A Killing Freeze

In late August, I happened to be in the front flower bed snipping fresh basil for a batch of my roasted tomato sauce, when I noticed a Green Lynx spider perched on a basil plant that had gone to seed. For years, I saw these spiky, green spiders all around the house but never did more than identify them and research enough to know they were a beneficial spider to gardeners and they were not to be feared – meaning their bite was not toxic and they were not particularly aggressive.

Green Lynx_5984

I took these images with an older camera back in 2006. I was fascinated by the spikes and the evident "eight eyes" of this species.
I took these images with an older camera back in 2006. I was fascinated by the spikes and the evident “eight eyes” of this species.

After discovering its presence, it became a habit to check on this spider any time I was clipping basil, or while I was standing around waiting on my three Japanese Chin dogs to do their business in the mornings. After a couple of weeks, I realized my green friend was a female, as she had constructed a flat-looking egg sac, and she was very protective of it. Knowing Green Lynx spiders do not capture insects with a web, but rather prey on them and pounce like a cat to capture them (thus the name “lynx”), I often observed the female just a few inches from her egg. But as soon as I would get close with the camera, she would  nimbly amble over to her egg sac to protect it.

Two or three weeks went by with Ms. Lynx in this protective state. Then one day, I discovered lots of tiny orange spiderlings clinging below the egg sac . These new-born spiders moved along very slowly, gently clinging to a stem of basil. There was no way to count the mass but there seemed to be hundreds! Over the next two weeks, I never saw the female move from her protective position watching over them. And by the third week, only a few spiderlings remained. In doing a little online research, I learned the young spiders use strands of silk to “balloon” away on the breeze to find their future homes. During this time, while her children drifted off to new adventures, the female remained near her egg sac. Unfortunately, I was unable to capture any clear photographs of the spiderlings.

My basil patch is on the far right of the photo (between the far right marigolds and the maple tree on the right). Most plants in the front flowerbed are hummingbird, butterfly and spider-friendly, and also provide cover for birds, various reptiles, squirrels and rabbits.
My basil patch is on the far right of the photo (between the far right marigolds and the maple tree to the right of them). Most plants in the front flowerbed are hummingbird, butterfly, and spider-friendly, and also provide cover for birds, various reptiles, squirrels, and rabbits.
My green lady friend protected her egg sac day and night for more than two weeks.
My green lady friend protected her egg sac day and night for more than two weeks.

Last week, we had a couple of light frosts. Wondering how Ms. Lynx was handling the frigid temperatures, I checked on my green lady friend and found her still near her egg, but looking a little pale. She was still alive, but her legs moved very slowly as I lightly brushed the browned basil leaves nearby. Looking more closely, it appeared there were a few spiderlings that had possibly perished while clinging to the basil stalks. This morning as I stepped out with Zoe, Bear and Mr. T, it was apparent we had a killing freeze in the night. The air was still, and the only sounds to be heard were of icy leaves dropping to the ground and the call of a woodpecker in the distance. I walked over to the basil and looked for my green friend. There she hung by one spiky leg, pale and expired. Her work as a mother was done.  And somewhere in the woodlands and grasses beyond, hundreds of her offspring begin their own journeys. They will overwinter as babies, reaching maturity in the spring or summer, and the cycle will repeat.

Last week the first frost brought stunning color to the woodlands.
Last week the first frost brought stunning color to the woodlands.
The empty egg sac is frozen in tiny ice crystals.
The empty egg sac is frozen in tiny ice crystals.
My beautiful friend perished in the night's killing freeze.
My beautiful friend perished in the night’s killing freeze.

I was a bit sad as I herded the dogs back into the house. I would miss my green lady friend. I was thankful that she shared the wonder and mystery of her life cycle with me. And I was glad that I took the time to observe and occasionally photograph her. But what I am left with mostly, is the reverence I feel in observing the tenacity, persistence, and resilience of the smallest beings in nature. In nature, even the smallest creatures are an important piece in the circle of life. They all matter… we all matter.

© 2015 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…


70 thoughts on “A Killing Freeze

  1. That was beautiful, you nearly had me in tears 🙂 A fabulous post and some stunning photos to go with it!!! And wonderful that you like spiders, so many women run a mile when they see these amazing creatures.

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        1. You sure are correct, Andy! I am always tickled to think so many people (myself included at one time) are afraid of spiders. Years ago I was horrified if I found one in the house. Nowadays, you will find me collecting them gently with a tissue, releasing them back outside in a shrub or in the grasses. And I love researching each species. They all have interesting ways of surviving and contributing to the ecosystem.

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          1. Well done!!!! It’s amazing how researching many different things can help peoples fears of animals and insects 🙂 I’m still trying to convince my wife of this fact, but she’s having none of it! Lol! 😦

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          2. Ha ha! I realized when we moved on this ten acres that the spiders and snakes were always going to be here and either I would always be panicked and scared, or I would learn to live with them. The longer I observed and simply shoo’d them off in another direction, the more I learned to appreciate them. I still do not like the element of surprise when I walk into a web or coming face to face with a snake while working in my gardens, but after a gasp or a frantic dance I soon get over myself and get on with my work. I probably scare these critters much more than they scare me! 😀

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          3. I can’t imagine you scaring anything, LittleSundog 🙂 But I can guess what it must be like to suddenly come across a snake, or one of the bigger bugs in your garden. I’m sure at times I would freak out at first too.
            We don’t get anything bigger than slugs in our garden, and not even Scottish slugs leap out at you!! 🙂

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          4. Ha ha! We have lots of snakes, but only copperheads and rattlers are poisonous. I can easily identify those two, and the others are safe, beneficial snakes so I leave them be or send them slithering off to another area if I want to work in the spot they were in. I’m more mindful of spiders and where they might be. I rarely walk into the woods until the first couple of freezes as spiders and snakes aren’t seen much after that time. Spring and summer I don’t go into the thick of the woods much. Snakes in trees and underfoot are just not worth running into! By the way, my name is Lori. 🙂

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          5. Wow Lori, we just take it so much for granted that we can just go for a walk whatever the season, wherever we want (within reason). I hadn’t considered that it could be dangerous (snake and spider wise) to walk anywhere in the USA. That’s a real eye opener!!! I have even more respect for you and your husband, and the way of life you are living 🙂

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          6. Oh, Oklahoma isn’t too bad. There are other predators throughout the US that I would not want to confront. Alligators, Mountain Lions, Bears, and various venomous snakes to name a few. The fall and winter is a good time for me to hike to the river. No insects in the cold months and no snakes! 😀

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          7. We have it so lucky over here, in that respect Lori, the only real danger is the adder, and they will only bite if you tread on them by mistake. But you do have some wonderful creepy crawlies, birds and animals, and that definitely makes up for the few dangerous animals etc. Do you get snow during the winter? I know so little about Oklahoma, its embarrassing!!

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          8. Oh Andy, that is what I love about discovering other bloggers and the places they live – we learn so much! No need to be embarrassed! I know very little about your neck of the woods either! 😀 I do know my husband and I hope to travel extensively someday and hope to visit your native land!

            We do get snow, but not often and it never sticks around long. We are far enough south in the US that our winter temps are usually above freezing. However, I am thankful that it gets cold enough that the snakes and mosquitoes vanish for a few months!! 😀

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          9. I agree whole heartedly about the blogging community and finding out about other peoples lives and the countries they live in 🙂 I’ve only been on wordpress for about 6 months and I’ve already learnt loads and loads. It was only yesterday that I discovered that the Great Salt Lake in Nevada actually had water in it, I thought it was a totally dry lake!!
            Lori, if you and your husband ever came to Scotland, you would get a wonderful welcome, the Scots are a very friendly bunch 🙂
            It sounds like your winters are similar to ours over the last few years, we’ve had very little snow or hard frosts. Hopefully this year will be better snow wise!! 🙂

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          10. I’m quite sure we’ll be going to Scotland… it’s on “the LiST”!! Ha ha! I don’t know about Scotland, but here it is necessary to have freezing temps long enough for “chill hours” for fruit trees. We also love the snow, but it’s especially nice that it melts pretty quickly.

            Our Thanksgiving is going well! We are visiting family. Back home the weather is cold and blustery with chances of ice and snow. Do you have a similar holiday in Scotland?

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          11. I know what you mean about the ‘chill hours’ for the fruit, but Scotland isn’t a big fruit growing nation, in fact other than an apple tree in our garden, I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen any other fruit trees!! Lol!! I would agree with you about snow being good if it melts quickly, I love it when it’s falling, or shortly after, but once it starts turning to slush, it’s the pits!! 😦
            Glad to hear your Thanksgiving is going well 🙂 We don’t have a similar thing over here, we have a Harvest Festival which I think is in September, but it’s not a holiday – it’s mainly the primary schools and churches that celebrate it. But here in Scotland, St Andrews Day (patron Saint of Scotland) is coming up on the 30th. But again, even in Scotland it’s not really celebrated properly, the Scot’s prefer Burn’s Night, when it is traditional to eat haggis and get drunk! That isn’t celebrated till the end of January 🙂

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          12. It is definitely an acquired taste Lori, and even though I will eat it, I wouldn’t choose to have haggis! At least now you’ve looked it up now, you won’t be caught out by the tale that “Scots only hunt haggis on certain days of the year, the rest of the time they roam about the mountains!!” Lol!! 🙂

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  2. This is such a sweet post. Yes all things in nature matter and even though we use the word lesser when speaking of animals and living things in nature, there is really no lesser as all things have its/their place in this world.

    The photos are great as usual and the one of the green spider is really good.

    I bet you miss that fresh basil in the winter. I love the smell and often crush the leaves in my hands. Today I gave a few twigs to my old goat and he ate those in one swift bite.

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    1. Thank you, Yvonne. I agree with you completely, every living thing is important. Yes, I do miss some of my herbs in winter. Some manage to make it through the cold months. I try to freeze some basil for winter use, and it still holds its flavor very well. FD is terribly allergic to mold, and bringing plants inside is too much of a risk to him, so I don’t winter them over indoors.

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    1. Oh thank you, Tom. I am sure glad to know there are other people who think kindly on insects and spiders. I just rescued a ladybug that got between a window and the screen. I put her in some potted plants that I cover near the back porch. I’m not sure what all insects winterover, but I am always hopeful many of them make it!

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    1. Ardys, I used to have a terrible snake and spider phobia too, but after being exposed to both venomous and non-venomous species of snake and spider for more than 8 years on this place, I’m finally comfortable with them. I will never enjoy being surprised by their presence, but I have enjoyed observing them and appreciating their part in “pest” control. I have to wonder if my green friend helped keep harmful insects away from my basil. So many years the basil is chomped on by insects. This year I had a beautiful bumper crop!

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  3. Reminders of our mortality are everywhere, aren’t they? I like this story, it reminds me a little of Virginia Woolf’s “The Death of a Moth.” And, wow, what a difference a new camera makes! The more recent image is amazingly sharp.

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    1. My new camera is not so new anymore, but it sure is better than the old one! I still have that old one and I’m not sure what to do with it. Electronics age so quickly. I will have to check out the book you mentioned. I hadn’t heard of it before. I hope you and Chris have a wonderful Thanksgiving… wherever in the world you happen to be at the moment! 🙂

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  4. During the summer we were doing some work on the house and a ladder was left open on the patio for a few days. One morning I discovered that a spider had built a web on it. Now the ladder was several feet from the house, so I’m thinking this spider came on the wind, or leaped into the unknown from the gutter. At any rate, it was pretty incredible and I tried to take photos and quickly discovered how challenging it was to focus properly. Love your photos, and the story is one I’ll remember…it touches so nicely on that companionship we feel for critters, even the ones that don’t love us back in a direct way.

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    1. Thank you for sharing your encounter with a spider and her web! They seem to pop up webs overnight, and they pick the darnedest spots sometimes… though I’m sure they have good reasons to spin webs where they do! Anytime I meet a new species of spider I try to research it enough to know a little about it’s habitat and survival. I see these lynx spiders every year. They always look so intimidating with that combat look – spikes all you know! This year I saw a softer side of the female – protective and steadfast to her egg sac and babies, to the very end of her life. The more we observe, the more we learn and appreciate.

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  5. Oh, the wonders of nature! Such a well-written and very informative piece. We look at so many things, never giving them another thought. Thanks for bringing out the spider story!

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    1. Thank you, Mandeep. Often we never see the smallest creatures in nature. We’re just too busy passing by. Had I not been cutting basil that morning, I may never have noticed her or her egg sac. Both were camouflaged so well!

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    1. I remember you are not fond of spiders! The lynx spider is a friendly one though, and quite beautiful, I think. I was amazed at how attentive and protective of her egg sac and babies she was. I wonder how many thousands of these spiders we have on the property any given year? Ha ha!

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    1. Thank you, Audrey. Getting good images was tough this time. I am on auto focus most of the time due to wildlife moving, and of course with the cold weather digital photography is slow and not so precise… so I’m lucky I got what I got!

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  6. Hi Lori. You’re on a role, three articles. I’m sure you’re one of the few people who would call a spider a friend. Of course you’re right that all creatures have their role to play, but sometimes one wonders what role. I’m in limbo with my blog/website. My father has been seriously ill for several months and I’ve been going to visit in the UK and when I’m at home not able to concentrate much. And now the attacks in Paris. My blog posts are focused on culture and photography and not very personal, after all I have a quiet life. I’m at that “what’s the point” point. Everyone has an opinion, everyone can write, why add my blatherings to the pile. Any thoughts would be welcome xxx

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    1. Harvesting gardens and mowing… all of the summer work has ended. I have just a few chores to tie up to be ready for winter. Thus, I am spending more time writing, which you know I love. This morning Daisy finally showed up – I hadn’t touched her in a few months, so I spent the entire morning walking in the woods with my girl. I will be posting about that. There is much to tell!

      It is easy to lose interest in our ambitions when there is too much on our plates. I have had to put my blog on hold in the past when I have been too busy with necessary work around here, or if I’m sad or having some depression. And, because I’m a very sensitive person, sometimes I just get overwhelmed by too much coming at me and I know I need quiet time and rest. First and foremost, do what you must to care for yourself. I am sorry to hear about your father being seriously ill. The travel and the constant worry must weigh heavily. And not so long ago, you yourself were quite ill. Take care of what is really in your heart… your soul. Your blog will always be waiting for you to return… and I hope that you do, Henrietta. I always look forward to your posts. Your photography is exceptional, and I always learn something about life in France. You are especially talented in relaying history and interesting tidbits about the areas you travel to or places in France that you visit. Just take a little time to heal. I hope that your passion to write and showcase your photography returns. I love you, sweet friend. XOXO

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  7. You know how much I love my garden spiders so this was an extra treat for me, Lori! Mrs Lynx is beautiful and what great photographs and words you shared to describe her motherhood story. I was a little sad too to read of her demise, but happy to know her hundreds of young will continue on. You have such a wonderful blog, Lori. I learn something new every post. Thank you! 🙂

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    1. Jane, thank you for your kind words. Your comment means so much since I consider you an exceptional writer and your nature photography fascinating. I always learn something from your posts too. Best of all, you entertain with funny things that happen on your hikes, and I always have a good laugh. I am done with my gardening for the year since the freeze killed everything. I only have a few tasks to finish up before winter hits and I will have lots of time to write. In fact, on a hike with Daisy this morning, I came up with two more stories to write! 🙂

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  8. This is a perfect example of why I love to read your blog, Lori. You pay attention to the tiniest details in nature, and take the time to research them and then to tell us what you’ve learned. And on top of all that, you take the most wonderful detailed photographs of it all! I hope you realize what a gem you are, my friend. I’m so thankful to know you!

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    1. Oh, Kim. That just made my morning! I was not always so observant. Daisy deer really opened my eyes to the little critters and insects. And the more I see and research, the more I appreciate their role in our ecosystem. I have made all sorts of long-legged, eight-eyed friends in the flower beds!! 😀

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  9. Lori, this is one of my most favorite of your posts.
    You’ve shared the circle of life, for all creatures on this earth, with all it’s reality and sadness.
    and if we didn’t know it already, you have reminded us of your tremendous and giving heart.

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    1. Oh, thank you Laurie. That just made my day. I watched that spider for many weeks. It was a bit sad for me to say goodbye. 😦 But she taught me a lot this autumn, and I bet I see some of her kids next summer! 🙂

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  10. You have amazing and wonderful observation skill. This is a lovely story, though I was sad too, upon the spiders death. The cycle of life, and death indeed. I also love the Einstein quote you have chosen, about freeing ourselves by widening our circle of compassion. Thanks for your wonderful blog.

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    1. Thank you, Bruce – what a nice comment. If I did not have so much to do here on the place, I believe I would be out there “observing” all sorts of wildlife! It’s a real passion!

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  11. Green Lynx; I never knew her name, but she is my favorite spider in the garden! I love her fresh green look and how she is able to so completely camouflage herself in the foliage, but mostly I love that, as you mentioned, she is a friendly spider and that we needn’t fear her.

    Shhh… don’t tell him that I told you, Lori, but Bob is afraid of spiders. 😉

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    1. Ha ha ha!! Lynda, that just cracks me up!! Bob doesn’t look like he’d be afraid of anything let alone a harmless spider. I think a lot of people fear them, and I can’t say I was always fond of them. I think it took being exposed to them a lot and learning their importance in nature. They’re all so very different – I’m intrigued by them!

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