Prairie View

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Cottonwood Fuzz and Other Buzz

It's a Cottonwood fuzz kind of day.  I see the cotton drifting past the house, carried on invisible, silent air currents.  Bees forage in the honeysuckle by day and sphinx (hummingbird) moths dip and sip gracefully at dusk.  The air feels heavy and humid, and the sun retreats and presents itself  by turns.  The soil is still moist from our recent rains, and the temperatures are mild and the wind is light.

I love knowing that the grain is getting plump in the wheat heads in this ideal growing weather.  In the garden, the lettuce heads enlarge and stay sweet and crisp.  Somewhere in the world, weather like this is probably so typical as to become monotonous.  Not here.  Here it's a gift to be treasured on the sixth day after its arrival.


Life and death dramas play out around us constantly.

Tomorrow evening a celebration is planned after church to honor Amos and Anne N.'s 90th birthdays.

John S. Nisly (sewing machine repairman) died today, after having been diagnosed with cancer only last week.  He was married to Sylvia, and was 81 years old.

Lydia Yoder, who is in her upper nineties, recently became ineligible for hospice care, since her condition has been stable for the past six months.  Stable is not to be confused with improving.  She suffers from dementia, has no mobility and requires total care.  Her daughter Rosa is her primary caregiver.

Marian, who died last October, was Lydia's youngest daughter.  On Sunday, Betty Y.  told us in church of the little momento Rosa's granddaughter Jessamy created in honor of Marian.  It was a clay sculpture of a woman kneeling, and serves as a reminder of how Marian's prayers continue to bless all of us who were part of her family, her circle of friends, and her church.


The Marvin Mast family is planning to travel in southern Europe, the Middle East, and in Asia for about a month this summer.  If a certain special grandbaby of ours arrives a few days before the expected time, they might get to see her months or years before we do.


The language arts curriculum review is still underway at the grade school.  Tomorrow the review committee and the grade school staff are meeting to discuss the project.  As part of the committee, I've been immersing myself in perusing information from a variety of sources.  One big surprise is that I found a lot of common ground in "Common Core" standards (the government program of the hour) and in Charlotte Mason's writing from the late 1800s and early 1900s in England.  One notable difference, however, is that Mason has a strong Christian foundation for her educational approach.  People often have a decidedly negative view of Common Core.  Maybe I didn't see enough of it to analyze it accurately, but what I saw of it didn't look horrible to me.  The common ground I found was the idea that the study of language arts ought to be firmly embedded in the study and presentation of material from many disciplines--not heavily or solely dependent on grammar and usage rules in isolation from dealing with meaningful material from other fields.

I'd love to hear from any readers of this blog who have thoughts on ideal language arts curricula, opinions to pass on, or specific curriculum recommendations to make.  In a stroke of genius, Arlyn suggested that we solicit input from local homeschoolers.  Those responses are beginning to come in, and, as I have known for many years, these parents are bound to have more experience than most classroom teachers have in selecting curriuculm, weeding out what doesn't work, and hanging on for dear life to what does work.

I may attend the homeschooling conference this weekend in Wichita.  It's been a long time since I've gone.

Another matter I'd love to hear input on is how Christian schools elsewhere view their relationship to state standards.  Do you try to follow them?  Do you try to exceed them?  Are you familiar with them?

Friday, May 23, 2014

Bird Sightings--May 22, 2014

Yesterday I received another birding account sent to me by Joseph.  Here's the account:

This morning, while working in the garden, I heard a bunting song from the grove that reminded me greatly of the Lazuli X Indigo hybrid's song last year. So, after lunch, I went down to investigate. After seeing a couple y-b [yellow-billed] cuckoos (finally) and some waxwings and Lincoln's sparrows, I progressed into the grove. At first I couldn't find anything except for the resident pair of Blue Grosbeaks and a couple Least Flycatchers, But presently I began to hear the bunting song again. I tracked it down and was disappointed to see a dark blue bunting singing, however it turned around and I was elated to see it had some blotchy white on its underside! It is not the same one as last year, but presumably a backcross, as it is much more like an indigo than a lazuli.
     Lazuli X Indigo are relatively regular hybrids where the range overlaps. But having them nest this far east (as one did last year) is very unusual.
    The sora at our lagoon has remained here since Tuesday, being very tame and unelusive, rather atypical for rails.


The list looks like this:

Lazuli x Indigo Bunting Hybrid
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Cedar Waxwing
Lincoln's Sparrow
Blue Grosbeak
Least Flycatcher

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Huffington Post--Not Huffy Posting

I saw a Facebook link recently to an article in the Huffington Post about Joe Overholt.  Fancy that.  It was written by a younger relative and former student named Steven Denlinger.  He is a free-lance writer.

Everything in the article sounded spot-on, based on my long-distance knowledge of Joe and his twin brother John.  Simple vignettes that captured moments in their lives provided quite enough fodder for chuckles, sighs, and furrowings of the brow.

Their lives were enigmatic, with remarkable giftedness mingling, as it did, with off-the-charts cluelessness  about practical realities.  Joe, for example, was said to speak eight languages fluently, and understand twelve, but he once called someone for help when he found that his steering wheel had been stolen from his car.  When help arrived from some distance away, the steering wheel was found exactly where it belonged, and Joe concluded that he must have mistakenly gotten into the back seat of the car, where, of course, he found no steering wheel.

Pathos is present in the story also.  Both Joe and John had a passion to see others come to salvation through Christ.  They traveled often in foreign countries in an effort to spread the Good News of the Gospel.  Being musically gifted gave them a vision for organizing singing groups to travel along.  The word “organizing” is only an approximate description of what actually occurred.  They were, in fact, famously disorganized, and unable to keep schedules, and anticipate, prevent, or correct problems.  

My house mate and co-teacher in Ohio was along on one of these tours to Mexico and Central America.  Sarah told me that they had stopped in Kansas to pick up Raymond Wagler, who traveled with them.  It was a good thing he was along.  The bus broke down repeatedly, and the Overholts had no money to fix it.  So Raymond reached into his own pocket over and over and paid for repairs so the trip could commence.  In the meantime, the busload of singers did what they could to survive with their dignity intact.  Sarah remembered bathing out of buckets behind blankets strung up among the trees outdoors while they were stranded.  

I have  my own memory of waiting in the wee hours of the morning in the Maranatha church building in Ohio, along with many others who were planning to go to New York City for weekend street meetings.  Several hours later, Joe and a young man from NYC arrived in the bus in which we planned to travel, but there was a problem--with the heaters perhaps?  Everyone who had even the faintest idea of what to do worked on the bus, but no one could fix it, so after a while, the trip was canceled, and we all trailed home again, and Joe and his friend trundled off to Hartville.

Joe lived at times in poverty, and died with no funds left for final arrangements for a funeral and burial. His niece, Carol S., told me that they took up an offering at a family reunion later to cover the costs.

Joe was disillusioned with church matters near the end of his life.  His influence had waned, and despite his best efforts, a decision was made against his will, and he couldn't quite get over it.


I've pondered here before the juxtaposition of giftedness and cluelessness.  I still don't really get how this works, but I find it interesting.

In Denlinger's writing, however, I find something else worth pondering, which I may never have explored here.  In other writings on his blog, Denlinger recounts his journey from Hartville, OH to Los Angeles, CA, and the accompanying move from being Mennonite to being something else.  I'm trying to understand why I feel less empathy for Denlinger's journey than I do for the Overholts.  I could, of course, substitute other names here, for this story has often been told in various forms.  Someone who grows up Mennonite finds that they don't fit in that milieu anymore, for whatever reason, and they detail the journey away--the angst, the search, the discovery, the relief, the reflection, the resolution, which very often sounds like no resolution at all.  Uncertainty, "lostness," bitterness, redirected desperation, inability to function well elsewhere may be present--all of which makes me feel sad and a little embarrassed for them.

What I really wonder is if we couldn't just agree that people who take that journey are deeply flawed human beings--as are those of us who do not take that journey, of course.  I, for one, am decidedly not in awe of how well Denlinger has it all figured out.  Neither am I convinced that he was in bondage as a conservative Mennonite, and that now he is gloriously liberated.  I believe it's entirely possible to believe oneself to be liberated when, in fact, unnoticed, the skies have begun to lower, and all that is clear is the distance a person has put between themselves and their former life.

I'm chuckling, imagining how Denlinger would describe my current situation.  That he would do so specifically about me is highly unlikely, given the fact that he almost certainly does not know that I even exist.  He undoubtedly, however, is just as ready with sweeping categorizations of  circumstances like mine as I am of circumstances like his.  He probably would zero in on how much distance I'm putting between myself and people who live like he does.  So is there any point at all in thinking about what underlies journeys away from and journeys of ongoing immersion in the traditions of one's upbringing?  Is this just a tit for tat exercise?

What do you think?


I don't believe that everyone who leaves the Mennonite church needs pity or rescue.  Neither do I believe that everyone who stays needs pity or rescue.  I am distressed whenever I sense in some people's telling of their story a glossing over of the real losses that accompany their choice, and a burnishing of details concerning life somewhere else.

An unswerving commitment to honesty and continual prayer for a heart that loves God's truth is decisive in determining destiny--for those who stay and for those who leave.

A Dream Job

Below you will find the profile of a graduating senior in Kansas.  I don't know the young man.  I only know the wife of his cousin.  The wife was one of the mentors to the small group of college freshmen I was part of in 1978.  

If you check out this link, you'll see that the young man is handsome too.  He apparently has outstanding academic abilities, but also participated in sports and music.  Nevertheless, what impresses me most is his choice of a dream job.

I'm positive that some people would say this man's dream job would be a waste of his life.  His record so far shows him to have the potential to be a success in a profession or career that could make him rich, and perhaps famous.  How does being a Kansas farmer mesh with being a person of stellar abilities?  Perfectly.  Thanks for asking.

In order for any farmer to feed 155 people, he will need to observe carefully, learn constantly, think clearly, plan well, and work hard (also necessary for academic success).  Having physical strength and the ability to work with others is an asset also in farming successfully (as is cultivated in sports activities).  Having a hobby that helps him relax and give pleasure to others will increase his social capital and resilience (making music).   If he continues to pursue mechanical engineering, he will likely have a backup income stream (mechanical engineer), along with being able to save money by working on his own equipment. In short, being a successful farmer calls for multiple competencies.

Farmers, teachers, pastors, and missionaries share a dubious distinction:  the world generally sees them as people who could never make it in the "real world" of business and government and science.  Instead, I think the exact opposite is true.  Most people in that artificial  "real world" would never survive as farmers, teachers, pastors, and missionaries.  I'm confident that Jared Enns, and many of the fine people I know would do just fine in any career or profession they became involved in.  Natural ability, hard work, and a balanced life is always a winning combination.  

Name: Jared Enns
High School: Inman
Honors & Awards: Kansas Governor Scholar, Kansas Honor Scholar, Class Valedictorian, National Honor Society, Heart of America All-League Academic Team
Involvement: Basketball, track, scholars bowl, band, jazz band
Food: Hamburgers
Movie: God’s Not Dead
Song/singer/type:  Country
Dream Job: Working on the farm full time
Future Plans: Attending Kansas State University and majoring in Mechanical Engineering

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Post-School Whirlwind of Activity

This first week since school is over for the year has rivaled every week previous, in terms of activity.   I really love having time, though, to focus some of my energies on projects at home instead of having to look at them and then turn away because of other pressing duties away from home.

On Wednesday evening of this past week our small group from church met here to work on various projects we were behind on--all of them outside the house.  I still can't quite believe what all that busy bunch of people got done.  Obviously I didn't see who all did what, since Hiromi was working most of the time with a group of men and boys in a different place than where I was.

Rosa and Emily and Hannah and maybe others gave the new seedhouse two coats of exterior paint, all while Betty and Linda were busy inside transplanting many seedlings into bigger pots.

Titus and probably others spread straw mulch in the garden, and Jo saw to it that the weeds were gone before the mulch was spread.

Oren and Jonas and Lowell and others dug post holes in soil that turned really hard and dry about eight inches down, and set trellis posts for the grapevines I'm putting there.  Jordan and Joseph must have been helping with that too.  Three grapevines are planted now, and three more are still future.  Marvin planted two shrubs I had purchased and had not planted yet.

Jewel, Crystal, Christy, and Angela? weeded the landscape beds out front.  Stephan and Judy erected and placed a simple farmer-style trellis appropriately for the Sweet Autumn Clematis to cling to.

Stephan pruned the remnants of the apple tree to facilitate its rehabilitation.

Judy gave the patio a good cleaning, and carted off to the compost the leaves and grass clippings that had settled into the corners.

Judy and I improvised with hanging the wren house, and we picked out a spot for the bluebird house.

Two piles of stuff that had been moved here from the farm and then left in random places outside got moved out of sight, mostly by a bunch of girls--and Sheri, who discovered a small snake entangled in the pile of netting she picked up to move.  Titus finished moving it and Hiromi carted the snake off to the tree row.

All the annoying sprouts around the base of the maple tree got pruned off.

A trailer load of scrap metal got loaded, and the old David Bradley garden tractor and the Maytag conventional washer got posted on Craigslist and have now been sold.  Titus and Lowell, who both do some auctioneer work, rescued those two items from the scrap collection, and Hiromi and they made a quick plan that if Titus advertised it, he could have half the money from the sale.  This "rescue" does my frugal heart good.

After the work was done, we gathered around the fire ring that Crist had assembled for us in the back yard and had a delicious meal together, brought in by the workers.  It was a very quiet evening--our place at its best.  A coyote that was very close, serenaded us.  It was a chilly evening, and the fire felt good.

I'm still smiling at all the good memories made that night.  These people's willingness to do whatever was needed was a great blessing and we are deeply grateful.


Someone left a pair of brown jersey work gloves behind.  We'd be glad to return them to their owner if we find out who they belong to.


On Thursday, the day after the work night, I went to a plant swap at the Paul H. residence, and came home with many treasures.  I even got back a plant that I had donated at a previous plant swap and lost since.  I also feasted my eyes on the landscape that was only a field not so long ago, and now features an orchard and garden, many flower beds,  young trees, beautiful grass, and a spring-fed pond.

The children led me to an outbuilding to see the new kittens.  Housed in the same building were young ducks and geese.  When they get a little bigger, they'll move to a pen beside the pond.

After that, I saw the playhouse, and the refrigerator and cookstove made by Grandpa (William H.)--both amazingly realistic-looking for wood construction.  All the walls were painted a different bright color--just right for a child's play space.


That evening I went to a work night for the trustees at the church, although Hiromi is not a trustee.  The project was working on the landscape, and I was offered a labor exchange that appealed to me.  I helped on the landscape, and I get to skip one turn at church cleaning.

I also prepared a meal for my parents that night.


On Friday morning we had our year-end staff meeting at school.  It was a good wrap-up time, and we did some preliminary planning for next year.

Later that evening, I prepared 17 bags of lettuce for Farmer's Market, after our daughter-in-law, Clarissa, offered to sell it for us, along with her baked products.


On Saturday morning Hiromi suggested that we go to Farmer's Market as shoppers, so we did.  Nearly all the lettuce had sold by the time we got there after 9:00, and the last bag sold before we left.

I got the rooted grape vines I was looking for, and a few other choice items.  Roman had cucumbers, which he had started in his greenhouse.  He had already sold all of the 100 pounds of asparagus he had brought.

It was the first market day of the season.


Finally, on Saturday afternoon, I got started on the planting that my fingers have been itching to do for many weeks.


Today was a leisurely day.  I really hope it wasn't my Sunday to cook for Dads and I forgot.  I'll have to go look at the calendar to check out that possibility.

The week ahead looks blessedly free of obligations away from home.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Bird Sightings--May 12, 2014

My nephews are as busy as ever investigating the bird population in the vicinity.  I decided I needed to pass on the information they feed me.  For the locals, I hope it gives us all better eyes to see the diversity under our noses--or over our heads.  For others, I hope it helps dispel the notion that we live in a sterile wasteland.  I will omit gender and numbers for the lists below, although the boys faithfully supply these also.  Their uncle, Bill Byler, who is an avid birder living in North Carolina, has helped them refine their birding records.  They are in frequent contact also with local experts, and they exchange information with other birders in email groups and forums.  Mostly, they just get out and about, binoculars and field guides in hand, and look at what's there--within walking or biking distance, usually, or wherever they can persuade someone to take them.  It's a fine result of  passion to learn and time to pursue interests.  (And yes, as you suspected, that is also a hint on educational approaches I value.  These boys are all homeschooled.)

Today Andrew and Bryant saw these:

Yellow-breasted Chat
Mourning Warbler
Painted Bunting
Trails Flycatcher
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Cuckoo (species unidentified)
Lazuli Bunting

Last Friday, on a bike ride to a local pond, Joseph saw these:

Stilt Sandpiper
Buff-breasted Sandpiper
White-rumped Sandpiper
Hudsonian Godwit
Snowy Plover
Semi [Palmated?] Plover
Long-billed Dowitcher

Check out his list here for all bird sightings at that location.

Last week, one notable sighting was not a bird at all.  It was a Massasagua Rattlesnake, sunning itself on the road near Myron's place.  On that same day they saw these birds:

Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Eastern Wood Peewee

An FOS designation preceded the Eastern Wood Peewee.  After much contemplation, I've come to understand this to mean First of Season.


We had some intense thunderstorms last night, but escaped the large hail, high winds, and tornadoes we were warned about.  Now it's turning cold again.  For the next four nights, the temperatures will fall into the high 30s and low 40s overnight.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Weird Hair and Weather

On weird hair day at school, one student who has curly hair combed it out and up and generally every way except down.  He reported that his little sister took one look at him and said:

"Your hair looks like a cloud."  (That would have been a very dark cloud.)


Norma and I plotted together to each do a skunk hairdo.  It was surprisingly doable and unalarming.


I'm really sorry I never got to see Sharon's hair.  She was in and out teaching her Spanish classes and I never noticed.  She said she's glad no one took a picture, and that made me wish especially that I would have seen her.


This past week we had some of the fiercest, most unrelenting winds I can remember in a long time.  Four days of it.  Wind speeds were in the 40s and 50s, and schools dismissed in the county west of us because of blowing dust.  Near zero visibility caused several vehicle pileups and at least one death.  Dust filled ditches in some places exactly as if it had been snow instead.

I thought the National Weather Service must surely have made a mistake when blowing dust was predicted here the day after a nice overnight rain on Sunday night.  They were right, and I was wrong.

Western Kansas is in a more severe state of drought that we are here in central Kansas.  I didn't see dust filling any ditches around here.


Tomorrow the temperature is predicted to be a record breaking "almost 100" degrees.  Yesterday morning, people's thermometers showed 32 degrees.  Folks, this is no way to treat plants, animals, or people kindly.  Temperature complaints, however, seem a little small minded, given the fact that we've had some moisture, and several calm and sunny days.


Right after our rain, the storms moved to the southeast, and resulted in a tornado in the southeast corner of our state, and then moved on to create really severe destruction in some places in Arkansas and Oklahoma.  Several deaths occurred in Kansas and Oklahoma, and more in Arkansas.  For some reason, our local media did not report this very thoroughly.  Baxter Springs was the Kansas town that was affected.


On the day that Pilgrim's newspaper pages were published, Amy and Kathy from the "Hutch" News brought a copy of the newspaper for each student, and joy, joy, they brought pizza for everyone's lunch.  Then they sat down and chatted with  us over  lunch.

They bragged about the good job the students had done, and we had a good time together.


Kathy told me on an earlier visit that the newspaper my cousin Duane W. works for had won a Pulitzer Prize.  He works as a copy editor for the Gazette in Colorado Springs.  Being awarded a Pulitzer is winning the "Super Bowl" of journalism, literature, etc.  I congratulate Duane and the others who researched and wrote the story on what soldiers face when they return home after being traumatized and "wounded" in various ways.  I understand that the government's treatment of such people was not idealized.

I personally think Kathy plays the Mennonite game better than some Mennonites.  Between her and Amy, they had some of my siblings, sons, parents, and cousins correctly identified when they first came to school.  They started the conversation down that road--not I.


Hiromi gets a chuckle sometimes out of what his customers say.  One elderly lady attempted to use a debit card, and it didn't work.  This almost always happens because of insufficient funds in the account, but no cashier is supposed to say that out loud to any customer.  Hiromi had just suggested she talk to someone at customer service when an even older lady instructed the first lady:  "When it does that, it means you don't have enough money," she confidently told her.

Hiromi waited to chuckle till he got home, and then commented on how he loves when blunt "old" people like that help him out.

A day later . . .

Three-month-old grandson Wyatt has been having problems with eczema,  a skin problem that is usually caused by sensitivity to food or something in the environment.  His mother believes now that her consumption of either milk or eggs is the problem.  After several weeks off of both, his skin is showing improvement.

He has 2-inch-long black hair on the top of his head and is bald in the back where he's rubbed off his baby hair.


Hutchinson's high today was 101 degrees.  It's the earliest date ever for temperatures over 100 degrees--in Wichita, at least.

We're wishing for rain again.  Last weekend's showers didn't last long.  Some chance of rain returns near the end of the week.


Merle Burkholder preached a wonderful sermon at our church this morning, eliciting many chuckles and assenting noises in the process.  He directs an organization that our very own Joe and Marilyn Kuepfer plan to work for soon, in Haiti for the time being.  Open Hands helps people in poverty-stricken areas form savings groups.  What I've heard about Bengali Muhammed Yunis' micro-finance groups reminds me of what I'm hearing about Open Hands, except that the emphasis is perhaps slightly different.  What is similar is placing the responsibility for sound financial management in the hands of people who are hard-working, but need help to break cycles that limit their chances for financial success.  As I understand it, Open Hands helps in organizing the groups, and then expects to turn things over to the groups as soon as possible.


Hearing Merle B. preach this morning prompted some reflection for me on the phenomenon of extraordinarily gifted people "throwing away" their giftings in places of obscure service.  I don't see their service as worthless, of course.  I'm only noting that if they had chosen a more conventional American lifestyle, or even a more conventional Mennonite lifestyle, they would have undoubtedly been considered an outstanding success.  As it is, their success is  largely unknown in America and among Mennonites.

In Merle's case, he has served First Nations people for 27 years in Canada.  He has worked in Haiti for a much shorter time.  During those years, however, he also served on founding boards for several US based boards--Anabaptist Financial and a missions training school in Asia.  This morning we heard how he had volunteered his time as a board member for a food bank in an Ontario city, and saw it grow into a many-faceted ministry to those in poverty.

I deeply admire and praise God for such diligent, faithful, vision-filled, in-the-foreign-trenches service.


We had our first gallon of apple mint tea for the season this evening.  It was a long time before I learned the English name for what we always called mahl-balzum in Pennsylvania German.  It has rounder, fuzzier leaves than peppermint or spearmint.

I learned from others to make ice tea the way I like it:  Heat 4 cups of water to boiling.  Steep two cups of fresh tea leaves.   Remove leaves and add sugar  (I added 3/4 cup).  Stir to dissolve.  Pour over ice in one-gallon jar.  Fill with water.


Tonight when Shane's family was here, he picked off rabbit #15 for this spring.  Who knew that our little 3-acre place harbored that many rabbits?  Grant and Clare had killed 16 one year when they lived here.  Yes.  Grant AND Clare.  She's a huntin' lady, unlike me.  


I love noting the return of the summer birds.  We've been regaled with Brown Thrasher songs for several weeks.  This past week I heard and then saw Western Kingbirds--a summer fixture for sure.  Today I saw a Northern Oriole--or Baltimore Oriole, as we called them earlier.

The Roadrunner pair that Susanna saw earlier may have shifted locations slightly west.  Grant has seen it/them several times in the area SW of Partridge Road and K61--around their place and Jared O's place.


We're in our final sprint toward the end of school.  By this time next week the school year will be history.  Eleven enrolled students and a number of homeschooled students are graduating from high school.

In Marvin Mast's family, there will be three graduates this year--from 8th grade, high school, and college--Dietrich, Kristi, and Benji.  Benji attends a local college, so no travel is involved in any of the graduations.


For the food production class, the last crop is ready to be moved out from under the lights at school into home gardens.  All the plants there now are vine crops--melons, squash, and cucumbers.

After the school year is over, the students have one more obligation (besides what their parents require).  They will each host a garden tour, to which all the other students and I are invited.

Indications are that an enthusiastic class of gardeners has been unleashed on the community--a wonderful thing, in my estimation.


Tristan is getting quite good at subject-verb-adverb sentence construction--articulate enough to give away some family secrets, according to Christine, who works there once a week.  Carson is in the throes of teething--number six at eight months.  At such times, he's not very open to care-giving from anyone other than his mother.


We're seeing a gratifying number of little toads this spring.  I don't think any could have hatched this spring, since we've had too little water around and too little warm weather, so they may be survivors of our copious late summer rains last year.  I guess I don't really know whether amphibians lay eggs only in the spring, as I always thought, or whether they will do so later in the summer if weather conditions favor a later egg-laying season.  Do my readers know?