Friday, July 27, 2012

Wolves in the Garden

Or at least spiders that hunt like wolves by running down their prey. I have seen individuals of these large brown spiders for many years around my garden and pasture. Late last summer a momma and hundreds of her babies hung out in one corner of my pond circulation pump box. Just this week I disturbed one of these spiders while I was weeding. It wasn’t the spider that I noticed first however. At first I thought that I was seeing part of a hatched robin’s egg. Then I realized that this turquoise or robin’s egg blue object was being dragged by a large brown spiders of the type that I see frequently. Once I realized that this object was attached to the spider’s abdomen, I surmised that it was an egg sac with hundreds of tiny spiders in it. This was intriguing so I got my camera and decided that I would research these spiders further for this week’s blog post. (This female spider froze in an attempt to blend into the background once I stopped weeding.)

It turns out that these spiders are a variety of wolf spider, the Texas Rabid Wolf Spider (Rabidosa rabida). While the name sounds intimidating, I have found them to be shy and nonaggressive when I come across them. A couple of sources disagreed with my observations but most agreed that they are not aggressive unless handled roughly or cornered. The wolf spider is nomadic, hunting during the day. While I haven’t witnessed it yet, they are said to wait or stalk their prey before running it down. They are not afraid to take on prey larger than they are. Their bite is venomous to their prey, insects and sometimes other spiders, but it is not considered harmful to humans, dogs or cats, although some people wrote that their bite feels like a bee sting. Females are larger than the males with their body reaching up to 2 inches in length and a leg span easily reaching 4 inches.

After the female with the egg sac that I photographed decided that she wasn’t in danger, she proceeded to tuck herself under some mulch and leaf litter in my garden. I plan to leave that little patch undisturbed long enough for the babies to hatch. After they hatch, the mother will carry them on her back until they can fend for themselves.

I hope that next time you see a large brown striped spider that makes you think of a tarantula, that you will be able to recognize it from my photos and let it be. (The dangerous brown recluse spider is only as big as a quarter and it isn't hairy like the wolf spider.) It can help you take out hungry grasshoppers and other insects that would otherwise take out your plants.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Design This – Retirement Gift

One of my son’s former and really awesome teachers retired earlier this year. My dilemma was trying to decide what she might enjoy and use post retirement. She was very involved with Math – Science competitions as a teacher, but it didn’t feel right to contemplate gifting math or science geek jewelry as she was leaving teaching. I decided to contact a friend of hers to see what some of her favorite things were so that I could put together something that would fit with her post teaching likes.

I was told that this teacher loved all things related to the ocean and that purple iris were her favorite flower. I also remembered that she had purchased a pearl and amethyst bracelet from me a few years earlier. I pondered what to do with this information as I looked through my jewelry supplies and photos that I had taken.

I found two images of purple iris in my photos. A couple of days later while at another friend’s house, I saw that she had two different purple iris blooming. I asked if I could come back and take some photos for a project that I was working on. I came back later that afternoon and took several shots of each type of purple iris. That gave me four different types of purple iris to work with, perfect for a set of note cards. These flower images were a delight to work with and I came up with one image of each type of purple iris for each card of a four card set. While working with the images I also came up with a wide variety of digital variations that I will be printing and matting as photographic art.

During the process of developing the iris note card set, I found some great double sided seahorse charms while I was at a trade show. I already had some spherical amethyst beads and pearls that I paired with the seahorses to make a pair of earrings to go along with the purple theme and this teacher’s love of the ocean.

If you need a special gift for someone on a special occasion, I’d be happy to brainstorm a custom solution for your gifting needs.

Friday, July 13, 2012

What’s in Bloom – July 2012

As the weather dries out and the heat kicks in for summer, it can be a challenge to find plants that are willing to bloom in these conditions. Two perennials native to some of the U.S. that take the heat and keep on blooming are blackfoot daisy and butterflyweed.

Blackfoot daisy, Melampodium leucanthum, makes rounded mounds full of white flowers with yellow centers. These plants are very drought tolerant. In fact, you can kill them by overwatering them or planting them in soil that does not drain well. They really don’t like “wet feet”.

Butterflyweed, Asclepias tuberosa, is also a waterwise plant. I find that it can tolerate a bit more water than blackfoot daisy. It produces clusters of small orange flowers sporadically throughout the summer. This is also an important butterfly caterpillar host plant. It can take being chewed on, so if you spot some caterpillars on your plants, leave them be.

You can find other native and adapted waterwise plants in my Texas Stars photo album.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Thanks for the Treasuries - June 2012

Three different Etsians let me know that they had featured one or more of my items in a treasury during June. Nine June Etsy treasuries, that treasury makers let me know about, included one of my items. My Peacock n White Feather Earrings were even featured twice. You can see a collage below of my items from EDCCollective and EclecticSkeptic that were featured during June. (Click on the collage to see a larger view.)

I really appreciate being featured by the treasury makers. To thank them, I have listed below (in alphabetical order) links to the 3 Etsy sellers that let me know that they featured at least one of my items, as well as an item from their shop that I like.

Enjoy window shopping and please click on the shop links of anything that catches your eye.

Get gorgeous gemstone jewelry in a variety of styles and colors from this talented jewelry artisan.

Colorful knit and crochet items in a variety of fun designs can be found in this shop.

Items in Hot Dog Crafts such as Fridge Magnets, Pocket Mirrors, Buttons, and Keychains may also be able to be customized.