Archives for posts with tag: presence

Around here, the Dog Days of August are preceded by the Frog Days of July.  Early in the month, the amphibians begin to appear in and around the pool.  At first, there are only one or two but by mid-month, their numbers have increased to about a dozen or so.

Most of them are a smaller variety (leopard frogs?), just over an inch long when sitting.  They spend a lot of their time floating at the water’s surface with their limbs extended in a kind of dead man’s float (frogs don’t have necks so they can’t float with their faces in the water).  Often, they are drawn into the skimmers where frequently I find them swirling around in a daze.

When this occurs, I pull them out of there and shoo them into the grass, hoping they will find another body of water to call home.  It is a futile gesture, however, and they almost always return.  Sadly, these small fry end up doing a dead frog’s float after succumbing to the chlorine in the water.

The remaining frogs, of which there is never more than a few, are the larger American bull frogs.  They grow to a size of four to five inches long when sitting—and sit they do.  And sit, and sit, and sit (just like T.S. Eliot’s Gumbie Cats).  They will eventually take a short dip in the water or dive to the bottom for a spell or even take a ride on one of the floating canisters that hold chlorine tablets.  Unlike their smaller cousins, the bull frogs can jump out when they want to and seldom get caught in the skimmers (although it does happen; see September 25, 2011).

At any given moment but especially in the evenings just after dark, two or three of them can be found perched at the edge of the pool deck, pondering the great blue depths of the water.  Sometimes they sing to each other and other times they sit quietly, simply enjoying (it seems) each other’s presence.  Not our presence, though:  When we approach for a late night swim, they squeak testily and hop away.

For the last week, there has just been one bull frog in attendance (well, I think it is the same one), joining us for our pre-bed skinny dip.  This seems to be the case every year and I assume that he (or she, as the case may be; how does one tell?) has chased the others away and claimed our pool as his exclusive province.  Consequently, I call this lone survivor Ol’ Boss Frog (anyone else read Walt Kelly’s Pogo?) and give him his proper respect.

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As discussed before (see, for example, June 10, 2012, part 2), the trees around our house and garden are constantly growing and because they are so closely spaced, they are growing not outwards but upwards.  The result?  Their canopy is getting higher and denser and we are falling ever more deeply into the shade.

Last year, I observed that the solar panels on the roof (with which we heat the swimming pool) do not get any direct sunlight until sometime between 10:00 and 11:00 in the morning and move back into the shade starting as early as 2:00 pm; by 4:00 pm, the upper panels are completed shielded by trees.  This greatly diminishes their effectiveness at heating the pool water.

The planters have a longer solar day (see June 20, 2012) but even in the garden, shade begins to have an impact as early as 4:00 pm as the shadows start to creep across the west planter.  The area to the west of the planters, where we plan to grow squash this year, is fully shaded by 3:00 pm.  This may not be enough sunshine for a vegetable as needy as zucchini.

There’s not much we can do about increasing the morning sun—all of the trees to the east of us are on a neighbor’s property—but we do control the woods to the west.  In particular, there are two tall maples just outside the pool fence that are casting most of the afternoon shadows.  They will have to go.  We are fortunate that the ground slopes down steeply just beyond our pool and many of the trees that might otherwise be a problem need not be considered.

Widening the exposure of the solar panels, on the other hand, will require more drastic action.  The main culprits in their obstruction are the old oak tree that hangs over the west side of our house and a huge maple about twenty feet beyond it to the west.  Each is very tall and has already lost its lower branches.  And because they are on the edge of the woods, the two trees have reached outwards with their upper limbs, unlike their more constrained siblings located further into the woods.

Both of these trees have caused us trouble in the past:  We had the maple cabled many years ago to restrain a splitting trunk; the oak tree most recently dropped two large branches on the house and patio after a snowstorm a year and a half ago (see October 30, 2011, part 2).  So far, we have limited our approach to pruning but at this point, any pruning we might do would leave only barren (and funky-looking) trunks.

No, if we do anything they must also be removed.  But doing so will leave a noticeable void behind.  I’ve been resisting it for years because I know I will feel their loss.  A ranger at Yellowstone National Park once asked us (while we were gathered around a campfire) whether we had ever had an experience with rocks.  It took me a few years to grasp what she was getting at—the idea that the natural environment has a presence, an identity—and even if I have not had any experiences with trees, per se, I definitely feel their presence.  Losing these two will be a sad event.

And it will be a big project.  We brought in our long-time tree man, Jerry, to take a look at all of the trees we are planning to take down.  He’s done a lot of work here (see, for example, October 31, 2011) but this would be larger than any other takedown he has done for us.  The two maples at the end of the pool will simply be cut and allowed to fall down the hill (much more difficult and dangerous than it sounds) while the larger maple and oak will have to be carefully broken down, branch by branch and section by section.  Removing the wood once the trees are down will be a major undertaking all by itself.

It will be a great sacrifice but I think it will be for the greater good (of the house, garden and environment).