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From Toad to Prince Charming

Finding Fall Beauty in the Iler Woods Garden

For the past two years, I have had an embarrassing fall vegetable garden. I know, the first step to recovery is to admit your fault. Well, I am not sure if I am at fault, but what I do know is that the entire neighborhood of critters love my Autumn attempt to plant a garden.

Last year, it was Buddy the squirrel and his 20 relatives who munched on all of my cruciferous vegetables I attempted to grow. The year before, it was the attack of the insects who nibbled on all of the fresh leaves that were sprouting from the ground.

I have used wire mesh to try to enclose all of my seedlings, the squirrels found a way in.

I sprayed organic, non toxic insect sprays on my plants to keep away the insects. . . they still came.

So, last spring, I made this deal with myself that I wasn’t even going to attempt to plant in the fall time. But what happens, is my spring garden is so full of vegetables, so green and lush, that I am tricked into finding a new way to have this autumn garden.

I jokingly told Scott, I am going to get myself a toad. He will eat all of the bad bugs and hopefully scare away the pesky rodents that have been loving their Autumn holiday in my garden. This has been a long time in the making. I even have names picked out. I decided on Sir Gregory Ryan (a very regal toad) since he will be ruling the vegetable garden, and controlling the draw bridge, into the enchanted forest of vegetables.

Two weeks ago, we decided to go to the Reptile Expo. Yes, I didn’t know I would ever go to one of these events, but I went on a hunt to find myself a toad. But, as luck would have it, the only toads they had were exotic, tropical toads that could only live in a controlled terrarium with moist conditions.

Umm, we never have a completely controlled environment at the Iler Homestead!

So, as we went to over 20 vendors, our hopes were deflated on finding a toad. And then, we found a kiosk with a very informative woman sharing her knowledge about Toad Life.

She let us know that we needed a native Toad or frog that could adapt to California conditions. So, we were referred to a San Diego fishery that would send us tadpoles to grow.

The American bull frog would grow as large as ten inches. The American toad would get as big as 3 ½ inches but was hard to find.

We settled on a Leopard Frog. They can grow 4-6 inches in length and live up to 5 years. They are great for adapting to gardens with bugs and small insects. The Iler garden will be the mecca for these frogs!

They arrived late Friday afternoon in a box that said “Urgent- Open immediately!”

Hannah and I eagerly opened the box and stared at our treasures. There were our two tadpoles that still had tails, growing back legs, and were about 2 ½ inches in length. We immediately sat them in a large bowl on our farm table in our kitchen.

Scott is currently building the “Toad Abode” to transport them into our vegetable garden.

Finding the last blooms in the garden.

The toads are a bit symbolic for me. Oftentimes, I think that my current situation is not where I planned it to be, or it didn’t go the way I intended. The toads were going to be an immediate fix, I would purchase them, place them in the garden, and Wah! Lah! My garden would flourish!

But to my dismay, we had to buy tadpoles. It will take up to 16 weeks for the tadpoles to completely transform into a frog. By that time, it will be January, a different season.

Currently, The garden has a bit of a toad appearance. It is dirty, has some blemishes, and is not royalty worthy. However, I do believe the garden will have its own regal moment.

In the meantime, I am still preparing my garden for this new oasis that will create beauty and some new bright spots. I found plenty of onions that were just hiding under the surface as I began to cultivate. I found mint that is starting to perk up again, I also found a hint of the artichoke making a comeback. It pushed me to prepare for this next season, regardless if all my toads are lined up.

I feel invigorated to plant in some raised beds, found some amazing homesteaders to follow, and make connections with other fellow gardeners.

Maybe you have some spots in your everyday life that need some cleaning up. Maybe you are waiting for a metamorphosis. Where ever you are in your journey, take a mental snapshot. This too shall pass. . .
It’s okay to take time to prep for the next season but also enjoy the small jewels that are peaking through the dirt.

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