May 6, 2011

Fooling the Frogs

Fooling the Frogs

We, that is my wife, the garden manager, and myself, the horticultural dreamer, spent yesterday, the third ‘nice’ day of the year, browsing a couple of plant nurseries. We made a day of it, [that means stopping for a cup of tea and a scone or bagel at some remote cafĂ© (this time on Sauvie Island)], as all the ‘real’ nurseries are at least 70 miles distant, and so our visits become mini vacations of a sort.
Of course today the temperature dropped ten degrees and the sky looks like the belly of a pregnant Humpbacked Whale (this weather may become the norm for those of us residing in the northwest). That we also live in a frost pocket on the north side of a glaciated peak does not particularly encourage gardening even in good weather, but we persist, as at least one of us seems quite mad at times.
On a typical day I spend 8 -12 hours struggling/dancing, cursing/singing, planting/weeding, gazing at, marveling at the vortex of life exploding from the earth beneath me, mixing soils for transplants, concocting liquid, organic diets for marginal plants in the infirmary, or those I have recently exposed to the vagaries of our rugged climate. This grubbing in the earth produces, for me, accompanied by a glass of wine or two, true bliss.
Today I transplanted 9 dozen Hosta seedlings and innumerable lettuce, chard, heuchara, various herbs, and many other plants grown from seed or disturbed by our new plantings, and all to the music of the spheres.
So what about the frogs?
Yes, I’d almost forgotten, the frogs. Well, when making potting mix [peat moss, vermiculite, perlite, compost and other materials] in the wheelbarrow, the tip of the trowel/soil scoop I use, scraping against the steel apparently produces a frequency that excites a frog’s libido. The faster I scratch the tip of the trowel against the bed of the wheelbarrow the more the frogs croak. I am getting to the point where I can almost conduct them like an orchestra. These are Pacific Tree Frogs, about 1½ inches long, who make their home in a small pond outside the potting shed. I'm sure they are becoming quite frustrated by now, and growing hoarse.

Though small, their ‘ribbit’ can be heard for several hundred feet, especially at night. I wonder what a chorus of Bullfrogs would sound like?

May 3, 2011


March ?, 1966 — November 28, 2011

This is the last picture I took of 'Zeek', our beloved cat of over fifteen years. Without going into the details of her last days let me simply say she was a simple cat without ego or pretensions, she never wrote a book, made a movie, or resolved more than six or seven diplomatic crises. But she proved her worth, no matter what scale you chose, more times than I can remember. At the end: no quivering lip, no sad mewing, no plaintive pleading, only a quiet stoicism worthy of Socrates.

Why did you call her "Zeek", you might ask? Well, less than two days after she was born [there were four embryonic kittens in the litter] her mother was killed. I found them under my work bench, birthed in a box filled with nuts and bolts. They were so small an eye dropper was too big to feed them and I used a toothpick to drip milk into their mouths until an eye dropper designed for a doll became useable. Gradually I added bread, mashed tuna and ground meat to the solution and two of them thrived, the other two died the day after I found them. "Ginger", her brother, was killed by a passing automobile a few days after we had him neutered, on my late October birthday. "Zeek" lived on. We always enjoyed reading the various Dr. Seuss books to our children when they were young and 'The Cat in the Hat' was a favorite. In the book the Cat takes off his (or her) hat only to uncover another, smaller cat, who also takes off his (or her) hat, until we reach the tiniest cat of all, little cat "Z". Hence "Zeek", who began life as the smallest of cats, and died bigger than I can ever hope to be.

Bon voyage Zeek, get in touch if you get a chance.

[Though obviously not about a cat I recommend a reading of 'The House Dog's Grave' by Robinson Jeffers, for what might be an animals perseptive.]