Blooming toward fall

Hi everyone,

Has this been a good year for blooming plants where you live? Ours has been so sensational we’re already dreading the end of the season and trying to decide which plants we can save and how. The hibiscus have grown so much during this second summer we don’t know how we’re going to fit them into the breakfast room again but we’re determined to try. The geraniums, at least some of them, need to be saved. Maybe we’ll try that trick of hanging them upside down in the garage and maybe this time we’ll remember to water them during the winter. A pair of palms are headed for the dining room. The coleus may have to fend for themselves, same as last winter. We thought they had died but this spring they suddenly came out of the soil bigger and better than ever. We have thirty plants in pots around the patio this year. They are thirsty all the time but they have repaid us handsomely. Does anyone else take plants in for the winter?

The wolf by day

Hi everyone,

Yesterday afternoon Robin, Tim, and Kris came over for a dip in the pool and kabobs on the grill. While we were in the water I noticed a spider slipping into the track around the top of the pool where the liner is attached. It’s a narrow space that often spells doom for beetles, crickets, ants, spiders, and other small creatures that slide two and a half inches down the face of the deck and manage to grab onto the track and climb in. Once there, they have nowhere else to go; can’t climb back up the smooth surface and a watery grave awaits them a few inches below. I often find tiny things flailing away in distress when I’m wading around the pool and return them to the deck so they can get on with their lives. I usually do this by coming up under them with the back of my hand and quickly shaking them off onto safer ground. The day before, I rescued a cricket and set it down beside the base of a geranium pot. It calmly cleaned its antennae by pulling them through its mandibles, stretched its legs as if checking for injuries, and eventually crawled into a small dark opening at the base of the pot and disappeared. Mission accomplished.

But the spider yesterday was different. It was a wolf spider and a big one. These are solitary hunters who usually seek their prey at night. It’s a poisonous creature although its venom won’t kill you. Still, I pointed out its hiding place to everyone in the pool so they wouldn’t accidently put a hand too near it. Then I removed the top of the drain trap as a tray, found a dead hibiscus blossom, and used its protruding stamen to tease the spider until it leaped onto the tray. It took one look at me and jumped into the pool, so pumped it practically ran across the water. Talk about fast! I finally managed to scoop up the wolf and get it onto the deck where it immediately climbed up the side of the same geranium pot and stopped to figure out what to do.

Sandy, who doesn’t care for spiders, splashed water in the spider’s face. In a flash it disappeared around the back of the pot. It then reappeared and came rushing back toward us. At the last instant it paused to look us over and weigh its chances. Then, reluctantly I thought, it backed up and crawled into the dark opening under the pot — the same one where I last saw the hapless cricket the day before. If that cricket was still there when the wolf joined it, I’m sure it isn’t now. My assumption is that the cricket had escaped during the night before the wolf came along. But if it didn’t, there’s one less voice in the choir now. It’s always fascinating to catch a glimpse of nature at work.

An evening on Goose Lake

Hi everyone,

It’s nice to go places. We liked our trip to Cabo San Lucas in Mexico, met lots of people, enjoyed new experiences . . .

But Goose Lake always welcomes us home. Yesterday we spent an hour in the pool surrounded by thirty potted plants in bloom — geraniums, hibiscus, petunias, coleus, roses — then carried dinner to our favorite table beside the lake. While we ate, a muskrat swam by as dusk settled. A swan moved slowly past us, white feathers against darkening water creating a majestic video, then flapped its enormous wings and soared off to an undisclosed location.

Just before dark a noisy squabble broke out on the far bank when a number of geese voiced hysterical disapproval of some calamity among their ranks. Five crows perched in the hackberry above our heads and held a short meeting before heading across the lake, perhaps to investigate. Two late season fireflies that hadn’t checked the calendar wandered around among the trees in search of one last chance for love.

We pointed out to each other the moon that had sneaked up while we weren’t paying attention and now peeked down through the trees. As it grew later, residents of Goose Lake settled down for the night. The late evening stillness mirrored our own tranquility. It was one of those nights you don’t want to end.

Spider season

Hi everyone,

It’s spider season. Whether those orb weavers and wolf spiders and grass spiders and all sorts of other spiders freak you out or fascinate you, it’s that time of year when you spot them everywhere. If you spend much time outdoors you’ve probably already walked into your share of webs and stopped to look at those large round webs strung across open spaces. Where did all these spiders come from?

Truth is they’ve been there all year, quietly going about their business of catching and devouring the juices from small insects and other spiders. Millions of midges and moths and flies have perished, thanks to the army of spiders that share our homes and yards with us. Most spiders around us that started as small ones in spring themselves became victims of other spiders, lizards, toads, large insects, and birds during the warm months, but those that survived have fattened up on their success until they have grown large enough to “suddenly” appear everywhere. Besides that, they’re also looking for love before they perish from age or nature.

In the pool the other evening I was bitten two or three times by midges, which bothered me far more than the two spiders I spotted at one end of the pool and one at the other, hanging on their slender webs and removing other midges from the world. I fished a couple of drowned spiders off the floor of the pool and rescued another by lifting it from the water on the back of my hand and setting it on the deck. Later I took a picture of a spider busily spinning a new web in a hackberry tree beside our table and stopped to chuckle at a wolf spider that has taken up residence in a vacated wren house on the kitchen windowsill.

If you can’t beat them, join them. There are more of them than there are of us. Without them we might get carried off in our sleep by flocks of mosquitoes!