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The Arachnaphobe and the Spider – A Love Story

October 9, 2009

Eunice is a spider.  She is a big, fat, brown spider of the orbweaver family, a Neoscona crucifera to be exact.  I am an Arachnaphobe.  Capital A – Arachnaphobe.  To tell you the truth, just looking at the spider websites to identify her gave me the willies.  Big willies.  There is a terrible fear of spiders inside me.  I control it.  One has to when you spend as much time outside as I do.  “Spiders are my garden friends,” I tell myself (as long as they aren’t shiny black with a red hourglass on their abdomen).  It works as long as they don’t touch me, or crawl from the mulch into my garden clogs.  Now that is the willies for you.

For the last two weeks Eunice has resided in the frame of my front door.  It is the perfect spot – beside the front porch light to attract unsuspecting prey.  The light is rarely on; but when it is, it must be a spider’s dream.  The east-facing door catches the morning sun and warms up quick – perfect for a fat, cold-blooded predator.   Every morning I walk out the door and…  … well, you know what happens next – web face, or hair – and no idea where Eunice is.  Terror.  Pure heart-racing trauma to my psyche.  

After a day or two of web encounters I acquired the habit of automatically dodging the web.  It was there, I knew, and Eunice was in a fat little ball in the corner of the door jamb, waiting.  We developed a rather one-sided relationship.  I named her Eunice.  I don’t know why.  It fit.  I would greet her on my way out the door or on my return.  Sometimes, if the sun wasn’t too bright, she would be out in her web, waiting.  When I would approach she would scuttle to the corner, out of harm’s way.  Later, she just stayed where she was.  I’m not sure if spiders think.  But perhaps she had determined that my lumbering (by her standard) self was no threat to her.   “Why allow her to stay there?”  you may ask.  Well, she did no harm and she ate mosquitoes and flies.  Her web was a beautiful thing.  Although, to be honest, I wish she had chosen a different spot like her neighbor who built her web from the gutter, down the drain spout and out to the shrubbery.  But she chose my doorframe and was there with fresh web everyday.  It was almost like loyalty. 

Two days ago she changed sides of the door frame.  This surprised and slightly terrorized me on first encounter.  What was her game?  Was she bored with our relationship?  I dodged to the left instead of the right and we continued our dance.  Yesterday, she stayed in her tucked up little ball stance for most of the day in the corner of the door frame.  I put it down to cooler weather.  I turned on the porch light to aid her hunting. 

I contemplated my distaste of all things spidery, and came to the conclusion that I felt a small amount of affection for Eunice and perhaps my thoughts about the general spider world were misguided and controlled by irrational fear.  Perhaps my encounters with Eunice could erase my fears of the greater world of spiders – all those spiders I didn’t know could now become something different in my eyes.  I planned to tell her my thoughts in the morning.

I opened the door and Eunice was not there.  Not in her web.  Not in the corner with her legs tucked up around her.  She was gone from my door jamb and from my life.  I felt a moment of grief to tell the truth.  A tiny moment that had become a part of my day, even for just a few short weeks, is gone forever.  I’ll miss her.  The web is still there.  I dodged it.

A Restoring Walk

October 7, 2009


I went for a walk along the river yesterday.  The trail is close to home and often crowded.   I thought the trail would be busy.  Another nearby trail had warning signs posted about an aggressive bear.  I started later than the early morning  runners and too early for the afternoon crowd.  The river was mine.  The weather was cloudy, the leaves changing, and the river full and swift from the frequent rains.  I was armed with my camera, looking for inspiration for paintings.  Gigi went along and pretended squirrels were sheep to herd and to keep in the treetops. 

I’ve been extremely busy lately.  My paintings have been selling faster than I can paint them.  That’s a good thing, I think.  Although, I found the business of Art can consume more time that the making of Art.  I’ve been helping Charlie work to launch the iPhone app that has consumed him for months.  It’s easy for a whole day to pass before I realize my only outdoor excursion has been to let the chickens out and feed the animals.

I needed time away and a quiet space.  I found that yesterday only a stone’s throw away.  The sound of the river, the kingfishers and herons, the stillness that exists in an empty wood, restored me a little.

Anyone who cannot catch a glimpse of Grace in the falling birch leaves or feel that the answer to every question is just around the bend on a fall walk along a river has forgotten they have a soul.

Taking stock of the little things

August 7, 2009

sassafras fruit, originally uploaded by maggies farm.

I have been preoccupied of late with the state of everything around me that I cannot seem to control.  The worry over finances and lack there of, the worry over health insurance and lack there of, the worry over employment and lack there of… you get the picture.  It has been very easy to close myself off from the world around me.  Earlier this week I started walking.  I still have pain in my hip and back, so these forays have been slow yet steady.  On a walk up the mountain I discovered yellow fringed orchids.  On a walk down the valley I had a rather terse discussion with a young black bear. 
Today my walk was accompanied by my lovely, talkative daughter, the Monkey.  Silence was not found, but enjoyment and chatter were.  We kept an eye out for one of the flocks of resident wild turkeys.  We listened to the different sounds the crows make (almost as many as Monkey can make).    We wondered why one of our neighbors never seems to enjoy the beautiful spring-fed pond next to their house (in fact we rarely see the adults or two children outside).  We decided if we had that pond we would have a canoe and a row-boat and swim every day, even if it was cloudy.  We started our walk encased in fog and ended in bright blue sunshine. 
My point, if there is one, is that by taking notice of the little things around me (like the sassafras fruit in the photo) I am inspired and healed.  I can’t control any of these things either, but I’m not meant to.  It’s better than therapy (and a lot cheaper).  And while I remain unemployed and uninsured, I am painting prolifically and spending time with the Monkey before she disappears down the halls of school once more.  It’s not all bad and things are looking up – I should have more to say about that very soon…
In the mean time, I’m heading back outside to paint and enjoy the minutiae of life around me.

Back to nature

June 30, 2009

Coreopsis tinctoria, originally uploaded by maggies farm.

We have a rather large lawn. It’s about an acre. Last year I decided to convert some of it to meadow. Drought and the cost of gas helped force the issue. Charlie had a custom meadow seed mix he had developed for a client.  It was full of native flowers and grasses.  He developed it for areas that could be left unmowed and to create an environment friendly to wildlife.

Last year there wasn’t much but Little Blue Stem and Fescue. This year the flowers are emerging.   I planted some daffodil bulbs that bloomed this spring spreading out from their bed and under the blueberries into my meadow.  Several Coreopsis, Fringed Loosestrife and Fleabane are blooming now along with Queen Anne’s Lace.  It’s so much more interesting and environmentaly friendly than mowed grass.  I’ve mowed a path through it that meets our woodland trail.  I love the look of the tidy path through the wildness.  The bees and butterflies love it.  

We started another spot this spring down by the north goat paddock.  Nothing to it really – just stop mowing and we added a little seed (another mix for woodland edges).  I’m not sure if Turks Cap Lilies were in the mix, or just came up when I stopped mowing, but there are some under the big red oak.  They are one of my favorite woodland flowers and I’ve only found them on one spot of our land (the piece we sold, of course!).  Our yard is slightly smaller, but our lives are much improved.

Summer – No Rest in Sight

June 27, 2009


Market season began at the end of May.  Now we are five (six?) weeks in and busy.  Thursdays and Fridays we pick and gather.  Saturday morning we pick and gather.  The rest of the week we weed.  We water when needed.  The highlight of my day is squishing squash beetles.  I am immersed in the garden. 

We had a good day at the market, leaving just enough potatoes and flat Italian green beans for tonight’s dinner.  In the summer our meals become simple affairs.  Vegetables are from the garden.  Most of the meat comes from nearby as well.  No need for fancy preparation now.  I went into the grocery store last week to buy orange juice and it felt odd.  I was out of place and discombobulated.  If all my days could be like summer days…

My new job at the university is being cut.  Unless the earth shifts on its axis or the North Carolina Legislature has a last minute change of heart, my last day is Tuesday.  It took longer to get the job than it actually existed.  Benefits would be nice, but my soul will most likely be lighter in the garden and studio.  And, I’ll have more time to write!  (Although, money would be quite nice right now…)

Explosion in the garden

May 25, 2009

garden growing, originally uploaded by maggies farm.

We’ve had a very wet spring. I’m not complaining, mind you. It has been dry here for so long, that I don’t mind the mud in the barnyard, or mowing twice a week. I love that the springs are full and the creek is flowing. The rain barrels runneth over and I am full of joy.

However, I’d like to make a request that we have a few sunny, slightly breezy days. I’d like to plant the tomatoes, squash and celery. I’d also like to weed. This becomes difficult when everytime I step outside it starts to rain.

Now is the season of the salad – lettuce, arugula, greens galore, spring onions and radishes. The carrots are growing and the peas are flowering. It’s hard not to eat the snow peas right off the vine. Our asparagus is finally after three years producing. The borage has successfully reseeded as have the zinnias, marigolds and cosmos.

Opening day of the Tailgate Market was this Saturday.  We did quite well and I’m very excited for the summer.  We had lots of lettuce, kale and onions.  The variety is limited right now, but the lettuce will never be better.  We always sell out of the red lettuce quickly.  And our spring mix was gone in a blink.  I think people hunger for that first real taste of green.  And when it was picked within the day of consuming it so much better.  I was elected Market Manager (basically no one else wanted the job).  I was intimidated at first, but it’s not as difficult as it was made out to be. 

I have been sporadic in posting and will try to be more consistant.  Stick around.  Don’t you want to see what’s coming up next?

More new beginnings

May 14, 2009

more babies, originally uploaded by maggies farm.

Spring constantly jolts with change.  I came home yesterday from jury duty (the defendant offered up a plea and we were free) to the sound of little peeps.  I thought perhaps a bird was nesting somewhere close by.  The windows were all open and I wasn’t expecting the eggs in the incubator to hatch for another several days.  I quickly realized the peeps were coming from the incubator. 
So far there are 9 little Buff Orpington ducklings.  Three are crested, which I find a little gaudy for my taste.  It’s a recessive gene present in one duck, who passed it on to another and this year – three.
I love ducklings.  I love them more than chicks.  They lay around in little piles like puppies.  Then all of the sudden they awake, splash water everywhere, scatter their food and flap their little nubbins of wing.  The giant feet and round bill are comical and endearing. 
The ducks remind me that things continue to change.  That’s what spring is all about.