Mr. and Mrs. Platypus and Tadpoles

It all started in the spring of 2012.  A bright green pair of tree frogs took up residence in a barrel on our front porch that collects water from the overhang of the roof. In the bright sun, their coloration sometimes appeared to change to pale green or white.  In the quiet of the evenings they serenaded each other and us, with an assortment of sounds, depending on whether they were well down inside the barrel or up on the rim.  I keep an empty ice cream bucket in the barrel for watering my potted porch plants, but often had to scrounge up something else to use, as one of the frogs would usually be sitting in the pail floating around in the half full barrel of water as if on a lily pad.  The other would be somewhere on the inside of the dry part of the barrel.  Occasionally one, or both would come up to peek at the big world outside their barrel; that is, when there weren’t kids standing over the barrel exclaiming about the new porch residents. They later became dubbed as Platypuses, by our grandson, Truxton, so I will call them Mr. and Mrs. Platypus.

ImageAll was well for the Platypuses throughout the horrible drought of the summer of 2012, for though the water in the barrel came close to the bottom, it never totally emptied and Mrs. Platypus continued to enjoy the tranquility of her ice cream bucket lily pad even as it steadily descended with the water level.  (One would have to assume that Mr. Platypus, being the gentleman…er…frog… would let Mrs. Platypus enjoy the relaxation of the ride and he would dutifully take the barrel side, which also gave him strategic opportunity to guard, if frogs do such things.)  The occasional noise of the children (ok, adults, too), who checked on them rarely daunted them, and if they did leave the barrel on rare occasion it was not for long.  The little green pair seemed blissfully unaware that there was a very severe drought just outside their barrel.  If the very warm water temperature was any indicator to them of lack of rain and a scorching summer, they paid no mind and continued on their lazy existence, lavishly devouring any mosquito larvae that happened to hatch there, and thus doing sacrificial duty to our family’s porch life.

Finally, in early August, came the much prayed for rain.  Torrential!  Five inches in a few hours came down in sheets.  The gutters pieces that send the rain water into the barrels, were pouring it in so fiercely, and the water in the barrel filled and was crashing over the side so wildly, that the little pair moved out in haste.  I watched as the last one hopped down the length of the porch temporarily finding shelter under our lawn mower.  Everyone was saddened that our six month residents had departed so abruptly, but hoped they would return.  But alas, they did not.   With our upcoming move, we would likely never see them again.

A couple weeks later, as we continued to make use of the barrel water, Tony noticed tiny black things darting about.  Tadpoles!  I wasted little time in attaching myself to the idea of taking a few of them with us when we moved, as a tribute to our dearly missed little pets.  After all, the barrels may get dumped, anyway.  I spent a good deal of time as a teenager (along with a good friend of mine, who also lived near the Yadkin Creek), raising frogs and salamanders, and doing many other acts of heroism to helpless  insects who crossed my path.  So, this project is a nostalgic one.   And Tony seems to enjoy such projects, too.  I am sure these eventual frogs will be helpful in my future garden, as well.

Our grandchildren, became enthusiastic about the idea of watching tadpoles grow, and Truxton somehow confused them with platypuses.  The name stuck.  He has talked of nothing but getting the platypuses out of the barrel, so today was his big day.  With rain forcast all day because of Hurricane Isaac, I didn’t want the barrels to overflow the tadpoles out, so I had extra incentive to have fun with the grandkids while they were here today.  Nevermind, my list.  This is just fun.


Here Kinsley, Sophie and Truxton watched me use Tony’s net to “fish” out some out from the barrow.  Sophie does not seem too thrilled with the contents of the net.  We did this in haste, as the roof overhang is dripping large drops of water on our heads consistently, even though there is a lull in the rain.


Then we put the tadpoles  into a bucket for separating debris, before putting them into an aquarium we found stored in the cellar.


Don’t ask why an aquarium  was in the cellar, because I don’t know.  I put a little fresh rain water from a barrel in the aquarium.  Truxton stands transfixed before the baby “platypuses”.   They are very tiny at this point.   I believe paternal wheels are turning in his head here.

Then after googling what tadpoles eat, besides each other (only when hungry), we prepared to boil some lettuce for them.  After all, I am not about watching a new sort of hunger games in my living room.


Kinsley and Sophie dumped the lettuce in the pot for about 5 or 10 minutes of boiling to soften it.


We retrieved the  now soggy lettuce and put it on a cutting board.


Then I chopped it up into itsy pieces.


After cooling, I put the soggy lettuce in a couple quart size ziploc bags, separating the lettuce a bit, so I will be able to pull out small clumps, and it is now ready to freeze.  We should only have to feed them a couple times I think.  Overfeeding will make the water dirty.


Here Kinsley puts in a very tiny amount of soggy lettuce.  I have seen a few tiny wiggly mosquito larvae, as well, but they will eat that, so I won’t bother getting it out.


We will update on the progeny of Mr. and Mrs. Platypus during the coming weeks!  Thank you, Jacob and Hannah, for your photographic efforts.


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