Aren’t You Glad I Said Arachnid?

nocturnal spider

Nocturnal spider

The itsy, bitsy spider went…

Who am I kidding!  This baby is huge!  Spider, arachnid, eight-legged wonder.  You can call it what you like, but these super-sized spiders make my hair stand on end.

I was enjoying a warm evening on deck with my hub,  when he pointed out this nocturnal spider. The spider’s web stretched from the house to the Magnolia tree, across the ramp leading to the deck.  By day, this arachnid must pack away her web, but once the sun sets, she’s open for business.

I say ‘she’ because my friend once suggested that I think of all spiders as female or as someone’s
mom making them appear less creepy.  I’m not sure it helped.

Spiders are great for the garden.  I’m delighted they’re here and appreciate the good work they do, reducing the non-beneficial bug population.  It’s just that I prefer they do it when I’m not looking.

spider in web

Waiting for dinner

Itsy Bitsy Spider

The birds aren’t the only ones laying eggs this time of year. I happened upon a newly hatched ‘family’ of spiders today.  I put family in quotes, because honestly there were hundreds of them. They look big in the pictures, but they are as small as a pin head.

I was clearing dried leaves around the orange tree, tossing them into the compost bin. As I reached for a dried branch, I saw what looked like tiny flowers caught in a web. The ‘flowers’ however, were moving in different directions. Good thing I withdrew my gloved hand when I did. Our neighbors would have heard me scream like a B movie actress in a horror film.

ferns with spider web

Ferns under the orange tree little closer

Ferns…at little closer

Ferns...closer still

Ferns…closer still

I grabbed the camera and took several shots.  Video would have been better, but I’m still not well versed with this spiders on fern 4-18-2013 12-47-11 PM

spiders up close 4-18-2013 12-46-40 PM

Spiders up close: look, Ma, no hands!

Lindy came over to investigate.  It’s not every day she finds me sitting in the ferns.  Once I  turned the camera in her direction, she went all feline on me and gave me the cold shoulder.

Lindy near the ferns 4-18-2013 12-47-58 PM

Lindy Lu

I have an interesting relationship with spiders.  Indoors, they creep me out.  I humanely remove them with my spider-catcher, and set them loose in the garden.  Outside, unless they’re bigger than a quarter, I’m usually okay with them.  When startled, however, I freak out.  It’s the strangest thing.

How do you feel about spiders?  Are you indifferent?  Did you pass out at the first photo?  Or are you as fascinated with nature as I am?  Maybe all three.

Transforming the Garden: Mad for Inflatables

We’re used to seeing cars slow down in front of our house this time of year.  Either the driver is smiling, because they love Halloween as much as we do, or they’re shaking their heads thinking “those people are over the top!”

My youngest son has been a fan of inflatables for as long as I can remember.  He used to spend hours at the computer during the winter months, bookmarking page after page of inflatable decorations.  He printed his favorites, and pasted them in a book.  Every year we visit a local “parking lot patch” where he gleefully enjoys the enormous inflatable slides, bounce houses and the occasional obstacle course.  One year he received fifty dollars for Christmas from one of his uncles, enough to buy a holiday inflatable at 50% off. And so it began.

inflatable cat and spider

Inflatable spider with moving head and his trusty kitty side-kick

My son saves his allowance and the occasional cash gift and “invests” in his inflatable treasures.  Each inflatable has a story to go with it.  The monstrous cat purchased at a discontinued price, hidden in the back yard until Halloween night so he could surprise everyone.  The creepy spider, bought online with an annoying whistle whenever it turns its head.  Finally, the pièce de résistance, the inflatable archway, complete with ghosts and tombstones. By the time we saw it in a party store they were sold out.  The store agreed to sell us the floor model for, you guessed it, half off.  I paid for half, he paid the rest.

Inflatable archway

Through wind and sleet and Halloween decor, the mail carrier still delivers

My way of decorating before having children was more subtle.  I would put out a pumpkin or two, a few fall plants and call it a day.  Not any more.  As my son ages, he wants everything a little scarier.  By Halloween night we’ll have a spider with a moveable head, the enormous cat and the lighted entryway.  He’ll stretch spider webbing from shrub to tree and my husband will add lights to the awning. The webbing catches falling Magnolia leaves, that twist and turn in the wind.  We toss plastic spiders at the web for a naturalized effect and by October 31st we’re looking downright spooky.

Rocking chair ghost

Rocking chair all dressed up

Our garden, transformed.

Halloween Countdown

I'm a Mac Pumpkin

I’m a Mac Pumpkin

Spider Catcher: Witness Relocation Program for Arachnids

Humane Bug Catcher
Available from PETA

Spiders used to freak me out.  Seriously, I considered sleeping on the couch if I knew a spider lurked above my bed.  I once read that people ingest about six spiders during an average lifetime.  Well.

Over time, I’ve faced those fears.  Though I’m not fond of the over-sized wolf spiders or the dark-legged lurker, I can deal.  Interestingly, unless they are really large, I don’t mind them so much in the garden.  They eat non-beneficial insects and, I recently learned, provide silk for hummingbird nests.

In my early renting days, one of my roommates set up a primitive version of a spider catcher: a plastic cup and a nice strong piece of cardboard.  He knew I couldn’t kill a spider so an at-the-ready bug catcher was the next best think.  Cup and cardboard in hand, unwanted arachnids  were unceremoniously evicted into nearby landscaping.

About a decade ago, I found a super-cool spider catcher at a local wildlife bird center.  It has a long handle (distance is good!) and a clever little chamber to safely cup over the intruder.  Once confined, you gently slide the bottom closed and the spider remains captive as you head for the shrubs in the far, far, far corner of the garden.

Humane Bug Catcher available from PETA’s catalog.