Monthly Archives: May 2011

Goodness! Who knew frogs were so…fertile?

By | Animals, My Garden | 2 Comments

Dear me. I got up this morning and…whoa.

Look closely at this photo.

What you should see there, despite regrettable focus and all, are a great many little black dots.

Those are frog eggs.

We have had a number of frog eggs in the pond, which then become tadpoles, so that in and of itself is not terribly significant, except that this time, the frogs REALLY outdid themselves.  Yesterday’s torrential rains were clearly some kind of amphibious aphrodisiac. Like…they have covered the entire surface of the pond.

It’s not a huge pond, I grant you, but it’s a good six feet in diameter, and it is coated. The existing tadpoles are having to shove the eggs aside to come up to the surface, the water striders are reduced to a sort of waddle—I never thought I’d see a bug stumble, but I can’t really explain it any other way—and if there are less than a thousand eggs, I would be very much surprised.

The Big tadpoles have grown teeny little legs and may soon be actual frogs. Unless they gain size substantially, I must assume that they are cricket frogs, but it’s still hard to tell. Some variety of leopard frog also lives in the pond, and in order to produce that many eggs, I don’t know HOW many cricket frogs you’d need…a lot, obviously.

I swear, a pond is the most fun you can have with biology with your clothes on.

Flowers and Manuscripts

By | Insects, My Garden | 2 Comments

Went to the cafe with my laptop, sat down, and over the course of two-and-a-half hours, slammed out the rest the script for Fairybreath. Drank too much coffee, feel more than a little queasy, and also seem to have run through my store of free words for the morning, so have some pictures of the garden.

Carolina lupine. Grows kinda weird and sideways in my garden because it's not really getting enough sun.

I have no idea what kind this is---popped up outta the mulch.

Notch-Tipped Flower Beetle on Wild Quinine flowers

Texas Onion flower with unknown pollinator

Now, to go work on Campbreath art…

Another Day, Another Tick Bite…

By | Insects, My Garden | One Comment

Finished up the last of the spring gardening this weekend. Everything’s in the ground that’s going in the ground, and now it’s just weeding and occasional watering until fall comes along and I get the urge to build another giant bed somewhere. (Okay, not entirely true—when the broccoli comes out, I’ll probably plant more basil in the holes, but that hardly counts.)

The water tigers have hatched out in the pond, and they are somethin’. Little black pointy things, offspring of the diving beetle. There are two crops of tadpoles going, the Big and the Teeny—the Big were actually Teeny not that long ago, but have quintupled in size and may start growing legs soon. (Although I’m puzzled, because there were two different kinds of frog eggs, and I honestly don’t know if there are actually two different kinds of tadpoles in there now. They all look the same, anyway.) I watched a water tiger will knife through the water and grab a Teeny tadpole. It’s getting very Darwinian in there, and I’m glad that the Big tadpoles got going before the water tigers. (Although even they get the hell outta the tiger’s way.)

Oh well, nature red in tooth and…err…mandible, I guess. Given that there’s at least a hundred tadpoles in the pond, I am confident that the frog population will be increasing regardless of the water tigers. (I regret that I cannot photograph any of this, but camera work on things underwater in a vaguely reflective pond is really kinda beyond me. Everything autofocuses on the reflection of the sky.)

Other than that, I have done little or nothing of interest this week. Dragonbreath art, Dragonbreath writing, eat, sleep, read a bit, fish confused cicadas out of my cleavage… (True Story. Not Fun For Anyone.) Which is a pleasant life to live, cicadas aside, but not a particularly interesting one to read about.

There is a new Eat Cheap podcast up–“It’s a severed limb that tastes like health food!” or available on iTunes.


By | Animals, My Garden | 2 Comments

So I went out to the pond yesterday morning, doing my usual wander-around-the-garden morning circuit, and looked down into the pond, and there they were….tadpoles!

I did the dance of tadpoles, which involved tearing into the house and grabbing Kevin and demanding he come look RIGHT THIS MINUTE.

They’re really really tiny–no longer than the mosquito larvae that are also cropping up, and which will hopefully soon be vanishing down myriad tiny throats. Black, broad-headed, and wiggly, the tadpoles look like  goblin sperm. (Insomuch as I ever pictured goblin sperm looking, which I have to admit, I had not contemplated before today.)

They’re coming from eggs which are laid all over the pond, in clusters along the rims of the pots containing the plants, around the bases of the plants themselves, and in globs wherever the horsetails dip to touch the surface. The eggs are rather larger than the tadpoles, which makes sense, and if not hundreds, there are certainly dozens. The dense stand of tiny horsetail is absolutely crammed with them.

They’re small enough that I could see them being cricket frog larvae—they’d have to grow a hundred times their current size to belong to the pickerel frog that has taken up residence in the pond (and for all I know is cannibalizing some of these little fellows.) But I know that tadpoles can certainly grow a great deal, so it’s not impossible, and the mass of eggs laid in the pond put together would make two or three whole cricket frogs, so I honestly don’t know WHAT they’ll turn into!

Mind you, they’re also so small right now that the predacious diving beetle could eat them like candy, so I hope a significant number survive to adulthood.

I’m very excited!

(Also, an article of mine on Baptisia runs over at Native Plants & Wildlife Gardens, which I was in no way, shape or form paid to write by weevils. Nuh-uh. Not at all.)

All Abuzz

By | Insects, My Garden | 4 Comments

Things are hoppin’ here at the House of Squash, both literally and figuratively!

Whole lotta statements landed on me this week, so I can announce a whomping 46,000 copies of Ninja Frogs sold, as of January 31st, and 31,000 of Were-Wiener,  which is awesome, because that’s nearly as many Ninja as Dragonbreath One, despite coming out almost a year later, so people who bought book one are apparently going out and buying Ninja in great numbers—and Were-Wiener’s on track to catch up in a hurry, despite Ninja’s eight month lead-time.

Kid’s books, as we’ve talked about before, are very different than any other subgroup, in that the first couple of months is not necessarily the primary sales time–Dragonbreath actually did nearly double the sales in the second period it was out as it did in the first. In this case, being that it’s a series, it’s likely that while it will trend down over time, it will still continue to sell as long as the series keeps coming out.

In the garden, other things are hopping…

I'm a skipper of some sort!

and apparently it’s a brood year…

You have such lovely eyes...

The frogs are calling loudly in the pond out back, and I caught two embracing fervently out front so perhaps we will see tadpolage after all.

I am getting perturbed, however—the dragonflies are out, there are plenty of small flies and skippers and big swallowtails, the hummingbirds have taken up residence…but man, the bees this year are worse than ever. We had the big mason bees out earlier, but now it’s dead as a doornail—I’ve seen maybe two bumblebees out at a time, fumbling at the foamflower or climbing the catmint. (I have vast quantities of catmint, in full flower, and it’s like a mortuary. Those things ought to be CRAWLING right now. And the purple sage might as well be a sculpture of a flower.)

I’m actually cheering for solitary wasps, now, because they’re the pollinators actually OUT. Never thought I’d see the day I’d be happy for wasps, but bugger if I want to be out there pollinating the peas with a paintbrush.

It’s one thing to hear that pollinators are in trouble—it’s another to watch the native bee populations you’re used to seeing be almost completely absent.  My only hope is that they’re all out front on the blackberry, which is flowering like mad right now, or that the hard late winter is responsible, and they’ll rebound next spring. Seriously, thought, it’s like a frickin’ Rachel Carson book out there, and it’s kinda givin’ me the willies.