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My Back Yard

Since I am sharing frog stories, here are some pics of the rest of the animals I have seen in my back yard.  Matt wonders why I go outside and pull weeds. This is why!  There is always a surprise waiting.

bunny2018

Baby bunny

turtle2018

Box turtle hiding in the lillies.

toad 2018

Toad hiding in the mint.

tiny frog 2018

Tiny frog on the garage door. One day Wog will grow up to be this big (about the size of a quarter)

swallow tail 2018

Swallow tail on the butterfly bush

 

Frog Update

Polli and Wog have gone off to be frogs.  Wog was the first to go.  Here is a video of him with full legs trying to escape from the fountain.  He was about the size of a nickel.  He knew freedom was over that wall.  We never saw him after this night.  Good luck Wog!

Polli hung around for another week.  She was very elusive and I did not have many photos of her.  I saw her one last time, her tail almost gone, clearly developed legs, much smaller, maybe the size of a dime.  She looked up at me, the God who peered down at her once a day, and she told herself, that God scares me.  I need to go now.  I never saw her again.  Good luck Polli!

This was a fascinating experiment, to watch them go from eggs to frogs, feeding them organic spinach and suffering from the cloud of mosquitos that also shared the water. It was just a happy accident.  I wish I could do it again.  Who knows.  Maybe next year one of them will come back and lay eggs in the fountain again.

Travel – April 2017 – Vermont

They say that April is the cruelest month.  I say that April is what you make it.  I often get restless and just want to go.  I needed to take a short break, even if it was a long weekend.  Some people take trips to Vegas or maybe Florida.  Matt and I like to travel for art, events, experiences.  We might go to see a play in another city like Chicago, or get on a plane and spend a weekend checking out an art exhibit in San Francisco.  For us, that is way better than dropping quarters in a slot machine.

I learned that Dorrance Dance Company was going to be appearing at Dartmouth University and it looked like a moment when we could take a trip. Who is Dorrance Dance?  I may have waxed poetic about this woman before but the company founder is Michelle Dorrance, a tap dancer extraordinaire.  Honestly, I never really thought about tap dancing at all.  But a few years ago after she won a MacArthur Genius Award, she appeared on Stephen Colbert’s show and at that moment, I fell in love with tap.   Watching Michelle and her company perform puts a huge smile on my face. I get exuberant, irrationally so.

So I said, hey, let’s go and see Dorrance Dance perform a show we have never seen.  Okay.  Where is Dartmouth again?  I know this sounds dumb, but  I’m not an Ivy League aficionado.  I knew it was somewhere in New England, but I was not real clear on the state.  Turns out, it’s in Hanover, New Hampshire, not far from the Manchester Airport and a very convenient Southwest Air flight away.

What else do we need?  How about a spa because, well, why not?  Woodstock Inn in Woodstock, Vermont sounded just the ticket.  Where is Woodstock?  Who knows.  We would figure it out when we got there.  So off we went for Dorrance Dance Company at Dartmouth and a visit to Woodstock Vermont.

Woodstock Vermont cannot possibly get any more quaint as a typical New England town Any post card of Vermont with its autumn orange and yellow maple leaf colors against a white church spire  has to be a picture of Woodstock.  Clapboard Victorians, white churches with spires, and a town square exuded New England charm.

The Woodstock Inn is an old style New England hotel, with a huge welcoming fire place in the lobby, lots of wood panelling, and cozy nooks for book reading.  We arrived to find the weather had turned quite cold and rainy, with a little snow mixed in.  Having just left daffodils and spring in Washington, it was quite a shock.  We dumped our bags and headed back to Hanover for the dance performance.

Completely occupied by Dartmouth, Hanover seemed like any college town, lots of bars, kids and activity.  We had dinner at The Pine, the restaurant in the Hanover Inn.  The food was excellent, from the truffled deviled eggs, beef tartare with quails egg, to the wild boar pasta.  It was all just tasty.

Tap Dance is the Bomb

The Dance Performance was titled: The Blues Project with Toshi Reagon and BIGLovely featuring Derick K Grant and Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards.  Toshi Reagon is a folk/blues/funk musician from NYC .  Derick Grant is known for appearing in Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk.  He has some significant history.  Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards supposedly taught Michaek Jackson how to moonwalk.  All together they put on a fantastic high energy performance of original music and great choreography.  Go to her website and take a look at some of the groups performances.  Tap dancing is like the banjo–there is nothing sad about it.

After the show, there was a Q & A.  Matt raised his hand to ask a question and he told Michelle that we had come all the way from DC, we had seen her in three states at this point (Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire), and we are prepared to travel more to see her great shows.  She was so touched by this.  Blown away really.  After the Q & A, I ran down to the stage to get her autograph on my program.  I was explaining to her that we absolutely loved her company and that she just made us happy. Matt came up and piped in and we talked for a long time.  She told us that if she is in DC, she will try to give us a head’s up so we know she is coming. And you know we will be there.

Birds are pretty cool too.

What does one do in Woodstock?  Falconry.  The Inn had teamed up with a company that offers plain old folks like us the adventure of playing with birds of prey.  New England Falconry allowed us to put on the leather glove and have a bird free fly to our outstretched arm for its meaty treat.  This was an incredible experience.  First, we met a falcon in the barn.

falcon #2

Falcon #1

He was very small and we woke him up from his nap so he kept dozing off as he perched.  The falcon was not flying weight which means that he was a bit too well fed and if we put meat on our hands, he would not fly to it.  So while we got to hold him, but we did not get to have him fly for us.  His eyes were covered because they get nervous and he was a little more calm this way.  Just gorgeous.

 

 

 

 

At the end, the falconer took off the mask so we could see his large eyes.  We were told to be still and not startle him.  Check this out.

falconry#7

 

After the falcon it was time to head outside to play with some birds.  The first was a Harris Hawk named Conrad.  Conrad was beautiful.  falconry#3

falconry#4

 

Here are some quick answers to your questions.

No, the bird is not heavy but even at two pounds, holding your arm out straight for any length of time is tiring.  So the falconer taught us how to pull the bird close and put the arm next to the body to take the strain off.

Yes, they have really big claws that can hurt you. Luckily they are well fed and have no interest in trying to eat us.

No, flying like this is not instinctive behavior.  They are trained to fly to the hand with the meat.  Some birds are easier to train than others.  They all have their own personality.

No, these birds were not taken from the wild.  They were all born in captivity. or rescued

Here are some videos:

 

 

 

 

After we played with Conrad, we worked with a barn owl named Alba.  Again, glorious bird.  The falconer explained that this owl was raised as a baby and has imprinted to the woman who raised it.  That means that Alba thinks he is a person and he is very jealous of other males–human males.  Apparently he gets very feisty with certain men who enter his area.

falconry#5falconry#6

We were told that owls are a little harder to work with and can fly off on their own just because some tree or sound interests them.  So Alba was on a lead.  Here is a video:

 

 

It was really cold outside and the birds were good sports about coming out but they were cold and so were we.  So after 90 minutes of falconry, we went on our way, back to the hotel spa for some warmth and TLC.

Massages, mimosas, Vermont cheese, a sauna, and a dip in the hot tub outside in the cold were just the thing we needed to end the day.

But what about the sheep?

The front page of the morning paper had the most adorable photo of baby lambs that had just been born at the Billings Farm Museum.  We figured out a way to go see those cuties before we left town.  Just take a look at them in their cute little sweaters.  Adorable.

blog sheep

 

 

 

Growing Frogs

I have not posted a blog entry for over a year.  Hey, I’m old.  It feels like it was a decade ago.  Then it feels like it was yesterday.  Honestly, I’ve been a little busy.

One thing that is keeping me occupied right now are the polliwogs that are growing in my patio fountain.

polliwog1

It has not been a good season for frogs here.  It warmed up early, they emerged from winter’s sleep, and then it got cold.  I am guessing it hurt the population.  Usually we have a few hopping around outside on the patio and walks.  I was going out every night with the flashlight looking around and could find no one.

Then one night we heard the call from the patio.  Go here and click on Gray Tree Frog.  I ran outside and saw this:  a gray tree frog.

green tree frog

Often I will find these guys sleeping tucked up in the patio umbrella.  When the umbrella is down, they crawl up into the nice cozy cloth and fall asleep clinging to the pole.  They must think the umbrellas are trees. And boy, can they can sing. It is really loud.  We could hear it through the closed window.

I was so excited to see someone.  The next night we heard her again.  I went out with the flashlight and found her halfway submerged in our fountain.  You will see it in the video.  The previous owners built it and it is fun to have.  Water is supposed to come out of the lion’s mouth but honestly, it sounds like someone peeing.  So I stopped using it.  I have a pump with a water aerator attached that makes a nice babbling brook sound.

I had just put algae killer in the water.  Afraid the frog was going to absorb who knows what chemicals, I ran for my trusty net and tried to get her out.  She hopped into the water, swimming around.  I finally netted her and put her in a tree.

A few days later I went to clean the fountain and I saw a clump of clear bubbles with black dots.  I yelled to Matt.  There are frogs eggs!  She laid eggs in the fountain!  A few days later they hatched and about fifty or so tadpoles were swimming around in the water.  They are easily confused with mosquito larvae.  So I checked the font of all knowledge–the internet–to figure out the difference.  What I also learned is that the ph of the water is very important and so is the mineral content.  Of course, I was filling the fountain with tap water and that is not good for frogs.  I was not sure what to do but God came along and helped.

It started to rain. and it rained and it rained.  Fifteen inches worth.  The fountain practically overflowed.  And it was wonderful, natural water from the sky.  My ph/chlorine problem was solved.  But still, not very many tadpoles make it in nature and they slowly disappeared until there were two.  I decided to not clean the fountain because tadpoles eat algae. So I had to let it go.  The internet also told me they will eat lettuce if there is not enough algae. I started throwing spinach into the fountain too.  It has made the water a murky green but that’s okay.  I’ll clean it later.

They are getting so big.  As you can see in the picture, the eyes are prominent and the body is fairly large.  I’ve named them Polli and Wog.  Wog the the friendly one.  He is not afraid of anything.  Polli is smaller and she hides.  They dart around the fountain searching for food.  It is so much fun to watch. If they make it to froghood, I am going to be ecstatic.  I’ll sing Born Free and all that.

Here is a short video.

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