Cow manure!

In all the drama of my honey bees and chickens, I almost forgot about the vegetables! Vegetables are the main reason why The Beanstalk has a website so I figured I’d better plant some. My tractor was in the shop for almost a month and it delayed my planting. So did the heaps of rain we got all spring. Like most areas around Edmonton, the soil I’m growing with has a lot of clay in it. This is good in that it sucks up and retains water in an amazing manner, but after heavy rains it takes a while for it to dry out enough for me to till without ruining the soil structure. But the soil has dried out and I’ve planted all the tasty veggies now, and now I have a bit of time to update this website.

But wait, emerging seedlings aren’t the most interesting photos subjects. Instead, let me tell you about the diversity of animals around my compost piles. There are the wasps and frogs around my lawn clipping and leaf compost pile. There’s the dog and yellow-bellied sapsucker woodpecker obsessed with my horse manure/mushroon compost. The dog I can understand. But the woodpecker? There must be something interesting in there.

But the most biologically diverse compost is the cow manure. I picked the cow manure up from the pastures (yes, I felt very peasant-like doing this) so we’re not talking cow manure/feedlot slurry here, we’re talking about a dried, almost peat-like cow manure that’s been self-composting out in the fields for a year. There are lots of larvae of various insects living in it, and a tiger salamander! It didn’t like having it’s photo taken very much, but here it is.

It's about the best photo I managed to get.

I don’t know if I collected the salamander when I collected the cow pies or if (s)he made it there alone, but the compost pile is now being watered consistently to make sure the salamander, rather than the manure, doesn’t dry out. The western-tailed blues have also been near constant visitors to the cow manure pile as well.

Western tailed blue

Although not related to compost biodiversity, the other discovery was bats in the old garage doors! I’ve been hearing scritch-scritch-scruffles up there for a couple days, but I didn’t have the courage to climb up there and stare the noise maker in the face until a few days ago. And what did I have staring back at me but beady little eyes and leather wings! I’ve seen bats flying at night of course, but hunched up during the day in a garage door is another experience entirely. These bats are very tiny, two and a half inches or three inches at most. They might need to have a real bat house made for them because rain falls down into the garage doors and bats probably don’t like rain very much. I credit them to keeping the mosquito population low around my field.

I’ll post photos of the vegetables when they look a bit more interesting!

Fenugreek as cover crop

I’m growing plenty of arugula, fennel, and fenugreek this summer, so start looking up recipes! Fenugreek is the experiment. Apparently its maple syrup-like flavour lends itself to being used in maple syrup substitutes. It also has many other medicinal properties in addition to being a spice in curries. I’m growing it mostly as a cover crop but I will be harvesting some as well. There is some thought that fenugreek may be an ideal cover crop because it is an annual that will not become a weed problem, only needs to be cut once at the end of the season, and has a high nitrogen content.  Being a legume from the Mediterranean, it is supposed to do quite well in the prairie provinces where lack of moisture and moderately hot conditions are similar to its native land. Or at least that’s my understanding- we’ll see what happens this summer!

Native Pollinators

In the last three days the trees have blossomed and all the native pollinators are buzzing around. I’m amazed at their diversity; I’ve never paid attention before to all the varieties of wasps and bees! The native pollinators far outnumber my honey bees right now. I’m feeding my bees “nector” and “pollen” in the hive to make sure they don’t starve and so it appears they aren’t out foraging as much as they could be. They’ve already drawn out almost all the foundation I gave them and are busy tending to their larvae. By next week there should be baby bees emerging! I’m hoping the wild pollinators and the honey bees are able to coexist without competition.