Wednesday, September 27, 2017

A Cautionary Tale, Or, Black Widows Live here Too

This is somewhat of a cautionary tale but it does, as many tales do, have a happy ending. Many years ago, when my children were young and I had a family child care program in my home, I built a sandbox in the back corner of the garden. I dug out the soil, lined the bottom with shade cloth, built two benches along the fence, and filled the pit with play sand.

It was a great success for several years. Then one day I was watering and as I went past the sandbox I decided to hose down the fence behind it where there were a few spider webs. Now, I live in California's Central Valley and I am well aware of black widows and what their webs look and sound like...these were not those. Be that as it may, when I came past the sandbox a bit later there were no fewer than 3 black widows hanging out on the benches, driven out by the water. That was of course the end of that sandbox. I realized I was never going to be 100% certain there were no new black widows hiding under the benches, the original 3 having been eliminated. Black widows are a fact of life here and I have often said that, given 15 minutes, I can find one for anyone who might want to see one. Here is the cautionary part of our tale...don't expect black widows to respect what you think is your space...they live here too and love cozy, dark nooks and crannies.
Time marched on, I retired, and one day recently I decided that life was too short to have to use part of it pruning the California privet that had been allowed to grow and shade that corner and the sandbox. Being under electric lines it needed pruning twice a year. So I have been working on taking it out and now have it down to a 5 foot trunk more than a foot in diameter. A friend with a chainsaw is scheduled to come take that down soon.

This open space will soon be the home of the lath house I have been wanting to build to house my growing collection of cane and rex begonias and so this morning I decided that I should start digging the holes for the corner posts. My clay soil is a pain to dig deeply and I figured that getting one of the holes started, furthest from the trunk, would not get in the way of removing said trunk. I was planning on needing to dig, soak, repeat as I always do when digging more than a foot into the ground here. Imagine my surprise when the soil was super easy to dig! There, just a few inches below the surface, was the layer of sand remaining from that long-ago sandbox. So now 2 of the holes are almost dug and when the privet trunk is gone I will dig the other 2. Unfortunately, the sand box did not extend to that area so those will require a bit more work. But half the number of difficult holes to dig is a happy ending in my opinion!


Kathy said...

Well, that was a happy ending! I was sure you were going to find a black widow once you started digging. As a fellow gardener of clay soil, it sounded like a very happy ending to me!

Cindy, MCOK said...

So glad that it was sand you found and NOT black widows!

Carol Michel said...

I'm happy we don't have black widow spiders here... but not too far south of me they have them. Here, the big bad spider is the brown recluse. They like to hide out in stacks of firewood and other debris. Ick!