Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Eat or be eaten

Recently we lost our backyard Green Frog.

Not in the sense of misplaced, or we haven't seen her for a while. She's dead.

I found her the other morning, close to the sidewalk by our pool, in the lawn, on her back, staring sightlessly up into the early morning sky. Mouth slightly agape, one of her front legs had been nearly wrenched off. Other than that she was intact. But quite dead.

She (based upon not having the "swollen yellow thumbs" that are identifiers for the male of this species) had nearly doubled in size over the course of a very wet and buggy summer.

Our green frog had set up shop in the bushes close to our deck and she'd sit vigil most evenings after the sun went low, (guessing now) eating her fill of insects and snails. Then she'd swim a bit, leaving a startling until we figured out what it was and where it came from, poop in the pool, and that would be that.

If we walked out by the pool in the evening, she'd grunt and leap in. We rarely saw her on the sidewalk or during the day. It was that nighttime splash that eventually alerted and then trained us to look for her extended form, stretched full length as she seemingly effortlessly covered the breadth of our backyard body of water in three long, strong, strokes.

Although my husband had wondered aloud at various times if we'd ever come out to find our swimming pool supporting a host of tadpoles, she apparently never mistook it for a natural pond.

I was concerned the chlorine levels of the water would harm her. When I startled her into leaping, or noted her floating in the dark, we'd developed a little pas de deux whereby I'd get the pole with the net to carefully scoop her up and out of the water. She tolerated this calmly for the most part. The vast majority of nights she survived her time in the water without me and my arbitrary removal ministrations, without incident.

We aren't sure what killed her. We think, absent signs of gnawing, it was some predatory bird, swooping down in the dark to grab her. We speculate that she was heavier, or perhaps able to struggle unexpectedly in some way that resulted in her being released, dropped, back down onto our lawn.

Since I found her on her back, I have to guess she was either already dead when she landed, or that the impact killed her outright.

Personally, I am hoping she had a massive froggy coronary on the way down, and never felt a thing past that first lurch of being snatched up into the air.

She was just a Central Texas green frog, sure, but she was somehow also "our" green frog. I was fond of her in an abstract way that defies reason. She was reassuring, a sign that at least in our backyard, the ecosystems are in balance enough to remain supportive of the kinds of life that used to abound all around us.

We try to live gently in the small space we inhabit. We live as naturally as we can in a suburban neighborhood. As proof our efforts are their own reward, we have all sorts of critters that co-inhabit our patch of Texas.

Compost pile eating raccoons, opossum, armadillos, landscape eating deer, tomato eating squirrels, anoles, scorpions, lined snakes, we've seen them all. We have a host of birds as vocal companions, and overhead we see buzzards circling constantly with the occasional red tailed hawk. We've heard more than seen screech owl(s) nearly daily for years, so we are certain they nest nearby.

Under those circumstances it should have been no surprise to find evidence of "nature red in tooth and claw" in our own back yard. Yet it was sad for me to note that this green frog had been predated without being consumed. Not a wasted death exactly, her remains will return to the earth and support all sorts of smaller life forms. All the same, for her to have met such a sudden and violent end bothered me for reasons I can't quite explain.

Why share this little backyard drama in a blog about food? For me it was an object lesson, a reminder. I'm not ready to swear off animal protein by any means, but I do want to try and remain more aware of the ongoing sacrifice my dietary habits require. Nobody who eats with as much gusto as I do ought to ever forget that every meal requires the end of something's life.

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