September 8, 2012
It’s a blustery, blowy day today. The wind has knocked over my vase of flowers on the table where I write and there are yellow leaves on the back lawn, blown off the old cottonwood and over the rooftop by the wind. Although the annuals are still heartily blooming, it feels more and more like autumn, with cool nights and an edge to the mornings.
The magic spiders have been busy weaving their webs, some silken, some more like cotton. The webs catch the falling debris as well as passing insects. One on my window has caught a maple wing which looks as though it is floating in the wind. I welcome the spiders to my garden and I admire their industry and individuality. I learned some amazing things about them when I wrote about them in my 10 Neat things About Spiders E-letter a few weeks ago; for example, collectively, the spiders of the world eat more insects in weight every year than the weight of the entire human population!
But I didn’t learn why they are so busy in autum, except that hunting is good when the insect population leaps in fall. In one case, the yellow house spider prefers to weave its web at this time of year. These little guys also bite, leaving an itchy mosquito-bite-like swelling that can last up to ten days. They leave the house in spring. Orb weaver spider also come inside when they get the chance and often weave their webs around lighted windows, doorways and so, on. They wrap their victims in webbing. The cobweb spider is another that likes to come indoors for the winter. They don’t bite.
As I watch the busy arachnids at their work, keeping the insect population in check, I marvel at their abilities. In looking for new territory, some spiders can launch themselves, by means of their spinneret and its silken thread, 50 to 60 miles away and as high as 5,000 feet in the air. This is known as ballooning. They spin as they travel on the wind.
Many spiders do not weave webs to entrap their meals: wolf spiders chase their prey and weave only a silken sac to carry its eggs in. Crab spiders ambush their prey. Jumping spiders leap on their prey.
All spiders have eight legs and a two-part body.
September 16, 2012
Suddenly many leaves are golden and fall confronts us with cool reality. In spite of 27 degree temperatures yesterday, it is only half that today at noon. It is 12:02. I picked the last of the cucumbers and the blushing tomatoes today, including those that are light green, because frost threatens us later this week.
Last week was a week of endings. One day, I noticed something floating in the pool and looking closer I could see that it was a little red squirrel, a juvenile. I felt sick at heart and when Ian came over to help with the yard, I asked him to help me retrieve the poor little thing. He got the net and I, cowardly thing that I am, stood with my back to the pool as Ian did what had to be done. As I stood there cringing and feeling very sad, Ian quietly said, “I hate to tell you this, Dorothy, but Mom’s in here too.”
I had a vision of the baby desperately trying to get out with Mama frantically trying to effect a rescue. There was suddenly water in my eyes and I was angry with myself for not reinstalling the chipmunk ladder!
But already there is another little red squirrel running up and down the fence and hiding pine cones in the old water fountain . . . Or could it be the same one who has been scolding me all summer and only two strangers who lost their lives in the pool? Or perhaps it was Little Red’s children, those tiny beings she so carefully moved from one nest to another this spring to protect them from some predator and for whom I insulted the neighbour’s cat when he came bounding into the garden with great enthusiasm as baby squirrel was just finding his climbing legs.
Somehow, sad as this all is, it would be good to think that Little Red is still here. Either way, there is comfort in the fact that a squirrel lives on in the garden. But sometimes it hurts to be a gardener and have to face the unrelenting reality of life, death and rebirth.