FROG Magic Reflections – 2021

By Margot Fass
November 1, 2021
Our first pond: Photo credit Robert Corby

What a year we have had!  It has been so much fun, and we are looking forward to your support for our exciting last event in 2021, Giving Tuesday, on November 30th in 2021.  All of the things we did, do, and will do, are thanks to benefactors and volunteers like you. 

Special Recognition

Featured in 55+ and as seen in Lancaster Farming.  

Two publications ran stories about A Frog House: 55 Plus, April 27, 2021 “Margot Fass – A Passion for Frogs”  http://www.roc55.com/features/margot-fass-a-passion-for-frogs/

and

Lancaster Farming, September 11, 2021, “Frogs: An Important Part of the Ag Ecosystem” https://afroghouse.org/wp-content/uploads/2021-09-11-Lancaster-Farming-scaled.jpg

Many thanks to Lynette M. Loomis and Deborah Jean Sargeant respectively for their attention to detail and humor in broadcasting the seed of agroecology.  

Program with the Pittsford and Penfield Community Libraries

The Pittsford and Penfield Libraries collaborated with Megan Meyer and Mary Moore of Color Your Community Green through Climate Solutions Accelerator in putting on a series of 4 webinars with the title “Encouraging Nature in Your Own Backyard.”  My own small contribution was last, on February 25, entitled “First Frogs in Our Own Backyard”. It was a fun look at what is required to make our property suitable for frogs.  You can see the talk on our website here.

Our first frog, Dwight. Photo Credit, Lindsay Graham

It has taken three years at 65 State Street, home of A Frog House, to create an appropriate habitat, by replacing the chemical laden dirt with good organic mulch and invasive non native plants with pollinator friendly indigenous flora.  When Lindsay decided to buy her home from her landlord in the Autumn of 2019, giving A Frog House permanent accommodations, it was the thrill of our lives to see our first green frog (“Dwight”), featured for the February presentation.

Habitat for frogs

Permaculture Planting Playshop. Photo credit Bonnie Abrams

Things may seem to be going horribly wrong, when all of a sudden, the situation turns around, and everything is all right again. It’s the magic of FROG.

For example, In March, Patty Love of Barefoot Ecological Design gave a webinar, Forest Garden in a Nutshell, Part I, Basics of Permaculture, which you can see on the website here. This was Patty’s introduction for a planned hands-on playshop in May, Forest Garden in a Nutshell, Part 2, Bringing it Home.  

As it turned out, we really did bring it home, because after the Village mayoral election, our plan for the demonstration project in the newly named Robert C. Corby Arboretum was scuttled. We were unsuccessful in getting the town to do the teaching on the Erie Canal Nature Preserve as well, so we had no other choice than gather at A Frog House Property.  All the publicity was delayed due to bureaucracy and politics, so we were lucky to have a great though small group of women who paid to assist in the project for the opportunity to learn from Patty. A special shout-out to our gardeners, Christine Temp, Anita Brucker, Finegan Hayes and Deborah Cheek. Board member Pearl Brunt and former member Eileen Buholtz attended as well.

Some plants are already being eaten.  Photo Credit Bonnie Abrams

It is great to have this presentation garden on A Frog House property, so Sunday visitors can learn more about how beautiful living with nature, rather than altering it, can be. It’s not so terrific that I can see the leaves disappearing before my eyes, as the chipmunks, squirrels and rabbits nibble the tender foliage of our baby native plants. Giving them their own garden of petunias and lettuce was not at all sufficient to satiate their appetites. I have lost three red bud trees, drooping onions, aronea, beach plum, coneflowers, and countless others.  Grrrrr.  After clearly not being able to keep up with the rodents with wire cones around the flowers, I am dedicated to sprinkling the remaining defenseless wannabe pollinator attractors from my newly purchased gallon jug of Cayenne pepper.  

Special Events

Scavenger Hunt during a heat wave. 

People were warned to stay in on June 27.  But grandmother Betsy Roman ventured out with her two granddaughters, who had the time of their lives and turned out to be big winners!   Little Kristen, age 6, was the first to spot a pair of large green frogs (“Clive” and “Margeaux”)  that had moved into our new pond, built this past spring. Team member Bonnie Abrams and I were practically in tears with joy, that they would appear that day to that child. To others, frogs may be common, but for us, it was a miracle. All summer 4 smaller green froglets basked on the lily pads in the sun, or came popping out of holes in the rocks.

Clive and Margeaux.  Photo credit Bonnie Abrams

The non-toxic pond liner apparently has a leak in it, which we have to fix, but it is easy to keep adding water (that sits in bins for a week to dechlorinate from the tap).  Visiting kids like to help fill the pond with little buckets.  A second pond is being built next to the first.  

(Apparently the news of our wonderful habitat has spread to other amphibians, because a grey tree frog hitched a ride from Gallea’s on a pot of mums, to come to our house.  An American Toad traveled from Bristols in mulch to join us as well)

Ferns, a good shelter for frogs.  Photo Credit  Emma Roman

But back to the Scavenger Hunt:  Kristen’s older sister Emma, age 11, brought back excellent photographs from her search, answered the questions, and walked away with first prize.

The Scavenger Hunt activity can still be started from A Frog House.  Visitors can ask for our package, designed and put together by team designer Katherine Denison, with questions crafted by event coordinator Bonnie Abrams and and our generous volunteer, Kathryn Eible, both dedicated biophiles, as well as with Kathryn’s elegant photos.  We can arrange a biologist to guide small groups through Frog Pond Trail for this scouting adventure.

Enough Frog House tee shirts for everyone! Photo Credit Lindsay Graham

Fantastic volunteers have come from all around, some from seeing us in the news or on the internet, and some just attracted from the towpath.  Bonnie’s connections to a Calkins Road Middle School teacher brought in rookies Josh, Mackenzie, Douglas, Grace, Carter, and Natalie, pictured above but not in that order, for the Scavenger Hunt.  On this very hot day, after doing a fine job for our guests, the students all had a great old time soaking themselves and each other with the hose in their new shirts.

Our third annual Froggy Birthday Party

Besides the delicious Green Ice Cream from Pittsford Dairy, live music by Bonnie Abrams, Matthew Fass, Sam Harris, Bernie Heveron, and Jennifer and Tom Maloney, and ecology related activities for young and old,  we announced the winners of our first annual Art and Poetry contests.  

Visitors to our Froggy Birthday Party, August 8, 2021.  Photo Credit Bonnie Abrams

A Frog House Poetry contest, thanks to the outreach of our good poet friend and volunteer Jennifer Maloney, brought in excellent contributions from 30 persons, from the United States, of course, and as far as Australia, Canada, Contra Costa, India (2), Ireland, Nigeria (3), Switzerland, and Taiwan. They were incredibly thoughtful, all winners in their own right, and deciding how to select first, second and third prizes (generously donated by Jennifer), was very difficult. We made our initial cut based on which bards actually followed the rules of submission. See the winning submissions here.

Mazi reading her poem with Matthew’s Help. Photo Credit, Jennifer Patterson

Poor Dorothy Ross, our faithful artist and volunteer, had been sick, as was her mother on the day of celebration, so she was only able to judge the submissions that came in.  But that didn’t mean that the local artists who came to the birthday party didn’t have fun!

Matthew Fass announcing our adult and under 18 artist winners, Judith Judson cutting up and Jeanavessa Costillo  amazed at what she sees. Photo credit Jennifer Patterson

Celebrating Diversity:  Our first Asian Tea Tasting

Happy Earth Tea setting. Photo Credits Robert Corby and Jennifer Patterson respectively

Our October surprise listed on our events calendar turned out to be as amazing to us as to our visitors, our first Asian Tea Tasting.  It was a last minute but at capacity occasion with Happy Earth Tea owners Mary Boland and Niraj Lama.  The demonstration was the idea of long time friend Diane Macchiavelli, founder and owner of Brighton Pathways to Health.  Diane also was a generous contributor to make the occasion such an elegant affair.  The day was incredibly gorgeous for a final flourish of grace. We are grateful to our sponsors and donors who supported the activity, and learned not only about teas from China, Japan, and India but hopefully a bit about frog myths, fables and threats to frogs in these countries. 

“‘In the agrarian communities of various states across India, there is a strong belief that a marriage ceremony performed between two frogs will please Indra, the Hindu rain god. There have been reports of such weddings being organized to bring rainfall in times of drought. In 2016, a complete ceremony was performed between a female frog and a bamboo puppet in Assam in the hopes of good rainfall.’”  [We don’t know if this actually worked]   Myth from Scroll.in, an article well worth reading.

Making New Friends

A Frog House is a magnet for meeting the most wonderful people, most of whom come up from the canal. We have had close to 150 Sunday visitors in the last five months, even when the weather is not perfect.  There is something about the Big Blue Frog playing Lucy in her 5 cent psychiatry booth that appeals to young and old alike.

Our most lasting and faithful visitor is a young woman with a bachelor’s degree in law from Ecuador, and an MBA from RIT.  Belen Patiño, who has not yet gotten her green card to work, was dying to have something to do. She fell in love with A Frog House and we with her. She has volunteered to be our Board Treasurer, and is keeping our team organized, besides doing no end of work just for the love of it.  

Within a few days, two men, Jim Moyle and Dan Bigelow respectively, lingered on the canal path, and I fished each of them up.  They then brought their families, each including one wife and two daughters.  Jim and Robin moved from Florida in December, and the Bigelow’s were traveling from Utah back home to Vermont in their refurbished van. (Dan said “one is never too old to be a hippy”.)

Blythe, Britni, Dan, and Poet (front) Bigelow, all the way from Utah just to visit us! Photo Credit Lindsay Graham

Lindsay, who has an uncanny ability to attract and match just the right people at the right time, immediately knew she had to get these kinsfolk together.  Within an hour of her decision, both families came back, each independently bringing a quart of gorgeous strawberries.  Lindsay rose to the occasion and the next evening held a spontaneous picnic with rhubarb strawberry pie. We heard Blythe’s masterful harp playing and watched Poet’s backward flips.  Jim said he can do backward flips but didn’t quite demonstrate them.  Lindsay now has a new adopted twin sister, and biking companion,  Robin Moyle. Daughters Ava and Lila are perfect puppy and baby sitters (we only have the former, but if you have youngsters, get in touch…..)

Robin Moyle, wife, mother, important donor and friend as well as facilitator and head of the World Peace Game with Polly and Lindsay Graham with Binky.  Photo credit Jennifer Patterson

Outreach to Rochester Students

Melanie Jones appeared from the towpath one day.  I was delighted to see her, as she has been one of my best zumba and yoga teachers at the Monroe YMCA, before that Y tragically closed.  

Melanie, Tutor Coordinator at School 35, was looking for an adventure for her youngsters from the Wilson Wondercamp Summer Sizzle, a collaboration between Third Presbyterian Church, where she is also Director of Arts and Enrichment, and Wilson Commencement Park.   This led to another first for A Frog House;  a special educational event for almost a dozen boys and girls between the ages of 6 and 13 from the Rochester School District, planned by Bonnie Abrams and a delightful young volunteer, Hannah Pickert, an environmental enthusiast and teacher, also fished from the towpath on Father’s Day.

Camper fishing for trash from a “pond”.  Photo credit Bonnie Abrams.

With the help of board member Pearl Brunt, and her daughters Sophie and Naomi, everyone completed two ecological activities and had sandwiches on the lawn, before going off to the Pittsford Dairy for you know what!  The activities are 2 out of a series of 12 environmental activities A Frog House can offer to schools and clubs.  

Melanie told me later that these preteens, tweens and teens had a great time in spite of the rain (clever Pearl had brought a tent), and learned things they didn’t know, through the two pursuits the team had crafted.  

She added that the time for the kids was engaging, hands on, and felt very much like being at home.  She described the occasion as “unfrogettable”.

Where your money goes

It is important for donors to know that all of the property improvements and maintenance are paid for by me, Margot Fass, because I am a part owner of 65 State Street in Pittsford.  None of your money goes toward anything but programs. Also, all of my own work is volunteer.

It is a privilege to provide a start-up model of suitable land and water habitats for others to emulate or improve upon.  

Your contributions go towards advocacy, collaboration, and education, through Sunday Frog House open houses, activities, and events,  including onsite workshops and celebrations and virtual webinars.  We contribute high quality information and experiences that are tastefully planned, in an attractive and welcoming space. 

As one friend told me recently, “Yours is the only home in the Village of Pittsford that opens your doors to all, and has events that are fun and educational for youngsters and adults alike.”  Amy Vlietstra, Pittsford Village activist and advocate and friend to the Board.

Liz Ayers and her husband set up a sanctuary for the toads, gray tree frogs and green frogs tadpoles from their pool cover. Photo Credit, Bonnie Abrams

You might well ask “but how can I feel that I am contributing directly to helping the frogs?” A Frog House is a gateway and recruitment of others to improve their own properties by going chemical-free, reducing their lawns, and filling their gardens with native non-invasive pollinator plants and inviting ponds.  Pittsford can become a model village of caring.  That is the way Doug Tallamy envisions the formation of his Homegrown National Park.  Many people will  get started doing things on their own, but A Frog House can also provide direct assistance, such as helping others to rescue tadpoles from swimming pool covers.  

Here, culled from a few of the many resources regarding saving frogs, is the following list.  What better gift can you give to your local friends, neighbors, and relatives than a coupon to improve the welfare, not only of frogs, but of all living things, which can be executed individually or with help from A Frog House?   

We hope to see more and more plants like these, especially in our green spaces, around the village and town. Next year A Frog House will add a new focus on preserving wetlands and ponds, while continuing our work of the last 3 years as well.

Native is beautiful. Golden Rod, Joe Pye Weed, Boneset. Photo Credit, Robert Corby.

Come by any Sunday afternoon, weather permitting! And feel free to donate time or money. It all counts.