Category Archives: Orb Spider

PLAY DATES

Ours is an “arranged” friendship.

When Bay and Debra moved to town.

Bay’s mother, Jean,

Was concerned that Debra wouldn’t have time

To meet new people.

What with two toddlers,

A new medical practice

And studying for her medical boards!

Jean asked if I’d give her a call.

I did.

The four of us went to dinner

And have been friends for decades.

Early on we decided we needed

Scheduled “play dates”.

This often consisted of trips to

The city.

Clothes shopping for kids

And long lunches.

During which we discovered

That we had been living

Somewhat parallel lives.

Over the decades play dates

Turned into scheduled weekly calls

When Debra moved to the city.

There were years where life overtook us

And we didn’t have much time to

Keep up with each other.

But ours is an easy friendship

Since we see the world

Through many shared life experiences.

Friday was the first scheduled play date

For quite some time.

The plan was to go to the city.

Run errands together

Have lunch

And great conversation.

But mid-week

I realized that my garden

Is full of bugs

This time of year.

And Debra is in full-blown

“Macro bug mode”.

Her Instagram tag line is

“Read images while at work.

Take images while away from work.’

She takes the most amazing pictures.

Birds in the winter.

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June flowers in Giverny

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And now bugs.

Early in the week.

I had spotted three orb spiders

And a big praying mantis.

But by Thursday night

I was down to one orb.

I feared I had gotten her here

Under false pretenses.

Friday morning she arrived

At sunrise.

Bearing gifts.

Her famed cookie dough.

The Holy Grail of Chocolate Chip cookies.

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I directed her to the surviving orb.

She began to click away.

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John couldn’t resist

Getting in on the day.

Catching bugs

To feed to the spider

For Debra to photograph.

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And before we knew it

Orbs began to appear.

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Totaling four in all.

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Next I found a praying mantis

Or two.

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So she clicked

And I scouted for bugs.

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She sees the garden through her macro lens.

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I see it as a gardener.

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I know where the bugs

Hang out.

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We were a good team

As usual.

It was a delightful morning.

Play.

It’s as important now

As it’s ever been.

Gail

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Monterey – 2010 with Debra & Kristina

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Bugs, Butterflies, Fall, Garden Photography, Gardening, Gardening Friends, late summer garden, Monet's Giverny, Nature, Orb Spider, Praying Mantis, Uncategorized

IT’S A JUNGLE OUT THERE

This has been an unusual summer

On many fronts.

I’ve been gone half the summer.

Two weeks here

A week there.

Grand kids will do that to you

I’ve learned.

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Not that I mind

I don’t.

But I’m not used to flitting around

Like that.

Then there was August.

Days turned into

Weeks of mid-80’s

And there was the rain.

In a month when it might not rain

At all

We had 6 inches!

So…

Combine my absence

With cool temperatures

And gentle rains

And what do you get?

A jungle.

The Cockscomb is officially

Growing out of its mind.

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Zinnias have popped up

Everywhere.

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The Asters are blooming,

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And Cleome is still going strong.

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Then there is the crabgrass.

If you don’t pull it.

It just keeps growing

And growing.

I think I’ve filled

Four poly carts

With the stuff.

Yesterday I managed

To get about half way through

The weeding process.

With a little deadheading

Along the way.

That’s really all there is

To do out there right now.

That and enjoy Mother Nature.

Yesterday was a tough day

To be one of these.

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Not sure if it’s a moth

Or a butterfly.

First one was eaten for lunch

By a Praying Mantis.

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Then this Orb spider

Had another one

For dinner.

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I was still

In the garden

At dusk

When the locust chorus

Began singing

A familiar song.

Fall

Isn’t it yummy?

Gail

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Filed under Bugs, Butterflies, cleome, cockscomb, Dead Heading, Fall, Gardening, Grandchildren, late summer garden, Nature, Orb Spider, Praying Mantis, Rain, self seeding annuals, Uncategorized

GARDENING FOR GOOD

This summer I’ve been dividing my gardening days

Between two gardens.

It’s the first summer that Faith Farm

Has been an all volunteer effort.

It was a leap of faith.

What a fun

And rewarding leap.

We started the season with a plan

Put together by my fellow gardeners

Jim & Michael.

It’s an ambitious three season plan

Since we have a 9 month growing season.

We started harvesting lettuce

In March.

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And we haven’t stopped.

200 lbs of lettuce

120 lbs of gorgeous carrots

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More basil than all of Italy

and almost 900 lbs of cucumbers.

Wow what a year.

We have literally grown well over a ton of vegetables.

All of this done by a dedicated group

Of volunteers.

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Including a few Master Gardeners.

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Twice a week they harvest this bounty

And take it to Loaves & Fishes

Where it is then given

To our hungry neighbors.

Several times a year

Jim offers  gardening classes

To the L & F clients.

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And every so often

We have a Saturday work day

To catch up on the big jobs.

Yesterday was one of those work days.

We had an ambitious list

OK…we had an impossible list.

Thanks to a few new volunteers

We got most of the big jobs done.

Morning glories pulled off the fence

Before they set seed.

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Bolted basil pulled, dried and ground into mulch.

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Ground pecan hulls put on the paths.

And soil added to beds.

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Then there was the shed.

Michael spent the morning organizing it.

Thank goodness.

These are not glamorous gardening jobs

But they are essential.

And feel good to have done.

Along the way we made a few new friends

Loaves & Fishes board member Randi

Brought her family.

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Including her son

Who got to meet Charlotte

Our resident Orb Spinner Spider

She’s been “hanging” around

Since July.

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He also found caterpillars and praying mantis.

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It’s always a good day when you can introduce

A child to the wonders of nature.

And do a little

Gardening for Good.

Gail

 

 

 

 

 

4 Comments

Filed under Basil, Bugs, Carrots, Children in the Garden, Community Garden, Compost, Cucumbers, Fall Vegetables, Garden Planning, Gardening Friends, Herbs, late summer garden, Lettuce, Morning Glories, Nature, Orb Spider, Uncategorized, Vegetables

FLUTTERBYS

For weeks now

I’ve been seeing the signs

Orb spiders have arrived

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Praying Mantis are hanging around

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As are Locust.

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Dahlias have made their debut

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I can hear the band practice

At the high school football field.

Cockscomb is everywhere

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And Flutterbys

Are here.

Somewhere along the way

Butterflies became flutterbys

At our house.

Elliott loved them as a child.

Even bringing them into the house

To live…briefly!

When you think about it

Flutterby is a more accurate description

Of these late summer visitors.

The Monarchs are on their way

To Mexico.

And a few are stopping by

For a snack in my garden.

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They brought along their friend

The Tiger Swallowtail

Which has been impossible

To get on camera.

I can’t say enough about this season

Especially in a year

That brought such heat.

In some ways I find it

As much a source of renewal

As spring.

It’s cooler days

Are refreshing

Even though I know

My least favorite season

Is close behind.

For now

I’ll pick peppers

And tomatoes…finally

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Transplant roses

And make extravagant flower arrangements.

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Because fall is the season of bounty

In my garden

For that I am grateful.

Gail

Surely this is the last Easter egg out there!

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3 Comments

Filed under Bugs, Butterflies, cockscomb, Dahlias, Fall, Gardening, Gratitude, late summer garden, Orb Spider, Peppers, Tomato, Uncategorized

SEPTEMBER’S SONG

I have long loved fall.

You would think as a passionate gardener

That would not be the case

With the season winding down and all.

Certainly I know what is coming

An end will come with its inevitable freeze.

But here in the middle of September

Winter is still a bit out of reach.

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And what a September it is.

Endless days of crisp air and sunshine.

This is the time of the year

That the garden slows

And so do I.

My weekend gardening days

Move at a more reasonable pace.

Which gives me time to observe.

Bumble bees in flight.

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Baby praying mantis

Blending in with zinnia leaves.

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Even a large praying mantis

Outside the kitchen window.

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Orb spider spin their amazing webs.

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Butterflies bask in the soft fall sun.

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And peppers finally have their day.

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This is also the time of year

That pots come into their own.

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They begin to ooze over the side

With the fullness of the season.

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I’m not great with annuals

But September makes me look like I know what I’m doing!

Plants that were cut back in mid summer

Are coming into full bloom again.

 

Smaller…more contained than their spring version

But just as lovely.

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The last few years

I’ve taken a new look at fall

As a time to plant.

As I pull up things that are spent

Cockscomb mostly

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I plant seeds in their place.

So mixed leaf lettuce, arugula and carrot seeds

All were planted today.

Not in tidy little rows

Like most vegetable gardens.

But in the empty spaces.

I know I’ve said it many times

But fall seems like the time to repeat

The value of taking time

To observe nature

It’s seasons

It’s changes

It’s lessons.

Enjoy the week,

Gail

2 Comments

Filed under Arugula, Bugs, Bumble Bee, Butterflies, Carrots, cockscomb, container gardening, Fall, Fall Vegetables, Gloriosa Daisy, Orb Spider, Peppers, Seeds, Uncategorized, Vegetables, Zinnia

A SIMPLE DAY

Yesterday dawned cool and cloudy.

Rain had been predicted for the day

But it didn’t materialize

And so we had a simple Saturday.

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My maiden voyage as a grandmother

Meant that my garden

Was completely ignored

For the last half of August. 

Abandoning my garden for grandchildren

Is a no brainer.

But it does mean that the garden

Is well….overgrown

It needs serious deadheading

As well as a clean sweep of weeding. 

But instead of going head long into the garden

I was more in a meandering mood.

So I slowed down  

And worked at a more relaxed pace.

Along the way

I ran across a few late summer friends.

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Orb spiders are making there return

After a year’s absence.

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The count in the back is up to 3.

I’m thinking we should name them this year.

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They hang around for quite awhile

So it seems a naming is in order.

And the monarchs are beginning to migrate.

They love the zinnias that are just now coming into their own. 

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A late blooming Hollyhock

Kept a bumblebee happy for some time.

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And all the while

Coco kept watch

Over the garden.

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They joys of simplicity

They are ours for the taking.

Enjoy the week.

Gail

4 Comments

Filed under Bugs, Butterflies, Dead Heading, Fall, Gardening;Perennials, hollyhocks, Orb Spider, Perennials, Zinnia

A SIMPLE DAY

Yesterday dawned cool and cloudy.

Rain had been predicted for the day

But it didn’t materialize

And so we had a simple Saturday.

DSCN5005

My maiden voyage as a grandmother

Meant that my garden

Was completely ignored

For the last half of August. 

Abandoning my garden for grandchildren

Is a no brainer.

But it does mean that the garden

Is well….overgrown

It needs serious deadheading

As well as a clean sweep of weeding. 

But instead of going head long into the garden

I was more in a meandering mood.

So I slowed down  

And worked at a more relaxed pace.

Along the way

I ran across a few late summer friends.

DSCN5009

Orb spiders are making there return

After a year’s absence.

DSCN5079

The count in the back is up to 3.

I’m thinking we should name them this year.

DSCN5088

They hang around for quite awhile

So it seems a naming is in order.

And the monarchs are beginning to migrate.

They love the zinnias that are just now coming into their own. 

DSCN5097

A late blooming Hollyhock

Kept a bumblebee happy for some time.

DSCN5093

And all the while

Coco kept watch

Over the garden.

DSCN5107

They joys of simplicity

They are ours for the taking.

Enjoy the week.

Gail

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Filed under Bugs, Butterflies, Dead Heading, Fall, Gardening;Perennials, hollyhocks, Orb Spider, Perennials, Zinnia

TO EVERYTHING THERE IS A SEASON

To everything there is a season

And a time to every purpose under heaven

Familiar words.

And true.

I’ve come to realize over the years that some people seem to time their deaths.

I first realized this when a man named Bill Frass died.

Bill was a kind, gentle and happy soul.

He was also an Iris fanatic.

A plant your backyard full of Iris kind of fanatic.

I first encountered Bill when my neighbor Geraldine shared some of his iris.

After that he was my guide during the annual iris rhizome sale each July.

But the thing is Iris only bloom for a few short weeks each spring.

Somehow Bill managed to die while they were blooming.

His fellow Iris fanatics cut their precious children for his funeral.

The room was filled with Iris.

Full of the scent and aura that was Bill.

What a send off.

I’ve also read about Henry Mitchell.

For years he was the garden writer for the Washington Post.

He died after an afternoon of plating Daffodils with a friend.

Imagine.

Leaving this world with dirt under your fingernails

Having planted the hope of spring.

I like this plan.

But for me the most poignant is the story of when my father died.

It was two years ago this week.

My father was many things.

Most of all he was a farmer. 

His life would take him to meet world leaders

Their conversation would more often than not be about farming.

But there came a time in his late 80’s to stop his active involvement in farming.

It’s a gut wrenching decision echoed by families all through the farm belt.

His decision was made in typical Henry style.

Get the facts – make the decision – don’t look back.

So it was that spring that he came to his last harvest.

Elliott came home to be a part of his own history.

The wheat was cut.

It was a record crop.

All through that summer Daddy came three times a week to my home for lunch.

That had been his pattern for several years.

He could no longer stroll through my garden.

Instead we would sit in the breakfast room and watch the garden grow and change.

We would talk gardening, farming and politics.

I had a sense something was changing but didn’t know what.

He was winding down.

I think I’ve mentioned his theory on color in the garden.

Red.

Only Red!!!

Then there is my theory.

Everything but red.

Except in late summer

When the cockscomb takes over.

It’s the only red flower I grow.

It blooms wildly

Actually out of control this time of year.

There is one non red flower that Daddy liked.

Maxmillian Sunflower.

A late summer blanket on the prairie.

And so it was to be.

His last days came when his beloved country side was covered in Maximillian Sunflowers.

And cockscomb filled my garden.

The Wednesday before his Saturday services

Elliott and I drove through the countryside and cut sunflowers, cattails and maize.

Actually we stole the maize from the field of an old friend.

Along the way we laughed and cried a little and remembered.

We basked in the glory of the sunshine and a life well lived.

We took it all to the florist who filled two urns with fabulous arrangements.

They flanked Daddy as friends came from across the state

To say goodbye.

To tell stories to his grandsons.

To celebrate his life.

At the same time I asked my local florist Ryan to go to my garden

Cut everything he needed to make the casket flowers.

Make it red.

He did.

It is true.

To everything there is a season.

Even for giant spiders.  Sloan and Cassidy just came by on their nightly spider check.  It’s gone….till next season.

Gail

Thanks Elliott & Debra letting me use some of your pictures.

8 Comments

Filed under Cattails, cockscomb, Daffodils, Gardening, HELIANTHUS, Iris, late summer garden, Maximillian Sunflower, Orb Spider, Sunflowers, Uncategorized

TIMING

To everything there is a season

And a time to every purpose under heaven

Familiar words.

And true.

I’ve come to realize over the years that some people seem to time their deaths.

I first realized this when a man named Bill Frass died.

Bill was a kind, gentle and happy soul.

He was also an Iris fanatic.

A plant your entire backyard to Iris kind of fanatic.

I first encountered Bill when my neighbor Geraldine shared some of his Iris with me.

After that he was my guide at the annual Iris Society rhizome sale each July.

But the thing is Iris only bloom for a few short glorious weeks each spring.

Somehow Bill managed to die while they were blooming.

His fellow Iris fanatics cut their precious children for his funeral.

The room was filled with Iris.

Full of the scent and aura that was Bill.

What a send off.

I’ve also read about Henry Mitchell.

For years he was the garden writer for the Washington Post.

He died after an afternoon of plating Daffodils with a friend.

Imagine.

Leaving this world with dirt under your fingernails

Having planted the hope of spring.

I like this plan.

But for me the most poignant is the story of when my father died.

It was two years ago this week.

My father was many things.

Most of all he was a farmer. 

His life would take him to meet world leaders

Their conversation would more often than not be about farming.

But there came a time in his late 80’s to stop his active involvement in farming.

It’s a gut wrenching decision echoed by families all through the farm belt.

His decision was made in typical Henry style.

Get the facts – make the decision – don’t look back.

So it was that spring that he came to his last harvest.

Elliott came home to be a part of his own history.

The wheat was cut.

It was a record crop.

Daddy had selected a young local man to rent his land.

J. Russell began that process.

All through that summer Daddy came three times a week to my home for lunch.

That had been his pattern for several years.

He could no longer stroll through my garden.

Instead we would sit in the breakfast room and watch the garden grow and change.

We would talk gardening, farming and politics.

I had a sense something was changing but didn’t know what.

He was winding down.

I think I’ve mentioned his theory on color in the garden.

Red.

Only Red!!!

Then there is my theory.

Everything but red.

Except in late summer

When the cockscomb takes over.

It’s the only red flower I grow.

It blooms wildly

Actually out of control this time of year.

There is one non red flower Daddy liked.

Maxmillian Sunflower.

A late summer blanket on the prairie.

And so it was to be.

His last days came when his beloved country side was covered in Maximillian Sunflowers.

And cockscomb filled my garden.

The Wednesday before his Saturday services

Elliott and I drove through the countryside and cut sunflowers, cattails and maize.

Actually we stole the maize from the field of an old friend.

Along the way we laughed and cried a little and remembered.

We basked in the glory of the sunshine and a life well lived.

We took it all to the florist who filled two urns with fabulous arrangements.

They flanked Daddy as friends came from across the state

To say goodbye.

To tell stories to his grandsons.

To celebrate his life.

At the same time I asked my local florist Ryan to go to my garden

Cut everything he needed to make the casket flowers.

Make it red.

He did.

It is true.

To everything there is a season.

Even for giant spiders.  Sloan and Cassidy just came by on their nightly spider check.  It’s gone….till next season.

Gail

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Filed under cockscomb, Daffodils, Fall, Iris, Orb Spider, Sunflowers, Timing, Uncategorized

A SEASON OF ORBS

It’s Orb season.

Every year in late summer

Orb spiders begin to build their itricate webs.

This year 2 came to the garden in early August.

Signature zig zag woven into an Orb spider's web

Then a third one appeared by the breakfast room window.

Number four built a mansion of a web in the hydrangea bushes in the front yard.

Then last weekend John discovered number 5 in the boxwood outside the den window.

We have spent hours watching the spider in the front yard.

I’m sure people walking through the neighborhood are beginning to wonder about our sanity.

John loves feeding them. 

At first he would just catch a small moth and toss it into the sticky web.

Dinner!

Now he seeks out food for them

Moths big and little – dead crickets from the garage

Since some things seem to stick better than others

He’s developed a technique of making sure dinner stays put.

Tweezers – who knew?

Once “dinner” has flown into or been placed on the web the Orb will move to it

and begin to spin a cocoon around its victim.

 

This happens with great speed.

After the cocoon is spun and the “meal” is stabilized the Orb begins to eat.

She usually begins with the head.

Now…Orb spiders are no small thing.

The big one in the front is about 3″ – 4 ” long.

Yet it moves with lightening speed and accuracy.

Because we are spending so much time in the front we have shared our fascination with anyone walking by.

Which seems to be mostly mothers and young daughters.

First came Torry, Cassidy and Sloan.

No fear of giant spiders here.

Cassidy caught a bug and placed it on the web – twice.

Cassidy fixing dinner

Mom’s not afraid – why should I be.

Next came Michaela and Bridget on their way to school one morning.

Had no idea these California girls were so into spiders.

But not everyone.

By Saturday when Jessica and Madeline strolled by we could tell they were polite

But squeamish.

Giant spiders aren’t for everyone and that’s OK.

I’ve done a little research on these creatures.

They don’t bite unless aggravated

Their bite hurts but is not life threatening.

They have a life span of one year

The female is the big one

The male is only 1/2 inch long.

You can see them both in this picture that Debra took when she came to visit this week.

The female will lay one or more egg sacs and encase them in the same thread material as their food.

Each egg sack can contain between 300 and 1400 eggs,

She attaches her egg sacs to one side of her web

Close to her in the center of the web.

She will watch her eggs until the first hard freeze

When she will die.

Around here the hatchling spiders will remain dormant in the egg sacs till spring.

When like many things the cycle begins again.

They like to make their homes among flowers, shrubs and tall plants.

Which makes them lovers of Hydrangea.

I have taken endless pictures of these busy creatures.

Spiders, John, Elliott and neighbors.

It is nature in a pure form

Well, except for the part where we catch the bugs.

Watching these intricate sticky webs.

So strong that they withstand wind and rain and stupid human tricks

Knowing that they work hard to create the next generation.

And make the world a safe place.

We all have something in common

We share the same space

What an amazing space this is.

Take care,

Gail

P.S. And just when I think I’ve taken the last picture – last night’s dinner was a DRAGON FLY!!!

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Filed under Fall, Gardening Friends, Gloriosa Daisy - Rudbeckia, Hydrangea, late summer garden, Orb Spider, Perennials, Uncategorized