That Isn’t Charlotte

This house and its wildlife adventures? For me, there is nothing left but slightly unhinged laughter. Starlings and squirrels in the attic? Check. Moles, voles, gophers, chipmunks, snakes– one night a fox– and whatever-the-hell-else’s that call my little plot of land home. Check. I don’t bother watering our 9 blades of grass– it’s a waste when the days are in 100s–but I have absolutely stuck a house down a vole’s bolt hole, and stood with a perverted grin in my face as I watched the flooding.

But now?

For those of you that are arachnophobic– I’ll give you fair warning before the pictures. And there will be some pictures– later.

First off, I’d like to announce that I was, once upon a time, totally freaked out, squealing in my high-pitched girl voice about spiders. I hated them all, equally. Then I married JB and we kind of came to some sort of television show trade-off agreement. For every DIY/decorating/landscaping show I made him watch, I had to to watch some sort of Discovery/National Geographic/NOVA special.

It ended up being a win/win: because each of us had at least been exposed to these topics,
I was able to convince him that we could do our own plumbing, and he was able to convince me that the common brown snake is better left alive.

Which is why, when I noticed a black spider sparkling motionless betwixt my kitchen window and the screen one morning, I didn’t scream. It’s also why I knew exactly what she was, even without seeing the red hourglass. Know thy enemy.

A mouse? A mouse and I would have been at my Mama’s house. But a spider with venom more toxic than a rattlesnake, watching me watch her while I sipped thoughtfully on my coffee? This wasn’t a freak out moment (there was a pane of glass between us, after all). Lesson 1– fear isn’t logical.

Alright my arachnophobic friends, you might want to slowly back away now. Me? Either I’m getting braver in my advancing years, or I’m starting to suffer from testosterone poisoning.

First off, non-histrionic knowledge is power. So very carefully using google– and avoiding all information delivered by sites related to pest control companies– I found information.

Um, each egg hatches 200-900 little baby spiders. Holy shit, that’s enough to make one pack up and leave, hunh? However, the babies are cannibals, so most of them simply don’t survive. That cannibal information is the bit that most of the pest companies leave out, by the way.

Based on where I am finding the concentration of my little shiny black friends, I think I actually got a picture of the hatchlings right at their birth. Sadly, I only got two before I heard Elliot– from his inflatable pool- say “Mommy, I got your phone”. The spiders were forgotten as I tended to my Precious.

How perfect is it that they are on a bottle of Johnson and Johnson baby shampoo? If only I could have OCD’ed this shot– but if you click and enlarge it, you can see what I’m talking about.

Then there was Charlotte, aka Kitchen Window Spider. I think she’s young-ish, based on the size of the other’s I have seen.

Dude, I was all tap, tap, tapping on the window to get a good picture of her. Because I am, apparently a moron. Or in such desperate need of an adrenaline rush that pissing off a really venomous spider was just… well, exciting.

Or it was exciting–when it was just 2 of them. Finding a ginormous one, protecting eggs at the ground below the kitchen window? Kind of dampening the excitement. Then finding Daddy Black Widow– poor guy, already slated for death and I did him in before he get some– in the sandbox was just anticlimactic. (Ha-ha— get it?)

Now I’m just annoyed. Tonight I killed 11 or so, in various dark locations around the back yard. I crushed their eggs, too. Also, when one’s can of chemical spider killer runs out, vinegar does a decent job of stunning them so you can squash them with the back end of a shovel.
And the whole time, JB thought I was doing my scheduled run, saying as much when I came inside, sweating like a… well, someone who had been running.

Naw, no running for me today. I was outside killing some stuff.


Spring has Sprung

It’s true! The Forsythia are in bloom, as are Bradford Pears (not everything about Spring is awesome—those things smell like dirty gym socks). I realized recently that for the first time since March 2005 I am both functional (e.g., not pregnant) and capable (e.g., not parenting a 4 month old) of being outside and getting heavy projects done. Put another way, that’s half a decade since I’ve been able to do what I do to keep the crazy away. Women talk regularly about losing their mojo but I didn’t realize until this year that mine had been hibernating. While other women drool over shoes and Coach purses, I’m pouring over seed catalogs and gardening websites.

Ray Bradbury fans? I randomly watched an adaptation of his short story All Summer In A Day when I was younger and the concept stuck with me. Note—if you’ve never read this one—do so.

I’ve been like Margot—missing the joy in life because I had once known the sun. But more than just sun on my skin, I need to hack weeds, rake leaves, make compost, and build new vegetable beds. I need it. Since I’m neither pregnant, nor the parent of a 4 month old I have been (metaphorically speaking) freed from the closet just in time to reach for the sun. Plus, all that stuff, a chore for many, is fun for me; I enjoy it even when I’m frustrated at the process and the project drags on longer than anticipated. I love coming inside at the end of a day with dirt-caked jeans and shoes. It is for a good reason that fate gave me two sons.

My sons are part of the reason my projects drag on, but I’m okay with that. It takes much longer to do anything when you are explaining “why” to a 3 year old and helping a 16 month old maneuver a shovel. They love to help and I’m getting to do what I need—we have a cooperative arrangement. And when they get bored being helpers they move on to the temporary sand box and the water table.

Elliot likes to drink from the water table, which grosses me out. Regular redirection is another time-consumer. But he’ll get it, eventually. Zach put in a bunch of boulders (big rocks he’s been collecting) and used a small bubble bottle as a boat.


Not only do we enjoy all being out there together, but I can also send Zach outside and he will just play, following the rules, alone. Since respecting limits and boundaries continue to be a source of strife inside the house, watching him manage on his own outdoors gives me hope.


Elliot—not egged on during dinner prep by a tantruming Zach—actually sat on the floor and looked at books. He did not spend the entire time climbing on the chairs to get to the table and screaming “UP”. He just. Sat. Unheard of for my little monkey boy.


The squirrels have been evicted from the attic, but stay tuned. I will update on the continuing saga of Stephanie vs. The Wildlife tomorrow. By last count the wildlife are definitely winning, but my double-reinforced compost bin is the first small step in my strategic battle plans. I also read somewhere online that it possible to annoy furry creatures so much that they just move into your neighbor’s yard. I doubt that is true, but I’m working on finding out.