Snow, Ice, Snow, Mist, Snow…

The weather here was crazy today.  But my four-legged energizer bunny (Ryder) insisted he needed his daily chase, so out into the mess I went. It was late afternoon and I was surprised to find an entire yard with no obvious new track marks.  Really? Really!

It was icy enough to weigh tree branches down to the earth.  And notice – no fresh tracks!

Each individual needle coated in ice.

I began scouting around trees and brush piles and by carefully looking, I found some small tracks of adventurous wild things.

Birdy tracks next to a brush pile.  A good place to stay out of the wind and weather.

I was VERY surprised to find a short squirrel trail from the base of one tree to the next. Why would she leave the safety of the trees to go about 15 feet across open ground to another tree when their branches intertwined?

And what on earth did this?  I couldn’t find any prints!  (Update:  I found the same pattern a couple of days later under another tree.  But with tracks.  SQUIRREL tracks.  They are apparently digging for seeds and such under the pine and hemlock trees.)

And that was it!  Apparently everyone was tucked in somewhere waiting for better weather!

I hope all of you hit by this storm are safe and sound!

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More Than Just Groundhog Day

February always comes as a surprise to me.  As much as I dislike winter and long for spring and summer, you would think I’d be counting every day.  But January always seems to be an extension of December.  We do Christmas with the in-laws on the 1st, Epiphany on the 6th, I still have lights in the windows…  So I’m always surprised when the month of January disappears and Ground Hog Day (February 2nd) is at the door.

Here in the states, February 2nd is known as Ground Hog Day. It’s a national thing and makes the news. Punxsutawney Phil is supposed to come out of his burrow and tell us whether or not Spring is on its way. Unfortunately, he’s not very accurate. He’s right about 39% of the time. Random chance is 33%. But it’s a big shindig in Punxsutawney, PA so I don’t think it will be going away any time soon.

If Candlemas Day be fair and bright

Winter will have another flight

If on Candlemas Day it be shower and rain

Winter is gone and will not come again.

– Old English proverb

Not everyone needed a groundhog to predict the end of winter!

February 2nd is also the midway point between winter and spring.  (Yes! Half way through! Happy Dance!) The days are starting to be noticeably longer and hope for better weather abounds.

It’s also Imbolc, a cross-quarter day between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Solstice. As it is considered the beginning of Spring, it is a time of cleansing and purification, growth and renewal. It is believed to have originated as a Pagan festival honoring the goddess Brighid and Christianized into the festival of Saint Brighid. To different degrees, both are still celebrated on or about this day.

Today is also Candlemas Day. Candlemas Day has had different meanings over time. It is the Christian festival of lights; combining when Jesus was brought to the temple 40 days after his birth and the time when all the candles to be used in the church are brought forth and blessed. In the past, this was also the time for the lady of the house to inventory the candles to make sure she had enough to get through the winter. Candles were important for light but also thought to give protection against illness.

Another tradition of Candlemas, the one that always sends me into a frenzy and wishing February didn’t arrive so quickly, is that Candlemas was also the time when all the Christmas decorations were to be removed to avoid bad luck in the house. (Christmas was a much longer affair, back when.) This custom persisted for hundreds of years. Today there are people who claim Twelfth Day or Epiphany is The Day. I, however, prefer to stick with Candlemas Day. It allows me to leave my lights up to brighten my evenings for a few weeks more. 😀

I wish I could figure out a way to take a really good picture of the lights in the window!

I wish I could figure out a way to take a really good picture of the lights in the window!

So today I’ll be stripping out the rest of Christmas from the house and lighting candles in celebration.  And there will be tea and treats, of course!

Blessings be to match, wax, flame.

Gratitudes to the Kindler on this our Candlemas Day.

– Sarah Ban Breathnach “Simple Abundance”

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Blessings and Best Wishes!

Household Helper

As you know, I always have a story for getting into odd things. So about last night…

I sat down on the toilet and went to rest my arms on my thighs when a sharp shooting pain went into my elbow.  OW! It felt like I’d been stung. I swiped at my elbow and something came off! I didn’t have my glasses on so I didn’t see what went flying, but we’ve been having warm spells and I wondered if a small bee, like a sweat bee, got into the house. It burned for a little while and I got a little red bump.

Later, I watched my cat Rose patting at something on the rug, but it didn’t move so she left.  And right after she left, I watched a small spider scurry across the floor to my linen closet.  I have watched this scenario many times. But not right after being ‘stung’.  Hmmm, I thought, these spiders are common in houses and I’ve never had any trouble with them, but could they bite hard enough to hurt?

Meet Cheiracanthium mildei, otherwise know as the Yellow Sac Spider, Yellow House Spider, or Black Footed Spider.

This little, most probably, lady is sitting on a clip-on fan in my bathroom. To give you an idea of size, the space she is sitting in is 3/8’s of an inch.

These little spiders normally live outside in your trees, bushes, garden, and leaf piles.  But come winter, if they can find some place nice and warm (your house), they’ll move in and set up shop.  C. mildei hunt by sight and eat other spiders bigger than they are, insects, and their eggs. Very handy if you have gnats living in your houseplants or silverfish in your closets!

Those little cocoons you see them living in up along the edges and corners of your ceilings are made fresh every dawn (they prefer to hunt at night) and take about 10 minutes to make.

These guys normally mate once in summer and the female can produce up to 5 egg sacs with about 40 eggs in each sac.  Outside they overwinter as spiderlings. Unless, of course, they make it inside your house where they can keep growing!

Side view. She didn’t even run away when I got within an inch of her to take the pic.

And can they bite?  Yep!  These guys will bite if provoked and in self-defense.  Like when I nearly squished her. 🙂  The symptoms are similar to a bee sting.  I was bump free and healed in a day, but if your are sensitive to the venom it could take several days. And, no, you won’t die!

On a personal note, I think these little spiders ‘learn’ from their environment.  This lady doesn’t consider me a threat and goes about her business as though I weren’t there.  Let Rose, my bug eating maniac, show up and she pulls her legs up against her body and refuses to move even when Rose pats her with a paw and huffs at her. And she waits to move until Rose hits the bathroom door. Interesting, too, is the fact that Rose won’t eat this spider as she does all the others.  I’m guessing she got a nasty surprise at one point! 🙂

If want to read more, I really enjoyed the articles at these sites : spiderbytes  and Arthropod Ecology.

In the meantime I’ll be checking the toilet paper roll and hand towels to make sure she doesn’t land on me again! 😀

A Quote

Time, like a snowflake, disappears while we’re trying to decide what to do with it. — Leo Kennedy 

A Quote

May I never miss a rainbow or a sunset because I’m looking down.   — Sara June Parker 

A Quote

A person’s age can be measured by the degree of pain one feels as one comes in contact with a new idea.  — Unknown

A Quote

What happiness there is when I awake to find near me the gift of a Morning!    — Abbie Graham