Life in the Slow Lane: Toads

The other day I sadly swept a small, dead, completely desiccated toad out of my basement. I love my toads. I love them despite the fact they make the weirdest sound of all the creatures on the farm.

Wait, I take that back. I have a blue heron who has begun spending the night on the property, which is really new and different. And dangerous, because I also have a pair of great horned owls who hoot from the roof on a regular basis. The owls are either hunting or trying to chase off the heron, because it has flown past my window these last few nights making panicked "grok-grok-grok" cry. Now, that is a dinosaurishly strange sound.

As for my toads, they croak like they've got a sore throat and are only opening one corner of their mouths to let the sound out. It's kind of a "Brrrr-ACK!" Get a chorus of that going and I start closing the windows.

Close the windows, yes. Remove the toads? Never! I want as many of them around my house as possible.

When I first moved in, the house was infested with crickets and something the locals called 'waterbugs.' Whatever you call it, it's still a big roach. There were also tons of medium-sized brown beetles that remind me of Japanese beetles but lack the iridescence. With a basement that's buried in the earth except for the doorways, they made their way inside through every crack and crevice down there.

However, I was patient, quick with the heel of my shoe, but patient.

Sure enough, the toads arrived and went to town on those meaty 'waterbugs.' Slowly, steadily, their population grew. There are now relatively few crickets and no more 'waterbugs' in my basement. The only beetles that make it inside are the ones that fly through my usually open door. Most importantly, Moosie has learned the difference between a frog, which is delicious, and a toad, which will make him froth at the mouth for a few minutes should he attempt to eat it.

This year I noticed I seem to have several toad bloodlines at work.

There are the usual dirt-brown toads and the new, F-1 hybrids (I'm making that up) that are almost ivory colored. A dozen tiny babies of that color appeared in the barn this year. It's an improvement. They're bright enough against the concrete that I don't step on them by mistake.

What I don't want is toads in the house. Not because I couldn't use them on the inside as well as on the outside, or because of their hoarse cry, or that they leave fairly large (given their size) turds wherever it suits them. It's because, although toads don't need water to keep their skin moist like the bullfrogs in my pond, they need water to drink.

Putting out water bowls for the toads would only encourage my cats to see how many of those bowls they could tip over each day.

So I make regular rounds, checking the quiet corners and looking under the dressers, hoping to relocate my amphibian visitors before mummification sets in. Yep. I'm toadly a fan of toads.

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