Master gardener training

• The OSU Deschutes Extension Service is that the 2018 Master Gardener Training will be held on Fridays this year beginning in January. For more information, call 541-548-6088.

With all due respect to the popular nursery rhyme, I altered the words slightly.

The itsy bitsy spider climbed up the kitchen wall. Out came the swatter and knocked the spider down. Really? Why?

The spider is an ancient and powerful symbol found ’round the globe and has always elicited a range of emotions in people: fear, disgust, panic, curiosity and appreciation. The fear of spiders is called arachnophobia. Unfortunately this phobia can drive people to indiscriminate use of pesticides, which often poses a far greater threat to human health than the bug they are trying to eradicate.

Spiders play important roles in mythology from North American Indian tribes to countries of Europe and Asia.

One of the most popular North American Indian myths is from the Ojibwe tribe. The Ojibwe associated spiderwebs with their dream catchers, a type of traditional hand-woven Ojibwe craft meant to filter out bad dreams. Dream catchers have become popular among many different tribes today. They are usually round, with open weaving in the center, embellished with hanging feathers or beads. Some tribes craft them in a triangular shape.

The holiday season is just around the corner, and if you have ever wondered who came up with the idea of decorating the Christmas tree with tinsel or the more contemporary tradition of silver ropes, wonder no longer.

According to German legend, a small house in Germany underwent its Christmas Eve cleaning. Not wanting to be swept up by the broom, the spiders hid in the attic. When the household had settled in for the night, the spiders, curious about the tree that had been set up and decorated, crept out for a look. They were so excited over the beauty, they ran from branch to branch up and down the tree, leaving their gray spiderwebs.

When Father Christmas arrived, he was amused to see the tree covered in spiderwebs, but he faced a dilemma. The family would be disappointed to see their beautiful tree covered in spiderwebs. The handiwork of the spiders was so beautiful he didn’t have the heart to remove them. He thought and thought and finally decided to turn all the spider webs into beautiful shimmering silver strands.

From that day forward tinsel became a treasured ornament for trees all over the world. Many who hold true to the tradition hang a silver or gold spider ornament in a prominent location on their tree.

The purpose of my storytelling is to calm your palpating heart every time you see a spider, either in nature or in your home. Develop an appreciation of spiders as an important piece of mythology and history, and also as a workhorse in our gardens as a predator of the bad guys, especially mosquitoes.

According to Rod Crawford of the Burke Museum in Seattle, the spiders we see indoors are usually house spiders out and about looking for a mate, seen most often during August and September. These spiders are not adapted to the outdoors and will not survive being put back outside; they have never been outside in the first place. They have probably lived in your house longer than you. Crawford’s advice is to “just wave as they go by.”

Crawford dispels the myth that spiders found in bathtubs or sinks have come up through drains from the sewer. House spiders are thirsty creatures. Since they don’t have their own water taps to turn on, they avail themselves to our drips and drops. Once inside the slippery slopes of the porcelain sink they are unable to climb out so it’s a “hey, mister can you lend a hand?” I usually lay a tissue over the spider and gently lift it out of the sink releasing it on the floor. In less than a blink of an eye, it’s gone.

If it is totally out of the question to live in harmony with a resident spider, sticky traps will remove more spiders than typical pesticides and have the advantage of not polluting the environment or making your home more toxic. Another option is to exclude spiders by sealing cracks and openings of all kinds — more sage advice from Crawford.

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