Tag Archives: spider

Update on Project Milkweed


Common milkweed seeds, gathered from a ditch in Ames Iowa next to the apartment building where my son lives there. I separated these out Friday and also planted them.

I haven’t coordinated a planting effort on the Mount Mercy campus, so I’m not sure there will be many milkweed planted there this year—although I do have an envelope of seeds saved, and may inquire about at least planting those in a few established garden spots.

The final three workdays of this week were fall break at Mount Mercy, and they flew by. On Friday, we invited four grandchildren over for a sleepover party—they spent all day Friday with us and will go home midday Saturday.

I want to describe part of our Friday—but first, a minor word of caution. This post will end with some fall photos, and my cohort in crime for the garden milkweed planting did point out an arachnid, which I did photograph. So the very end of the post is not spider safe. If you are averse to spiders, go ahead and read the post, just don’t scroll to the end of the photos.

Our busy grandchildren day included trip to Half-Price Books followed by Thomas Park, lunch at McDonald’s and them home to pack up bicycles, which we took down to Cedar Lake for a ride (it was warming by then, I’m happy to say). After that, some of the grandkids walked up to HyVee Drugstore with grandma to get bread sticks to go with pasta for supper, while I stayed home with the others.

Amelia, a 5-year-old granddaughter, wanted to help me plant after she saw me separating out milkweed seeds from the bag Audrey and I had collected near our son’s apartment in Ames, Iowa.


Amelia, ready to plant seeds.

I had two sets of milkweed to plant—an envelope with a generous supply of seeds (I kept a second one for possible MMU use) and a bowl of all the white fluff and leftover pods, which also had many seeds left in it.


“Extra” seeds and pods. I did not try to be very efficient gathering seeds–I knew I was going to scatter all the rest behind my fence anyway, in the hope that Mother Nature’s way of planting milkweed will yield some results.

First stop was the woods behind our fence, where I scattered the “extra” seeds and pods, mostly at the edge of the tree line, hoping that sunny spot will promote milkweed growth.


Seeds in the air, edge of the woods behind my house.

After that, Amelia brought the seed envelop down to me so we could plant in the gardens. But when I opened the envelope, only about 1/3 of the seeds where there.

Amelia looked a little sad. “Some of them blew out,” she said. I interpreted that to mean she spilled some, because the seeds in the envelope didn’t have their white silky wind catchers attached, and it wasn’t especially windy.

No matter—1/3 of the seeds was still quite a few, and in the back of my mind was the thought that I did not have to save my second envelope. So, we planted—basically we used a trowel to scape soil in several small areas, scattered some seeds there, and then covered them with a very thin layer.

Milkweed seeds don’t go deep into the soil, and are best planted in fall. The seeds want to overwinter before germinating, or so I’ve read on the internet. Honestly, I’m not the person to consult on this—although I’ve tried for several years to get milkweed going, I don’t have much success.

Anyway, after we got done I didn’t bother to get the second envelope right away. Instead, Amelia and her brother and I simply enjoyed the later afternoon in the backyard, playing various games. When it was starting to cool and I thought it was going to be time to go in soon, I have them the usual 5-minute warning.

Amelia went off by herself and sat on some stone steps that lead from the upper to lower yard. “Grandpa,” she called. “Come here!”

I ambled over, and asked what she wanted. “This is where the seeds spilled,” she said. I moved some leaves on the steps—and sure enough, hundreds of milkweed seeds were just laying on the steps.

So I swept them into my hand and we did planting, round two. And I didn’t feel the need anymore to break into my second envelop. Maybe a small-scale planting at MMU can still happen this fall.

To finish the story, here are some random fall photos taken while Amelia and I were planting, with the caveat that this is where the spider sensitive need to leave this web page:


Fall mum in bloom in garden (and Amelia and I planted some milkweed next to it).


Vine creeping over fence is turning colors (above). Oaks (below) starting to look like fall (maples and tulip tree don’t have the memo yet, crab apples are taking on fall hues).



“There is a big spider,” Amelia said. I looked, and sure enough, right on the gate handle, this big spider was sitting. The board it is on is the one I just slid to lock the gate. I was a bit startled at first–but it’s kind of a pretty looking hunter. And I always figure spiders outdoors are good news–anything that eats mosquitoes and flies is welcome in my gardens!

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The Hunt For My 8-Legged Friend


I have many day lilies, and I like them, but the prettiest are these native ones.

I’m not sure what thumbnail Twitter or Facebook will choose for this blog post, but I’ll add a few bonus flower pictures in hopes that it won’t be the spider image coming up.

I have some sensitive family members, and although I’m not among them, I don’t want to be responsible for nightmares.

Here is the true story: I was watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer (I’m up to season 3) last night, and dozed off after the homecoming dance where neither Buffy nor Cordelia was elected homecoming queen.

When I woke up near midnight—an appropriate witching hour, I think, there was a spider just sitting in the middle of the carpet.

Not just any spider. A SOUS—spider of unusual size. Before I had a major freak-out like a crazed Republican somehow thinking email sloppiness is high treason, I toddled over—because there was a question in my sleep-addled mind.

Toy? Or spider?

I grabbed a plastic container and nudged it, gently. It took off.

Not in my direction, or I might have screamed like, well, I don’t know, an old man facing a SOUS coming at him.

But, the spider was 2 ½ inches across and probably stood a half inch tall. The contest wasn’t at all equal. In the end, said spider was quickly under said container.

As far as I could tell, no harm was done to the SOUS. That’s my general attitude towards arachnids—I’m not happy to see them, but they don’t harm me so I try not to harm them.

I went to bed. In the morning, I showed the SOUS to my wife and grandson, and held said grandson while the wife slipped some cardboard under the SOUS and carried it (gender unknown) outside.

Where it was released, and photographed. Calm yourselves, faint of heart, here it is:


Yup–this is the real photo of the real spider. It’s outside on a basketball hoop base. Big thing, but kind of cute. Google says wolf spiders make good pets–but I’m not willing to go that far …

What is it? Five minutes with Google were not conclusive, but I think it’s a species of wolf spider. Most wolf spiders I’ve seen are far smaller, but the big G says they can range in size, and some fairly common species are considered large spiders.

Well, I consider this one huge. And free. I hope it doesn’t break back in. I don’t want my next Buffy episode punctuated by something with eight legs. And, just in case the thumbnail ends up being the last photo:


Spring tulip, no spider.

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Snow Day, Grade Day, Spider Day, Go To Work in PM Day

A squirrel in an ash tree in my front yard on this snowy morning.

A squirrel in an ash tree in my front yard on this snowy morning.

(Aside to a sister, avoid reading to the end of this post if you don’t want to see the creepy crawly who was keeping me company.)

Well, isn’t Mother Nature in a snit this winter?

Channel 9 warned us this weekend that Monday would be ugly. My wife and I awoke at 5 a.m., when the nagging alarm told us it’s “gym time.” We looked out, but saw nothing, and got dressed. But, in the 10 minutes it took us to don sweatpants and socks, a sound started, sort of like a bunch of tiny pebbles being dropped on a board.

There was ice falling from the sky with an odd sandy rattle. We opened the front door, and briefly considered staying at home because who wants to be out in ice? But the ice wasn’t heavy yet, and the gym is nearby, so off we went.

While we were there, the news flashed on the TV screen: Mount Mercy University is closed for the day. Then our cell phones rang. “Mount Mercy is closed for the day,” they confirmed. The snow day will cause me to reshuffle a bunch of syllabi, and I still have to go in to the office late this afternoon to print papers and practice bell ringing, but both my wife and I had the same two-part reaction: First: hooray! And second: morning nap time!

Later, when I got up again, this time around 9 a.m., I noticed a squirrel scampering across the front yard, and I scampered to get my camera and shot a few snow photos out my windows.

My attempt to photograph snowflakes falling. The tree in the background is deliberately out of focus as I try to get an image of the flakes themselves.

My attempt to photograph snowflakes falling. The tree in the background is deliberately out of focus as I try to get an image of the flakes themselves.

Also while we were at the gym, the ice quickly changed to snow, which was a bit of blessing because I just would rather not deal with ice storms, thank you. Say what you will about the white stuff cascading from the skies—and I’m sure lots of people will have some nasty things to say—it’s far nicer than ice.

Well, I’m sure my wife would remind me that “blogging” doesn’t count as catching up on work. Back to the salt mines, even on this snow day.

Still, the world is pretty when it is covered in new white snow. There will be some melting this week. The company I ordered flowers from this spring just e-mailed me an “order status” message to remind me that there will be an April sometime in the future and I should get new flowers delivered then that supposedly I will be able to plant in thawed ground.

And while I was finishing this post, my pal showed up, the hunting spider who spends her time killing small insects in my office, a service I consider valuable so I try not to hassle her. Somehow, arachnid life seems like a foreshadowing of spring, too.

Hang on, Iowans. Enjoy the snow day. What else can you do?

My pal, the office spider, who showed up by a syllabus I'm updating when I'm not blogging.

My pal, the office spider, who showed up by a syllabus I’m updating when I’m not blogging.


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Flies and Spiders and Squirrels, Oh My!

Bee on a bush by my deck.

Bees are a buzzing around the bushes that surround my deck, which are in bloom. They draw butterflies, too, but many more bees.

I went on a safari on a Wednesday morning and came back alive.

Not that I was ever in that much danger, although danger did pop up once. I just had a few minutes to kill as the family group I was with prepared for a shopping outing, so I grabbed my Nikon and shot a few critter photos.

I love being outdoors in summer, even if I’m already nursing an infected mosquito bite. Mostly, I love the plants, but the bugs, birds, reptiles and mammals that surround even in the city are fascinating, too.

As a gardener, I have mixed feelings about squirrels. Sure they are cute, but they dig up and eat lots of things, too. Still, any Iowa gardener would rather spot a tree rat than a bunny any day.

Anyway, I was hoping for some other creatures. A robin couple who lost their first brood to some unknown catastrophe—one day there were babies, the next day a mere shell of a nest—are building a new nest and apparently going to try again. I observed Mr. Robin fruitlessly tugging at the rope to my hammock swing—attempting to get some of that nice white string for the nest, I assume.

But the robin couple were AWOL this morning, as was a monarch I’ve observed hanging around recently, as were the cardinal couple who must be nesting nearby but whose nest I have not found. Audrey has spotted some hummingbirds, but I have not seen any yet this year and didn’t get a chance Wednesday morning trying to capture those elusive nectar drinkers.

Still, there were other birds to see and other critters to photograph. At one point, I was shooting a squirrel and it ran over the fence and into the woods. Undaunted, I opened the back gate to give photographic chase.

And was very daunted when I returned to me yard. I reached for the gate to shut it, and right were I was planning to put my hand, there she was. I assume she, just due to her massive size.

It was a spider, a September-huge one, easily three inches from tip of forelegs to aft.


Spider. Yes, the bottom of the board is exactly where I would normally rest my hand when shutting and locking the gate. The spider ran off without action on my part after a short photo shoot, but jeepers.

Probably not all that harmful, but still. A bit of a shock. Well, I didn’t harm the insect-eating monster—as I’ve blogged before, I try to respect spiders because I want them to be effective predators of other things that really do bite me—and instead snapped her photo.

It was near the exciting end of my safari, which turned out to be just slightly more exciting than I had expected.  My safari photos on Flickr.

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Photo Fever: Where the Hummingbird Feeds


UPDATE: After posting blog about hummingbird, I saw and photographed it!

Foxglove in wall garden in front yard, tasty to hummingbirds, apparently.

Yeah, I got it,  photo fever. My new Nikon makes me hungry.

The Gazette wasn’t there Wednesday morning, so I called. When they finally delivered it, I went out to pick it up, and a slight movement in the corner of my right eye made me glance towards the wall garden.

Where a hummingbird was feeding in the foxglove.

What a freaky, fast, funny bird. Hovering like a Huey for an instant, but then flitting off like lightning.

I watched it for maybe 5 seconds. Of course, I thought of grabbing my Nikon. Of course it would have been hopeless, the hummingbird finished its breakfast in a few seconds and flitted off.

Well, I was ready today. I sat on the front stoop reading The Gazette, camera worn like a necklace. But, did not see the bird, so I took some flower photos, most in the front wall garden where the bird-drawing foxglove are finishing their blooming, but a few in back, too.

Some photos here, more in a Facebook album.

And I have to be philosophical about the hummingbird. Even if she didn’t cooperate and get her photo taken, she was cool to see and I hope I glance her again. Catching her image isn’t likely, but it would be really, really cool.

And now I want a close up macro lens Garden Muse uses for her excellent photos. Oh well, I’m getting better garden photos this year anyway, and I need to learn how to use the Nikon.

The daddy longlegs is OK, but he’s no hummingbird.

UPDATE: Well shoot darn.  Spoke or wrote too soon.  After posting this entry on my blog, I cut myself a couple of slices of Audrey’s excellent homemade banana nut bread and sat down on my front stoop to enjoy breakfast.  With my Nikon, fortunately, as you can see on the first photo and in the final two at the end of this post. I was a bit far away, but the bird wasn’t staying long–still, it’s exciting to get any images at all of this quick little creature, and just cool to see it again.  (Looking at the photos, I’m not so sure the colors are dull, with hummingbirds it’s hard to see.)

Spider on bud

Spider on cone flower bud--actually, a daddy long legs, I think, a spider-like bug.

Asian lilies.

Asian lilies and buds in front wall garden (near foxglove).

The bird!

Humming bird ready for a foxglove snack.

It's a bird!

The hummingbird, ready to fly off after a 3-second breakfast.

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Triple Picture Tuesday: Warning, not Spider Safe


Viburnum, one of the new bushes in the "new" garden north of my house, is in full bloom.

It’s a beautiful, warm, summerlike day today, which is good.

It’s May 10, which is not quite as good. Despite my good intentions, I have a huge backlog of grading, so I’ll let the pictures mostly speak for themselves.

Still, it’s hard to be too grumpy with the world turning so pretty. Both my yard and MMU are greening up very nicely, and most of the trees are finally waking up and will be green soon. It appears most of my Arbor Day trees didn’t make it this time, and I have no Ironwood seedlings yet—but both Catalpa trees made it through the winter, and that’s something.


Young Redbud, like Viburnum planted last summer in "new" garden, in full bloom.

And, I know the spider will freak out one of my sisters, but yesterday, on a cloudy Monday, I thought this big gal was just interesting to see, looking like she’s floating on the clouds—the flying monster spider of doom? No, just a lady who made her home on the other side of a Lundy Commons window.

the flying spider

Watch out! It's a bird, it's a plane, it's superman? Or the flying spider? This spider built her web on the outside of a Lundy Commons window--probably not a good move since the windows do get washed. Still, she looked like she was flying May 9.

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A Visitor With 8 Legs

Spider in Warde Hall near the drinking fountain on the first floor. I like the hardwood floor in Warde, hope they never get in a hurry to carpet it. This is a large lady, no insult intended, over 1/2 as wide as a floor board.

A while ago, I wrote about a small spider that lived in my office at home. Sad to say, I have not seen that spider for some time, but then again, spiders are shy and she may just be better at hiding.

Anyway, today while walking to my office from a meeting in Lundy Commons, I spied this spider lady stalking the hallway by the drinking fountain. Before you say “eeek,” she was totally silent, smaller than a quarter and quietly trying to cop a drink without bothering any big bipeds. I’m sure she would, with considerable justification, fear us far more than the most paranoid of us fear her.

Anyway, when I wrote about my home office companion, some people at MMU thought I had an arachnid friend in my office, 101 Warde Hall. I probably do—spiders aren’t very rare—but I haven’t seen any.

Sure saw this one, though. Big mama!

A couple more images of her posted on Facebook to freak out family and friends.

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And the Oscar For Sure Does Not Go To …

Check out this video—poor audio quality, dull narration, 4 minutes of watching a spider crawl around late at night.

What can I say? I’m playing with video editing on my home laptop—this time tried adding audio. Have not discovered how to add voiceovers directly—something easy in iMovie, but I have not found it in the cheap Microsoft knockoff.  Had to use a different audio program to record and then add the voice over as a music file.  Anybody out there know an easier way to record directly into a video project in MS Movie Maker?

Watch out at the end of the video where the sample music cuts in. LOUD!

I tried a plug-in microphone and got worse audio (believe it or not) than using the crappy-built in microphone on the laptop.

Oh well. My laptop wants to be an iMac, just like Move Maker wants to be iMovie, but neither is quite there, yet.

The little spider seems to be doing well. My video editing skills, on the other hand, have a long way to go!

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