Saturday, August 11, 2012

Nature's Way

My little pool beside the porch has been a continuing source of curiosity this summer.  It all began when I decided to put a plastic garden pond into service instead of letting it get brittle in the sun.  So, MM and I dug out a wee spot for it and I filled it with water.  It sat there for quite awhile before I noticed that it had a frog in it.  One frog.  Only.  I was thrilled!  At least the pool had one living soul.  Little did I know that was the beginning of a population explosion.  Before long I had three frogs.  Soon, there were six. Lounging space among the water weeds became scarce.   MM was sure I was exaggerating the numbers as I kept announcing the procession of increases.  Twenty.  Thirty-seven.  Forty-one.  Forty-one frogs had found this paradise. 
And then.....things changed.   
"Do garter snakes eat frogs," I asked MM.
"I dunno," he said.  And thereupon, nowadays, offered his standard answer:  "Look it up on the Net."  And there it technicolor.  OMG!  (not my photo above, but the best of the descriptive views on Google images.)  The garter snake had discovered the joys of an all-it-could-eat buffet, and it was cleaning up.
"How many frogs have you got today?"  MM asked a few days later. 
"Thirty," I replied. 
"I thought you had something like 40.."
"I did." 
Three days later the numbers were in the mid-twenties.  And they plummeted with each passing day.  I would check several times throughout the day, and more often than not, a snake was there, watching....waiting
Then I noticed that the size of the snake kept changing.  One day it was big.  Next day it was small.  Of course I'd never heard of a snake changing sizes.  Apparently the buffet concept had wide appeal.  I now had TWO snakes skulking around the rim of the pool.    
"Do garter snakes swim?"  I asked MM. 
"I dunno....look it up--"
"...on the 'Net."
Sure enough.  Snakes swim just fine.  That explained the snake's head that was lurking a little while later, (seemingly body-less) amongst the water weeds I saw the following day.  The snake was fast even in the water.  It lunged.  Fifteen frogs left and counting.... 
The numbers have levelled out some now.  Maybe a balance of some kind has been reached.  OTOH, the snakes haven't given up their quest.  They're still there lurking in the rocks and fringes of the pool.
It doesn't feel like I should interfere with Nature's drama, here.  So, I watch.  This morning, two snakes were visible at different times, both tried but failed to snag a frog. One snake is about half the size of the other.   No big bulge in the middle of either of the snakes, as was the case the first time I saw one nab a frog.  Instead they crawled out of the pool, having missed lunch, and one took up a spot to wait for the next meal coming its way.  The other worked its way back into the rockpile and disappeared (for the moment.) 
It's been a fascinating spectacle.  A little grisly, granted, but still it's a deadly unfolding drama as the laws of supply and demand seek to find balance.  I take full responsibility for having created this situation.  If it weren't for my artifical pond and its setting, we wouldn't be having a frog massacre.  On the other hand, maybe I am supply a needed food supply.  Either way we've either got too many frogs or too many snakes....and the beat goes on....

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Keeping Up Appearances

It's easy to obscess about the triviality of downed trees in the yard. 
Normally this time of year, after letting the wildflowers self-sow for next year in our inner compound, MM usually decides to spend the money for fuel and mow the "lawn."  If a only  for a moment, I confess we've both enjoyed the interludes of groomed pasture grass.  It reminds us we're  entirely removed from residential by-laws that dictate appearances. 
So, this year?  Well, it's impossible to mow a carpet of sticks with grass blades growing through them, thanks to the Big Wind.  Besides, it's too hot to devote hours to stick removal during this soggy, sweltering weather.  And we can do that later when October nips and we require warmth generated by something other than sweating under a ferocious sun.  Logical, yes.  But I have to keep reminding myself that it's OK.
 Remember Thoreau and Walden Pond?  He commented on many things, was often cynical and rude.  But when he wrote about the value of getting firewood and letting it warm you three times (once when you cut it, again when you gather and stack it and finally when it's brought into the house and burned..) I find myself ready to accept that gift.
 Being able to prioritize among the rules.  Waiting until the niggling frosty days of autumn suggest a need to get busy tidying the mess here.  It takes discipline, though,  as I watch our neighbors' yards resume their stateliness, while ours--usually at least pretty--withers and dries both overhead as well as on the ground.
We humans tend to fixate on (and never question) the often ridiculous mandates society imposes upon us.  We are bound by "rules" that suffocate.  I remember visiting one home when I was out selling Pampered Chef where the family had been fined by the residential committee of their sub-division for washing their car in their yard (no water restriction at the time).  It was "uncouth" to be conducting any kind of visible  honest labor in that gated community.  
Me?  I'd rather spend precious dollars on things that matter.  A manicured lawn is not one of them.  And strawberry ice cream cones in the sky are free. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Derecho

Good morning!  It's been a long and largely difficult summer this year.  Day after day of bruising heat; the garden has suffered.  And so have we.  Last evening, for the first time in over two months, we were treated to a spectacular sunset amidst a cool backdrop of light breezes from the north.  This instead of hiding out in the house to deflect the intense heat.

Compared with close-to-one-hundred-degree temperatures and punishing winds, last night was paradise.  For the first time I really felt like the oppressive and menacing weather was going to relent.  At least for awhile, anyway.  Mother Nature is unhappy with us.  Our carbon footprint is way too large.  Global warming is real.  Climate change is real.  The elements have combined in an evil fashion.  Our yard is filled with downed trees; one of our chimneys blew off completely and punched holes in the roof on its way to the ground.  Our neighbor's roof blew clean off.   We were nine days without power. 

Perhaps our biggest loss was that huge amount of pork sausage we put in the freezer.  But nevermind.  Despite the 100-mph "derecho"...we are doing just fine.  Really, we are...but we're wary.  All of us are.  Waiting for the next "big one."   It's a new term, this "derecho."  Rare, in fact.  Only happens when the forces line up in a particular order.  I can vouch for the fact that it's awesome.  They sent electrical crews from all over the country to our little neighborhood.  Five HUNDRED utility poles were demolished.  Snapped off about 25 feet above the ground.  Same way with the myriad downed trees....all broken off at about 20-25 feet above the ground. 

Nine days without electricity is challenging.  But we made out just fine. 

The one thing we learned here is that we are NOT prepared for disasters.  We've always had such a benign climate.  Sure, we experienced the odd hailstorm, or severe storm.  But here in the quiet old soft-shouldered Appalachian mountains, we've always felt safe.  So when disaster struck, we didn't have an infrastructure that was prepared to deal with massive damage and downed powerlines.  But, we came together and helped one another.  Our newly formed neighborhood association reached out to connect one another...and that was good. 

This occurrence has opened the door to a new era of caring and cooperation right here in our corner of the world.  So, overall....the big storm taught us lots of lessons we needed to learn.  More on this in another post. 

It's been so long since I posted anything to this blog that I almost forgot how!  How are you all, anyway?  Did you get caught in the derecho? (BTW, if you don't know what a derecho is, you can learn more about it by going here: