Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Never before Frog Jump

Camp Connell, CA -- A local expression, transformed into holy writ for gardeners, goes like this:
"Never plant before Frog Jump."
You have to be a resident of Calaveras County, California, in the gold country, or a devoted fan of Mark Twain's colorful prose, to make the link between then - the 1800s -- and now.
Remember the story, "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County," by Twain?
In the current century local boosters of tourism have adopted, or hijacked, the frog story to create a local festival/fair called the Jumping Frog Jubilee, centered at the Calaveras Fair Grounds and the city of Angels Camp. To locals, it is just called "Frog Jump."
It is a REALLY big deal. We even have a Frog Jump Princess, a significant local honor. And we have champion frogs, and brass plates cemented into the sidewalks of the town to commemorate great jumps and jumpers of the past.
But the highlight is the annual frog jump contests. That's plural "Contests" because the folks at the county fair jubilee and the local club that "owned" the frog jump contest had a tiff that resulted in competing jumps.
But people still come for both, enter frogs domestic and foreign, and vie for the jumpiest. Check it out at
The big event(s) is(are) planned for the week of May 14, which for most people around the country would be late Spring.
Not for us.
Frog Jump, as we call it here in the mountains, is the date before which you plant your garden at great risk of a late season freeze.
I confess I have not taken this too seriously, so as Spring-like temperatures flowed up the mountainside in the past two weeks I have been dreaming of flowers.
Yesterday, Pat worked in the raised garden beds at our daughter's home, getting ready for planting. The chickens helped by scratching around for bugs in the warm sun.
I took the snow tire chains out of the van and put them away at our house. And just last week, as the ground became almost totally free of snow, I put the snow blower away for the season.
We are currently in Murphys, lower down the mountain, horse-sitting for our daughter and family. It turned cold and rained here at 2,000 feet last night, and then the phone rang early.
A neighbor called to change the weekly poker game location because we have too much snow at home, closer to 5,000 feet. About six inches on the ground and still coming down when he called. About a foot when I checked later on a webcam located near my home.

At least we didn't plant before Frog Jump.
Maybe I should apply the lessons of the local culture to things like snow blowers and tire chains.
I still have to figure out how to get home without chains. Maybe I can borrow the horse.