My morning walk led me to the far edge of the garden. I noticed a clump of tall yellow goldenrod shooting up at the end of the last row of sweet corn. My first thought was to pull it out, before it crept any closer to the garden. As I bent down to grab a stalk, however, I caught sight of a large brown wolf spider, standing guard over her nest web. The dense, fine web spanned about eight inches between the leaves of a goldenrod plant. In the center of the round, opaque mesh was a light brown ball about the size of a marble. A closer look revealed thousands of tiny baby spiders scattered throughout the inside of the web. Of course, all thoughts of pulling the goldenrod were passed now. I couldn't destroy such a lovely family and home.
Only a week before, I had pointed out one of these large spiders to a young friend while we walked along the river. This particular spider walked up over a log, giving us a chance to see the ball of young she carried under her. She would soon build a web several feet off the ground to protect them, and would stand guard for a couple of weeks, until the little spiders outgrow the web.
It's not uncommon to see these formidable 3-4 inch spiders here in the Kickapoo Valley this time of year. I frequently hear stories about these spiders dropping into a friend's canoe as they float down the Kickapoo River. I advise people not to panic, but simply to scoop the spider up with a paddle and deposit it into the water. The wolf spider is a fine swimmer.
Speaking of spiders, reader Lynne Dish passed along a good tip on planting basil. Lynne says that placing Daddy long legs on the leaves of the plants helps keep the basil healthy and free of pests. Maybe this natural pest control would work on some other garden plants as well. Thanks for the tip, Lynne.
This fine summer evening, I'm sitting in a comfortable chair out on the back porch. The temperature is in the high 80s, and the muggy heat has forced me out of the house, but a nice breeze from the southwest makes it bearable. When it gets hot, I think about the times in February where it's 20 below zero and I'm trying to stay warm near the wood stove. For me that kind of weather is much more intense, and its memory stays with me all year. So I take hot summer days as they come.
Nighttime insects call as the sky lightens with a soft yellow glow. At twilight, the distant tree-covered mountains are blurred by a soft, humid haze. It looks like there could be rain coming, so I wait to smell it on the breeze.
The air got very still and sticky, but I didn't have to wait long for something else to happen. Large dark clouds headed my way, and I heard wind coming up the valley, yet was unprepared when it hit at 40mph, sending everything flying, including a page of this week's article. I desperately grabbed at the other pages and tossed them into the house, then chased "page 2" as it shot high into the air, around the front of the house, and across the road. Dashing into the front yard, I spotted the paper stuck in a willow bush some 30 feet from the road. Relieved, I retrieved the page with only a few wrinkles in it. Never before have I put so much into an article.
By now the temperature had dropped 15 degrees and the sky was dark gray, with flashes of lightning accompanied by a single, distant rumble of thunder. The crickets' chirping reached a new intensity - were they also anticipating the rain?
The rain didn't come, however, until later Sunday night. Only about 1/4 inch of rain fell, but the thunder and lightning made for an impressive event.
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