Friday, September 28, 2012


Frogs, along with toads and newts and salamanders, are amphibians which means they go through rather dramatic stages of development.  They morph from gilled underwater dwelling creatures to terrestrial or semi terrestrial critters that breathe air.  Frogs and toads, unlike salamanders and newts, don't just grow legs but grow hopping cool hind legs.  Frogs and toads are similar.  Two notable differences are that toads don't need to keep their skin as moist as frogs do and are less expert jumpers.  For now, we will talk only of frogs.

 Let's begin at the beginning.
The male frog announces his availability to the female in song, amplified by his expandable throat sac.  The sound of his song varies by frog species ranging from a deep croak to a high pitched chirp.  The female responds by allowing the male to mount her.  She then lays up to 4,000 eggs.  The lovers part.
So begins the four stages of development.
The eggs, also know as spawn, float in the pond or sit in a damp nook near the water.  Many eggs are eaten by fish, bugs, turtles and birds.  After about a week, the eggs hatch into tadpoles.
Tadpoles have gills, they swim clumsily, and eat underwater plants.  At roughly four weeks of age, the tadpoles develop lungs and grow little teeth that allow them to eat larger plants.  At about 9 weeks, the tadpole grows hind legs and is now a froglet.
The froglet grows front legs and the tail slowly vanishes as it is absorbed by the froglet's body.  At about 3 months old, the froglet with only a stub of a tail and full fledged lungs, leaves the water.  Soon the last of the tail disappears and the froglet is a frog.

Some Frog Facts
- diet:  insects, rodents, birds, other frogs and snakes.  They don't drink water but absorb it through their skin 
- frog eyes are situated to enable vision from the front, back, and on both sides simultaneously
- predators:  cats, snakes, birds, frogs, lizards, rats
- approximately 2,800 species 
- frogs have been on the Earth for about 190 million years
- some frogs are camouflaged to hide from predators, such as the horned frog
- poisonous frogs are usually brightly colored to deter predators, such as the poison dart frog  
In cold climates the frog must hibernate. He burrows into the mud or muck in the bottom of a pond and stays there in a state of sleep whereby his body functions slow down to a minimum to conserve energy.  When the surrounding water warms in the spring, the frog awakens and his body returns to normal.  The first thing the frog usually wants to do at this point is to eat something.
Soon he is singing and the cycle begins anew.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Fluffy and the Bumper Sticker


Friday, September 21, 2012

Box Eldering City Hall

There is large Box Elder in front of my house.  Or maybe it's an Elm.  Certainly, this tree is one that my mother would have called a "garbage tree".  Whatever this tree is, it stands in that zone of grass between the sidewalk and the street.  This means it is the city's tree. 

A couple of branches as big around as a baseball bat reached out from that tree and hung over my front lawn.  For most of the summer I mowed the lawn with one forearm thrown over my face.  Finally, I cut off some of the smaller branches when I was convinced of the very real possibility that the next time I mowed my lawn I might just lose an eye.  These scraggly branches were small in diameter and easily cut off, and up, with a hand pruner.  Right now, they lie decaying in the compost pile.

The baseball bat sized branches had additional branch shoots of course, and those branches hung over the sidewalk.  A tall person or a kid on a bike would be struck in the face.  What I did next is to blame for the city hall unpleasantness.


Taking my saw on a stick, I went after those baseball bat sized branches.  A while later, sweaty, and with saw dust decorating my cheeks, I had removed the ugly hazards.  Trouble is, now there were these big branches to dispose of.  The rules in my city for yard waste pick up don't include big branches.  In short, I was stuck with these big branches.  What now?  Whip out a chain saw?  I'd already used up precious yard work time on somebody else's job!  It was at this point, that I committed Unforgivable Act Number 2. 

Call it naivete. Call it an unfounded notion that most people are nice and reasonable.  Call it whatever  you like.  With full knowledge that the rules in my city for yard waste pick up do not allow for big sprawling nasty branches, I left sprawling nasty branches at the curb anyway- certain that when the guys in the big city truck made their weekly swing down my street, they would see those branches for what they were and take them away.

They did not.  They did, however, move the branches fully up off the street, onto the grass. 

Next thing I know I am on the phone with Junior Miss Bureaucrat of the city's Department of Public Service.  Snippily, she informed me that I choose to cut those branches down.  They were now my responsibility, not the city's.  She added that I should have called the city about the tree.  Realizing it was pointless to explain to this functionary that the first thought that enters my mind when something needs to be done is most certainly not to call a civil servant, I thanked her for her "help" and hung up.

My next idea was to talk to a grown up. Thus, later, I went two minutes out of my way to stop by the office of the Department of Public Service.  I figured I'd appeal to the guy who maintains the trees; straight talk, one callused handed can-doer to another. Greeting me at the office window with faux friendliness was a middle aged man, his lanky limbs draped languidly over an office chair as though it were a pool lounger. 

He said, "how are you?"  (Pet Peeve Alert!  Most of us are asked at least eight times a day HOWAREYOU and if we are lucky, one of those times comes from someone who actually cares how you are.  The rest of the time, the question comes from someone who is filling space with chatter that exists only to delay the point of the encounter).  I asked to speak to a supervisor over streets/trees.

Mr. Pool Lounger gave me a look that conveyed: oh you asked for something really stupid but I am here to help so listen up while I patronize you.  "Mr. Tree Supervisor is out with the crew on the street with the trees," he oozed.  "He checks in for messages though."  He handed me a pink pad of sticky notes.  "Fair enough?" he added, bizarrely.

I wrote my name and number down while he unctuously explained how busy Mr. Tree Supervisor was. 

What do you bet that sticky note with my name and number was crumbled and tossed on the floor before I made it to the parking lot?

No phone call as been received from Mr. Tree Supervisor or anyone else from the Department of Public Service as of this writing. 

Knock me over with a dried up garbage tree leaf.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Fluffy Shrinking the Shrink

It is time we had a conversation with that parrot...

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Fluffy Shamelessly Shrunk

more continuation to occur...........

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Breed Profile: Weimaraner

The Weimaraner Vorsetehund is a handsome fearless hunting dog who loves to be with his family.  This is not a dog you keep in a kennel and let out for a day of shooting.  This dog needs to live with his people and prefers to be close to them.  Some have described the Weimaraner's affection as needy.  Others call it:  in your face.

In the 1800's, the German Court of Weimar sought to develop an all around hunting dog that could hunt game of all types and sizes from birds to bears.  Numerous breeds were used to create the Weimar Pointer, as it was originally known, including Bloodhound, Red Schweisshund, assorted pointers including the German Short haired Pointer, and probably other breeds as well.  Where exactly the unique gray color originated is not known.
In 1929 the Weimaraner came to the US.  Impressive in obedience competitions, the breed drew interest.  Once the breed's versatile hunting talents were discovered, Weimaraner popularity increased still more.
About that unusual coat- it is short and easy to care for.  Most people do little more than polish it with a grooming mitt.  The coat color ranges from silver gray to mousy gray.
Some Weimaraner Facts
- life span:  10-13 years
- height at shoulder:  23-27 inches
- weight:  50-90 pounds
- eyes: amber, blue, blue-gray
- nose:  gray
- tail is docked to 6 inches 
Weimaraner Manifesto
-  I sometimes get rambunctious, small persons take heed for I may accidentally knock you down 
-  No, I am not stubborn nor headstrong.  I learn quickly, so don't bore me with pointless repetition  
-  I need to exercise everyday or I get a little antsy

See some nice pictures
Next Breed Profile:   French Bulldog!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

More on Goldfish

As we discussed previously, Goldfish can live in the wilds of one's backyard.  Now let's go indoors and talk about tame Goldfish keeping.

Goldfish can be kept in an aquarium equipped with a filter, light, heater, aeration, plants and decorative castle.  Check the water's ph level and add chemicals to keep it optimal. Figure one and a half inches of fish per gallon.  Trouble is, fish grow.  Like all rules of thumb, there is that pesky reality whereby reality thumbs its nose at you.

 Aquarium husbandry has it's own challenges and advantages.  For those who are looking for low tech, I give you the fishbowl.

It is possible to keep Goldfish in a bowl with no fancy equipment whatsoever. The fish above have lived in this bowl for several years (which is why the fellow on the right is so big!).  You see, it can be done.  Here's how:

Never remove/replace more than 1/3 of the water volume at one time.

Don't change the water too often.

Feed the fish sparingly.

Now and then dump all the water and the fish in a bucket.  Wipe down the sides of the bowl with a paper towel. That greenish brown coating comes off easily.  Rinse the bowl out a few times to remove the floating greenish brown stuff that used to coat the sides.  By now, the water in the bucket has settled so that most of the fish poop has sunk to the bottom.  Dump 2/3 of the bucket water back in the bowl along with the fish.   (If you like, use that remaining water containing nutrient rich poop to water your houseplants).

Add some tap water that feels the same temperature as the bowl water but only about half of the 1/3 needed to fully fill the bowl.  The next day add more water.  This way the fish don't have to adjust to new strange water all at once.  It is diluted sufficiently so they are stressed as little as possible.

Sure, living in captivity wasn't my first choice but at least I am safe from hungry Herons.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Friday, September 7, 2012

R.I.P.  Lester
October 31, 1997 - September 7, 2012

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


Goldfish are a fresh water fish related to the carp and minnow.  There are some 300 species of goldfish.  The most common goldfish is the Comet.  This fish is domesticated and used primarily as a feeder fish.  Many Comets end up being eaten by pet fish such as Oscars and Piranhas.

The humble Comet is kept as a pet too.  Some are living the wild life in backyard ponds.

Some people feed their pond fish commercial fish food.  Some let the fish fend for themselves.  I've tried both methods separately and in combination.  The fish thrive regardless, or in spite of, my efforts.  The weather has proven to have more of an effect on the fish than anything else.  This year, for example, we had a mild winter.  A greater number of fish survived.  A heater is installed to keep a hole in the ice for oxygen to come in, and gases that form from plant decay out.  Still, some of  the fish don't make it through the winter.

(Wild living is rugged). 

A warm spring helped hatch more fish eggs (frog eggs too, but that's a whole other post!).  The fish population in the pond is up this summer.  Alas, as fall approaches, so increases the visitation from Herons.  In both spring and fall, Night Herons and Blue Herons appear regularly to hunt in my pond  The fish have hiding places to increase their odds of not being eaten .  Many people put long tubes underwater for pond fish to hide.  My pond offers a sunken milk crate. 

Another risk pond fish face is dragonfly larvae.  These nymphs lie in wait, hidden behind a plant stem.  They leap onto an unsuspecting fish, pierce his skin with sharp hollow pincers, then suck out his blood.

(Wild living has assorted methods of population control).

Pond fish eat mosquito larvae, little creatures that live in algae and assorted other bugs and plants.  They also eat small baby fish.

(Wild living involves cannibalization).

Then there are goldfish who enjoy the indoor lifestyle.

Next time, we'll talk about tame goldfish.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Fluffy gets Shrunk

to be continued.............