We’ve had a cooler week here at the Compromise, so I’ve been out, fucking around in the yard. There is a large square bed next to the screened-in porch that was overgrown with weeds, or at least, I think they were weeds. I did think, as I was pulling them out, how ironic it would be if they were prairie plants I don’t recognize.
I’ve kept a few gardening books out and have been combing through them as the Missouri Compromise Prairie Reclamation Project begins to take shape. The designated test site is behind the barn. That area gets a lot of sun.
The first step to prairie reclamation is killing off lawn. The websites I’ve been to have recommended doing this with Roundup. I’m not kidding.
St. Louis Missouri is headquarters for Monsanto, and they’ve got their dirty evil little claws sunk deep around here.
But that overgrown bed was bothering me too, so I decided to add it into the project. It will get more nectar producing plants, while the behind the barn area will get more caterpillar host plants.
Or, at least, that is the plan now.
The behind the barn area is larger than the bed, with very little topsoil left. There is very little topsoil anywhere around the house.
My plan is to re-use the cardboard boxes from the move to kill the existing vegetation. I’m toying with the idea of putting leaf litter on top. We’ve got mostly oaks here and oak leaves are acidic, so I’m not sure about that step. Composted material will be a layer for sure. Then topsoil. Then plants. The behind the barn area will be a slower project.
I could have the bed planted in early spring, though.
So I was pulling weeds the first time I glimpsed something large and dark. My heart jumped about the same time it vanished. No matter the scare, my body goes through the same flight or fight response; dry mouth, sweaty palms, pumping heart and the inchoate desire to flee. I can and have forced myself to stay and “fight”, but that is not my first instinct.
I had to force myself to go get the camera and then continue weeding.
The second time he appeared he did not seem in any hurry to leave. Considering how difficult it is to focus a small camera on a small object while having trouble controlling the breathing, I think the picture turned out well.
I’ve since looked at lots of pictures of spiders but still haven’t made a positive identification, but I did learn that Missouri does have a species of tarantula. I did not know this. I doubt this guy is one, but I’m calling him Junior.
The interesting thing is, that since making this acquaintance, I’ve been jumpy while outside. Shadows, falling leaves, anything that moves really, starts the old heart to pumping. I feel spiders in my hair, spiders everywhere!
It took two days to gird my loins to finish the bed. The calm, rational part of myself had to lecture the fear-ridden, anxious part of me that I’m still bigger than that spider; that nothing here is all that venomous if treated; and that our brains are a lot bigger than theirs, so buck up and figure out how to avoid contact, girl.
Once sufficiently girded, I approached the bed with a rake in one hand and a weeder in the other. With weeder, I knocked against the bed all around, announcing my presence with authority, and giving fair warning to seek safety.
Then, before actually putting my hand to weed, I lightly raked the entire bed.
I was able to finish the task without another encounter, though I did relocate two caterpillars.
There are a lot of spiders around here, of various shapes and sizes. So far, Junior has been the largest of them all and I really hope I don’t find one bigger.
Fear is such a visceral emotion that we don’t very often let ourselves feel it, examine it, and move on.
My rule, which I share with all, is that the outside belongs to them. The inside of the house, however, belongs to us. Generally, I will relocate rather than kill, but I admit I’ve done some killing.
So when this spider made this web overnight, I admired it greatly, then destroyed it. The spider joined the broom and was deposited outside, with the reminder that outside is their space. And he listened, because he’s built another….outside!
Spiders freak me out only a little less than snakes. I don’t put Daddy Long Legs into this category for some reason. They are everywhere and are fun to watch. In fact, I’ve watched Daddy Long Leg sex for the first time. They were flaunting it right on the deck, so I didn’t feel too perverse once I figured out what was happening. But I didn’t take any pictures.