Monday, April 30, 2012

Which one is not like the others...

This is the time of year when everything with feathers is laying eggs like crazy. 

The ducks sneak into the chicken coop and settle down in the corners to pop out their eggs.  They are rather coy about it and try to keep a low profile, but it's always obvious when one of theirs is added to the chickens'. 

But, when  the goose gets to work, their eggs are massively impressive.  Can you figure out which one is theirs? 

I have it on good authority that goose eggs are good to eat.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Planting Time

Life has a way of thwapping me upside the head from time to time in its efforts to remind me to slow down and focus my full attention on the task at hand.  Put another way, I don't think my brain is nimble enough to multi-task.  At least, not around this place.

 Earlier this week I got home from school and rushed outside to plant flower and  vegetable seeds before it got dark.  My mind was consumed by a jumble of school thoughts as I set up at the picnic table: big bag of potting soil, seeds, plastic pots and trays and a watering can. I reached into the bag and scooped soil into each pot, then patted everything down and lined them up on the trays.  With barely a thought on what I was doing, I indented the soil in each pot with my finger, dropped in a seed or two and firmed them in. 

It was only when I began watering them that something determinedly wiggling from the center of one of the pots caught my eye.  I leaned closer and closer as I tried to figure out what this skinny, yellowy-green thing was, poking up and waving at me.  And then, just as the horrible realization hit that the thing was a creature's leg, a small, extremely pissed off Pacific Tree Frog burst from the earth like Lazarus from the tomb. 
Froggy long gone by the time I got out my camera

Yes. I'd planted a frog (upsidedown, as it turned out).  As he huffed across the table, shedding a tiny trail of dirt, I did the only thing I could think of -- picked up the watering can and sprinkled him.  I don't think that this was appreciated.  However, I do believe that both the frog who had been snoozing in the bag and the teacher who had been obessing about school were both suddenly very much in the present moment.

Frogpond Zen -- not subtle.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

We takes what we can gets

A bit of rain.  Not enough to raise the level of the pond by any noticeable amount, but enough to keep our grass and spring wildflowers going for a little while longer. 

Last evening when I got home and stood on the porch, a delicious sea of resinous scents from all the new growth on the hillsides surrounded me. Above the pond, the violet-green swallows were still swooping and darting after insects and somewhere a warbler was singing in the warm evening air.

It's getting late in the season and the storm window for the year is closing. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


There's a 40% chance of showers tomorrow and a 70% chance tomorrow evening.  Keeping my fingers crossed that this comes our way.  It's been such a warm, dry spring that I wonder what the summer has in store for us...

Monday, April 23, 2012

Which one is not like the others?

Bruce and I have a small, Zuni Indian animal fetish collection.  Native American fetishes are objects of power, carved from semi-precious minerals.  However, they are never, as far as I know, fashioned from materials such as, say, strawberries from the local fruitstand.

See if you can spot the bear that was not handcrafted by Native Americans.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Cutting Trails

Today the temperature reached 89 degrees -- that's record breaking heat for this time of year.  The weeds are going insanely nuts, Bruce has been mowing like crazy and I'm weeding like there's no tomorrow. 

Today Bruce got on the Kubota tractor and cut trails -- without them, the stickers are so bad that the fields are almost impassable. 

My job was to go ahead to guide the tractor and scout for rocks sticking out of the ground. 

I multi-tasked and dug up thistles as I waited for Bruce to chug along to where I was -- we must have let a lot of them go to seed last year, because there are LOTS of them.  The biggest clumps are clustered beneath trees, but they also are endlessly scattered throughout the hills.  I kept at it until Bruce had to go up for more diesel for the Kubota.  Then, hot and tired, I called it a day down there and came back up to the house to get some water and do some gardening.  There, I was greeted by the robust crop of thistles that are encircling the house. 

For all the people who actually pay money to gyms in order to use their fancy equipment for that all-important and scientifically targeted upper-body workout, I have this to say:  Come up to Frogpond.  Please.  I will hand over a shovel and point you to the nearest clump of thistles. 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Louis Leaves Frogpond

Less than a week after we rescued Louis and brought him home, we realized that integrating him into our lives here at Frogpond was going to be difficult.  At the heart of it was that Louis needed more constant human companionship than we could give him -- he's just that sort of dog.  Nonetheless, it still wouldn't have been easy to give him up, except that the perfect family for him materialized.  One of my mom helpers came to school to pick up her son after class and she was carrying the ancient family poodle, just back from the groomers.  The poodle lay curled in the crook of her arm like a royal baby and I laughed and asked if she'd like a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel -- and her eyes lit up and she said yes, she'd always wanted one.  All righty then!

So this morning the whole family, mom, dad, and the four children, showed up to meet and greet Louis and to take him home.  The children are wonderful -- kind, gentle and well-mannered.  We all took a walk to the pond and Louis was in his element, giving kisses, trotting on the end of his leash and loving being the center of the universe. 

When everyone gathered at their car to leave, I crouched down and held Louis' face in my hands and told him to be a good boy and take care of his children. He looked up at me with those earnest brown spaniel eyes and he seemed calm and happy.  But still it was hard to say goodbye.  I bravely kissed the white spot on the top of his head and then, without a backward glance, he hopped up into the backseat with the children.  And off they went with waves and thank yous.

I'm certain that Louis will have a good life with them.  {very small sigh}

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Power Pole Poppies

Earlier this week a nice young man from the power company came to clear the vegetation from around our main power pole, which sits just outside our orchard garden.  I understand the need to keep brush away from the poles with transformers on them, but it's unfortunate that we must have a 10 foot radius of blasted earth right outside a garden (I wish we'd thought about this before we sited it there).

This year I hand weeded most of the area around the pole myself before anyone from the power company came.  However I couldn't bring myself to pull up the two thriving poppy plants growing almost right up against the pole.

When the power company guy came up to the house to tell me he was here, I told him that I'd already cleared most of the weeds.  He said that he'd seen this and that he wouldn't need to do much.  So I said a silent goodbye to the poppies and forgot about it.

Later, when I went out to the garden, this is what greeted me: everything bare and well-nuked... except for my poppies.  Other than a few scattered petals, they were as firmly and robustly planted as ever.

It's a little thing, but a happy sort of victory just the same.  Bless you for leaving them, nice man from the power company!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Poppy Time

The little dunce cap is actually a sepal

The first of the California poppies have begun opening.  They're common native wildflowers throughout the west coast, but not a one grew on our own hillsides. 

Every year I buy bags of seed and scatter them freely wherever the mood suits.  Most don't sprout -- I think that the competition from weeds and wild grasses is too great.  However, each spring I discover more areas where the poppies have managed to gain a foothold.  Orange is slowly spreading out amongst the green.

Monday, April 16, 2012


Today I told my 4th grade students about our new dog, christened Louis.  They loved the pictures of our newly rescued Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, but when I told them what I'd named him, the nine-year-old consensus was that this was a terrible name.  "Boring!" they  cried.  I explained to them about cavaliers, the kings of France and the nobility of the name "Louis."  This fell on deaf ears. Louis is so not a cool name -- when did this happen?  Well, by the very fact that "Louis" is so very uncool, I'm more smitten with it than ever.  And my plan is to watch my class fall in love with Louis the dog -- and then they will fall in love with his name.  That's how these things work!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

We're calling him ...


We'll see if anyone calls for him next week.  The way this little guy likes to take off, I can see how he found himself utterly alone and soaking wet by the side of the road.  He's adorable and extremely loving, but part of me would be relieved if he was claimed by a broken-hearted owner.  Right now, we're looking at the cost of fencing off the area outside the back door because Louis enthusiastically takes off as the mood suits him.  It doesn't help that he nicely fits through the cat door.  Without extraordinary vigilance on our part, I'm afraid that he's going to again become the lost dog he was only yesterday...

Friday, April 13, 2012

Birthday Surprise

Oh, my goodness!  We appear to have a new dog (of the very small variety). 

Today was Bruce's birthday -- nothing special planned because we'll be having our birthday dinner tomorrow when the family can come up.  So this morning we drove around the roads by our place, just looking at all the new water our recent rains have left. 

Up on Gopher Ridge, Bruce saw a small dog running across the field towards our car.  Afraid he would hit it, he stopped when he couldn't see it any more.  Where was it?  I opened the car door and there was a tiny Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.  He never hesitated, but crawled into the car and then up onto my lap -- cold, muddy, soaking wet, and shivering.  No nearby houses.  So we took him home and Bruce called Animal Control and left a message that we had found this dog. 

As soon as he came in the house, he lifted his leg and peed on the wall.  Our boy has obviously never been in a house.  He then hopped from a chair onto the dining room table where he stood looking at us and wagging his adorable tail.  I put him back on the floor and explained that the table was not for walking on. 

He was filthy, so he got a warm bath.  Vast amounts of dirt washed down the drain.  He didn't like being bathed, but put up with it like a trooper.  I dried him off with several fluffy towels and he was grateful.  We then found and pulled two ticks off his head.  The cats were interested, but decided he was OK.  And then he slept and slept and slept. 

Sooo...it looks like we may have our fourth dog.  He has no name yet and is a diamond in the rough.  He appears to be between one and two years old, but doesn't seem to have ever been inside.  He's intact, so that will have to be remedied.  I'm so amazed at his desire to do everything right, even though he doesn't know what to do.  I don't even really like small dogs, but have already fallen in love with this small, brave soul. 

Bruce fell in love even before I did.  Happy birthday, Sweetheart!

Thursday, April 12, 2012



My friend, Dorothea, called me from down in the valley to tell me that the weather radar had issued a severe weather alert and a tornado warning for the area right over Frogpond.  From the porch I could see a mass of some rather angry looking clouds a bit to the north with occasional flashes of lightning followed by rolling booms of thunder, but nothing more ominous than that.  I went inside and checked the computer and saw that she was telling the truth -- a scary yellow rectangle had been drawn smack over us.  There also was a trapazoid drawn a bit southwest of us. 

I'm happy to report that no tornado ever materialized, so I didn't have to follow Dorothea's half-joking (I think) advice to get in the bathtub and put an ironing board over me.  

It's a Jungle Out There

It took several hours of stooping, tying, untangling tendrils and trying not to step on plants, but the sweet peas are now strung up on their tepees.  As happens every spring, they went from tiny seedlings to vast sprawling monsters in the course of a single night.   

In name, this raised garden is a vegetable bed.  Tell that to the sweet peas, cornflowers, field and California poppies and alyssum that duke it out there every spring.  I'm a bit too soft-hearted to be an effective gardener.  It's difficult for me to  weed out the bounty, even when it's in the process of strangling everything around it by its own excesses.

Some progress was made, though, and a large cartload of "weeds" made the long, sad journey over to the compost pile. 

The bed is still a rank jungle,  but, where yesterday it was an uninterrupted thicket of green, today one can see the top halves of various cats plonked in the middle of it.

A modest success (by tomorrow the cats will again be lost to view).

Monday, April 9, 2012

Happy Spring

A rose by any other name......could be a tulip...


...or an iris, or a daffodil.


...a slightly surprised bouquet of broccoli that bolted before I got a chance to eat it.

Or an even more startled poinsettia plant that bravely hung on since Christmas and found itself miraculously replanted in a real pot at last. 

Friday, April 6, 2012

Only in California...

To begin, this definition from Wikopedia OnLine Dictionary:


A person who does not eat meat, and sometimes other animal products, esp. for moral, religious, or health reasons.

So now we are clear on exactly what a vegetarian is.  This brings us to this egg carton:

Yoiks!  The Niman Ranch hens are fed a diet of vegetarians - as stated right on the label.  The fine print also says that this is sustainable and humane.  Now I don't mean to question the folks at Niman Ranch, but I've watched my chickens attack the scraps on our compost heap, as well as the occasional unfortunate mouse that is in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Not humane in the least.  And as for sustainable...well, we do have a lot of vegetarians in California, but chickens are hearty eaters and I imagine that the supply of willing vegetarians will be dwindling rather quickly. 

It's also interesting to note that these eggs from vegetarian-fed hens are Kosher (note the "U" in the circle).  I don't know what to think about that.  I'm assuming that my own troupe of cannibalistic, rodent-eating, compost devouring hens would not be able to earn that "U".  Definitely not Kosher. 

However, I can guarantee that any vegetarian who comes to visit is safe at Frogpond Acres and will be able to leave alive and in one piece.  At least, this is what the hens tell me...



First Day of Spring Break!

Yippee!!!  As you can see, everyone around here's as excited as I am about it.

I've got a full slate of things planned for my time off: house cleaning, cheese making, seed planting, garden weeding, loom weaving, cat to the vet-ing, friend visiting, .  And that's just today's list!

No, not really.  While all of this is on my list, I won't be doing it all on my first day of break.  Or even get to some (or most) of them by the last day.  But this is my list.  I'll also have to put in a day reaming out some of the chaos in my classroom.  And do lesson planning and correcting papers. 

Today I'll make goat cheese, work outside in the garden and take a cat back to the vet. 

Two weeks ago, Max, the stray cat who moved in, got claw-swiped by one of his loving feline housemates (none of whom have claimed responsibility. Such a surprise).   He developed a nice abscess on his rear end and, voila, our free cat suddenly turned into a $300 cat. We've been flushing out the wound with antibiotics this week and it's healing nicely.  We take him in for a final checkup this morning.

Arby says he didn't do it.

Yeah, right....

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


It doesn't seem quite in character for me, but I have a thing for green-streaked tulips.  I find them irresistible.  Last autumn I bought an assortment of several hundred and tucked them in our center bed.  There they have to fight it out with the poppies and other wildflowers, but they do pretty well.

Species Tulips: Not green, but adorable anyway

The tulip blooming time here is so fleeting.  I come home from school in the late afternoons and do my best to get in a full day's worth of admiration in the short time remaining before the sun sets.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Writer's Notebook

There's a method of journaling called Writer's Notebook that I tried out with both sections of my language arts classes this year.  There's a whole philosophy behind this system, but the two main elements are (1) a teacher's red pen will never "bleed" all over the students' work making corrections and (2) the students are held accountable for practicing different writing strategies and putting real thought into their entries.  When I evaluate their work, I'm required to confine my comments/scoring to a rubric that they've pasted in the back of the journal.  The theory is simple:  Creativity cannot flourish if a person's afraid of making mistakes. 

Last week I collected all thirty-three notebooks and read and commented on every child's entries from February 15 to the present.  At seven entries per week times five weeks (I should have collected them at 3 weeks), that's approximately 35 entries per student.  With 33 students in all, that makes approximately 1,155 entries.  That's a lot of reading. 

Maxie putting in his best effort

Luckily for me, I had help.

Arby diligently focusing on the job at hand

Lots of it!

Reading all of these was a bit more involved for me than it was for the cats, however I learned a lot. 

Some gems:

* "Long ago, when I was nine..."

* "Question: Was Rome built in a week or a month?"

* "I'd like to visit Rome someday.  I hear it's astonishing, breathtaking and unforgettable and if it's made out of marbles, that's pretty cool."

* "The only chocolate I don't love is white chocolate.  I honestly think it's insulting because it looks like vanilla."

* "What is a quantaray?  Wait for it...Wait for it...Looking in the dictionary..."  {and here the entry just stops, so I'm still waiting to learn what a quantaray is}


* "Ping pong is pretty long to write, so I'll just write 'table tennis'."

* "If you think I'm pretty, you should see my step-mom."

* "O my God! Today my baby brother is five months old!  One more month and he gets to eat Gerber! Yay, Yay, Yay!"

* "Life is Life and it isn't always the way you want it to be.  I've come to learn that a long time ago."

Yeah, I enjoy being a teacher...