Spider Village & Ladybug Land

When I was little I was deathly afraid of spiders.  So much so, that when I found a big ugly one on me in the night (circa 1983), I moved into my sister’s bedroom and slept on her floor for a whole month.  And no, it wasn’t the least bit comfortable.

As I’ve aged I’ve gotten past the terror a spider can induce.  I’ve matured.  I’ve come to realize that spiders are small creatures who for the most part mean us no harm.  We are the scary big monsters THEY cower in fear from and try to avoid.  Part of this is hogwash, I know, part is rationalization.  But for the most part it works.  I can calmly shoo a spider away when need be – or even catch it gently in a cup, paper pressed against the opening, to escort it outside.  I never kill spiders – they have their purpose after all, and I much prefer them to the biting insects they call food.

Anyway, the reason I am sharing this is b/c I spend a goodly portion of each day tending to a fire which consumes vast quantities of wood.  I wrote about this whole wood situation before (feel free to refresh your memories here).  We keep most of our wood stacked outside, but weekly my husband & I must bring in a new stash for burning.  This wood is home to many, many spiders.  For safety (and peace of mind) I wear protective leather work gloves while shifting wood, lest I get bitten by a startled arachnid.  But I can’t get past the paranoid fear that one day I will encounter a brown recluse and wind up losing an arm.

I know this is paranoia at its best.  These little spiders are terrified of me, stomping around in my heavy snow boots, cursing audibly with each heaving wheelbarrow of wood.  But it remains so firmly planted in my psyche that any time I get a tiny unexplained cut on my hand, I watch it the same way an underpaid office worker watches the clock.  I check it 60 times an hour, just waiting for it to change. IS IT GETTING BIGGER??  IT’S LOOKING BIGGER!! IS IT BUBBLING??!!

All of this is nonsense, of course.  I scratched my hand sweeping up debris from the floor, or caught it on [insert whatever it was] but the fear remains.  It doesn’t help that all this firewood we haul inside is stored in the hearth in our kitchen.  The room in which I spend most of my time.  And now that this firewood is stacked inside the warm & pleasant walls of our heated home, the formerly hibernating army of spiders living inside said wood is now WAKING UP.  And converting my kitchen into their Spider Village.

In the changing light you see them.  The vast network of spiderwebs dangling above our heads, crisscrossing the room from the windows to the doors.  I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been standing at the island, chopping or kneading or simply going about my business, only to look up and find a spider dangling inches from my face.  Looking at me as if to say, “What’s for Dinner?”

For the most part I don’t mind living amongst so many many-leggeds.  Sure a few of them are HUGE (we’re talking inches) but for the most part they’re very small.  And they do in fact seem to be helping us with the bugs.  Not that you’d expect a home in the dead winter of Maine to have an insect issue, but for some odd reason we do have them.  Not gross ones, no cockroaches or big scary beetles or anything.  No, we have ladybugs.

We noticed them right after we moved in.  It was hard not to, seeing as they’d taken over our attic.  At some point in the course of The Dole House’s long and illustrious history, these ladybugs took up residence and now, 600 generations later, we’re still sheltering their kin.  It was odd at first, finding we had so much company.  But over the past (almost) 18 months, we’ve gotten used to each other.  We no longer think it strange, the small piles of expired ladybugs trapped between the window frames and storms.  The ladybug corpses littering the window sills (which must be dusted periodically) or the occasional ladybug you find clutching onto a curtain.  For some reason, our younger daughter’s bedroom seems to be the ladybugs favorite room in the house.  Ladybug Land.  Our little girl spends her nights counting the tiny red dots on her ceiling, watching them weave their way from point to point.  They’re sweet really.  Perhaps if you look carefully you’ll find another world living inside your home, too.

C’mon baby light my fire.

Let’s talk about WOOD.

That’s right; Wood!  You know, the stuff that grows on (and is) trees!  Back in Philly, I didn’t think much about wood.  We lived in a brick house heated by gas.  Our fireplace didn’t even work.  But now that I’ve moved to Maine, I think about wood all the time.  Here we are back in October.

Even though it is beautiful and green, early October in Maine is WINTERTIME.  Well – not the actual season (as you can see we aren’t wearing coats); rather, it’s preparation-for-winter time.  And for us, that meant one thing.  Although our house has radiators and can be heated exclusively by oil, we wanted to use wood.  Wood is a renewable resource.  It burns clean.  It is physically and psychologically warming.  Wood is good.  And our house has NINE fireplaces!!  But for all their appeal, fireplaces aren’t efficient.  Maine-uhs use stoves.  So we did our research and bought the granddaddy of all wood stoves.  The Hearthstone Equinox.

Now that we had a stove, we were going to need WOOD.  Lots of it.  My husband negotiated a deal though a friend at work.  5 cords, cut and delivered, for $750.  Nowadays I truly appreciate the sweetness of this deal.  Back in October I suspected it was pretty freaking fantastic, but before moving to Maine, I didn’t even know what a cord of wood was.  Hint: it’s a big pile.

When these big piles started showing up months ago, we started stacking them.  But there is a big difference between stacking wood the RIGHT way and stacking it the dingus way.  Being city folk, you can guess which way we stacked.  Going on cord number three, our wood guy warned us we’d stacked the wood too close.  Stack too close and you risk the wood molding.  So we re-stacked it.  But we must have stacked it too loose, b/c the new stacks collapsed.  So we re-stacked again.  In between stacking, it rained several times.  So we covered our wood piles w/ tarps.  Unfortunately these tarps were the wrong size (too big and/or too short).  Some of the wood stuck out at each end and got wet.  The rest of the wood was covered completely, but the big tarps pooled water, which sagged between the stacks, weighing them down and collapsing them.  So we had to re-stack again.  Finally, we wised up and cut the tarps to fit each of wood stacks individually.  We tied each of these tarps down, leaving room for the wood to breathe, and keep it covered from the rain & snow, but not enough GIVE for it to go cascading across the yard.

Here is our yard mid-October.  Green & lush.  Neat & tidy.

Here is our yard today.

Brown.  Not looking so hot.  The wood at the top is all new; we just got it and have begun stacking it the RIGHT way.  The lower collapsed wood pile is all that remains of the old stuff.  The tarp had been tied down protecting it, but flew off during the last hurricane-force wind storm.  This storm also hurled our (heavy for 2 people to lift) canoe 20 feet across the yard.  We’re moving all of the wood to the top left, to season for next year.  “Seasoning” is a special wood term.  Seasoned firewood is good firewood; it’s dry, it burns well.  In order to season firewood. you have to leave it out uncovered for a year.  Exposed to the elements, the sun, snow, wind and rain.  Seasoning literally means “leaving your wood out in all seasons” rather than “adding flavor to your wood.”  Though I guess you could say seasoning does that too.  You can see the turkeys like our wood.  This might explain why the last bundle we brought in smelled like a combination of turkey poop and vomit.  We have no idea what happened, but we are blaming it ALL on the turkeys.  And yes, that would be the last wood we brought in.  After dealing w/ the stench for about a week, we decided the winter has become mild enough to switch exclusively over to oil.