SPIDER, SPIDER – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Spider

I have always had a deep fear of spiders which wasn’t improved when Garry got bitten by a brown recluse and spent a month on antibiotics — and then I discovered we have wolf spiders all over our woods.

Our own wolf spider and he is bigger than he looks!

Spiders love our front door. No matter how many times you sweep it clear, the spiders and their webs are back in less than 24 hours. I have developed a very ambiguous set of emotions about them, too. I’m not less afraid of them …. but I also recognize that they eat other bugs that I hate even more than spiders. Okay, the gigantic black wolf spider on my back door — that was war. But he was the size of a dessert dish and I tried knocking him down to the deck, so he had three chances to run for the woods before I brought out the spider spray. And they aren’t poisonous. Just HUGE.

Our own personal Gypsy Moth caterpillars

But they eat other insects and lord knows we have plenty of bugs for them to gorge on. Just please, not in my house. Stay outside. I can cope with outdoor bugs. Just not in my house.

More ot those hideous caterpillars

We have also conquered the army of carpenter ants who were trying to take over the house and this year, finally no Gypsy Moth caterpillars.

I’m making peace — or trying to make peace — with the multi-legged universe of insects that surrounds us. I could do without the poisonous mosquitoes, though. They make me twitch.

Eastern Equine Encephalitis mosquito – Massachusetts variety

I fell in love with Blue Jays when I discovered they are one of the ONLY birds that really love eating Gypsy Moth caterpillars. May man of them come and live in our woods. We need you! Come home!

And I’m still waiting for the return of the bats. One bat eats more than double his weight in mosquitoes every night.

Welcome, Blue Jay!

ANOTHER DAY DOWN THE TUBES – Marilyn Armstrong

It wasn’t a bad day. More, it was a day when you don’t stop moving and when it’s over, you wonder if you accomplished anything.  There were so many stops and starts and lots of running up and downstairs.

I never made it to comments. I haven’t opened any emails. I did take quite a few pictures but haven’t had time to process them.  The rain is just starting. It may not hit us as hard here —  not the rain, anyway — but definitely very high winds. With the trees still full of leaves, that means blowing branches and breaking trees.

The animals must know what’s coming. Everything was in a feeding frenzy.

Photo” Garry Armstrong

Our nor’easters are essentially “local hurricanes.” Storms come in from the ocean and start to spin. They don’t move. So if it’s rain, there’s flooding. In the winter, we’ve gotten as much as three or four feet of snow before it finally breaks up.

With the contractor working, there was a strong sense of pressure to get finished before the weather moved in.

Then, there were phone calls. I’m checking out other medical insurance. I should have made the calls earlier in the week, but I had to make them today.

Meanwhile, it’s the world series but I think they are going to cancel the American League Pennant because of the weather. A glitch in Garry’s baseball channel went on for hours and entailed a prolonged wait on hold for tech support. To learn, as I suspected, they were having problems. The baseball channel has a lot of problems, but if you want to watch baseball, gotta have it.

I needed to fix Garry’s broken email too — which wasn’t difficult but took a long time. Warning! Delete old emails! If you don’t, eventually your email server stops serving and goes on strike.

The contractor did a GREAT job on the house. He’s still here. It is a real improvement. No more rot and no more of that sloppy, moldy old door … and the front door is finally insulated and nicely finished. It needs a new painting, but I think maybe it’s too late.


New Surroundings — our contractor — managed to do a good job without bankrupting me in the process. He did a really good job. All neat and sealed against the weather. And we sure have weather incoming. 


Tomorrow, we have to take the car in because somehow, one of the two latches that keep the hood in place broke off. No accident or anything. It’s just gone. It’s not a big deal driving a few miles into town, but a longer trip could cause serious damage.

Meanwhile, since both Garry and I have doctor appointments next week at UMass, their automated equipment calls every day for each appointment. They are such long calls, too. I feel a powerful need to go edit their electronic phone calls.

None of this sounds like a big deal and it wasn’t a big deal, but It was busy and fragmented. This is the only thing I’ve written today and I need to process at least a few pictures. Frozen pizza for dinner because I’m off my meds for a few days to give the rest of me a break. Today is the day I realized what a difference they make.

With the washing of the dishes, the official day is done. I feel like the day never fully started. I knew this month was going to get weird. On my agenda for tomorrow is explaining to the doctor that Garry’s has run out of hydrochlorothiazide because The Duke ate the container. Duke doesn’t (fortunately!) eat the pills. Just the plastic container. And any wood he can wrap his jaws around.

I have a lot of natural antiqued wood furniture. Duke is not the first wood chewer in the household. Only the most enthusiastic.

The Wood-Eating Duke

BEFORE THE WINDS BLOW THE CREATURES MUST EAT – Marilyn Armstrong

There’s a story to go with these pictures. It’s one of my “Is my mind really going? Should I be taking something or stop taking something?”

I got lucky. I had the camera, I got a nearly perfect focus on the birds, the squirrel and then the chipmunk showed up too. It was the last golden leaves of Autumn. I took more than 100 pictures which I rarely do in the house.

This was a really busy day. I was running up and down to see how the contractor was doing and all three dogs were barking like mad.

And a Downy Woodpecker

Owen was coming in and out, bringing his stuff back. And my stairlift goes down ONE flight. I have to haul ass on the other stairs … and I’m off my pain meds because my body needs a break or at least, it sure feels like a break.

Looking for a few seeds?
Oh, look! I found a few seeds!

In the middle of this, there were all these creatures on the deck and I had a camera. They were incredibly cute and for once, I got the focus just about perfect — most of the time, anyway.

The Tufted Titmouse wants some food, too …
It’s all about the seeds. Really.

I thought about putting this post up later in the week, but it seemed so “now-ish” what with the storm coming and all the leaves coming down tonight.

Here is the story.

I took all these pictures and I did what I do … more to the point, I did what I thought I always do. I took the chip out of the camera and stuck it in the card reader in my computer. Then I watered all the plants (I’ve been intending to do it for a week), moved some money so I could pay the contractor, realized I’d run out of checks, realized I still had checks from when I first opened this account but I had to find them. (I did.)

I swear this squirrel was attached to the feeder from first thing in the morning until after dark. He NEVER stopped eating.

Somewhere in this process, I lost track of the chip with the pictures. I looked through every chip I own. I checked to make sure I really did take the chip out of the big Olympus.

Finally, my last hope, I looked in my mini Leica — which is the one I used to take pictures of the doors and the contractor — and there was the chip. Apparently, I pulled the chip out of the reader and stuck it in the other camera. I have no memory of doing it, but obviously, I did.

I keep saying miracles happen. I consider this to be one of them.

WIRES AND THE WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH – Marilyn Armstrong

White-Breasted Nuthatch with wires as fall washes away 

We almost had a real Autumn. The leaves were just beginning to change for real. A bit of red was showing in the maple tree in front of the house. But tonight, the winds are coming up and the rain is coming down. It’s the end of the foliage. By tomorrow, the leaves will be red on the ground.

But meanwhile, here’s a last-minute picture of a nuthatch as the season ends.

White-Breasted Nuthatch

IF THE TRAINS DERAIL, RAISE THE RATES – Marilyn Armstrong

I finally had to tell Garry that I have one more stenotic, broken vertebra. L 4-5-6 were fused when I was 19. Despite a lot of abuse and arthritis, those three are still (more or less) fused. They don’t feel particularly happy, but they should hang together for the duration. Unless I do something really stupid, like fall off a horse or down the stairs, or have a serious auto accident.

Sometime during the past couple of years, the S-1 vertebra — the one at the very bottom of the spine which supports the whole shebang — broke. I don’t know when it broke. It may have just decayed or been damaged by arthritis. I didn’t have an accident or fall, so I’m just assuming it more or less fell apart all by itself. knew something was wrong because I was finding it so difficult to walk.

There’s nothing to be done about it. I guess we could, as my friend Cherrie says, call this “My new normal.”

Anyway, what would I do with a wheelchair? Even a small one is too big for this house and we live on a road that doesn’t have a sidewalk. In town, the sidewalks are a disaster; so full of potholes, you don’t need a disability to fall on your head.

Boston’s no better. The Commonwealth has been busy “saving money” by failing to provide basic services … but hey, we have a full treasury again. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to spend some of that money and create safe sidewalks, ramps for wheelchairs, and repair our crashing trains. They’ve been derailing, rolling over, and generally banging into each other. There are lots of software fixes for these problems, but the tracks are so old and decrepit, you can’t install the new software.

So, realizing they had a transportation issue (and have had this same issue for all the years I’ve lived here), you know what they did to fix it? They raised public transportation prices.

A lot of people are very grumpy about it. No idea why.

Most public places don’t have ramps. For wheelchair users, there are few down ramps at intersections. In our little town, we have one traffic light and a few random stop signs to which no one pays any attention and sidewalks that resemble tank traps.

When I first moved to Massachusetts, I had to ask a friend if the driving laws were different. No-one stopped at signs or lights. I figured they must know something I didn’t know. It turned out, they just don’t LIKE traffic laws.

Someone once said the only way to get a moving violation in Boston was to run over the Governor. It really encourages one to keep walking as long as possible … though there are days …

LINES AND SQUARES – DAY SIXTEEN! – Marilyn Armstrong

LINES AND SQUARES ON THE SIXTEENTH DAY

Autumn is here — but likely will be gone by tomorrow. A major north Atlantic storm is due to hit us tomorrow by late afternoon. This will hopefully leave enough time for the contractor to finish the front door finishing. The door and wall are done already.

The contractor showed up on time and everything! He didn’t have his hand out before he took the tools out of the truck! There ARE miracles.

The sun wasn’t supposed to show up in that picture. I didn’t know it was there until I put the photos on the hard drive. I love the way the sun makes its own rays if you get the lens at the right angle.
Along our road

OUT ON THE DECK – Marilyn Armstrong

It was a busy day on the deck.

The first thing I do when I get up in the morning — even if it’s just to give a treat to the barking dogs — is to look at the feeders. At least one of the feeders usually has a tail, so I figure I’m feeding a squirrel. There’s usually a bird or three on the other feeder, one of which is a woodpecker … and these days, a Blue Jay.

I grew up in New York and Blue Jays were common birds. All garden birds were common and until I started to really look at the birds. Unless it was a hawk or a seagull, they were all “just birds.”

Our little chipmunk
A very common squirrel!
They get hungry too
Downy Woodpecker
Two birds
Wens and Titmouse

It’s funny how I’ve come to become a birdwatcher. I never intended it, but my first sister-in-law was a serious watcher. She used to drag me out of bed before dawn to hear the larks singing.

House Finch

Then, in Israel, I realized that for a week in April, every raptor in Africa flew through Jerusalem on their way to Europe or Asia. They used to come and sit on our windowsills. Some of them became quite tame … until it was time for them to fly on.

Goldfinch is back
Red-Bellied Woodpecker

It was a gradual thing. For a long time, I looked at the birds in the winter yard, yet it took years until I put up feeders. Why did it take me so long to put up those feeders?

The brightest Cardinal in our garden
Blue Jay

I don’t know. I really don’t. Maybe because I hadn’t absorbed how endangered this world was and how the beautiful birds were disappearing. I love those birds. They are beautiful, but they are also a symbol. We’ve lost 30 million birds in a decade and will lose another 30 million in five more — or less.

Big Red-bellied Woodpecker
Lady Cardinal

We all need to do the best we can to help where we can. Maybe pay a few cents more for clean energy. Buy some birdseed and feeders. Recycle. We can’t fix everything, but we can do what we can.