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Poor Will's Almanack: September 22 - 28, 2015

Richard Cook
Flickr Creative Commons

I have always been partial toward spiders. My mother, a stay-at-home mom who spent a lot of time in the basement washing clothes (refusing to use an automatic washer), always talked fondly of them. They were her friends, she sometimes told me.

I believed her, and so I have lived my life in harmony with spiders, protecting them when I can, only intervening in their activities occasionally to save a moth or butterfly. And I usually encounter my favorite spiders, the Microcenthas and the Orb Weavers, at the end of late summer and the beginning of autumn.

The Microcthenas are the odd-shaped dark-bodied arachnids that build their webs across your hiking paths, especially in the woods. Although they start their activities in middle summer, it is after the close of late summer that they are most common.

Two kinds of Orb Weavers work in my yard, a long-bodied variety that places its web above my small pond starting in July, and a larger, round-bodied variety that always seems to create its traps across the door to my tool shed in September and October.

Like wooly-bear caterpillars, these spiders are prophets of cold to come. As well, they are models of industry and foresight, and they do not hide their activities in basements. Most important to me, though, is that they spin a connection between my mother and me in this thin time of autumn, reminding me of friendships past and still to come.

This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the fourth week of early fall. In the meantime, make friends with a spider … or someone else.


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Bill Felker has been writing nature columns and almanacs for regional and national publications since 1984. His Poor Will’s Almanack has appeared as an annual publication since 2003. His organization of weather patterns and phenology (what happens when in nature) offers a unique structure for understanding the repeating rhythms of the year.