Small Homestead Creatures

This autumn there are more members of our homestead than ever before. Small creatures have turned up to enlighten us on just what awaits us when we take time to know our land. Butterflies, hummingbird moths, lady bugs, dragonflies, brown toads, cicadas and more find home here.


A little over a month ago a small green frog decided to climb high up in the hazelnut bush to rest and find something nourishing. He was about two inches long and with goldish, brown markings, we assumed he was a green tree frog. But when another, much smaller one appeared on the hanging baskets, small enough to sit on the basket rim, we were obliged to Google his real name.

Googling can be a challenge at times. Yes, it seems there is something about everything in the universe floating about in the space known as the web but to find it may take numerous tries. After finally going the most direct route of searching for “there is a green frog in our hanging basket” we found that our fellow homesteaders were Cope’s Gray Treefrogs.

A map showed them to be prolific in the entire eastern half of the country. They can be mottled gray (hence their name), brown or green, depending on their surroundings. There are light colored spots under its large eyes and a tiny splash of yellow on the undersides of legs. They can change color in seconds when going from place to place.

Sticky toe pads enable the frogs to climb surfaces to heights that startle us as we discover them three, four, five feet or more off the ground. This elevated view gives them ample airspace to grab flies, moths, tree crickets and more for supper.

Our frogs were content to rest during the day. They posed willingly as we took their photos for our family scrapbook. While humans are in the getting-ready-for-winter mode, we wondered how these creatures would fare. What a surprise to learn exactly how they survive the winter.

After burying themselves in leaf debris or under rocks, they freeze. Yes, freeze as in frozen to death. This marvel of nature produces large quantities of glycerol. That is then changed into glucose and circulated through the frog’s cells. The glucose acts like an antifreeze. With it in their cells, the rest of the frog’s fluids freezes and its heartbeat and breathing stop. It is frozen. When warm spring air circulates across the ground, the frog thaws out!

None of our fellow roommates is more intriguing than the praying mantis. Long, lean and green, they have taken over the large clematis on the west side of the house. But in the evening and early morning they can be found on the house itself, probably soaking up the residual warmth on the bricks. They are not as quiet as the tree frog. Their large eyes are compound; they also have three small simple eyes, so they can see us better than we see them. Head rotating to make sure we keep our distance, they take an ambush stance as we snap their photo. Their heads are triangle-shaped, their snout is beak-like, their long front legs are large and designed for catching and holding prey. Sitting upright, those legs are folded in a praying stance, hence the name praying mantis.

Homesteading involves more than planting, more than harvesting, more than living off the land. It means sharing our piece of land with all God’s creatures, however small they may be.

“On this land we call home, it is a joyous moment when we come eye to eye.” C. L. Moore 2015.

Published on Oct 21, 2015

Grit Magazine

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