area, but this robin insists on sitting in this particular tree, every morning in fact. It starts singing before the sun comes up – sometimes as early as 3:30 a.m. While we are usually up around the time the sun comes up, and it may be true that the early bird catches the worm, we find this birds wake up calls to be a little too extreme. I do suppose this is one well-fed robin.