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Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Stories from the Farm - Operation Tadpole Rescue!

A portion of our yard between the road and our peony bed has been under water for at least two months because of the heavy rains in the mid-west this year (20 to 28 inches in a two-month period, according to different sources). Part of this area of the yard is actually intended to be a drainage ditch, but the rain water backed up over our driveway and into our row of peonies and stayed there, so a portion of our row of peonies as well as the surrounding lawn has gone aquatic. Ben thinks the pipe under the road is clogged, so yesterday, he got out the old sump pump, some blue discharge hosing, and a very long extension cord and proceeded to pump the water to another area of our yard where it could drain. When he was through, he commented that he had seen lots of tadpoles in the ditch.

Earlier in the summer, I swear we heard a bull frog chirping in that water. Ben said to shine a flashlight into the water after dark if I wanted to see the guy but I never could find him. So this time I walked over to the drained area to see if I could see tadpoles. I saw one little guy who appeared to be beached, so I cautiously set a foot down in the bog to see if I could help him and Woosh! Down I went on my rear in the mud! At that vantage point it became real easy to see tadpoles. ;)

As the water continued to go down over the next few days, I was concerned for the tadpoles, and so I launched "Operation Tadpole Rescue." First I got on the internet and googled for how to raise tadpoles and decided it would be best to move them to a similar habitat but one that wouldn't run out of water until they could finish morphing into froggies. So I contacted the neighbors who live in a subdivision with several ponds and asked if I could put the polliwogs in their ponds. Mosquitoes and flies have been the worst in years, so a surplus of frogs is good, right? :)

I carried a five-gallon bucket of water, an empty coffee can, and a sieve to the ditch but then decided a one-gallon plastic ice-cream carton with a handle would work better. The internet said to put the tadpoles in the same water. I hated to take much of it because there was so little left for them - so I mixed it with some water from the bucket which had stood out and warmed up a bit. Actually I didn't want too much water - and I stacked in some leaves and stones in the ice-cream carton for the more developed tadpoles to climb (so they wouldn't accidentally drown). It was fun catching the tadpoles. I could see their little heads and eyes peeking up at me through the murky water and when I reached down, they were gone - but not far. Sweeping them into the sieve worked pretty well. Sometimes I'd get one or two and sometimes I'd get lucky and catch a dozen in one scoop, There were all kinds and colors, some with legs and many still in earlier stages. In the course of three days I have taken hundreds of them to the neighboring pond and creek - 4 ice cream cartons and counting (not full to the top, but full nonetheless). I think the pond is the better choice of habitat - it's more like the ditch I'm removing them from - shallow areas with plants to eat and hide in, warm water, and a lot more of it.

A portion of our yard and flower bed after Ben drained the long-standing water

A view from the opposite end
Hee! How cute is this unsuspecting little guy? He's probably
thinking, "Where did all my water go?"
Oodles of  polliwogs in the bit of remaining water by the drain

Enroute to their new home - a pond down the road

Polliwogs, meet your new home!

An overview of the polliwogs' new pond
Yesterday my ninety-year-old mother and 87-year-old aunt helped me relocate them. One of Ben's friends from town was visiting and wanted to see them.

"But how can you tell those are frogs," he asked?

So we showed him a little green one that had almost completely morphed but still had its long tail.

City folks ... go figure.

Fortunately it rained a little last night plus I poured some water into the ditch from my bucket so I am taking a break today from Operation Tadpole Rescue. Phew! I only hope I'm not committing frog genocide. I just know that legs or no legs, the tadpoles were all living in a lot more water before Ben drained that ditch!

Ben says maybe the ones that are left can hunker down in the mud and survive. He may be right. I know I kept startling a full-grown frog burrowed in the mud while I was fishing for tadpoles. Nonetheless, I'll keep checking as long as there's any remaining water in the ditch. My friend Julie says, "No worries, they've survived since the age of the dinosaurs, they'll survive moving to a new pond."

I hope so!

And on an interesting note (at least to me), I googled the difference between polliwogs and tadpoles and found this bit of etymology on the similarity and origin of the two words at

I'll close with the following blessing: if you are being plagued by flies and mosquitoes this wet, wet summer, may the Good Lord send you a nice little plague of froggies to help you take care of them! Preferably my little guys! ;)


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