The Farm Chronicles: Tadpoles

Every spring in Ohio was like a new day dawning. The air had a crispness to it. It was warming up after a usual cold winter. The ground was soft and spongy from the heavy snow and abundant bone-chilling rain. There was always new birth. I remember holding lambs in my lap while sitting on the register in the kitchen floor blowing the hot air from our fuel oil furnace, warming the lamb and me from the chill of the morning. We had one register in the hallway upstairs heating all three bedrooms. It was usually really cold up there during the winter. Especially, when you had to jump up early to do the chores. My feet, warmed from layers of blankets, hitting that cold linoleum floor always experienced a true wake up call.

March was usually still pretty cold. The morning ice was thawing after freezing nights as the sunrise brought with it some sense of warmth. Footsteps on the way to the barn were crunching through the crust of water mixed with mud, each footprint filling with cold muddy water after our calf-high rubber barn boots moved on to the next step. The barn door didn’t slide, it had to be pulled open, often yanking against the ground which had swollen up and frozen overnight. The horses and cows inside would welcome us with a “moo” or “whinny,” probably more of a reminder that they were hungry and expecting to be fed than a “happy to see you” greeting.

Along the latter part of March or early April, the creek would start to flow. And the swampy area just East of the house and barn would start to come alive. By the end of April and early May, new life was springing into full gear. My buddy Sonny and I spent a lot of time out by the pond looking for turtles and frogs. We would build little rafts or river boats out of pieces of wood and float them with the current down the creek out back, using sticks to keep them from getting caught up on limbs or rocks. The one thing that we always had an eye out for was any kind of water life. There were rarely any fish in the creek. If so, they were minnows. But there were always frogs, frog eggs, salamanders, snakes. A virtual amphibious heaven for two young pioneers.

We were fascinated with gathering up tadpoles in fruit jars and watching them over the weeks to grow legs, lose their tails and become frogs. In the Ohio springtime, there were a lot of large mudpuddles and somehow those tadpoles would end up in those as well. Every year we would hunt for tadpoles and every year we were just as spellbound watching them mature. It was a science project before we even knew about having science projects. New life in the spring. Lambs and calves and foals and tadpoles were part of the new life. It’s kind of like putting off Old Man Winter and, as in Colossians 3:10, “have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.” God’s creation is amazing and marvelous. On the farm, we were often reminded through the smallest of things.

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Bill Wilson