Tag 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.

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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 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

Rescue Roses and Mystery Roses

This post was originally published in July of 2017. Since our wild rose bushes are now blooming I thought I would share this.

Rescue Roses

When we bought our farm it was 7.6 acres of vacant land. It had been sitting untouched for many years and was overgrown with countless types of vegetation. It was so much fun exploring the property and discovering various trees, bushes, and wild flowers.

One of my great disappointments was when I realized that I was going to lose a beautiful wild rose bush when we dug our pond. “We will move it,” my husband said. We decided to plant it next to theses large rocks. Rocks that we had decided we would never move again.

We cut down the bushy part of the rose and dug up as much as the root as we could and replanted it next to the rocks.

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We have since found 4 or 5 more rose bushes which would need to be moved so we didn’t destroy them as we developed areas of the farm. All of theses rose bushes were replanted near the rocks in what has now become our rescue rose garden.

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These rose bushes thrive in their new home.

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I am always excited to see these rose bushes blossom in the spring and they have a lovely fragrance.

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It is gratifying to know that we were able to preserve this beautiful part of nature.

Mystery Roses

Another rose story I want to share is what my husband and I are calling the mystery rose. The yellow rose bush was a given to me¬†as a Mother’s Day gift from my children several years ago. My oldest daughter had picked it out, and she selected yellow because I had told her that bees tend to like yellow and pink flowers but not red flowers. That was something I read when I was researching honey bees. We planted the rose in the center of our prayer garden.

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Yellow Rose 2015

Despite giving it lots of TLC, watering when needed, fertilizer, and protecting it from the deer, the rose bush struggled. Last year I pruned it way down because the top had died off and dried up. I was sad because whenever someone gives me a plant it is a reminder of that person. In this case it represented my 4 daughters.

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Yellow Rose Is Red In 2017

Several¬†weeks ago my husband asked me if I’d seen my rose bush. “It has one blossom and lots of buds.” he said. A couple days later I was baffled as I checked on my rose bush. “That was a yellow rose.” I told my husband. “Now it has red blossoms.” He didn’t really remember it being yellow, but he¬†didn’t¬†accuse me of being¬†crazy. To make sure I wasn’t crazy I looked back through my pictures and found the picture above.

I decided that there were one of two explanations for this change. The first one would be that someone had replaced the dead rose bush with a live one and had put in red rather than yellow. If this had happened I’m am certain I would have seen evidence of the digging and replanting.

The other thing I thought may have happened was that¬†the yellow rose was a grafted bush and the root stock that was used was a red rose. I¬†wasn’t sure¬†if roses were grafted or if this scenario was¬†possibly so I did an internet search.

This link from the MSU Extension explains that indeed my second explanation is plausible. http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/why_are_my_roses_changing_color   Apparently I had pruned the rose bush down below the point where it was grafted. The root stock that was from a red rose was strong enough to survive and seems to be thriving in our garden. I do love this beautiful red rose and it will continue to remind me of my daughters.

 

 

 

 

Rescue Roses and Mystery Roses

Rescue Roses

When we bought our farm it was 7.6 acres of vacant land. It had been sitting untouched for many years and was overgrown with countless types of vegetation. It was so much fun exploring the property and discovering various trees, bushes, and wild flowers.

One of my great disappointments was when I realized that I was going to lose a beautiful wild rose bush when we dug our pond. “We will move it,” my husband said. We decided to plant it next to theses large rocks. Rocks that we had decided we would never move again.

We cut down the bushy part of the rose and dug up as much as the root as we could and replanted it next to the rocks.

IMG_2720

We have since found 4 or 5 more rose bushes which would need to be moved so we didn’t destroy them as we developed areas of the farm. All of theses rose bushes were replanted near the rocks in what has now become our rescue rose garden.

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These rose bushes thrive in their new home.

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I am always excited to see these rose bushes blossom in the spring and they have a lovely fragrance.

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It is gratifying to know that we were able to preserve this beautiful part of nature.

Mystery Roses

Another rose story I want to share is what my husband and I are calling the mystery rose. The yellow rose bush was a given to me¬†as a Mother’s Day gift from my children several years ago. My oldest daughter had picked it out, and she selected yellow because I had told her that bees tend to like yellow and pink flowers but not red flowers. That was something I read when I was researching honey bees. We planted the rose in the center of our prayer garden.

IMG_0042
Yellow Rose 2015

Despite giving it lots of TLC, watering when needed, fertilizer, and protecting it from the deer, the rose bush struggled. Last year I pruned it way down because the top had died off and dried up. I was sad because whenever someone gives me a plant it is a reminder of that person. In this case it represented my 4 daughters.

IMG_2729
Yellow Rose Is Red In 2017

Several¬†weeks ago my husband asked me if I’d seen my rose bush. “It has one blossom and lots of buds.” he said. A couple days later I was baffled as I checked on my rose bush. “That was a yellow rose.” I told my husband. “Now it has red blossoms.” He didn’t really remember it being yellow, but he¬†didn’t¬†accuse me of being¬†crazy. To make sure I wasn’t crazy I looked back through my pictures and found the picture above.

I decided that there were one of two explanations for this change. The first one would be that someone had replaced the dead rose bush with a live one and had put in red rather than yellow. If this had happened I’m am certain I would have seen evidence of the digging and replanting.

The other thing I thought may have happened was that¬†the yellow rose was a grafted bush and the root stock that was used was a red rose. I¬†wasn’t sure¬†if roses were grafted or if this scenario was¬†possibly so I did an internet search.

This link from the MSU Extension explains that indeed my second explanation is plausible. http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/why_are_my_roses_changing_color   Apparently I had pruned the rose bush down below the point where it was grafted. The root stock that was from a red rose was strong enough to survive and seems to be thriving in our garden. I do love this beautiful red rose and it will continue to remind me of my daughters.

 

 

 

 

A Year In Growing Garlic Part (VIII) Garlic Scapes

It’s time to start cutting the scapes. The music garlic has formed scapes and we want to cut them while they are still young and tender.

What are garlic scapes???

They are the seed heads produced by hardneck garlic varieties. They appear in the spring, and if left to grow they will flower and produce dozens of tiny garlic bubils (seeds). Most growers cut the scape off the garlic plant in order to allow the garlic to put more energy into growing a bigger bulb. If cut early the scapes are tender and delicious. They are said to have the same nutritional value as garlic bulbs, and although they possess a milder flavor when cooked, they are a culinary delight. They are great roasted, grilled, stir fried or used raw in dips, salads and pesto. To discover great garlic scape recipes simply do an internet search for garlic scape recipes or try the pesto recipe at the bottom of the page. They are only available for a short time in the spring but can be preserved by freezing or pickling.

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The above is a photo of a garlic scape forming. If allowed to grow it will probably form a second curl before straightening up and forming a seed head on top.

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This photo is some of the scapes I cut last year.

Garlic Scape Pesto

Ingredients:

1 cup garlic scapes (8 or 9 scapes), top flowery part removed, cut into 1‚ĀĄ4-inch slices
1‚ĀĄ3 cup walnuts
3‚ĀĄ4cup olive oil
1‚ĀĄ4to 1‚ĀĄ2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1‚ĀĄ2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Ground black pepper

Method:

1. Place the scapes and walnuts in the bowl of a food processor and blend until well combined and somewhat smooth. Slowly drizzle in the oil and process until integrated.

2. With a rubber spatula, scoop the pesto out of the bowl and into a mixing bowl. Add Parmesan and salt and pepper to taste.

3. Keeps for up to one week in the refrigerator. Also freezes well; the cheese can be added to the pesto after it has thawed.

Makes about¬†3‚ĀĄ4 cup.

Garlic scapes are only available for a few short weeks in the spring. If you are looking for scapes sent me an email at ruth20012001@yahoo.com.

 

Time Flies

It is said that as you get older time seems to go faster. It is also said that time flies when you’re having fun. I’m not sure which it is, and I suspect it is a combination of the two, but time sure does seem to be going quickly. Here it is well into June already and it¬† seems I have missed a lot of the things I should¬†have written¬†about. I thought I’d make this a catch up post.

Planting and weeding were two of our priorities in the last week of May and first week of June. My husband and I worked mostly together to do a thorough weeding of the entire garlic field. We spread it out over 5 or 6 days working 2 to 4 hours each day and it looked really good when it was finished. We are now just pulling big weeds as needed in the garlic. I have also spent time pulling weeds in the Prayer Garden, and devoted almost a full day to weeding the strawberry patch and asparagus. We have pretty much waged war on weeds and for now we seem to be winning the battle.

My husband has also spent a lot of time getting the garden planted. He started with the fifty tomato plants that he has grown from heirloom seed, as well as some green peppers, cabbage, and cucumbers.  We had our annual date to the local green house. The green house is one of the few places I enjoy shopping and usually I spend way too much money buying plants. This year there were only a few thing that we needed because my husband had started much of what we needed from seed. He picked out a couple of egg plants and some leeks and I bought a couple of rosemary plants but they were all out of culinary sage that I wanted. I did get a couple of Russian sage plants. Although they are not edible they should look nice in the prayer garden and the blossoms are said to attract butterflies. Maybe the bees will like them as well.

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We had another swarm of bees. We watched the entire event. Above is the beginning when the group was starting to leave the hive.

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It’s hard to make out in the above photo but all the little yellow spots against the green areas and all of the black spots against the blue sky are bees. They settled in a picturesque location nearby.

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The flexibility of the  pine branches made it easy for my husband to slip a bucket up over the swarm. He then shook the branch while holding the bucket around the swarm. Nearly all of the bees fell into the bucket. He covered it with a lid and carried it to the empty hive.

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He dumped the bees into the hive and put the inner cover on. He placed a piece of wood over the hole in the top of the inner cover to keep the bees inside. He went back to the pine tree and repeated the process to collect the bees that were left behind.

We watched the hive and saw bees gathering at the small slot in the side of the inner cover. This was a good indication that the queen was inside and the workers were going in to be with the queen.

It’s now about a week later and this hive along with our other 5 are all doing well.

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The Irises are in full bloom in the Prayer Garden. When I was planting rosemary and sage the other day a lovely fragrance caught my attention. Since the Irises were the nearest blossoms I walked to them and took a sniff. Wow! Spicy-sweet. I then took a long deep breathe to fill myself with this wonderful scent. These have only been in place for a couple of years and have really just taken off this year. I always thought that Irises were planted for their showy flowers, and that is why I planted them. I never realized that they were aromatic as well.

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I guess this just goes to show that we should¬†take time to stop and smell the Irises. I’ll consider this a lesson learned.

Harvesting and watering are now our primary activities. Our asparagus crop was significantly affected by the wet weather this year and we harvested less than 50% of what we had last year. The strawberries are ripening and I have picked about 7 quarts so far. I am freezing them for now and will make jam with many of them when I have more time. I have also picked and dried oregano, spearmint and chocolate mint.

We are now having to water daily as we have gone from overly wet weather to overly dry. I think our last good rain was before Memorial Day, and the lack of rain plus the summerlike temperatures, equals very thirsty plants. This post explains our watering system on the farm. Since the farm is off grid watering takes a little more time and effort than just turning on a faucet. https://donteatitsoap.com/2016/06/05/our-off-grid-irrigation-system/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

While there are many other things going on here, there is much work to be done and precious little time to write about it, so until next time ūüôā