April showers bring May flowers. Do May showers bring toads?

6 05 2007

Here on Holiday Farm, May showers do indeed bring toads! The warm rains of May bring our toad population out of hibernation and they start laying their eggs in long strings (that’s how you tell the difference from frog eggs) in the pond. The toadlings hatch as tadpoles and then come the beginning of June, Dicken says Digging for Bugs!that the farm roads are just full of tiny jumping toadlets! Just in time for the Education Program’s June weekend workshop on toads- so come by and check out the little guys and help us encourage them to stick around in the Children’s Garden.

Spring has arrived in full glory at the Farm. The trees are budding and wild spring ephemerals are everywhere. Spring ephemerals are those brief flowers & plants that come out at the merest hint of spring, sometimes even appearing while there is still snow on the ground, and then disappear with the onset of summer. Some of our favorites are the elusive and beautiful lady’s slipper, the deliciously spicy wild-leek or ramp, red trilliums, coltsfoot (pictured) and trout lillies.

Other happenings this past month on the farm. Since we had a Coltsfoot bloomingbroken standpipe at the back end of the sugar house that we needed to bring a back-hoe in to fix, we took the opportunity to run an extra water line down to the lower field where Dave Burdick grows some of his gorgeous daffodils and other plants. It has made a bit of a mess along the driveway, but it is nothing a rake and some grass seed won’t fix. The important thing is that there is now greater access to water for those growing in the lower field.

Morgan and some neighborhood children have been discovering the salamanders in the pond. Most of them appear to be newts, adolescent version of the woodland red eft, and soon many of these newts will be migrating from the ponds and vernal pools of their youth to the forests where they will live for the rest of their lives (sometimes as long as seven years!). Other spring heralds, such as the peeper frogs, are singing in their temporary homes in small vernal pools in some of our fields. We know that hearing them means that we have seen the last of winter for this season.

We had fun at two Earth Day events in our area. Desiree went to the Cummington Earth Day Celebration and Jesse, Dicken & Rare Earth WestChloe went to the Celebration at Springside
Park in Pittsfield. Des brought along some compost critters for kids to check out, Butch the corn snake and a big bin of compost where kids could dig for some plastic compost bugs to take home. The rest of the
crew at Springside brought maple syrup for tasting and selling.

We have broken ground in the Rare Earth Market’s garden and the potatoes are planted! Jesse spread our ‘black gold’ compost liberally over the field before Desiree used the old chisel or ‘grand’ plow (that Dicken thinks used to belong to his grandfather) to break up the soil. Our friend and neighbor, Bill Bowers completed the job by bringing over his rotovator (a tractor-mounted roto-tiller) and making the soil soft and beautiful. On May 1, Desiree planted the potatoes, all eight varieties. Peas are next along with other spring crops such as flowers, salad mix and greens.

 We have also opened up a section of the field next to the farm office for our Children’s Garden. It is proving to be quite a chore to lay out the whole garden, but it is underway. We hope to be able to move the big climbing rock for the center this coming weekend. We will be starting seeds for the garden and maybe even doing some planting in the garden itself in our Seed-Starting Workshops on May 19th and June 2nd (you can read more about these workshops on the Education Program’s page).Breaking Ground in Children’s Garden

More up and coming happenings will include the arrival of new chickens sometime this month. These will be fully grown pullets (which means, almost ready for laying) and unfortunately, they will probably come to us de-beaked. Since these birds are coming from a large production facility where they were kept in close quarters, they get bored and peck at one another, and so they are de-beaked to keep them from hurting each other. This is very common in large conventional egg production facilities. We don’t abide this practice, but in our experience, we have found that most of the time, the hen’s beaks will grow back with time and it doesn’t hurt their ability to forage and eat bugs once they are able to see the sky and range free on grass.  We plan on taking pictures of the new flock’s first glimpse of the outdoors- they usually find it pretty overwhelming to see all that sky at first- and it is quite a sight watching them dare one another to step out of the door. In addition to what they find out in the pasture, they will be fed a locally produced (but not organic) feed and we are toying with the idea of giving them a flax seed supplement which will increase the amount of Omega 3 fatty acids and DHA in their yolks. They will also get oyster shell and kelp meal. Look for our ‘tasty’ eggs this summer at Rare Earth Market– they will have the dark orange yolks commonly found only in pasture-based hens. We will also be getting some heritage breed chicks to raise up to increase our flock size, we should be ordering them in the near future.

The pigs are moving out! That’s right, visitors to the farm will no longer find the ‘piglets’ in the barn next to the office. They are moving to pasture in the next week or so. We are putting them to work weeding the crabgrass out of problem areas in some fields. Supposedly they love those succulent roots and will dig until they get the very last one. They will be moved using electric net fencing and a mobile house on skids which will provide them with shade and a cozy place to sleep. Pinky, the momma pig, will also be moving out of the barn, but we would like to get her bred and build separate housing first. We will post some pictures of the pigs in their new quarters as soon as it happens.

Our Black-Gold compost is flying off the farm. Now’s the time to prep those gardens. Even if you wait until Memorial Day to plant those tender annuals, it is still good to get some air and amendments into the soil beforehand. So add some good nutrient-rich compost and turn those gardens now. We also got the compost bagging ‘operation’ (two teenagers, shovels, bags and a portable bag closer) up and running. The guys did a great job getting us a backlog of bagged compost to offer to those clients who don’t need a whole truckload, or who want an easier way of moving compost to various sites around their yard than a wheelbarrow. For more information please check out the Farm Products Page.

Enjoy the Spring while the bugs are at bay! Look for our June installment of The Barnyard Bull in a couple of weeks. And don’t forget to check out the other pages of our blog- we are constantly updating the information on them as it becomes available.




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