Friday, October 20, 2017

It's a wrap - spider style

Yesterday I watched a yellow and black argiope spider (writing spider, aka Charlotte from Charlotte's Web) wrap up prey on a windy afternoon.

Argiope spiders spin HUGE webs and this beautiful arachnid is no exception.  It's shimmery web stretches from a corner of our house to a white cast iron chair with a distinctive zigzag pattern in its center.

With a web stretching between the roof, wall and left cast iron chair, the female argiope spider
rests upside down in the web's center. 

While over the years I've watched argiopes catch many different kinds of insects, I have rarely observed them shrouding their prey as efficiently and quickly as this lovely lady wrapped up her prey.

Another yellow and black argiope with a butterfly catch

Below are three short videos of our most recent resident arachnid as she wrapped up her catch in a shroud of white fibers.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

4 things I never expected to see people do at the beach

Whenever I'm at the beach I expect to see the unexpected.  But usually, those unexpected finds include rare shells, interesting wildlife, a special skyscape, pretty sandcastles or mademade items like watches, sunglasses and plastic shovels that wash ashore. 

When it comes to people, most of the time I see kids (and the rare adult) doing handstands and cartwheels, tossing balls and playing games. I've spied lovers entwined on beach blankets, tai chi and yoga practitioners and even the occasional beachside wedding. 

But, over the past couple years, I've encountered a few other more unique human/ocean interactions.  Below are four things I never expected to see people do at the beach starting with a banjo-playing fellow serenading the surf.

This guy's banjo playing was accompanied by the percussive beat of rolling waves

This woman gives new meaning to 'just hanging out with a couple piers.'

People bring all sorts of things to the beach - blankets, towels, coolers, music...
But for some reason, this fellow brought a ladder

I've encountered many people doing yoga on the sand but this guy chose to do his stretches on a paddleboard just offshore

Friday, October 13, 2017

A beachside encounter in 'Plein' sight!

I almost always find something unexpected on my early morning beachside bike rides. Often those finds include interesting wildlife, plants or washed ashore items.  But recently, over a two-day period, my beachcombing finds involved Gainesville artist Peter J. Carolin participating in the 7th annual New Smyrna Beach Paint Out.

Artist blending colors with gloved hands

Much to my delight and fascination, Peter set up his extensive outdoor studio in front of SeaWoods, a stretch of beach midway between my usual starting and finishing points.

Quite a lot of gear to tote to and from the beach

On both mornings, I paused in my morning ride to say hello and ask if I could take pictures, which Peter graciously permitted.

Peter didn't seem to mind all my questions and picture taking

I'm glad he did, because not only did I enjoy watching him work, but found myself especially intrigued by his cleverly constructed work station made from repurposed items like old ironing boards, aluminum crutches and clothes hangers.  Ingenious use of castaway stuff!

Arranging his ironing board table in front of swiveling paint shelves made from crutches, clothes hangers, old glass medicine shelves and 2x4s

Below is a short YouTube video of artist Peter J. Carolin from photos taking during early morning beachside bike rides on October 11 and 12, 2017

A fun surprise!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Halloween sounds of Giant Timber Clumping Bamboo

The creaking and screeching sounds from this untrimmed, mature clump of Bambus oldhamii would be the perfect accompaniment to a midnight visit to a haunted house.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Being in the moment

Ralph and I went for a walk around the south half of our property yesterday evening.  Although we've been back from the beach for three days, this was our first chance to survey post-Irma effects in the lake and low-lying acreage.

During normal periods, this area is a meadow abutting a marsh.
Prior to Hurricane Irma the line of 6-year-old slash pines stood on dry ground.
Now the trees are standing in the middle of a shallow pond.

Same area photographed during a dry period in 2012
Look closely to see the line of slash pines just beginning to grow along the rim of the bog

Although slash pines can tolerate standing water for short periods,
they'll die if it takes months for water to recede

Our Groveland homestead is fairly evenly divided between high and low ground.  During normal periods, about half of our acreage is either wetland or lake.  The remainder is fertile upland in forest, fields and gardens. But that proportion changes dramatically during times of extreme weather.  

Hurricane Irma definitely counted as extreme weather.

The beach in November 2010 during a period of normal water levels

Our beach post-Irma - less than half its normal size

For several months prior to the storm, we’d experienced a prolonged period of drought that exposed low-lying sections of the lake-bed. My morning rows in Hour Lake didn't take as long because the lake had shrunk. Land that used to be underwater was no longer submerged.

Large swaths of exposed lake-bed 

Bog buttons growing in dry, cracked lake-bed

During the first few years we lived here, I remember worrying when it rained too much or when it didn't rain enough. But now, after 25 years of lakeside living, I've come to a better understanding, a realization of sorts of the way things work. No matter what we might want or expect, landscape is never static. Water levels constantly change as do the type of plant and animal life responding to those weather-influenced fluctuations.

Now, instead of feeling anxious about things beyond my control, I do my best to simply accept. To savor the seasonal ebb and flow of the world outside my window. In high times and low times and all times in between, my goal is simple: With awe and fascination, strive to be in the moment. To accept the present as the gift - the extraordinary gift - it is.