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June 2013

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A frog named Jabba the Hutt

We’ve  got a new friend in the backyard.  An enormous bullfrog, who I’ve named Jabba the Hutt, has established a presence at Farthing Pond.  We’ve become quite close; I can sit down right beside him and he won’t even budge.  He does let me know that I’m  in his territory, though.  He even  answered my greeting of Die Wanna Wannga. Unfortunately,  that’s about all of the Huttese language  I know.  (It just occurred to me in writing that phrase that Huttese might have some relation to German, although  die in Huttese  is pronounced  day as in neighbor or way, and does not appear to be used as a modifier.)

I named him Jabba because of his resemblance to the fictional character, particularly in  his sheer  enormity, his brownish-yellow hue, and bumps around his mouth.  Later, I had some regrets about the name I gave him; after all,  the character from Return of the Jedi  exemplifies morbid obesity and personifies at least four of the seven deadly sins, including greed, lust, gluttony and avarice.

Me:  Do you think it’s disrespectful that I named our friend “Jabba the Hutt”?

Shawnna: I think he would be honored to be named after such an epic story.

My wife, master of the re-frame. Strong with the Force she is.

2013 will go down in history as “The Year the Frogs Came.”  We finished Farthing Pond in 2010, and it only took a couple of months for the word to spread amongst the amphibians. We’d hear tree frogs and the occasional bullfrog after heavy rains.  This year is different.  They’ve totally established a beachhead.  We hear them every night now, lots of them, regardless of the weather conditions.  I’ve asked several of my neighbors if the noise bothers them, but they don’t seem to mind, maybe because it  drowns out the sounds of I-85.  When I close my eyes at bedtime I can imagine I am in a more bucolic locale.

The frogs love hanging out in the various plant containers I have submerged in the pond, such as this scouring rush.

The containers are submerged in the pond and held up by pvc pipe.  The frogs enjoy them because there is enough room for them to sit  upright in the container with their eyes just above the water.  I never realized  that in placing these plants I had helped create an ideal habitat for our amphibian friends.



I found  this little one while I was re-potting one of the containers.


Feeling inspired, I decided to construct a shelter in one of the containers.  I named it “Jabba’s Palace.”

farthing_pond_houseHopefully this will be a nice place for Mr. Hutt  or members of his clan to chill on hot summer days.  Who knows, maybe it will even provide some protection from the herons, raccoons, crows and kitties who consider Farthing Pond a fun,  locally-owned restaurant and watering hole.  They are true Durham foodies, believe me.  I think that the birds have realized that it’s a nice place to fuel up on their flights from Northgate Park to the  Ellerbe Creek Beaver Pond.

For various reasons, amphibian populations have been on the decline for the last few decades, including  the extinction of some species.   It makes me happy to know that we are encouraging amphibian conservation here in Durham.  Even if you don’t have a pond at your house,  constructing a toad house  does not take a lot of effort.  Remember that frogs and toads  like to eat mosquitoes, and are a natural form of pest control.

For further reading, check out the Amphibian Specialist Group’s website.