The green frogs are back in the pond. I saw one about a week ago, but yesterday I managed to get a photo. As I got near, another frog dove down to the bottom–so there are two. Once again it is lovely to sit by the pond quietly, watching them sit quietly. And we now have the added pleasure of hundred of little tadpoles. I stopped scooping out algae to avoid scooping out the babies, so the pond isn’t so “pretty” to human view, but the frogs, tadpoles and honey bees seem to really like the algae. The frogs like to hide under it, the bees land on it to drink, and apparently it is good food for the tadpoles.
I was also happy to receive three new plants of sweet flag–or kiwhoswasq, as I learned in Passamaquoddy class. That means “muskrat root”, since apparently muskrats eat it, and it is also a useful medicinal root. It should do well in the pond, and multiply itself there. It doesn’t look like much yet, so I will wait to post photos. Meanwhile the ferns are coming back on their own.
Finally, one more picture of the frog, after it jumped down to the water, sitting on a white rock, surrounded by the tadpoles. They are all over the pond now, especially around the edges.
Our first frog sighting in the pond yesterday, April 15! Much earlier than the last two years, when the first frogs came in June or July. It turned out to be a tree frog, rather than the green frogs that we’ve seen in prior years. We figured it out because in the afternoon, when my friend Francesca and I were sitting by the pond for a visit, suddenly, he sang the most amazing trilling sound, his white throat patch blowing out and in. And I remembered that Margy had heard that sound earlier in the day. Then, yesterday evening after dark, the night air was awash in these trilling calls, from all directions. A little internet searching identified those calls as tree frog mating calls.
Tree frogs live in trees, like their name suggests, and hunt on land most of the year, but they breed in water, in ponds and vernal pools. So maybe, just maybe, we’ll have some tadpoles to grow in our pond this spring. I learned that they eat algae, so that is another good, because our pond has got a bit too much algae in it. So exciting!
The other adventure of breeding is that of our robin pair. Even after three failed attempts to rear live young from eggs in a nest on the beam under the clear roof of our back porch, they were at it again, bringing nesting material to the same spot. That spot was just too hot in summer. It was so sad. So, first I tried telling them to go somewhere more suitable! Then I tried taking out the grasses to discourage them that way. But they kept at it. So then, I had a totally alternative idea. What about making something to shade that corner of the clear plastic roof? So it wouldn’t be so hot. This morning, I searched around and found some old cream-colored sturdy curtain material, and cut it to fit. Then I got up on a ladder and stapled it tightly to the wooden crossbeams.
I have already seen the robins return with more nesting material, so maybe they’ll put up with the changes to their location. After all, I had also painted the beams last fall. Now I am hoping that it will be enough–that the shade will keep the spot from getting too hot, that the robins can finally have a little family, in their chosen spot. And can I say that my heart is filled with joy after this little project? Some kind of ecstasy to help a fellow inhabitant of this place, to live together in mutual reciprocity.
Yesterday morning, I was sitting next to the pond, writing in my journal. After I’d been there, and quiet for a long time, this chipmunk approached the other side of the pond, climbed down the rocks and took long drinks of water. After a couple minutes, it quickly climbed back up the rocks and ran back into the field behind.
If you’ve been following my posts recently, you know that I’ve been dealing with chronic illness causing me to have much less energy this summer. So my relationship with the garden has changed. It has been less purposeful and project oriented, and more, “Let’s see what the yard wants to do this season.” To listen more, to do less, to observe more, to try less–and I’ve learned so much, actually.
It’s true that we had already done a lot to shape the yard–we planted many fruit trees and bushes, let wildflowers grow, planted perennials, pulled invasives, and created the pond last year. Some of the plants that were in the pond didn’t survive the winter, and I did add a few more this spring. But it wasn’t enough to prevent algae from flourishing. So periodically, I get inspired to pull out as much as I can. But I’ve also noticed that bees love to perch on the algae, to get a drink of water presumably. (There is always enough algae left for them.) It gives me gratitude to know that this pond, imperfect though it is, has been of use to these creatures in a drought-burdened summer.
Lately, my old nemesis the squirrel has come back to start eating peaches. But since I was doing so much less to nurture the peach tree–less holistic sprays, less thinning of peaches, and so on–and since I had somewhat resigned myself to having no peaches after last year, I haven’t been stressed out about that. And the squirrel or squirrels seem more mellow as well. The peaches are actually very crowded together, and every couple days, I twist off a few tightly squeezed ones, even though they are not ripe yet, to make room for the others to grow bigger. I’ve put a few on window sills in the house to see if they will ripen. I tell myself the squirrel is also thinning the peaches. We are collaborators, rather than enemies. Who knows, maybe there will be enough for all of us?
In a world with so many horrors that I can do nothing to stop, or even to protest, I am grateful to be of use to these small companions who share our back yard with us.
[And thanks to Marge Piercy‘s poem, To Be of Use, for its evocative and helpful title.]