Another exciting month at the farm!
The 10+ inches of rain we had in June raised the water table exposing the wet, soggy patches that were well-hidden during the drought of May.
It’s always good to know where we’ll need drainage in the future.
I desperately wanted to get our hay cut, but unfortunately with all the rain, was not able to.
If you ask Kermit the Frog, I’m sure he’ll tell you there are some positive aspects to living in a swamp!
The upside to all this rain is that it seemed to bring out the wildlife that may have otherwise kept to other areas of the farm.
Either back from laying eggs or searching out a nest-laying spot, this snapping turtle found one of the swampy areas just at the edge of the hay field and caught my eye during a stroll at dusk.
She almost looks like she’s smiling in the photo… but she was far from happy.
She didn’t appreciate me picking her up, lunging her neck back and trying to snap at my hand behind her. But just one quick photo and I laid her back down among the high grasses.
I had pet turtles as a kid and couldn’t resist.
Crocus Geometer Moth
I like to think that this moth, (Xanthotype urticaria) that has the outline of a snow angel and the tattered edges of an old kitchen towel, sought shelter from the storm inside the future farm store.
I found her in the eave of the back door, motionless and waiting for the rain to cease.
As I write this, the sunny weather of mid July has now dried up most of the wet Kingsbury silty clay loam that make up the majority of our soils.
Maybe the sunshine also factored into this dragonfly’s timing for molting.
I saw large, shiny black eyes in the grass and I wondered if it was alive. I motioned towards it with my boot and I could see that it wasn’t moving.
Picking it up, I could see that it was hollow. An amazing act, huh?
Other wild life that has been shedding their skins around the farm are to be found in what I dubbed the “snake garden.”
Nearly every day it’s been sunny, you could find them warming themselves near the hot rocks and dry grasses by the foundation on the west side of the farm store.
Some days they would be everywhere. Mom and babies I suppose. One day I counted 11 in total.
Among the garter snakes was a very long brown and tan spotted snake. I later found out this was a spotted adder, also called a milk snake.
Quite harmless and non-poisonous, but will bite and rattle it’s tail, when cornered or in danger.
Now that I’ve seen the one by the garage, I am seeing more of them in other places. They eat rodents so they must be finding a good food supply nearby.
I’ve heard they like water and sure enough, saw one the other day when fetching water (yes, I have to “fetch” water in 5 gallons buckets by hand and yes, I know there is such a thing as modern “running water” – I haven’t gotten around to that yet, but will tell you all about that plan in a future post!).
In the pump house, we have a natural spring. There was a large milk snake in there actually crawling through a hole on an old interior door.
I fetched my water quickly and let him be.
After brush hogging a field between the barn and garage, I saw two more spotted adders. One had quite a large bulge in it’s belly. I wonder what it had for lunch?
Speaking of lunch, most days when we’re sitting and enjoying our lunch, we would see a smallish bird hovering in one spot in the sky for a brief period and then it would dive down into the fields.
After a little research I found that it was indeed a bird of prey.
It performs the hovering action to survey a patch of the field for food and when it sees something, it swoops down to catch it.
There was a recent article in our newspaper about rescued kestrels being set free on a nearby winery and it talked about the beneficial impacts kestrels can have in the ecosystem.
News like that is encouraging when I see the kestrels at the farm everyday.
The Dance of Diversity
Learning and listening to the land has so far been very beneficial.
From a wildlife perspective, this helps me to understand the diversity that exists here as we bring the farm back to life.
Much the same way choices and decisions are made going forward into topics like organic certification and soil and water conservation, we also need to be aware of how our decisions will affect our wildlife inhabitants going forward.
It makes me happy to see how wildlife can make a difference on the farm and I’m looking forward to when we can introduce livestock and pasture management practices to continue the “dance of diversity” in our little farm’s ecosystem.