Preserving Spider Webs and Arachne

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We discovered a magnificent spider web on our deck railing this morning.

We sprayed it with multipurpose spray adhesive, available at craft stores, and pressed a piece of black construction paper against it to preserve it.

The spider responsible is already building a new web in place of the old one, so we are going outside periodically to admire her work.

Earlier this week, we read about Arachne in Classic Myths to Read Aloud by William F. Russell, so finding a spider busy spinning her webs on our deck comes in good time.

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Today’s Spontaneous Nature Study

“Object lessons should be incidental and spontaneous as objects and opportunities occur.” -Excerpt from Hours in the Out of Doors

 

The girls had only been outside for a moment when they called me over to look at a terrifying bug on our maple tree in the front yard. They were ready to swat it away with some sticks that they had already managed to arm themselves with, sure it was a giant mosquito, sure it was about to sting them, but I encouraged them, strongly, to put down their sticks and study it. Admire it, even, from a safe distance.

A quick search online reveals that it is a Giant Eastern Crane Fly and the sharp end of its abdomen that looks so much like a stinger is its harmless ovipositor or egg-laying part. As fearsome as it looks, we read that it is pretty much defenseless and is, therefore, a “common food source” to birds and bats, etc. We also read that it will be alive in this adult stage for only a few days, just long enough to mate and lay eggs or be eaten as the case may be, so we feel very fortunate to have seen it.

While we were still looking at the crane fly, Norah discovered a cluster of tiny, grey eggs stuck on the bark nearby. Are these the eggs this female crane fly is alive only a few days to lay? We don’t know for sure. But since it is on the tree right outside our front door, we will be able to keep an eye on this cluster almost daily to see what becomes of them… or what comes out of them.

While Norah was still pointing to the eggs, Avril yelled, “Spider!”  We all looked to where she was pointing and watched as a tan spider crawled around the base of the tree for a few minutes.  Again, we kept a safe distance.  Norah noted how much the spider looked like the dry grass all around the base of the tree. It is remarkable how well he blends in. He’s quite hard to find if you don’t know he’s there. Can you see the spider in the above picture?

As the girls were still looking at the spider, I noticed this funnel-shaped web and called the girls over to see it.  Again, I’d like to assure you all that we stood at a safe distance.  We wondered if this web belonged to the same spider we were watching. Or was the owner hiding deep inside the funnel somewhere, like Norah then recalled that some spiders do from a book she had read sometime back, just waiting to crawl out, grab its prey and drag it back down the dark funnel into its nest?

And even as Avril and I were still peering down into the darkness of the funnel, Norah asked, “What’s this?!” I looked up to see her pointing to a bit of the lichen that is growing all over the soft bark of this, my favorite tree.  I had asked that question for myself, to myself, years before and I was happy and proud that I could, for once, give my daughter a quick, confident answer.  I took a moment and stroked a bit of it with my finger tip and said, mostly to myself, “It’s beautiful, isn’t it…”

Stroking some with her own finger then, I heard Norah say, mostly to herself, “It is…”

“Object-lessons should be incidental; and this is where the family enjoys so great an advantage over the school.  It is almost impossible that the school should give any but set lessons; but this sort of teaching in the family falls in with the occurrence of the object.”  -Charlotte Mason

Strawberry Picking

I took the girls strawberry picking.

Did you know they’re called strawberries because of the straw that is traditionally used to mulch the plants?  I think I read that in one of my gardening books.

Anyway.

We picked eight pounds of berries in less than half an hour, easy.

We came home, washed the fruit and feasted on the fresh berries.

Over the next few days, we made freezer jam and shared it with neighbors and friends.

Then we had some of the berries for breakfast, sliced and spread over a bowl over plain yogurt with honey and granola.

So good.

Next day we melted chocolate in the double boiler, dipped the berries and made chocolate covered strawberries.

And as the last of the berries began to get over-ripe, I sliced them, covered them in sugar and we had them over homemade shortcakes.

What a treat!

Soaking Up the Sun

I am so quick to catch my daughters “doing nothing” and call them to productivity. But we none of us are ever really doing nothing, are we?  They need to “be still and know” as often as I do, don’t they?  How sad would it be if they read a poem about the sunshine on their face and didn’t know how that felt, really?

Bees in our Clover

“That bee’s pollen baskets are full!” Norah yells.
The girls get on their knees and lean in as close as they dare, which is pretty close, to watch the bee work.
I used to bemoan the fact that our yard had more clover than grass, but now
I love it.
It’s all a matter of perspective.
When the clover is in bloom, the yard is just blanketed with round, white blossoms.
The girls run around bare foot in the cool, green foliage.
And, as many bees as we have in our clover, they’ve never been stung.
Sometimes the girls can’t resist and they will even lay down and roll around in it.
As my preschooler runs from here to there, she leaves wakes behind her in the ankle-high blossoms.
I like to sit in a lawn chair and watch until the flowers stop moving.
I count the bees going from flower to flower.
When I get still and focus, I can see up to a dozen bees at once.
No wonder they call it “clover honey,” I think.
Then I wonder.
How many other times do I miss a blessing that is right in front of me
because I go around wishing for grass over clover?

Earthworms

I am uncovering tons of earthworms because of all the planting I am doing.  The girls like to collect them. And I let them. But I always make them put the worms back on a spot of soft, freshly tilled earth when it’s time to go inside again.

A Robin’s Egg

Norah found this egg shell in our backyard.
We looked it up and found out it belongs to a robin!
So! The robins we see savaging in our yard DO have nests!
Somewhere.
And those nests DO have babies in them!
Somewhere…