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A Frog


A Frog Came Through the Cat Door

It was a rainy night, and a rainy Saturday morning.  Palomina, one of our cats, was standing inside the house next to the door and staring at something.  I couldn't imagine what she was doing, so I looked more closely.  Then what might have been a leaf jumped.  It was a little frog.  It was brownish but I think it was more green then, and small.  It looks like a tree frog.  But I've looked around on the web, but haven't determined what species it is.

The frog moved behind a piece of furniture.  Palomina decided it might be time to whack it.  So I picked her up and put her in the mud room.  Hobo, the other cat, was wondering what was going on and was wondering over to check it out, so I put him in another room too.

I picked up the little thing, which made no effort to evade me.  Then I needed to decide what to do with it.  It was hard to imagine why it would want to come in the house.  My best guess is just that it wanted to get inside of something.  I suspect a house with two cats wasn't exactly what it was hoping to find however.  I put it down for a minute and it made a pretty impressive jump.

The funny thing is that is was just yesterday that Corinne told me she had dreamed of a box turtle in our yard.  She was wondering where turtles in pet stores come from, and would one live happily in our back yard.  These kinds of questions get harder to answer all the time.  Shouldn't we just leave them alone - wherever they are?  But now a little wild critter has climbed into our house!  At the very least I figured I'd better let Corinne, who was still sleeping, see it. 

So I put some old brown leaves, and some new green leaves from a broccoli raab in the garden, and a little bowl of water into a big colander that fits inside a cooking pot.  This allowed some light and air through.  I put the frog on the old leaves, and put a lid on because I had seen how well it could jump.  It did seem a bit in shock.  I put some drops of water on it, and cleaned it up, included getting rid of some stringy stuff it had picked up on its back leg to make sure it was not tied up.

I checked on it every once in a while.  It moved down into the brown leaves, and its coloration took on a terrific match to the leaves.  It seemed to be coming around. 

Meanwhile I had made coffee and was reading the interesting story about a fossil of an ancient fish being found that fills in some gaps between fish and four-limbed land animals.  The skeleton shows the beginnings of shoulders, wrists, and legs that signaled a future move to land.  Edward Daeschler, a paleontologist, called it "a textbook example of the transition" to four-limbers.

So now I'm wondering if this frog is actually my grandfather.  Well I guess it couldn't be.  I knew both of my grandfathers and one great-grandfather.  They each had some notable traits, but the ability to change coloration to fit their environments wasn't one I'd ever noticed any of them had.  One of them was actually pretty good at hopping, as I recall though.  My great-grandfather had told me that he swam to this country from Ireland however, so maybe there's some connection.  But I can't quite figure it out.  I guess that's another story.

Corinne decided the best thing was to return the frog to nature at the back part of our yard where she has built up a brush pile.  The pile serves the purpose of giving birds and other little critters a place to hide.  She released the frog and it seemed to be doing fine.  Hopefully the pile will prove to be a better house than the house.  I wonder if we'll see it again.  I think I have heard it since.  

Individual life seems so fragile and tenuous.  But LIFE is so powerful. 



A Good Book

Bad Land: An American Romance by Jonathan Raban

This is an impressive work of social history and a fascinating read.  Raban tells the story of the homesteaders who picked up their lives and moved to east Montana early in the 1900s.  The book is filled with intimate detail of the lives of individuals and their families who tried to make a living on the land.  These stories fill in and round out the bigger picture of this ultimately failed social movement. 

Raban traveled extensively in the area over a two-year period, did a lot of research, and came to a deep understanding of how those pioneers lived.  He captures with painful clarity how these families were lured by the propaganda of the railroad and the government.  In fact, the homesteads were simply not liveable.  Only after so many had moved on that those few remaining were able to pick up multiple homesteads could someone sustain themselves on the land.  In fact, the farms also became ranches, and the ranches also became farms.

In large part, this is the story of trying to farm without enough water.  Less than 15 inches of annual made for trouble.  In 1917, 11.96 inches of rain fell.  In 1918, 12.62 inches.  In 1919 11.24 inches.  In 1920, 12.83 inches.  Because each year's rain was insufficient, each year was worse than the last.   In 1921, 17.47 inches fell and the land began a slow recovery.  But by then the green fields were reverting to the "Great American Desert" they had been before the homesteaders came.  And the train that brought them in some years before carried them out again - with most people going further west.

In talking with a man who was young on one of the homesteads, and later moved further west with his family, Raban asked:  "How did you see the difference between [that] place and here?  Can you remember how it struck you, as a child?  Oh, but there was a world of difference - there was water!" was his response.

Raban is a very talented writer.  He consistently displays an ability to convey the feeling of place, emotions on a personal level, and a clear picture of an entire American social movement.  His writing is filled with vivid imagery and flows nicely.  This is a unique and highly readable book.

Bad Land is the Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction, and was published by Vintage.

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Dolphins In The News

It seems that individual baby dolphins develop a unique set of whistlelike calls that they use for the rest of their lives - kind of like names. 

Biologist Vincent Janik and colleagues from the University of St. Andrews in Britain traveled to Florida and recorded this individual calls from bottlenose dolphins. Then they synthesized them and removed the subtleties except for the shape of the soundwaves. The scientists played back the synthesized sounds through underwater speakers.  In 9 of 14 dolphins tested, a dolphin would turn toward the speakers if it heard a sound resembling that of a known close relative - even if that relative was not in the area.

The scientists conclude that the study shows dolphins as the only animal other than humans known to communicate information about identity when the "subject" of the information doesn't originate the exchange and is not around at the time.  Kind of like speaking someones name.

from a story in the Christian Science Monitor  


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Tips for Noodlehead Users

Try using the spike that came with your Noodlehead on your Extend-A-Riser. It secures it nicely.  If you're not using the height of your Extenders yet, try them out.  They are great for throwing the water over the now-taller plants.   

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Water In The News

274 water bodies go dry

A report on water bodies in New Delhi India says that of the 611 water bodies, 274 have been have been declared dry. Of those that have gone dry, the capital has lost 190 forever as they cannot be revived. This is causing panic among environmentalists because surface water bodies are essential to maintain groundwater levels. They also play a key role in maintaining environmental and climatic conditions of the region. Tampering with this system also means breaking a chain of existing water systems in the area.

Water bodies are part of the natural water chain on which an entire eco-system is dependent. Once these natural catchments and reservoirs are destroyed the chain is broken. Water bodies also contribute to keeping up a healthy groundwater table. The city is grappling with a serious water shortage problem and disappearance of its water bodies makes things worse. The need to save water in our environment is increasing dramatically.

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