that would explain the elephant.

saturday evening, after a lovely hike in the Sandias, and i went to Tingley Beach to catch toads. It’s next to the zoo, so we got to see an elephant–not to mention the really exotic experience of hearing peacocks. :-P (we hear peacocks every day; our neighbor keeps them.)

I was expecting failure, because we’d gone to the river the week before with nothing to show from it but mosquito bites, and because i was insufficiently tomboyish as a child to have ever caught a toad before in my life. We didn’t find any toads at Tingley per se, but when the sun was honestly down and security was hassling everyone out of that rather worthless park for the night, we walked across the tracks to the river, where three things happened. 1) We needed every scrap of mosquito-proof clothing we’d worn, 2) we caught 12 tadpoles and 5 young toads in the shallows in less than an hour, 3) and THEN…walking back through the almost-dark bosque towards the car, we discovered the forest floor had come alive with adult toads! we had enough containers left to catch two of them. Got them all home, made habitat for them, and installed them in it, all in about a half-hour. I expect a significant decline in grasshopper populations to commence!

Here’s one of the two habitat sites, under the shade of the large cottonwoods north of the garden, amid the chard:

The rocks and log provide shelter if they want it, and the “ponds” provide water. For those of you who hail from wet climates, to whom this may look very dry: toads need much less water than frogs do, and these toads are native New Mexicans, spadefoot toads specifically–they’re made for this climate.

Here’s the largest fellow, the size of my palm:

They’re called Spadefoot Toads because they use their back feet to dig themselves backwards into hiding spots. Our fellow hid in the okra patch under one of the apricot trees, between a wild amaranth that’s been getting tall and a radish–we decided that since he likes the area, we’ll let that radish get big and go to seed and keep providing shelter through the summer. Our landscape contains hidden water: the drip lines are buried an inch or so under the soil most everywhere, so all the moisture is kept subsurface, to reduce evaporation. He found the moisture.

And after all that, yesterday’s work party was once again quite productive. By the end of the day, various people, including , , Clyde, Erin and Alan, had redesigned the roof of the rabbit run, installed the new roof, and completely rebuilt the door between the halves of the run.

Featuring the spiffily rebuilt door, and one rabbit, brave enough after a day of construction to venture outside the hutch:

Sometime this week, we also discovered that the buns’ favorite green food is kosha. Given that this stuff is the persistent invasive native weed that the house came with, this is excellent news. I should have gotten sound with these photos: you toss them a clump of kosha and they eye you warily while they inhale it, munchmunchmunchmunchmunchmunchmunch. they don’t even have to move, the food just vanishes.

the leggéd appetites at work:

I’m letting a large patch of kosha go to seed for the benefit of next year.

We also installed irrigation for and then planted all the squashes (marina di chioggia, delicata, acorn, butternut, pumpkin, yellow crookneck, and zucchini), and got half the shade-cloth up for those, and all the tomatoes (some 40 plants, variously consisting of the heirlooms yellow taxi, brandywine, and purple calabash). i have shade cloth yet to erect for the tomatoes, but they’re in a spot where they get full tree shade all morning, and then full sun for about 5 hours. they can probably handle the next couple weeks without shade cloth, but they won’t have to; it’s on my list for wednesday or thursday. i am taking “vacation” this week to do more farm work.


These are the yellow crooknecks; delicata in the background on the right, corn on the left.

Chard, gleaming in the late afternoon light, and getting big in spite of the grasshoppers:

Front to back: cucumbers, zucchini, newly-seeded row of carrots, chard with toad-pond at the right, pumpkins, cassava melons, a path, tomatoes, and then alan planting more tomatoes. That neon green pile back there is the tomatoes’ shade cloth.

Alan planting tomatoes at the end of the day:

That’s a row of soybeans ringing the outer edge of the tomato bed, and we interplanted basil with the tomatoes for pest repellent and because they are said to make each other happy. I’m counting on the toads for firmer pest-control measures. It takes a fair number of grasshoppers every day to keep a toad the size of our big guy happy and healthy. Plus there’s all his smaller cousins, who can grow up eating those hoppers.

I’ll be here tomorrow, then offline wednesday through sunday this week for two days of rest satisfying manual labor followed by the Solstice festival.