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Posts Tagged ‘spiders’

Rainy August

Well.   Since August began we have received nearly 8 inches of rain here at The Havens.   That followed a July where we got about an inch of rain every week.   As a consequence, the grass around here looks like this:

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Now, this may not seem very extraordinary, but generally speaking the “lawn” you are looking at in the picture above looks just like the grass around the vineyard does in the following picture.

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Don’t get me wrong.   We are HAPPY to have rain in August.   There are people in the area who wish we weren’t getting quite so much of it quite so fast, since they are experiencing flooding and there are lots of low water crossings that are closed right now, making it hard to get about the county.

The lushness is welcome.   We haven’t had to water the gardens for several weeks, since Mother Nature has been taking care of that job for us.   But usually about the middle of July we get a respite from the constant demands for mowing made byf the green areas here.  Actually, we would be very happy to let it all grow, but Our Fair City has seen fit to pass an ordinance banning lawns taller than 12 inches.

So we were out on Sunday morning trying to finish mowing the acre of our property that contains the vineyard, the labyrinth and the savannah.   Since it has been precipitating upon us on a very regular basis, we had not been able to get out there and the grass was very tall and thick.   It was also still wet from the previous days rain, so it was necessary to stop about every 50 to 75 feet and clear the throw-out area of the mower so it would throw the grass.   I did a whole lot of pulling on the rope to restart the mower, since there was no way I was going to reach in there to clear the area with it still running.

We persisted, however, even after the light rain started falling, and completed our task just as the day’s rain began in earnest.   When I checked the rain gauge this morning we had received an inch and an eighth.

The vegetable garden is glorious.

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We are getting at least two or three zucchini every day.   I am in the process of pickling the third batch of gherkins.   Right now we have stopped picking the tiny cucumbers for that, so in a couple of days we are going to be overwhelmed with large ones.   The green beans are doing well.   The asparagus has decided it can make new shoots, so I have been gleaning the patch for snacks while I work out there.     The eggplants are pretty much finished.   Tomatoes are coming on, yesterday we strained a bunch, made puree, and started condensing it.  Today I canned that batch and there were 7 pints.   A good start on the season.

Out at the pond, I have a large fishing spider hanging about.   She posed for me last night.   I love how you can see she is resting on the surface tension of the water.

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Looks like it is going to rain some more.   I think we are definitely experiencing one for the record books.   I have to admit, it will make the job of the people looking after our place while we are gone on our cruise to Alaska a whole lot easier, and I’m glad for that!

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A spider for Synchy

Synchopated Eyeball’s post today inspired me to take one of my spiders outside for a photo shoot.

I think it would look just right on her glass web.

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I shall not be typing a lot on this post as I have had an industrial accident whilst deadheading the candytuft.   Apparently the garden gods and goddesses felt the need for a blood sacrifice and it took the form of pruning my left pinkie.   I now sport a slash that goes right throughmy finger from top to bottom approximately half a centimeter long right next to the nail but not involving it, which is now wrapped up and protected from bumping, which I kept doing all day yesterday.   Anyway, it seems to be healing well, but the bandage has severely hampered my usual typing facility.

The interacion with Ruby and Mallory is still going on.   They have inveneted a couple of games, one is a tag game which would only be cute if there was video.  The other game is “Kill the Tail on the Doggy”  which goes a lot like this.   Sorry for the poor quality of the photos, but the animals are distracted by the flash and stop what they are doing if it goes off.

I did indeed get a new garden swing for my birthday.  It required assemblage, and since I was hors de combat, our lovely young niece helped Jim do the job.   Of course, like a proper Virgo, he had everything laid out neatly in preparation for the job.

The team at work, gesturing appropriately as models should do.

A different gesture was made when the problem below was discovered.

Oopsy, the arms are on upside down.  That seat wouldn’t be that comfortable for long.  After rectification. . .

Ummm there was another problem too.   The final bolt tightening exemplified why cheap stuff from China is sometimes a trial and tribulation.   One of the bolts sheared off before it was tight.   So, the old bolt had to be drilled out of the hole, and an extra trip to the hardware store made to acquire a nut and bolt that would go through the whole shebang.

The instructions and the package claim that all tools necessary for assembly are included in the package.  All of them except the carbide drill, the drill driver and the clamp made necessary by the poor quality hardware.

Ruby thought the whole process was boring in the extreme, but at least no one was killing her tail.

The jumping spider who lives in the plant light area was over getting a drink in the kitchen sink the other day, and I almost drowned her before I realized what was going on down there.   She left in a huff.

Out in the asparagus patch, there is a very young argiope that has set up housekeeping.   This spider is about 3mm long.  She had successfully caught an asparagus beetle that was larger than she was.

On the pond, a fishing spider.   This one is cool because when you disturb her she dives under the lily pad, taking a bubble of air with her trapped in the hairs of her abdomen that she can breathe from for 20 minutes or so.

Well, my folks are coming to dinner along with my little sister to continue celebrating my birthday.   So I believe I shall take my finger away from the keyboard and give the dog a short walk.

I am amazed how much the left hand problem has affected my right hand typing.   Weird.

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Things are progressing in the Ruby and Mallory relationship.   I have no photographic evidence of this, largely because most of this activity takes place at night in poor light conditions.

But, Ruby has decided the Mallory is a “good thing”, and they have begun playing together in a very charming way.  Ruby has a big orange ball that sort of looks like a tennis ball and has a squeak.   Mallory thinks that ball is just right for wrassling with.   The other night, Ruby was a little jealous because Mallory was getting all this attention, and she brought her ball to us.   So, we were multi-tasking, making the string work for Mallory while throwing the ball for Ruby.

Ruby brought the ball back and dropped it, and Mallory attacked it.   After she kicked it away during one of the wrestling “falls”, Ruby picked it up, and then delicately dropped it again and nudged it with her foot so it rolled over to Mallory.   Pounce!   Mallory was on it again, and Ruby watched benignly at the ball being “killed” until Mallory kicked it away again, towards Ruby.   Ruby pushed it back. . .  They also play chase games, which are very exhilirating for Mallory since there is an element of danger in them.

We have also witnessed Mallory running up to Ruby as she lies with her head on her paws, wrapping her little cat arms around that big head and washing that large expanse of forehead.  Ruby looks slightly confused, and Mallory stops washing after a few licks and sort of makes a “that’s a lot of hair” face.

Meanwhile, the gardens are growing.   We are having to water quite a lot, as it is very hot and dry right now.   Not looking forward to my water bill with much pleasure, I’m afraid.

Managed to bruise my wrist rather badly the other day.  The occasion was a demonstration of how to apply elbow grease to wall washing activities so as to actually remove the dirt from the wall.   Unfortunately, I forgot about the little edge of counter top that was extending onto the wall about halfway up, and came in contact with it in “full elbow grease” mode.

I found time to make an art journal page…

I cropped and posted this picture of spiderwort a few days ago.   This morning as I was examining the image, I realized that in addition to the tachnid fly I was interested in, there was another bit of wildlife occupying the spiderwort.   Check out the little green crab spider that is lurking to the left of the pollinator.

I think it is interesting that I cropped and uploaded that image and never noticed that spider until several days later.    How things can hide in images and your subconscious is fascinating!

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Last night, Jim was rummaging around in the Thai chili pepper plant that we brought in from the patio this fall because he wanted some heat for the salsa he was creating.

While he was in there he noticed that there were a few flying creatures around.  He was inspecting for aphids too, because we do have problems with them hitching a ride on the indoor/outdoor plants when we bring them in before frost.

I heard him ooh-ing and aah-ing and cooing at something.   Presently, he told me to come over and have a look at what he had found.  It seems that one of the garden spiders left an egg case in the pepper plant, and the little spiderlings have hatched out just in time to be ornaments for it.  I went over and peered into the depths of the pepper plant.

After a while, I spotted the tiniest little spider hatchling ever back on one of the leaves.   Good thing I had my glasses on; it might have been better if I’d also had a microscope.   You can see it too, barely, crouched on a leaf above and behind the blossom in the foreground.

Then I saw another one.

It’s that little beige spot behind the pepper.  I know.   You can barely see it.   It’s truly teensy.   Even itsy bitsy.

After I viewed these images, I got another camera and tried again.   The flash helped.

I’m sure that there is no way to imagine what all this experience was like for the little spiders.   They were very excited, and did not really like being looked or flashed at.   They would try to escape by abseiling (or rappelling, take your pick) off their perch.  I actually managed to catch one in the act, poised in the air at the bottom of the drop.

They are very fast, these little spiders.   They could climb back up into their nest at the apical meristem of the plant in less than a second.   Finally one miscalculated the drop and landed in the palm of my hand.   In spite of the fact that it was in my hand, I still had a hard time getting this little guy in focus because he was moving so fast across the vast plain of my palm that the camera could not focus and then shoot before he was out of the focal point.

The really great thing about this situation is that when you check out the pepper plant, there isn’t an aphid to be seen.   And most of the little flying bugs are being eaten too.

It’s all good.

 

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I got up this morning and found this in my sink.

“Hmm,” I said to myself.   “That looks bad.”

Curious, I opened the little freezer compartment on top of the fridge.   It looked like this:

You see, children, when you freeze a beer it will explode.   So, if you have forgotten to put beer in the fridge in time for it to be cool when you want to drink it, it is a good idea not to forget that you put it in there.

Just saying.

My dear husband’s comment when he emerged from the shower was, “I guess I’ll be cleaning the refrigerator when I get home from work.  It seems to need it now.”

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In other news, we received a call from Jesse yesterday.   His unit has returned from Iraq, safe and sound.   Now they go through reintegration training.   Sort of a “How To” course on being a person in a non-combat zone after living in a war zone for a year.  Little lessons, like how to pack your car for a picnic at the beach:   you can leave your gun at home, you know.   It doesn’t need to be in the trunk along with your cooler and umbrella.   Really.

The poison ivy has turned its usual shade of vermilion now.  This black walnut is sporting a poison ivy undergarment.

Pretty, but not one I’d choose to put on.   This picture reminds me of a story one of my clients told me.   Her niece had recently moved to the Ozarks and was out gathering materials for a beautiful fall wreath.   She had carefully and artistically wound beautiful vines of red leaves around a grapevine wreath and proudly presented her aunt with the resulting gorgeous fall array.

“My, that is beautiful!” the recipient exclaimed.   “Did you know that this is poison ivy?”

The answer, of course, was “No, I didn’t.”

But she found out later.

This is rather like picking and eating mushrooms that you “think” you know the identity of. . .  Bad ideas.

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I found this out by the root cellar when I approached my fig tree in hope that it had produced a few ripe figs for me to snack on after I had hung out the clothes and watered the garlic patch, baby lettuces and other salad greens.  (It had.)

Closer inspection of that shows a medium sized orb weaver spider sitting in the middle of the remains of last night’s web.  She has caught a multitude of gnats in there.

When I got there she was busy de-constructing her web and summarily discarding dead bugs right and left.  It’s starting to be pretty cold for spiders at night, so I figure these sorts of visions will rapidly decrease in the next week or so.   Good thing my salad greens patch is well started.   We’ll be putting the cold frames over these babies soon.

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I’ve been collected fall colors and playing with my scanner.   I have a picture in my head of an impressionistic version of the forest edge  done on the scanner.   I’m not sure I’ve quite got it yet.

Y’all have a good day now, hear?

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It remains to be seen what the final outcome of this morning’s walk will be.

I left the house a little later than I had planned, largely due to the influence of the World Wide Web, which sucked me into its by-ways through the gate of Facebook, where I happened across a very inspiring link, World Wide Tipping Point. I was seduced into watching a couple of videos, and ultimately decided to add my small piece of energy to the counter.   I invite others to do the same.

I got out to the place where I generally walk Ruby while it was still a very misty morning.   The rain yesterday afternoon had evaporated some during the evening hours.   Then during the night the temperature dropped below the dew point, and in the morning the whole world was spangled in water droplets.   The whole area was shrouded with mist, making things mysterious and wet.

As I walked, I listened to the ecstatic song of a bird sitting in one of those old oak trees, trying unsuccessfully to identify it by its song, since I certainly could not pick it out.   Off in the distance I heard a pileated woodpecker call, and interspersed with that I picked out the hooting calls of the nuthatches.  Some tufted titmouses (timice?) and chickadees joined in the chorus eventually.   I saw a Cooper’s hawk narrowly miss catching a small bird, pursuing it out of the forest edge and over the meadow, where the desperate jinking and diving of the pursued finally threw off the pursuer.

I spied a butterfly warming itself several feet off the path.

I wanted to get a closer shot of it, and thought I could probably creep up on it as it rested in the meadow.  I was wrong.  As I began to walk towards it, it flew up and away from me, deeper into the grasses of the field.   I looked at the field, wet with dew, in many places as tall as my waist and wrapped in blackberry briars.   I thought of the thousands of ticks and millions of chiggers that were all no doubt out there awaiting the blood meal that was essential for their development.

I followed the butterfly.

That is about as close as I ever got to it, after traversing several acres of this overgrown field.   I managed to get a sort of decent close-up.

That’s probably a spice bush swallowtail.  It is sitting on ironweed, and in the foreground are the rounded leaves of milkweed.

I finally gave up on getting close to that insect.   I’m not sure how well butterflies see with their compound eyes, or whether their sensitive pheromone receptors are what alert them to the presence of others in their vicinity, but that butterfly never let me get closer to it than about 15 feet.    All the while I was following it, I kept thinking about the chiggers in that field.

This was by far Ruby’s favorite section of the walk.  She pushed busily through the wet grass, totally soaked, happily chuffing and whuffing a commentary on all the scents she came across.    Lots of trails went along at ground level, highways for the rabbits, meadow voles, possums and who knows what else.  Ruby was ecstatically in Doggie Disney World, as my dear friend Jeri is wont to describe the wet wild woods.

After I was sure I wasn’t going to catch up with that butterfly, I crossed the field and got back onto the path.  I swear I could hear the blue jays and the cardinals laughing at me as I squelched along in my soaked cross trainers.   “No wonder my shoes never live very long,” I thought as I squished down the path.   “What with wild butterfly chases like this through the soaking grass and digging holes in the mud to plant trees or trying to unplant bermuda grass, they have a pretty tough life.”   I mused on the failure of the athletic shoe manufacturers of the world to address the needs of my demographic.

After a while the sun came out and started to burn off the dew.   At first, the meadow was absolutely spangled with water droplets.   I wasted some time and some electrons in my camera battery trying to capture that phenomenon.  It really looked like the whole world had been doused with glitter.

Sorry, I don’t have the photographic skills or the camera to truly capture the vision that so entranced me.   But I did get one rather nice image of a head of grass with dew.

I walked  past the pond at the edge of the woods, and saw where a large turtle (probably a snapper) had swum through the wild lily pads during the night.

At this point in my walk, my mind turned naturally to the new garden I am planning for out in front.   Inspired by all the different wonderful grasses I had just been wading through, I started trying to visualize what I wanted the new front yard to look like.   I spent a good half mile musing on just exactly what sort of water feature I could incorporate into the new rain garden, and spent a large portion of that time trying to visualize how to work this spiral sink design of my friend Doug Feakes into a beautiful waterfall bird bath.  I did not see any of my surroundings during that period of time, I was sunk deep into my own dream.

As I broke out of the woods into the short section of path that follows the edge of another field, I saw another butterfly sunning itself at the edge of the path, this one a tiger swallowtail.

It was just as elusive and alert as the previous swallowtail, so I left it to its own devices, flitting and fluttering enticingly across another tract of thick grass, this one laced with passionflower vines.  In my mind, I was pretty sure that verdant stretch had just as much bloodsucker potential as the previous field.  I followed the walking path back into the woods.

Meanwhile, I started keeping an eye out for a spider web that was oriented correctly to catch the morning light and break it into rainbows.  This is another phenomenon that is remarkably difficult to photograph.   But I am mesmerized by it when I come across it.

As I was angling about trying to get the best view, I was painfully reminded to look down by thorns raking my thigh.   While I was edging about the forest floor, entranced by and focused on the web above my head, somehow I had managed to meander into the middle of a wild currant bush, one which was liberally enlaced with blackberry canes to boot.   I finished up my photoshoot, then extricated myself from the briars.   The thought of Bre’r Rabbit begging Bre’r Fox not to throw him into the briar patch flitted through my mind as I once again regained the safety of the path.

I decided I had best hurry along home so I could scrub myself all over with lye soap and hopefully remove any chiggers and ticks before they attached themselves to my admittedly somewhat less than young and tender skin.   I had almost gotten to the spur of path that led to the parking area when I noticed another butterfly, teasing me from the meadow verge.  This one proved to be much more cooperative.  It appears to be a Pearl Crescent,  Phyciodes tharos.

Finally satisfied, I bustled off to the truck, loaded up the dog and hurried home, to strip down and shower off.   My clothes went straight into the washing machine in hopes of foiling any hitchhikers I picked up during the morning’s mad pursuit of Lepidoptera.

Only time will tell if I was completely successful.

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