A Spider Story for Gardeners

When I was eight years old my sisters and I spent a semester living with Mother, our paternal grandmother. She was a large, round woman who ruled with an iron hand. Her large wooden house had a wide, screened back porch that ran the full length of the house. A well was on the back porch and we pulled up water from it in the early morning chill to wash up for school. One day I was sweeping the porch and saw the largest spider I had ever seen crawling slowly across the floor. When I tried to crush the spider with the broom, its back exploded into dozens of tiny spiders scurrying across the wood. Mother came and stood at the kitchen door with her hands on her wide hips.

“What are you doing?”

I hung my head, feeling badly about the baby spiders. “I tried to kill a spider. But I didn’t know it had babies.”

Mother shook her head as she watched the last few baby spiders run away and looked at me sternly. “Child, don’t be trying to kill no spiders. Spiders are good luck. They mean you’ll always have money. And they eat up all the bothersome insects, flies and roaches. So, just leave them spiders alone.”

I followed her advice.  I became a storyteller and learned of Spider Woman’s significance in storytelling. So for my fiftieth birthday I had my storytelling staff carved with a spider on top. After a few years my husband began to use my method of catching spiders with a paper cup and index card to carry them outside. When I became a Buddhist I learned that all sentient beings, even grasshoppers and flies, could have been my mother in a previous life. We do our best to carry the many insects we find in our house back outdoors.

But in July, I was confronted with a dilemma when I discovered squash bugs devouring my young winter squash leaves. I had no choice but to destroy them after they killed two of my plants. I felt badly and chanted “Om Mani Padme Hum” as I crushed them into the sand. I try to justify my murders with the thought that my prayers will allow them to be reborn as humans sooner than if they were allowed to destroy all of my squash plants.

To my sorrow this has been a daily battle. I did find a natural garden site, Planetnatural, http://www.planetnatural.com and ordered neem oil and a high powered hose attachment to control their population, and not harm the feeding bees. But, every afternoon when I go out to check on my plants, I find from one to dozens of squash bugs. Just when I learned what their babies look like, and how they can consume a full squash, they have appeared and added to my challenge.

But, I am managing to see some squash begin to grow and hopefully will have a few to harvest. Now, I have the added challenge of trying to save my corn. Yesterday I checked on my first ripe cob and saw it is being eaten up by black beetle like bugs and worms! So, I’ll try the high powered hose on them and cayenne pepper which I heard discussed on the radio during a Hopi agricultural conference.  For next year’s garden, I’m going to find plants that are bug repellents, mint was mentioned against squash bugs, and research other ways of preventing pests. (Any and all suggestions are welcome!)

When I use the high power hose, I have to put on my water resistant jump suit or I get thoroughly soaked. Brian, my husband, took photos of my work last week.  I have interspersed them with some of the haikus I wrote this summer.

Wilting corn leaves rise
water reaches thirsty roots
now they laugh at sun

Squash blossoms bloom in
morning, gold star shaped flowers
close in heat’s hot hand

Bees slip in yellow
squash blossoms drink sweet nectar
I step carefully

Birds flock to garden
balance on leaves, eat pollen
breakfast with delight

7 Comments on “A Spider Story for Gardeners”

  1. Have you tried Food Grade DE? I know if I spell it I will get it wrong….diatemaceous earth. lol, see, its wrong! I’m not Buddhist, but I hate killing anything. My spiders live peacefully here….but I am lately reminding them that if the webs get in my way…the webs will go. 🙂

  2. I love this story and the wide world it revealed of the wide porch of your wide-eyed childhood. Very dear.
    There are many organic gardners in my area. I suppose I am one in the sense that my yard and garden grow naturally, though the weeds tend to be as happy as the attempted flowers. 🙂
    I purposely encourage native plants and let the moss overtake my back yard by the river. The wildlife, birds and insects seem to appreciate it, especially in winter.
    I love bugs, but definitely see the need for balance. We have more spiders than I would’ve believed possible, so I suppose they are doing their job happily here. They rarely make their presence known in the house, thankfully.
    Your move toward mingling plants that naturally repel bugs sounds like a good thing, and I have heard it works. You can also use lines of plants to waylay the bugs from your yielding plants. A favorite in our area is marigolds as flower garden borders. The slugs will usually not go beyond them into the garden proper.
    I love the photos and the haiku too! 🙂
    Thanks for coming by my blog, and I’m glad you enjoyed the writing challenge too.

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