Thursday, April 09, 2009


Today's Thursday Theme is Egg.

So here is some more about my frogspawn.

There is a nostalgia about frogspawn and tadpoles, for me (more than easter eggs or chocolate bunnies in fact) as something associated with childhood, with primary school classrooms and spring and family outings to countryside ponds with jam-jars at the ready.

Outings such as this in fact:

which is from Further Doings of Milly-Molly-Mandy by Joyce Lankester Brisley,  this copy given to me by my Auntie Chris and Uncle Pete on the occasion of my 4th birthday.

Milly-Molly-Mandy went on exciting excursions like this with her friend Billy Blunt 

and what better time for such excursions than a Bank-holiday Monday?
(do other countries have Bank holidays?)

She did other largely more girly things with "little-friend-Susan" and was quite a well-rounded and appealing character.  

I am sure that you'll be reassured to know that Milly-Molly-Mandy and Billy Blunt did indeed catch tadpoles, and also that they later returned the tadpoles to their natural habitat.

Last year my frog pool had no frogspawn or tadpoles, though I did catch sight of a shy but reassuring frog or two, just once or twice in late summer and autumn.

The year before that I had imported tadpoles from a friend's pond into my little pool where they grew and wriggled and thrived and then hopped away.

This coincided, 2 years ago,  with my mother's last few weeks of living and dying - and I find myself, actually, without words - though I'd intended to write something about the significance, for me, of the tadpoles and froglets and process and season.

But I do (as nearly always) have a picture - this was taken last Sunday, a week after the "emergence"  of the frogspawn: 

I can age-stamp the spawn in this photo fairly exactly because I was a witness to the process of its production - not intentionally, I hasten to add.  It took me a while to realise there were two frogs there, not just the one.... they were so still!  and I did then creep away not wanting to disturb them - or to appear "disturbed" myself.

This reminded me that when I was a student, years ago, I came across mention of a textbook of Roman Catholic casuistry - a book listing and categorising sins.  
Recommended bedtime reading in the C17th no doubt.

This particular text apparently stated that watching the procreation of mammals and/or large animals was a mortal sin [Big Bad = eternal damnation unless "dealt with" through the sacraments of the Church]  but watching small animals or insects or birds "at it" was only a venial sin [Little, Less bad = purgatory at worst].

I can't remember if frogs were mentioned specifically.  I imagine they came in the latter category.
Lets hope so, eh?

Since I took this photo, the frogspawn are significantly more tadpole-shaped, and the blobby jelly seems to be almost completely dissolved. So I suppose they are actually nearly egg-less now - hatched, in fact -  but they don't yet show any signs of wiggling.

I check on them daily.

I think part of the reason this is so all fascinating is that frogspawn and tadpoles allow us transparently to observe a process which is normally hidden away secretly,  inside the egg or womb.  We can watch and wonder at the whole amazing transformation from blobby egg to springy spronginess.

how fantastic!
I will keep you updated.


Tom said...

I think just saying 'frog spawn' is a sin in the Catholic church.
Have you seen that chemical runoff from neighborhood lawns is mutating frogs in subdivision ponds? Weird.

Coffee Messiah said...

Cute book and great you're enjoying the pond.

We used to have a log in our backyard growing up and there was an ant farm living there.

Never needed to send away for the plastic container to watch ; )

R.L. Bourges said...

Tom is right. Actually, the pope just upgrade the act of thinking the words "frog spawn" to mortal sin category. So reading your blog, I believe, makes us damned. All of us.

Oh well. In the meantime, yes, we did have Bank holiday in Canada when I was a child and perhaps they still do in English-speaking parts of the country.

I love the book and the illustrations.

Here's to froglets and may they prosper!

cheers, letty.

Dumdad said...

That frogspawn photo triggers childhood memories for me. Ah, happy days spent searching for the jelly-like stuff by the riverbanks.

tut-tut said...

Very meditative and poetical; circuitous, really, in a way. I like the way you've spaced your thoughts, giving weight to them.

But why the three names?

Leah said...

Delightful post, really. I had forgotten about Milly-Molly-Mandy! Thank you for reminding me.

You're right about the transparency of the frog-spawning process. I marvel over it every spring, from the first singing of the mating frogs all the way through the growth of the tadpoles.

Akelamalu said...

Summer expeditions jam jar in hand - ah the memories! :)

Gary said...

I still have Milly-Molly-Mandy on my wishlist. After reading this excerpt I think I should really order it. Our students are learning about the life cycle of a frog in science class so it would fit. Also, I believe it is good for these city kids to hear and learn about the experiences of children in different places and times. I read them a few Carolyn Haywood books. They loved them. They seem similar to M-M-M.

When I was younger I had the opportunity to collect tadpoles and watch them grow. I really would love to get some for the classroom but it never worked out. Where would we put them afterwards?

Brian Miller said...

what a lovely book. i remember as a young kid watching the frogs and their eggs...fascinating. i guess i should repent for that and laughing so much at the comments surrounding it. lol.

Wings said...

We used to love watching the tadpoles that lived in a huge water barrel near our house. Great post!

California Girl said...

Haven't thought about collecting tadpoles in YEARS! When I was a child, my dad would take my brother and I to a park in Malibu Canyon in the hills on the way to the beach. It was grand. (This is where they later filmed the MASH series). Great big pond with a tiny river running through it. There we would catch tadpoles in jars and bring them home to watch them grow. My dad always had ideas about nature lessons. Thank you for reminding me of a very great time in my life. By the way, Malibu Lake is still there and still the same.

ArtSparker said...

That last photo is a bit a quiet storm, isn't it?

ArtSparker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
willow said...

My kids loved to catch tagpoles and bring them up to the house and watch them grow, then let them loose in the river again.

The Clever Pup said...

Springy spronginess indeed!

I love the illustrations from your book! Remind me of Rupert in his wellies.

The term Bank Holiday is not used in Canada, but we all know what you mean. We have several of these long-weekends throughout the year.

Rinkly Rimes said...

Eggs with legs! Great!

Ronda Laveen said...

I always loved tadpole adventures in the spring when I was young. It still holds a fascination. I think you are right in that we get to
SEE the progression of life that is always so hidden. To watch the miracle of life is awe inspiring.

Steve said...

I've never quite understood what a bank holiday is. Is it just a business holiday? Does it commemorate anything?

I used to catch tadpoles as a kid. When we had heavy summer rains in Florida they would magically appear in the big puddles and ditches, and it seems in my memory like they only lasted a few days. I imagine being in a puddle they had to metamorphose pretty quickly before their spawning ground dried up. I shudder to think how much torment I put those little tadpoles through, trying to catch them! :(

Avid Reader said...

we used to go on expeditions with jam jars... following brooks and creeks... we brought home all sorts of little things. My mother was horrified to find a mouse dressed in doll clothes once on my sister's bedside table.

Mrsupole said...

Thank you for the glimpses into the book and I found the frogs in the pond. Yes it is fun to watch the tadpoles and would be nice if I had a pond to do it in but oh well, I know that will not happen.

Thank you for sharing and I got to learn something too.

God bless.

Squirrel said...

that top illustration, the little girl looks like you as a child-- ready to spend the entire day out of doors!

IntangibleArts said...

That book is a marvelous specimen. And stirring memories of stamping through the Maryland woods in search of salamanders. Of which there were plenty...

Barbara said...

I'm so excited about your baby-frogs-in-the-making. This reminds me of my childhood sitting down at the creek next to my house "fishing" for tadpoles. It was an idyllic time!

lettuce said...

i can't believe it! I wrote a whole page of replies to each of your comments, and it is gone..... forgotten.... where is it?

well poo to that.

am now a bit put out, might return later and try to reconstruct amusing and insightful replies

might just go and drink wine and catch up with re-watching of Six Foot Under.

tony said...

Gathering Frog-Spawn was a passion when i was little.Happy Memories!Have A Grand Easter.Best Wishes

Baino said...

It was such a kid thing to do when I lived in England. I'm sure it's around here but potching about in creeks is well . .a little dangerous around here. Spawn in your pond is a great sign of an ecologically balanced back yard. We have green tree frogs but I don't know where they spawn . .haha . . .in a green tree I suppose!

lettuce said...

thanks for all your comments - i don't after all feel up to the challenge of reconstructing or re-writing all the [witty and insightful, obviously] individual replies which got lost in blogger yesterday

but I love all these responses! and so many people with childhood tadpole memories! rivers, creeks ponds and even puddles (!)

Eggs with legs made me laugh.
and the little mouse in dolls-clothes. weird.

I don't know why M-M-M had the 3 names, maybe just a sort of word-play? it is very nostalgic now as portrayal of a certain English ethos of a certain era - would certainly be very different for your NYC kids Gary! (btw, do you know about InsectLore? Fab classroom butterfly farms, if you are doing life-cycles)

i'm somewhat envious about the salamanders and green tree frogs!

and Steve, I've discovered that Bank Holidays in the UK have some kind of historical connection with cricket..... (also sometimes linked to "occasions" eg. Easter and Labour Day)

Lynne said...

Last year while hiking with Luke down the street we came upon a gooey glob of something in a large puddle. Upon closer inspection we realized it was a huge string of eggs! I had never seen this kind of thing before. His dad told us later that they were probably salamander eggs. I took some photos and will send you a pic of them privately. I felt so stupid for not knowing what they were .... but Luke didn't either and he's a teen! Oh well....

I'd love to have some frog porn to watch!

Reya Mellicker said...

Oh what a great portent!

Spring just isn't spring without a look at your pond, Lettuce.

Look at all those little wrigglers! Bravo!

Megan said...

I have a great memory of going with my friend to collect 'pond scum' for biology class. We spent so much time laughing we got hardly any good specimens!

Yes, please update on the little froggies as they grow - it will be fun to see.

Kris said...

Poor old pond scum.

Pod said...

no tears in the tadpole pond this year. just reflected smiles from the pod clouds that float overhead

Crafty Green Poet said...

oh gosh I'd about forgotten about Milly Molly Mandy! I've seem some wonderful frogspawn this year and some very active frogs, not being Catholic I didn't need to avert my eyes.

Robert said...

What a happy home you provide! Tiny froglings getting ready for this busy world. Yes, please keep us posted!! :-)

mouse (aka kimy) said...

i am so behind on my blog reading.

i love this tt post. we could have a couple hour discussion, there's so much here!

the hunt for frog spawn and tadpoles was a favorite childhood pastime.

oh my, millie-molly-mandy what a mouthful!

well, according to the cauistry, I guess I will be burning in that fiery place I can't count over the years all the mammals procreating i've watched (even capturing on film elephants doing it)

look forward to photographic updates of the pond's progress....

Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) said...

Wonderful post, Lettuce!
Never read Milly Molly Mandy, but it looks like great fun. As for tadpole catching, yes, brings back lots of happy childhood memories here too!
And yes, we also have bank holidays - only we call them public holidays! :-)

Antipo Déesse said...

Hello Lettuce!

You certainly took me back down Memory Lane with M.M.M (goodness, didn't they use a lot of hypens in those days?!)

Frogspawn collection was a revelation for me upon arriving in the UK at the ripe old age of 21... perhaps we didn't have frogs in NZ in the Seventies, or perhaps I just never noticed them...

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