I flipped over a pile of old straw and donkey dung that's been stashed in one corner of the greenhouse, and accidentally uncovered this sleepy salamander. At first glance, I thought he was a giant slug, so I squealed like a girl and nearly decapitated him with an angry swipe of my hoe. Luckily for the salamander, I realized my mistake in time. I remembered to wet my hands before I picked him up, so I didn't dry out his sensitive skin. He was very cold, and could barely move, and I realized that he was hibernating in the center of that cold pile of straw. A herpetologist friend tells me it's a streamside salamander (Ambystoma barbouri), which is a type of mole salamander. I didn't want to disturb his rest, so I placed him back in the straw and flipped the pile back together. I think this is the first salamander I've found at the farm! I hope he eats slugs.
I'm slowly figuring out what I want to do with the greenhouse. Weed seeds are sprouting in the warm soil, so I used the hoe to turn up the dirt in several small beds. I think I'll leave walkways between the beds, and cover them with bedding from the goat shed, even though I know this will provide slug habitat. I poured perlite left over from the rocket mass heater project into one of the beds that seemed to have tight clay soil, and used the hoe to mix it in. I have plans to chicken proof the sides of the greenhouse so I can roll open the side flaps. Until I do that, any seeds that get planted will just be chicken food if I have to open the flaps. The recent warm weather makes me feel like I'm already behind with the garden, but then I remind myself that it's not even March yet, so I should relax.
But then again, look how far along the weeds in the greenhouse are - dandelions are already blooming! If I can figure out how to use the greenhouse wisely, I can see how much of an advantage it will be for growing food early and late in the season.
The first of the herb seeds I planted have sprouted already. Baby basil plants! Also, a few very tiny thyme sprouts. So exciting.
At night I place the salad boxes with the egg cartons of seeds on top of the chicken brooder, and the little chick's heat lamp keeps them from freezing. In the morning I move the seed boxes to the table, and prop the greenhouse door open so it doesn't get too hot for the chicks.
I'm still excited each evening when I've taken care of all the animals and the sun has not set. I walk around the gardens and flowerbeds with the dogs and make plans. I'll never do it all, but that's okay, there's no rush, right?