Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Why We Don't Use the Rototiller Much

The rototiller has its uses, to be sure. But I avoid it when possible, for many reasons. It damages the physical soil structure, disrupts the soil ecology and hydrology, is tiring to the operator, hard on the ears, obscures birdsong and conversation, etc. It disconnects us from direct ground contact, and we don't know our soil and its ecology as intimately as when we are down there with our hands in it.
The rototiller can also kill small animals...a gruesome death.

Fortunately, we were digging by hand when CC spotted something odd in the soil. A dark jelly-like blob, at first glance. What...? But--"It's got legs!" she observed, scooping it up.

On unfurling, it turned out to be a salamander.

It's not uncommon to spot a new insect or plant at the farm...or even bird. But today we found a representative of a whole new ORDER! Never before have we found a salamander of any kind on the farm!

Based on comparison with online photos, this appears to be the Smallmouth Salamander, Ambystoma texanum.

http://www.caudata.org/cc/species/Ambystoma/A_texanum.shtml shows photos that look a whole lot like this precious creature.

We took photos as quickly as possible, and then "replanted" the salamander at the edge of the garden, safe from further digging and from the lime we were about to apply.

Amphibians absorb chemicals readily through their skin. Thus, they are very sensitive to environmental degradation, and serve as "indicator species" in an environment. I rejoice to see more of them, and more diversity, as the years go by and the farm becomes a more balanced ecosystem.

Seeing this salamander, however, makes me question my use of hydrated lime in the garden...a quick, easy and cheap way of raising soil pH for acid-hating crops like spinach and other salad greens. I'll continue to ponder this dilemma.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wood ashes?