Friday, 23 October 2009

Frogs, Ponchos, Blazes and Guinness

Early on in the summer, we dug out a small pond. Although we'd talked about it on and off, it was an impulse buy when visiting the aquatics shop for tropical fish. It was one of those pre-formed, plastic ponds like a large, black jelly mould. It wasn't too hard to dig and impressed the children no end.

We bought a water violet. Unfortunately, it didn't survive the constant prodding from children wielding fishing nets but the buttercups and the michelmas daisies which grew and draped into the water like small-scale willows thrived. We'd filled the pond with water from our butts. That's water butts and I'm not sniggering. Not a bit. Anyway, there were lots of wriggly things in there, mosquito larvae so we were told but at least something was already alive and visible.

I am ashamed to say that in my impatience, I kidnapped a large frog my husband disturbed whilst weeding. I put him in the pond. The frog, not my husband. The following day, it was still there. Within a week, our daughter spotted a different frog, a medium-sized adult one. And then another. And then some froglets (it was well past the spawning season) one of whom liked to float on the breeze from one side of the pond to the other. Now, we have a collection of adult frogs who seem to be permanent residents. The maximum number we've spotted in one go is five. This is fairly amazing considering that the pond is only about three feet by one and a half at its widest points. Our regulars include a red one, an absolutely huge one whose body is the size of my palm, another with a silver-coloured throat, a lighter yellow one and a darker browny one. They all seem to coexist quite happily, hiding under the vegetation with just their eyes and nostrils above water. Whilst their eyes are characteristicly bulbous, their nostrils are so tiny and delicate. I am envious of their stillness, the way that they can emerge from beneath and break the water's surface without any ripple or sound. If startled, as you approach, you may hear a 'plop' or see a pocket of air, a speech bubble rising from beneath shouting 'Go away, you great oaf!' You might get a glimpse of their fat little thighs as they retreat amongst the roots of the rushes. I wonder what they say about us?

This has become such a subject of fascination to us all that we've decided to add another, much larger pond. This time, we've used a heavy pond liner. In the photos, you'll see the pond in the making. Again, we've filled it from our butts so the food for the frogs should be present from the outset. We've got to move a fern to the water's edge so that they've have cover and it would be lovely to see some frog life in there before they go into hibernation. I am trying so hard not to 'encourage' our froggy friends to move across to their new habitat. It's almost next door. Barely separated even. In fact, if you screwed your eyes up, it's almost one pond. Sort of. If you examine the photos of the new pond, you'll see just how close the old one is. So it's not really like I'd be moving them, is it? OK, I won't but I can't wait to see them there and I'm looking forward to what the spring might bring to the pond. Maybe I should write a story about frogs whilst I'm waiting?

So whilst the frogs slip beneath the surface of the world and hibernate at the foot of our pond, we've got a new pastime. We've got a fire basket for the garden which is what you will see in the last two photos. It's probably what men have been doing around their garden incinerators for decades. The only difference is that it looks a little more ornate and has a wire rack on the top for grilling. We've only had it out once so far but it was great fun. A bit like having a camp fire without the singing. I did make up some stories for the children whilst we sat there trying not to set fire to ourselves. One of my other recent purchases has been a poncho-type thing. Unfortunately, I couldn't wear the poncho around the fire because I didn't want it to be ruined. I'm sure that the cowboys in Blazing Saddles didn't worry about the sparks or human combustion. Once the building work gets under way (and I'm sure it will eventually, soon, maybe), it might be useful to be able to grill the odd sausage or pot of beans outside. Maybe we should take a lily pad out of the frog's book and hibernate until the house is more habitable. I've got a wetsuit but does anyone have any flippers I can borrow?