Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Spiderwebs of October

All over my neighborhood, the bushes are festooned with these flat spiderwebs:

If you get closer, you can see that each web features a tiny open tunnel, about 1/2 inch in diameter, leading down into the bush:

Can you see the small black opening in this spiderweb?

There's a light brown spider in the tunnel.  Sometimes it skitters away as you approach, but not always.  Today, in the rain, I was able to see one:  an elongated oval with pointed ends, about half an inch long, beigy-brown, with at least one dark stripe down the length of the body.  I was able to photograph one,  but it doesn't show up very clearly:

Does anyone know what kind of spider looks like this and builds this kind of web at this time of year?

The tunnel is structurally elegant, fragile yet functional.  I commend its reclusive creator and its goal in life, whatever that may be--presumably catching prey, digesting it, and using its nutritional value to lay eggs.   Whatever their goals, I wish the spiders success, especially now as the temperatures begin to fall.

Scientists say it's a mistake to attribute human characteristics to non-human creatures.  So I won't say the spiders are brave, because they're not, really--they just doing what they're programmed to do.  Still, there is a bravery to the spiders, their webs, and their vigilance within them.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Off with the Air Conditioner, On with the Comforter

It's a time of transitions:  air conditioners taken from the windows, shorts taken from the closet, and both carried up the stairs to the attic, down comforter taken from the linen closet and spread on the bed.

I hate to watch the summer dwindle, but I'm not in mourning yet:  my fall garden is in its glory.  Along the weathered fence on the north side of our tiny yard, for example, is a narrow strip of rocky dirt too small for intentional cultivation.  Yet some of the hardiest fall-blooming perennials thrive there, taking all summer to soak in the sun against the warm south-facing fence.  They're weeds, really, but the truth is, every cultivated perennial began its existence in the wild.  I call this my volunteer garden:  in gardening, a volunteer is a plant not intentionally planted by human hands.  These volunteers--solidago fireworks, which is a form of goldenrod, and eupatorium coelestinum, which is called hardy ageratum for its ageratum-like blooms--originated in a different, intentionally-planted garden elsewhere in the yard. Once these volunteers appeared in this narrow baking spot, bound by an asphalt driveway and a fence, and once I realized that almost nothing else would grow there, I decided to allow these volunteers to stick around once they appeared. 
Volunteers:  eupatorium coelestinum (blue) and solidago fireworks (yellow).

Elsewhere in the garden, aster tartaricus Jin Dai, often the last color in the fall, is just starting to hit its stride, and maintains a stately posture compared to the acrobatics of solidago fireworks:

The fall garden:  Aster tartaricus Jin Dai and solidago fireworks

I may have carried my shorts up to the attic today, but I cut a bouquet, too.  Here it is, and may it be one of many fall bouquets to come from this postage stamp of a back yard: