Thursday, September 26, 2013

Morning Webs, Evening Lake

I stepped outside this morning to discover these dew covered, jellyfish shaped webs all over the asparagus, and sprinkled throughout the grass and garden.  Dozens of them.  

I've never noticed these before, but I have a hard time believing they just appeared overnight.  I think they must have been here all summer, but weren't obvious until the dew settled on them.  From a distance they look like cotton fluff sprinkled in the branches, but when I looked up close, I could see the intricate web design, that looks like a dense shield above a loosely tied web framework below.  

If you look closely at the picture above, you can see the small dark spider resting in the center of the top web.  Through the magic of the Internet, in about five seconds I was able to identify these as "bowl and doily" spiders.  The inverted bowl traps little gnats and other bugs, and protects the small spider from predators above.  The doily on the bottom protects the spider from below, and most had the crunchy looking carcasses of the spider's recent meals.  Just by looking at the number of bug crumbles in each web I can assume these guys are doing their part to make sure the bug population stays under control.  

Talk about natural pest control!  Look at all these tiny insect traps!  Who need pesticides when you can have spider infestations, right?  

The webs built on the chicken wire fence around the spinach bed were especially intricate.  How does a tiny little spider build such elaborate structures, and each spider makes them look basically the same, even though they each have different shaped things to attach to?  It's amazing, truly.  

After a morning of web appreciation, Jamie and I headed for a work project in western Tennessee on the shores of Reelfoot Lake.  There are very few naturally occurring lakes in my part of the world, but Reelfoot is one of the few.  Where as most lakes are man made through impounding rivers, and are deep, Reelfoot was created during an earthquake, when the Mississippi River reversed it's flow, and filled the sunken area created by the shifting earth.  Of course, we humans built a levee and a spillway so we could control the water levels and generally mess with natural processes, but the lake is unique because it is so shallow, and has wetland vegetation, including large cypress trees, growing throughout.  It is a wetland lovers paradise, as well as a fisherman's.  On our way to the project site we stopped at the visitors center to see the rescued bald eagles and owls that are kept in outdoor aviaries.  The little gal in the photo above is a screech owl who has a broken wing.  She's about the size of a grapefruit, and is fully grown.  I hear screech owls all the time when catching bats, and can sometimes see their large eyes in my headlamp, but don't always get to see them in the light of day.  So cute!  

The visitors center also has a reptile room, full of terrariums with snakes, including the copperhead in the photo above.  One of the identifying characteristics of our venomous snakes, such as the copper head or timber rattlesnake, is that they have vertical pupils.  Non venomous snakes have round pupils.  I can't say that I would recommend getting close enough to a wild copperhead to see if it's pupils are vertical, but it's neat to see it from the other side of the glass.  

When we were making plans for this trip, the first thing we had to discuss was if we were going to eat at Boyette's.  If we were, then I needed to be mentally and physically prepared.  I've been making trips to Reelfoot every year for many years now, so I've learned from experience that eating at Boyette's takes mental and physical stamina.  So, in a knowingly futile attempt to counter act the physical punishment we were going to willing subject ourselves to, we drank algae and vegetable juice for breakfast and ate nothing but raw vegetables and other healthy foods for driving snacks and lunch.  By supper time we were more than ready.  I couldn't wait, really.  

This is our "before" photo of our meal.  The thing about this restaurant is that if you order, say, fried catfish and fried chicken (excellent!), not only is it "all you can eat meat" it comes with hushpuppies, sourdough roles, onion rings, potato, coleslaw, and beans.  All of that!  All loaded with grease, and golden brown in color.  The slaw is loaded with sugar.  The beer is served in a can.  It's wonderful, but deadly.  

Our preparation payed off, as you can see in our "after" photo.  If only you could hear the groans.  Over the years I have learned that the trick is to eat everything while it is tongue blistering hot.  The onion rings in particular are the most exquisite things you will ever eat when they are straight out of the fryer, but as soon as they cool off the artery clogging fat they are fried in turns to a very unappetizing waxy substance.  You gotta scarf it, baby!  We laughed so hard when we were flipping back and forth between our before and after pictures that I thought we might be having fried food induced hysteria.  No one should eat that much!  Sigh...I can't wait for next years trip...

The setting is perfect for a near comatose after supper recovery.  

We found some chairs with a view of the lake and watched the sun set.  

We watched a flock of ducks preen their feathers, and saw the egrets settle down for the night in the trees.  By the time the sun went down we were sufficiently recovered to waddle of to our rooms. I really do love this lake.   

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