Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Along Came a Spider

Along came a spider
who sat down beside her

Only instead of the spider coming to sit beside me, I chose to sit down beside her.  

Here are my journal notes from September third:  "Too much salt in my eyes.  Sweat runs in a little rivulet down my back. I told myself after a couple of years of 'bugging' (photographing insects) that I was going to be kinder to myself, that I didn't need to fry in the hot sun ... but here I am.  doing it again, and by choice. " 

This little saga started Aug 11.  While looking for insects at Elkton Community Gardens, we find a big black and yellow garden spider ( Argiope aurantia ) along the edge of the wetlands ... and another ... and another.  Five in all.  I immediately want to put prey in a web, but I can't find anything that I can catch.  It is parched and dry here.  

A week later we go back to Elkton.  I grab my insect net and go into my back yard to catch a couple of grasshoppers.  None.  Nada.  Unsettling!  Years ago when we fished for brown trout in August I often caught a couple of dozen in a few minutes -- good brown trout bait.  Over and over again this summer we notice a lack of insects, especially mid to late summer.  Did the last two summers of heavy wildfire smoke knock down insect populations?  Drought?  Something is different.

We still go to Elkton and I happened to be watching a spider when a bee flies into her net.  Bam! The spider has her saran-wrapped in silk so quickly I can hardly believe it.  That just makes me want to feed her all the more.  She obviously can catch her own food, but Dale and I want to photograph the whole process.  

I few days later, up in the Cascade mountains I find grasshoppers.  I quickly catch four.  The next day, September third,  we head back to our spiders.  Fortunately I have the foresight to pack my wiggly grasshoppers next to an ice pack.  

Only one of the original five garden spiders is still in the same spot, but the biggest was still there.  It is an awkward place to photograph.  I have to balance myself on wobbly cobbles to get close to her spider web.  Fortunately Dale has a stronger lens and solid footing.  I take out one chilled grasshopper and wiggle it into her net.  The spider zooms to the top of her guy lines and just sits.  The grasshopper doesn't move.  Only my sweat moves.  I wiggle the grasshopper some more and finally it starts its own wiggling.  

Zoom!  Down comes the spider.  She quickly spins the grasshopper round and round, wrapping it in sheets of silk in the process.  In two seconds the grasshopper is immobilized.  Spiders have multiple spinnerets and can use them individually or in tandem.  She obviously blasts away with several spinnerets.  

After wrapping her prey she moves to another spot on her web.  Spiders eat by injecting a digestive enzyme to liquify the innards of their prey.  She now needs to give the enzyme time to work.  

I decide to see if she is interested in another grasshopper ...... yes!   She wraps that one just a quickly and also sets it aside.  AND she catches a small insect of her own.  

I can't help but wonder how much silk she has and since there aren't any other spiders to feed, I offered her a third grasshopper.  This is where it became apparent that chilling my grasshoppers was a good idea.  This grasshopper had warmed a little and quickly gets away from me.  I try again, and loose that one too.  But she catches a fourth insect without my help.  She obviously can generate gobs of silk between meals.  She now has four insects to feed on.  We are heading home, going to get out of this heat.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Changing How I Keep a Journal

It has been forever since I last posted.  Maybe that is an exaggeration; but it has been about ten months.  I never intended to go that long.  Life has been busy.  Good busy.  Now the fall rains are coming and I'm wanting to get back to posting -- maybe twice a month.

My header art reflects a major change in how I journal -- and that will be the focus of this post.  Over forty years ago I started keeping a journal in black, hardbound blank books ... words and sketches.  In recent years I've been disappointed with the paper that comes in similar hardbound books. It warps whenever I use watercolor.  Good paper comes in expensive books.  So, in recent years I have been keeping both a 'black book' and an Aquabee sketch book.  But that is a nuisance.  I'd rather keep more of my words and sketches together.

Not using a 'black book' feels a little like saying "Good Bye" to an old friend, but I am looking forward to having better paper to paint on.  I haven't been doing as much 'sketchbook painting' as I'd like during the past couple of years.  Hopefully switching books will get those juices flowing again.

It was almost a month ago that I made the switch.  The little trumpeter at the top of the page is a metal sculpture found at the butterfly gardens in Elkton, Oregon.

... and here are some more sketches done during the past month.  Some are started totally 'in the field'; some are started in the field and finished at home; and a few are drawn from my laptop photos after I got home.
Three Double-crested Cormorants on a Log 

I love watching brown pelicans flowing low over the Pacific.  They just barely skim the water, dipping into the trough between waves, and rising up again to just miss the next incoming wave.

A great blue heron perches in a tall tree waiting for the tide to go out at Charleston Harbor.  Soon it will be able to forage along the exposed shoreline.  
A black-tailed deer fawn pauses and looks at me.  In September some have already lost their spots, but not this one.

After a month of doing all my journaling in an Aquabee sketchbook, I'm happy to see the juices are flowing......

And here is a full page -- words and art togther in my new Aquabee journal:

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Yellowstone Sketches: Glimpses of Yellowstone National Park

My book is ready!  For years I’ve dreamed of doing this book, but it took modern technology for it to become a realistic ambition.  I’ve gathered together favorite sketches, drawings, and words from Dale’s and my many, many trips to Yellowstone.  So far we’ve spent over three years in the park during thirty plus years.  My goal is to capture the essence and best parts of the many journal and sketchbook pages I’ve filled during those years. 

Yellowstone Sketches very much about glimpses of wildlife in the park.    It is not meant to be a tour guide, nor to be a comprehensive book about the park. Rather, the book captures special moments in time: a sandhill crane laying her egg; a black bear taking a bath; wolves howling.   I’m posting a handful of pages from the book to give you a feel for what I mean. .  NOTE that the words look blurry on the blog, but they don’t in the book!  I’ll retype the words beneath each page.

Yellowstone is a place where my heart sings, 
where I feel close to the earth,
and where I breathe deeply and thank my good fortune 
to be on this planet.  
This young grizzly was just kicked off by its mother.  A boar in the area is making the little bear nervous.

He pauses his foraging every minute or two for a quick look around.
Three coyotes sleep on a knoll … and farther back are five black wolves called ‘New Group.’  The coyotes appear to be keeping an eye on the wolves.  The wolves are relaxed.  We hear one harmonious howling session from the wolves and earlier heard coyotes yipping.  Far off, a lone wolf howled in slough Creek. 

The valleys are in the cool shadows of approaching evening.  Low sun paints pale yellow on the mountaintops.  The clear sky and ever-present cold promise an even colder night. 
The ospreys are continuing to build.  The male brought the female a fish – a very stiff fish.  The female osprey has the darkest collar we’ve seen on a female.

Not much activity, and then a third osprey arrives and stoops several times.  All three birds disappear high in the sky.

Over an hour later, only two ospreys return.  This female has a much lighter breast.  We assume she has evicted a younger female.  

Elk have chewed on this aspen sapling.  Old chewing forms black scars.  Recent chewing is tan. 

Now that spring is coming, sap is starting to ooze from the new scars.  Two species of butterflies come to sip sap – mourning cloak and comma.


My publisher, Lora Hagen / R. Schneider, Publisher captured just what I wanted when she laid out my book.  The book is informal, colorful, and intended to give you a breath of the treasure that Yellowstone offers. 

Also available from R. Schneider, Publisher:
Hamerstrom Stories /  Elva Paulson, editor – the collection of about my parents , Frederick and Frances Hamerstrom: 336 pages / $29.95


Walk When the Moon is Full by Frances Hamerstrom, illustrated by Elva Paulson – This children’s book, written by my mother, stayed in print for 25 years.  I inherited the words, but not the art, so published it again with my illustrations: 40 pages / $8.95

To Order:

Yellowstone Sketches: Glimpses of Yellowstone National Park   $22.95
Hamerstrom Stories, edited by Elva Paulson                                  $29.00
Walk When the Moon is Full                                                               $8.95

5.5% Wisconsin sales tax on Wisconsin orders only

USA Shipping:
$4.00 for the first book.  $1 each for additional copies to the same address.
Orders are shipped USPS Media Mail

Please send check or Credit Card info to:
R. Schneider, Publishers
312 Linwood Avenue
Stevens Point  WI  54481

Any questions?  How to contact me: 

On my blog:  click on ‘view my complete profile.’
On: Facebook:  I’ll remember to check ‘messenger’ for awhile

Eventually the book will be available on Amazon – I don’t know how long that process takes.