Category Archives: Orb Spider

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.

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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

AAAAAAHHHH!!!

There is something about fall

Cool

Crisp

Refreshing

It’s an almost indescribable feeling

The end of summer

The beginning of fall

Here on the plains I’ve known fall to arrive anytime from mid-August until October.

This year it came right on schedule.

Sunday morning of Labor Day Weekend.

Put away white clothes – check !

Turn on the cool – check !

It was as if someone finally found the switch on that blast furnace known as the Summer of 2011.

And they mercifully turned it off.

Every day since has been pure delight.

Cool crisp mornings

Sunny delightful afternoons.

So….what do we do in the garden now.

Prepare

Observe

Re-think

Enjoy

First I discovered that the sugar snap peas I planted a few weeks ago weren’t doing so good.

Some had sprouted

But not many

Something was eating on some.

Likely grasshoppers.

So I re-planted.

Remember to soak the seed a few hours or overnight.

Then since I was filling in I used a dandelion digger.

Stab it into the ground where there is a blank space

And drop the seed in the hole.

Water well and keep moist till they sprout

Which shouldn’t take long this time of year.

Hopefully there is still time for them to grow and produce Peg’s favorite veggie.

Then I began to think lettuce.

 

I seem to plant things in the same place.

I know with vegetables you need to rotate.

But since mine are inter-planted with my flowers that’s a little tricky.

So I’m doing the next best thing.

Keep enriching the soil.

The edge of the hydrangea bed by the gate is one of my favorite spots.

The impatiens mostly just fried there this summer.

So I pulled what was left up – way ahead of the usual time.

Next I worked up the soil

Pitchforks are great for this job

Added compost – lots of compost.

Compost from summer leaf pile

Work it all up and

Invite Cassidy and Sloan to help plant.

The theory is if they grow it they will eat it!

Once we’ve sprinkled lots of Encore Mix from Johnny’s Selected Seeds.

We pat them in and give them a drink.

I’m working on a couple of other lettuce beds.

Won’t plant them for a week or two.

Hopefully this will spread out the season and we’ll have tons of lettuce

To eat and to share.

For the re-thinking I engaged Elliott

He’s here for a working vacation.

It’s amazing how you can ponder your garden for weeks trying to solve a problem

And solve it in a 10 minute conversation with a kindred soul fellow gardener.

The problem is that my wonderful Dahlia area is losing it’s sun.

It’s going to shade.

All ready the ends are not producing

The middle can’t be far behind.

Yet a solo Dahlia in the sunny part of the garden is blooming its head off.

Elliott’s idea.

Add a Dahlia area on the northeast corner of the garden house.

Great idea.

This area looks like it will always be sunny.

It’s will require some fall and spring transplanting

Before I can plant the area to Dahlias next spring.

I’ll keep you posted along the way.

As for observing

We’ve spent lots of time watching and feeding orb spiders this week.

An orb spider "preparing" lunch

But….that’s a story all its own

I’ll share it next time.

Till then

Glory in these days

Walk your neighborhood

Look at it through the eyes of a child

Take it all in.

Gail

Cassidy in front of the sunflower she planted last spring.

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Filed under Compost, Fall, Garden Planning, Lettuce, Orb Spider, sugar snap peas, Sunflowers, Uncategorized

SEEING

Recently I bought a new camera.

Just a simple point and shoot that hopefully will give better color to the pictures I share.

I’ve noticed something since I got it.

I see differently

more, actually.

Can’t wait for the sun to come up to go into my garden and take pictures.

Pictures of the same flowers and bugs that I’ve known for years.

Decades really.

Late summer visitor - Orb spider

But I’m seeing them differently through this new lens.

Veronica spicata, for instance.

Veronica Spicata

It’s not a terribly showy flower.

I’ve called it a “filler flower” for years.

Probably not politically correct to cast it in such a subservient role.

I’ve even threatened to dig it all up from time to time.

But…the truth is it’s a great flower

now that I see it through a new lens.

And cockscomb

Sure, I’ve marveled over the big “brainy” blooms

Now I’m fascinated by the clusters of feathery blossoms as they rustle in the breeze.

I’m suddenly drawn to the things that have been right in front of me.

Things I walk past each day

Yet don’t truly see.

Like this short but mighty Gloriosa Daisy that just begged me to take its picture.

Seeing

It’s so important.

Critical really in much of life.

Perhaps seeing is the thing that ties the varied parts of my life together.

Because I garden

I observe.

My mind keeps going to another of my passions.

Hunger

How to solve it.

It, like veronica spicata, is right in front of us.

Everyday.

We may not see it.

We likely don’t realize it’s even there.

But it is

Everywhere

Close at home

And far away

If we look – choose to see.

Recently we opened a food pantry at the high school.

It will provide food for kids who have none on weekends.

It has refrigeration so kids can have access to fresh food

A staple for so many of us.

A luxury for so many more.

Kelly is planning to plant another “field” of lettuce this fall.

Harvesting last spring's lettuce

I’ll have a row or two.

We’ve made arrangements to have volunteers come and cut and take it to the high school.

Lettuce bagged and ready to deliver

Seeing a need right in front of us.

Planting a way to meet that need.

Seeing the world connected.

Is it any wonder I love to garden!!!

Gail

P.S.  If you have extra fruit and vegetables you’d like to share, just let me know.

A potential fall tomato crop?

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Filed under cockscomb, Gloriosa Daisy - Rudbeckia, Hunger, Lettuce, Orb Spider, Tomato, Veronica Spicata