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Meet Georgette!

As a life-long arachnophobe, I find it very strange that I am fascinated by this lovely lady (Perhaps I’m unconsciously doing some amateur exposure therapy!). She has very graciously taken up residence just off our porch, allowing us to watch her re-spin her web every morning while enjoying our morning coffee.

Georgette is a yellow orb weaver spider, although she is known by many names: black and yellow garden spider, golden garden spider; golden orb-weaver, writing spider, yellow garden argiope, yellow garden orb-weaver, corn spider, and zipper spider. Whatever name she goes by, she is one of the most striking spiders I’ve ever seen. The fact that she isn’t particularly hair or furry helps me get over the fear thing as I watch her.

Busy Mornings

Georgette starts her day before the sun comes up. When I came out this morning at 5:00, she was already running her anchor lines to start her new web. The web itself is around three feet in diameter; if you take the anchor lines into consideration, it is easily six feet across. She works so methodically: First the new anchor lines, then the spokes, which are non-sticky. She travels around the web on the spokes. After all her spokes are done, she starts in the center and weaves her sticky spiral outward. The spiral is what catches her prey.

Once she is done constructing her basic web she has one more thing to add: Her trademark “bling,” the thick, zigzagged stabilimentum in the center of the web. Here is a video of the massive amount of silk she uses to make it (Apologies for the background music):

A Well-Deserved Rest

After toiling nonstop for four to six hours, Georgette settles in on the stabilimentum and takes a nice nap in the warm afternoon sun. That is, unless an unfortunate little critter happens to stumble into her web. In that case, it’s time for a quick snack and then back to her nap.

Having a nice rest

Kind of Like “Groundhog Day”

Georgette will have basically the same routine all summer. During the night, she eats her web in order to recycle the silk proteins, and then before sunup she starts work on her new web.

In the fall, she will mate with a (much-smaller) male; it’s possible she will eat him when she’s done. Then she will lay her egg sacs and just like Charlotte, she’ll probably die with the first frost. After my not-so-fond memories of being overrun in my greenhouse with these spiders last year, we will probably move her egg sacs away from the house and let them hatch safely at the edge of the property. One orb weaver is a beautiful miracle of nature; several hundred? Not so much.

Such a hard worker!

“….Because They Don’t Know The Words!”–A Pictoral Collection of Hummingbirds

The photos above were taken in my yard today, using my new (to me) zoom lens for my old Sony camera. I had a really good time experimenting.

How To: Dehydrated Fruit Leather

Do you have a bunch of ripe fruit you don’t know what to do with? Frozen enough banana bread to feed the neighborhood for weeks? Kids are sick of smoothies? Dehydrating is a quick and easy way to preserve your overripe fruits, and the roll-ups will keep for a month on the shelf (I’ve read they will keep a whole year if wrapped well and frozen, although they’ve never lasted long enough for me to find out!).

I have a nice dehydrator that I use, but fruit leather can also be dried in the oven. The process couldn’t be easier:

  • Blend your fruit(s)
  • Pour onto tray
  • Dry
  • Store

Blending The Fruit

Basically, any fruit can be used, either singly or in combination with other fruits. Spices may be added for variety, if desired. I prefer to use overripe bananas as my base, and add other fruit to that. The batch I made this week had several combinations: Banana/peach, banana/plum, banana/strawberry, banana/peanut butter, and one tray of just pureed grapes.

The riper the fruit, the better. I like to take my bananas and smoosh them up as I’m placing them into my blender. I then add whatever other fruit I’m using (cut up small), and pulse until everything is blended, with a fairly smooth consistency. Some small chunks are just fine and add a nice texture to the finished fruit leather. I used approximately 2 bananas and two pieces of the larger fruit (peaches, plums) per tray. With the strawberry/banana blend, I used about a cup of berries to every two bananas.

Pouring The Mixture

I have a couple silicone tray liners for my dehydrator that work very well, but they can get pricey. If you don’t have the liners, a layer of parchment paper cut to fit your tray will work perfectly. If using your oven, simply line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Pour the blended fruit onto your parchment or silicone and spread out thinly with a spatula. I find that once I get the fruit spread out where I want it, I just lightly tap the tray on the counter and it evens everything out nicely.

Drying

To dehydrate in your oven, just use the lowest temperature, place the cookie sheet on the middle rack, and wait 6-8 hours. I usually set my dehydrator at around 135 degrees, and it takes about 8-12 hours. Your fruit leather is done when it is tacky, but not wet. When you touch the fruit leather, your finger should be a bit sticky, but there should be no visible fruit on it.

Storage

Peel the finished fruit leather from your silicone/parchment liner, roll up tightly, and slice crosswise into little rounds. They store well in a Rubbermaid container or Ziploc bag.