Once upon a time in a land far, far, away Little Red Riding Hood went to brunch with her besties at The Fairy Godmother’s Cauldron. Boots, the waiter, guided her through the crowded room to their regular table. Cinderella was already seated. A Princess with an unusual sensitivity to legumes arrived moments later and, after a round of curtsies and kisses, the three settled into a bucket of Champagne mimosas. The conversation turned to love and relationships.
“Is your Prince still ‘charming,’ ” Red asked Cindy.
Cinderella’s glass was empty. Boots scuttled over and refilled it. She took a sip of the syrupy, sweet drink and took her time in answering.
“I kissed him and he turned into a frog,” she finally replied. The women shared a bitter laugh, and that’s when “It” all started; this disrespect and disinterest the public seems to have for the valiant, valuable, and humble frog. These days the popular press is full of accounts of Prince Andrew’s infidelities and iniquities. Prince Charles’s failed marriage to Diana is the stuff of legend. Accounts of Prince Harry’s trials and tribulations with Meghan Markle are obsessively recounted by the tabloids. But almost nobody pays attention to the plight of our frog friends.
Frogs are amphibians and most species require wetland environments to resolve their romantic and procreative issues. All over the world the frog population is in steep decline as the dramatic reduction in their habitat and the consequences of climate change takes its toll. The decline in frog populations is bad news for humans. Can you name a single prince who has justified his privileged aristocratic status by consuming his weight in mosquitoes? And it’s not just mosquitos; flies and insect pests of all kinds are zapped up by frogs’ long, sticky tongues.
I don’t use any biocides on my farm, be they organically derived pesticides or conventional chemicals. I have distaste for sprays and an unwillingness to subject others or myself to pesticides. But farming without pesticides comes with risks. Sometimes the pests overwhelm a crop of mine and destroy it. But mostly they don’t, and I count on frogs to help control many of the pests that could threaten my greens.
Our greenhouse is next to a ditch that drains farm fields into Corralitos Creek. Our neighborhood frogs romance each other and lay their eggs in the muddy ditch each spring. Then the little frogs that survive all the predators hop their way from their weedy ditch into our greenhouse. The greenhouse roof acts to protect the frogs from airborne threats like Great Blue Herons and Snowy Egrets. Our farm’s happy frogs find a green and moist welcome among the chard leaves and carrot fronds.
I manage my greenhouse production by scattering rows of short-term annuals, like arugula, collards, or baby carrots, among rows of long-term annuals like peppers or runner beans and rows of perennial crops like Hoja Santa, or Lemon Verbena. That way, when I turn the tractor down a spent row that needs to be tilled under and replanted, the frogs that are hiding in the greenery have an opportunity to move to a safe space just a row or two away. I was on the tractor this past week and it was fun to see the frogs hopping out of my way as the tractor crept down the row. When I was tilling under an old bed of overgrown mizuna greens the frogs that bounced out of my way were a lovely jade green, just like the mizuna. When I turned under the red-veined sorrel the frogs were a burgundy bronze, just like the old, ratty sorrel leaves. When I turned under a bed that was covered in dried weeds the frogs that fled were brown and almost yellow, just like the weeds that had been hiding them.
Frogs can change colors to fit their surroundings, which is pretty enchanting. For me, frogs are magic because they eat the carrot flies that hover close to the ground and would lay eggs and spread their little, destructive maggots in among our umbelliferous crops like carrots, parsley, chervil, dill, or lovage. Frogs zap up the white flies that would cling to our pepper crops and chew away at our profits. The sticky, waxy aphids that want to eat our chards and lettuces are held in check by our vigilant posse of little amphibians. If Cinderella kissed a Prince and their relationship didn’t develop into the mutually supportive growth experience that she’d hoped for, that’s because….well, life’s no Fairy Tale. But we do the planet a favor when we host our frog friends by providing them with an amenable habitat, and they never betray our friendship by turning into aristocrats.
—© 2021 Essay by Andy Griffin and photos of farm by Andy Griffin
Photo of frog by Pixabay
As the weather is getting warmer, the sun is rising earlier and the harvesting begins with the sunrise, we will be closing our East Bay/Peninsula shop by 6 PM on the Wednesday evenings before the Friday delivery. We close our San Francisco & Mystery Thursday shops on Wednesday mornings by 8 AM and our Santa Cruz/Los Gatos shop by 8 AM, on Monday mornings. Please get your orders in early so you don’t miss out on the harvest! Thank you all again for being such a part of our bountiful farm!
If you haven’t ordered a Mystery Box recently, now is a great time to get in on spring deliciousness! LadybugBuyingClub