We just got extremely excited about this and want to share.
While we are working in the field, we also spend a good amount of time inspecting little critters and watching birds, admiring nitrogen nodules and thanking earth worms. This evening, we noticed aphids on several of the dandelion roots we excavated, and always with the aphids were one or two brilliant golden ants. Rad. The sun was lowering in the sky, the plums along the north line were blooming sweetly, and every now and again there was a very distinct smell of lemons. Lemons? I pointed it out. Jeremy confirmed it. Weird. Keep working, it’s still light, lots of work to do. And then we pieced it together: the lemon smell was coming from the dandelion roots… with aphids… with ants. So we speculated back and forth, and then went in and Googled.
THIS IS SO COOL.
These little golden ants are lemon-scented ants (some sites call them “citronella ants”, I prefer “magical shimmery golden lemon meringue ants”). They collect and eat honeydew from aphids that feed off of dandelion roots. Honeydew is a lovely term for plant nutrients and sugars excreted by aphids. The ants’ lemon scent is an irritant to predators and a warning to their friend-ants that something is amok.So these magical golden lemon meringue ants are little dairy farmers, tending herds of aphids on the roots of dandelions (which are in and of themselves crazy fantastic magical, dynamic accumulating, tap-rooted, bee-feeding, photo-sensitive, wish granting plants). The ants drink honeydew, they glimmer like sunshine, and they smell as sweet as a lemon tree. This is the stuff of fairy tales. Only it’s real. And in our soil.This is a pretty crap image of one of these (elusive) magical shimmery golden lemon meringue ants. Can you see her? She was not interested in having her photo taken. She looks orange. I swear, she’s really golden. And shimmery. And she smells like lemons. Lemons! Jeremy’s hands are, in fact, that dirty.
¡Viva la hormiga! and magical shimmery love, t
A productive, restful winter. Continue reading
Spring’s on, full speed ahead. The grapevines are budding, the peas are winding out their tendrils, and the chokecherries are a buzz with a buzzillion pollinators. The apples have lost their pretty petals, the plums are fading, we’re feasting on the first asparagus. The mass exodus to the field from the greenhouse has begun; napas, bok choi, lettuces, mustard greens, kale. Here is a photo update of things in motion, in disarray.One of the types of kale we’re growing (of six total) is a variety planted from seed saved from our very first gardening adventure together six years ago. We picked up the kale as starts at the farmers market in Santa Fe from a woman who sold duck eggs, herbs, and art work made out of turkey feathers. Having not kept track of the true variety name, we’ve been calling it Mu’s Blue, after our friend Mu who hosted our first garden plot. Mu’s Blue has been with us so long, these plants are almost like family. The first batch of broilers have also transitioned from the brooder out to the small tractors. We’re keeping these guys close for a bit, so we can more easily shelter them from the cool evening temperatures (and ever-threatening snow) while they get their feathers on. They’ll head out to the larger tractor in the orchard in a few days.Several of our hens have gone broody. There are no roosters in the flock, so this behavior is all for naught. Because they stop laying eggs when they get broody, we’ve been scooping them up and tossing them out of the coop every time we’re in there. Lately, three of them have decided that there is strength in numbers and they piled up together in one nesting box to thwart us. Ridiculous.News from the greenhouse: Jerm found a really rad parasitoid wasp in the spinach bed last week (Ichneumonidae). These wasps don’t sting or bite, they are good guys. Good in that they consume pollen and nectar and lay eggs in other insects. When the eggs hatch, their young/larvae develop inside the host insect, eating the insect host from the inside as they grow. The incubator insects are aphids and caterpillars, beetles, scales, true bugs, and flies. Welcome to the farm, friend. Hoorah for biodiversity.This has been our first spring using soil blocks and we’re really happy with them. The starts look great and transplanting is easier – both on us and the plants. We pulled out the last of the greenhouse spinach bed this week to make way for radishes, carrots, and cucumbers. We harvested 50.75 lbs of spinach from this bed over six weeks! Also, and lastly, we found a spinach leaf the size of Jeremy’s face.
Cycle Farm, bearded since 2012.
It has occurred to me that our photos from the farm show a decisively striking trend (granted, a trend that’s generally decisive, but not at all striking, regarding perhaps most farms). Beards. Humbly, I have compiled a ‘best of’ collection, beards from the farm which I am so very, very pleased to share with you. These images are wildly uncanny, at times ridiculous, and admittedly enchanting. It is with enormous joy that I present to you the following assemblage of bearded charm from Cycle Farm over these past few years.
With warm regards, Trish
Big love and high-fives to all my bearded, mustachioed comrades. XO -t