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I suppose if there is an upside to all this quarantine nonsense, it’s that it has allowed me to spend a lot more time outside in the backyard.
Which has revealed to me that I must live in some kind of nature sanctuary.
I suppose it’s always been this way, but I’m not an outside person. I can’t stand heat, so once the temps start becoming 90 on a regular basis, I hunker down inside with the AC blasting. I have an old friend who I play golf with weekly and he knows once the forecast has highs in the high 80s with humidity, he won’t see me again until September.
This summer has been different. For one, I now have Maggie the WonderBeagle, who would stay outside all day if I let her. As she is still a pup, we started with the idea she’d always be supervised in the backyard and as time went on, maybe she could have more time without Dad standing with his arms crossed watching.
But then Einstein decided to go running with a big stick in her mouth and disaster almost struck. She had it by the very end of the stick, the end broke off in her mouth, and since she was running with it, she breathed in and got the stick end stuck in her wind pipe. She immediately threw herself on the ground coughing and choking, and fortunately I was only seconds away.
I stuck my hand deep in her mouth, got my fingers on the end of the stick and was able to pull it out. Maggie of course then stares at me like “what’s the big deal?” but that little incident all but assured she’ll NEVER be outside without supervision in our fenced in backyard.
Because our back yard is a very wide pie shape, Maggie can run from one corner to the other and get a very good workout. So I started setting up a chair, an outdoor table and bringing a cup of coffee outside to give her all the time she wants 6 or 7 times a day. It is during these times I’ve noticed things I hadn’t previously been aware of.
I knew we had birds, squirrels and chipmunks, because Maggie flushes them out of the bushes and chases them up trees or through fences. Several times as I’ve sipped on coffee, a rabbit has raced over the tops of my shoes with a beagle/hound mix in hot pursuit. Then came a black snake one day, and we reached a very fair compromise: Stay out of the house and I’ll leave you alone. Try to enter the basement and that sharp shovel sitting by the outdoor grill will be chopping your head off.
I’ve also seen two turtles emerge from a woodpile in the backyard, and been fortunate to have some help from a nature lover on the bike path who took the turtles and returned them to the creek on the other side of the cart path. Last week a fox hopped over the fence, took one look at Maggie and hopped back the other way before trotting down the bike path and back into the woods.
My latest discovery now involves a small man-made pond I have, which used to be home for some koi before a couple of massive birds dropped out of the sky and ate them while we watched in horror.
It’s been an empty pool of water that fills with leaves every fall, and I get someone to clean them out every March. Because of the quarantine I couldn’t do that this March and the leaves morphed into a swampy green disgusting material. But just as I was about to call someone else to clean the pond, I noticed I have new visitors.
There’s a family of frogs now living there, and they use the decomposing leaves like lily pads. During the day, you can see their beady little eyes poke out from under the surface. At night they come out of the liquid and sit on the rocks that ring the pond. At first, they would be scared and jump back in the water, but now after a month or two, they’ve determined I’m harmless since I talk to them every night. So they do like my family does: they just sit there and pretend to be interested while listening.
Last night was pretty entertaining because apparently frog families are no different than human families. The biggest one, which you can see on the right above, was on the surface of the water, making a deep bass “ribbit” kind of sound. The smaller one on the left was also above the water, while you could see a few more sets of eyes spread around the pond.
The smaller one responded with a loud “ribbit” and I thought “how cool, they’re communicating.” Well, at least I thought that until the big one leaped into the air and came down on the smaller one, body slamming it into the water. They fought for a few seconds, then I did what I do when it happens in my house, saying loudly “you two knock it off.”
They did and went back under water. Much like in my own home, I doubt the message was the cause of the issue. It was more like “I don’t like your tone.” Like family, all was soon forgotten. As you see in the picture above, they seem to be fine tonight. At least for now.
I gave them some advice before coming inside with Maggie, telling the little one to watch its tone, and the big one to not be so sensitive. I told them both if they kept making all this noise, they might as well put up a sign that says “we’re here, come eat us.”
They stared back. Then they rolled their eyes at me.
Just like my wife, daughter and dog do.
Welcome to the family, frogs… 😊