Why Frog?

Laughing Frog Farm gets its name from its resident Pacific chorus frogs (formerly known as Pacific tree frogs). They are small beings with amazingly loud vobestfrogyetices. Youngsters emerge from their vernal pool nurseries less than half an inch long. The largest get to the size of a stocky person’s thumbnail. Most often they are green, but only because they spend much of their time perched on plants. On the ground they can turn brown or grey to match soil or stone. On dry leaves they can be tan. They always have a dark horizontal stripe from nose to ear, passing through the eye. Instead of webbed feet, they have suction cup toes.

frogoncherrytomTheir lives depend on seasonal ponds created by winter rain. Our average yearly rainfall here is 70 inches, all of it between October and May. In our location on the flat valley floor, usually by mid-December we’ve had enough rain to bring the water table up to within inches of the surface, and above ground in low areas. The deepest parts on our corner pasture get to about three feet. These pools persist until the rains stop and the water table falls, usually in late June. By then all the native meadow plants have bloomed and gone to seed – the shallower pools are crowded in May with buttercups and deep blue camas lilies – and the heavy clay soil dries hard as cement for the summer. The chorus frogs spend their summers quietly, solitary, near water but seldom in it. Sometimes they climb trees, as their old name infers, but more often they climb bushy plants. We find them whenever we water the gardens. They don’t like to be sprayed, and invariably hop out of the way. A few prefer the cool tile of the bath house, and we caution guests to check around the edges of the toilet bowl before flushing.

frogincukeThey don’t make so much as a peep until the rains start. Then you’ll hear an occasional raspy warm-up call, tentative and, at first, solitary. As the rains continue, the male frogs start to move to the low-lying areas that hold water longer, and we hear them in small groups, practicing. By the time the vernal pools are in place for the season, the guys have settled there too, and the singing begins in earnest.

A fine winter evening entertainment is to pull on rubber boots, grab a flashlight, and slosh on out to the big pond. Of course they stop, all at once, but as soon as we quiet down the concert resumes. It’s thunder set at a higher pitch and faster tempo, an amazing experience when you’re standing at the center of it. The female frogs come for the show and stay to lay eggs in the pond, attaching clumps of them to underwater grass stalks. The tadpoles grow up here, emerging as tiny frogs just as the pools dry up for the summer.