where the (frog)boys are for winter

frogboy-tissue-boxA NUMBER OF YOU HAVE WRITTEN in expressing concerns for the welfare of my various and sundry frogboys now that cold temperatures are upon us. No worry, they are tucked safe inside my new custom copper-trimmed tissue dispenser (above). OK, so that’s a big fat lie, but can you believe how gorgeous it is? And do you really want to know where the (frog)boys are? Read on.

The less scientific part first: When I picked up my mail Friday, there was a box from Shandell’s, a store not far from me whose owner, Susan Schneider, makes astonishing lampshades out of vintage wallpaper and handmade papers and fabrics…or at least that’s her primary business. I was expecting a lampshade I’d ordered not long ago, but unless she’d dehydrated it, no way my big shade was in that little Priority Mail box.


Susan’s business motto is: “Things that make you smile,” and she could not be more correct.  Imagine how big my smile was when out of the mystery box came her surprise, no-special-occasion gift: my own custom tissue-box cover, made from decoupaged, downloaded images of my dollface frogboys from A Way to Garden, where Susan is a regular visitor. You can have a memory box of your own images, too (or maybe of the frogboys someday if Susan and I can just locate their slippery talent agent, who apparently is submerged in the back pools with the boys or otherwise unavailable at present to negotiate usage rights).

Yes, that’s where the boys spend the winter–underwater–unless there’s a prolonged thaw or they need a very infrequent gulp of air and come to the surface (looking, frankly, stoned out of their minds). Frogs have no way to keep warm otherwise, so they go into a state of hibernation below the frost line, such as at the bottom of a body of water, either well dug into the muck or (in my two predominant species, green and bull) preferring to sleep just nestled lightly in it. They turn a dark, lifeless brown to match the litter and muck down there, lie flat with their legs outstretched as if dead, and proceed to breathe very, very slowly–through their skin. It’s as if they are barely alive.

The key (as with overwintering fish) is that the water must not freeze completely, which would suffocate the hibernating pond life. I float a submersible de-icer in each pool all winter to keep a hole open in the ice and provide for this critical gas exchange. What wattage you’ll need depends on the surface measurement and water volume of your pond, and also on what Zone you’re in.

Peepers and toads have their own systems, burrowing to safety in the ground, in cracks and crevices or deep leaf litter and other debris, but if I’m looking for my main men I know where they’ll be: in the little pools out back, sleeping off one hell of a summer together.


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