Tag Archives: spiders

The Hunt For My 8-Legged Friend


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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:

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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:

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Spring tulip, no spider.

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Defying Certain Death In Three Acts


Please, no autographs right now. I know I star in this blog, but I have to go play. Or climb something. Or both.

Please, no autographs right now. I know I star in this blog, but I have to go play. Or climb something. Or both.

Well, Memorial Day weekend got off to a big start Friday, with three death-defying acts:

Act I
When Amelia Shows She Can Climb

We had three grandkids overnight, and no, exciting as that is, it does not count as a death-defying act. After a morning bike ride with Amelia, Audrey picked up Nikayla at preschool, and we headed off to Willow Park in Marion for a picnic lunch/child handoff.

Where Amelia, unsurprisingly, defied death.

They have a climbing wall thing at that badly named park (badly named because there was no willow in sight at Willow Park) that consists of four plastic climbing walls, and two different types of side ladder things, one a metal spiral, the other I don’t recall but it doesn’t enter our story anyway.

The climbing walls lead to a platform perhaps 5 feet off the ground. The walls seem built maybe for kids ages 5 to 8. Amelia turns 2 today, and is small for her age, but nonetheless, she had little trouble scrambling up the climbing walls, even if it was a bit scary to watch her. Still, that was not yet defying death even if the action sequence was a bit exciting.

Once she was atop the mountain, the idea was to get down and repeat. The metal spiral ladder thingie was her chosen route. Now, we’re ready to defy the ultimate demise.

Amelia grasps poles on the platform with either hand, and slips her body off of the platform. She’s now hanging there by her arms. She stretches her legs out and finds the spiral with her feet. It’s a rather long reach for her peanut-sized body. The first time she got into this position, she accepted her mother’s help to move her arms to the spiral metal ladder, which she then descended on her own.

Of course, having survived once, her goal was to do it again immediately. Up the climbing wall, onto the platform, over to the spiral ladder, precariously hang there, swing your feet out, barely reach the spiral and then prepare to move a hand across the abyss, which requires you to stretch your arms to their maximum reach.

Amelia’s mother offered her aid, again. “No!” Amelia declared emphatically, and shook her head for emphasis—then she groped across space, finally securing a finger hold on the spiral. She then used said finger hold to lift her whole torso so she could move her other arm. All onlooking adults were poised for disaster, breaths held—but Amelia was unconcerned. She latched on, and quickly scrambled down, climbed, hung, groped, reached, scrambled down, climbed, groped, reached … etc.

Death was successfully defied. At 2, she has not learned the meaning of fear. Everyone who knows her has.

Amelia at park.

Amelia on the platform. In front of her are the two poles she will hang onto and dangle from. It may be scary to watch, but she’s not worried a bit.

Act II
An Act That Is Not Toni Safe

Fair warning, there definitely are creatures with multiple legs.

That afternoon, Audrey suggested that we take the kayaks out for the first time. It was a cool morning, but it was a nice afternoon, so Ben and I agreed. Ben and I loaded the kayaks and equipment while Audrey packed sodas. And we’re off to Pleasant Creek Recreation Area Lake near Palo.

The water was super cold and the lake a bit choppy. Ben and I went out first, and we headed west to the cove where a canoe rental area was once located.

We don’t know if it’s because the water is high this spring, but Ben and I found that the western cove extends to a narrow waterway that is apparently this lake’s turtle club. We saw multiple turtle sunning themselves on partially submerged logs—about a dozen in all, including one log crowded with six turtles. Many of them slid into the chilly waters as we neared, but we still got pretty close, and it was pretty cool to see.

The waters of the lake were very clear, and we could watch many fish swimming around. We saw a rabbit guarding the woods, a lone goose that we wondered about (others seeming to be more social) and a large bird that at first we thought was a hawk, but as it got close appeared not to be a hawk, but was fun to watch, whatever it was, anyway.

All in all, a fun first kayak outing. And, despite chilly waters, wind and some waves, not really death defying, but it serves as prelude. Cue ominous music.

After Audrey and Ben went kayaking, we drove home, and while Ben and Audrey went inside, I unloaded the kayaks. Ben came out to help carry in the other stuff, such as the towels.

Then, I went into my bedroom to change into a lawn-mowing outfit. My plan was to mow before taking my post-kayaking shower. As I was picking out my blue jeans, something tickled my right ear. I reached up to brush off the ear, and felt something moving on my neck. Again, reflexively, I brushed my neck with my hand, and something plopped to the ground at my feet.

Something with eight legs. Something that was rather large with eight legs. Sorry, Toni, but true story.

Now, the odd thing is that I didn’t scream like a girl or like a bonobo or like an owl or like any other creature. For some reason, the appearance of a Very Big Spider that had, let me remind you, been crawling on my neck didn’t disturb me at all. My reaction was to call Ben—not for rescue, but because I knew: A) He would want to see the spider and B) He’s a more experienced spider wrangler than I am.

That’s right, blog fans, sometime between my childhood and now I’ve become so blasé about arachnids that when I find a huge one which has been tickling my ear, my first reaction is: “How can I safely release this one?”

So, armed with a magazine and Tupperware, Ben trapped said spider, which he then released on our deck. And post release, I snapped its picture as it was escaping to the other side of a planter.

Yes. The spider defied death. Honestly, I was not at risk. It was not a brown recluse or black widow, blog pals, so I was really never in any danger. It was.

Spiker on planter.

Yes, it was big. Yes, it was on my neck. Yes, it was safely released in the wild. Later, we watched “Ruthless People.”

Act III
When I Mow and Plant and Trim The Dangerous Tree

We’ve arrived at our final death-defying act, friends. I mowed. Ben and Audrey, meanwhile, went to Home Depot to buy geraniums, and while there were kind enough to get me a new butterfly bush.

I had two in the front garden, but neither survived the winter. Butterfly bushes are touchy plants in this climate—they normally die down to the soil line, but usually come back. Not this year.

But, I do like this kind of bush, partly because its flowers are cute, but mostly because it does live up to its name and attract pretty summer fliers. I can’t say the butterfly bush defied death since it actually died, but hold on, blog fans.

The drought last year, followed by a long winter, was a bit rough on some plants. Of 10 Arbor Day trees planted last year, three survive this spring—a maple, a sweet gum and a dogwood. That’s OK, because I am not short of trees.

The butterfly bushes expired. Some other bushes in back survived, but have more than the usual level of dead limbs. It was a tough year. See more of my May 24 garden photos here.

And in the front yard, 2/3 of the hawthorn tree bit the dust. So, after mowing and planning my new butterfly bush, my goal was to cut off the dead top of the tree.

With old rusty bush trimmers, which meant holding the tree and gnawing at it for a while. It’s a hawthorn tree, so called because “haw” is an old name for “berries,” and this tree is supposed to bloom and produce decorative fruit. The other half of the name is because this pretty flowering tree sports 2-inch spikes of death, which I defied by cutting 2/3 of the top of the tree off.

Luckily, no blood was shed. And yes, I consider cutting the top of a hawthorn to be a much more dangerous act than having a giant spider climb on my neck.

Hawthorn tree.

The tree, trimmed despite it’s thorns of death.

So there you have it. Friday was a good day. The grass is mowed, the turtles seen, the spider released, and Amelia still showing her monkey skills.

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Spiders and Snakes and Toads, Oh My!


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Impressions form the first week of school at Mount Mercy University:

  • Prairie Woods is a nice place. Not sure why I have not been there before, especially given what an outdoors fan I am, but Tuesday morning’s service project for MMU was my first trip there.  I hope to go again, it would be nice to experience what a spiritual event there is like.  It’s seems a very pastoral setting.
  • Snakes and spiders provoke a range of reactions. Another professor and students from our two classes were working in two adjacent orchard plots, one fenced for humans, one open for animals, mulching trees for winter.  Which meant pulling the weeds at the base of the trees before applying mulch.  There were a few shrieks.  Some spiders that subsist in those weeds are of impressive size. But the snake shrieks were more frequent and louder. Most of the snakes were small, not more than about 6 inches or so, but a few were more than a foot long. All were harmless garters, but some behaved pretty aggressively. As far as I know, no snakes were harmed. I was one of the wranglers who would move the reptiles to tall grass when they were discovered in the trees. There was one very large toad seen that day, too, but nobody was bothered by the toad.
  • Mount Mercy offers many clubs and organizations.  Swag is important to draw crowds at the fair that launches the year. We were in the University Center, a nice new facility, for the first time for this event, and it still felt crowded-still, it was more central and less crowded then when it was in Betty Cherry—and there are more freshmen this year. Perhaps it was crowded because there were more people. I hope so.
  • Word sometimes sucks.  What a clumsy, awkward program when you’re trying to get multiple documents read for the first day of multiple classes.  It did not help that Word on my office PC chose Wednesday of the first week of classes to go bonkers. Well, MMU IT was very helpful, and it seems to be back now. I just hope it continues to work.  What a reminder of how dependent on computer technology teaching is these days.

Anyway, the 10th anniversary of 9/11 is approaching, and I’m teaching a media history/ethics course. The media seems full of items that will make for interesting discussion during that course, as well as a media stereotypes course I’m teaching.

As always, September feels a little overwhelming. But in a good way. The campus is alive with energy again, which is how it should be. Now, I’ve just got to ride that wave.

Speaking of September, here is a link to some photos of September flora in my garden. Sigh. I like having students back and spending more time at school, but I do wish I could spend more time in my gardens, too.

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An 8-legged Office Mate


The spider on the wall

Here she is, on the wall of the back office. She is usually found on the desk, I kind of like her on the wall ...

Recently, when correcting speech paper or entering speech feedback data from student forms, I’ve not been alone. When working past midnight, I have a new lady in my life.

No, she’s no competition for Audrey. In fact, she has eight legs, a rather mean looking face (I’ve seen it) and, probably, a taste for blood. Just not human blood, since my new late-night companion is a spider.

I was paranoid for a while, thinking she was something serious, like possibly a black widow, but a few minutes of Google image searching quickly proved that is just not so.

Black widows are mostly outdoor dwelling web spiders that don’t move around a lot. She, on the other hand, is definitely a hunter. Active at night in the office, frequently on the desk.

When she gets too close, I dispatch her with a puff of air. It moves her without seeming to hurt her, which is fine.

Why not just get rid of my office mate? Because if she’s not a brown recluse (of course not, don’t meant to insult you, you’re not even brown) or a black widow (nope, wrong body, wrong habitat, scary red marking is completely the wrong shape, not a long-legged spider, either, as black widows are) then why bother? She’s living on something.

Another view

What shall we name her? Penelope? Vixen? Vampira? She's rather small, note relative size of wood grain in window trim. One reason I think I can continue to tolerate her company.

As long as she’s well behaved, I’d rather wish her a long, healthy, bug-eating life. And, since she’s a rover and a hunter, having her around certainly keeps me more awake!

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If JRR Had Been Writing in Omaha …


A bee and a wasp. Much scarier than spiders, I think.

My daughter Amanda commented on her own blog post about spiders in England, in response to a comment from one of my sisters, that it’s easy to see why JRR Tolkien had giant spiders in “The Hobbit.”

In England in early fall, it appears, spiders are everywhere.

Just got back from Omaha, Nebraska, visiting my daughter Nina, who attends Creighton University. Audrey and I stayed with her sister and brother-in-law, Paula and David.

The visit was nice, but it made me wonder a bit … if JRR had been from Omaha, what would “The Hobbit” have been like?

Every house in the Shire would be tan. Or maybe, for the artsty rebels, brick or a washed out yellow. But mostly, tan.

Well, there were big bees in Beorn’s fields, but no mention of hornets. Perhaps, rather than spiders, giant winged stingers would have stalked the dark places of Mirkwood. Or, perhaps the evil buggy creatures would have been giant vampire mosquitoes.

Hobbiton and the Shire would be different. Rather than pretty yellow or green doors, all of the hobbit holes would have had variations of tan as their color scheme. Not sure who decreed that houses in newish subdivisions should all appear as if they were varieties of mushroom, but someone in high architectural circles apparently did.

You can have any color you want. If it’s tan.

At some point in the journey, Bilbo and the Dwarfs would become lost in a strange village where all the houses are eerily similar, with each front yard featuring either a crab apple or a birch tree. Bilbo will eventually be moved to exclaim “I like birches! But can’t anybody plant an oak or an elm?”

Bilbo and company will arrive in Rivendale on a Saturday in September, but will pass through completely unnoticed. Red and white “N” flags will flap, but otherwise the streets of the elf city will be totally silent and vacant. At least until the football game ends.

The dwarfs and their short companion would have had to find a cellar to avoid several tornadoes early in the trip. But then, as winter set in, the temperature would have plunged to minus 20 with a minus 40 wind chill, and half the party would freeze to death as the other half struggled through three feet of snow.

Well, perhaps it’s best JRR lived in England.

More photos from Dave and Paula’s gardens.

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