The Shawnee News-Star Weekender Sept 14th 2019 Becky Emerson Carlberg September can be a dynamic month.  The forecast, though, guesstimates the temperatures will remain on the very warm side.  The autumn scenario could well be roasting, oppressive, freezing, sweltering, bone-chilling.. Ahh Charlotte.  Her abdomen was shrinking as her color faded.  Did she spin her web […]

The Shawnee News-Star Weekender Sept 14th 2019

The 2019 Scarecrow Parade

Becky Emerson Carlberg

September can be a dynamic month.  The forecast, though, guesstimates the temperatureswill remain on the very warm side.  Theautumn scenario could well be roasting, oppressive, freezing, sweltering,bone-chilling..

Ahh Charlotte.  Her abdomen was shrinking as her color faded.  Did she spin her web in place devoid of juicy bugs? Two nights I walked outside, caught moths and threw them into her web.  Success rate was about 25%.  She'd either tackle and wrap them up, or they'd sail right through an opening and fly away. The circular netting is sticky, but the anchors are not.  Next idea:  lightbulb.  The lamp was clamped onto the Styrofoam ice chest sitting across from Charlotte's gossamer snare and turned on after dark. Lots of bugs and suicidal moths. Then she got a grasshopper.  I wish I could have seen the battle.  Her abdomen has doubled in size as she tanks up while the silk covered grasshopper is held firmly in her grasp in the middle of her web.

Charlotte and her Grasshopper meal

A tiny multi-colored spider now dances across the upper realm of Charlotte's web.  She does not seem to be bothered with this turn of events.  This spider is a suitor, a male Argiope garden spider.  The size difference is ridiculous, like comparing Jupiter to the sun.  Charlotte's pheromones are like seductive perfumes to lure males.  It worked. 

In nature, the male Argiope scopes out an area at the edgeof the female's web, then builds a small web of his own. He courts his lady byplucking the strands of her web as if playing a harp.  Orb weavers have poor eyesight, but greatsensitivity to vibrations. 

Charlotte's potential beau is tapping her silks whileadvancing then retreating.  He hadconnected a double silk line from one side to the other inches in front ofCharlotte's web, but the winds took it down. Unperturbed, he is now in the Outer Hebrides region away from theactivity in the center.   The admirer hasactually been growing. The male must be smart or will be on the menu.  If he waits until she is molting, his chancesare much better to not only have his way with her but also escape.  However it works out for this fellow, milady willlay one or more round brown egg sacks. How cool it has been to keep track ofthis writing spider.

Did you make it to the Pottawatomie County Free Fair?  The unmistakable sights, smells and soundscan't be replicated on a computer screen.  Held in late summer, our fair not onlyshowcases animals but veggies and fruits now being harvested.  The Latin origin of the word 'fair' meansholy day.  Early Roman fairs were timesfor games, festivities and religious celebrations.  Fairs in North American began in the late1700's.  Today they highlight education(4-H, FFA), competitions, and entertainment.

Autumn Harvest at Pottawatomie County Free Fair

The fair days were hot.  Inside sheltered or air-conditioned places, the cages and stalls held chickens, ducks, rabbits and assorted livestock.  The assemblage of rides, games, vendors, and fair food kept many occupied, while others checked out the plant exhibits, school displays and tractors. 

The Horticulture section, housed in its own white room, displayedhoney and produce now being harvested, including apples, squash (butternut,acorn, yellow, crookneck), okra, melons, pumpkins, tomatoes and peppers.  Roses of all colors as well as other flowers,potted plants, hanging baskets full of vibrant green foliage and cutarrangements brightened up the room. 

The decorated melons showed imagination and creativity.  How one could take a simple fruit (well,vegetable in Oklahoma if you're referring to watermelon) and turn it into abird, snake, or donkey was amazing!  Thebaskets of produce, terrariums and bundles of grasses on the tables revealed knowledgeand skill. 

Scarecrows.  Magnificent.  Henryetta was there holding her pinwheels with a bucket of sunflowers by her boots.  Beside her kneeled Captain America, holding his shield and American flag composed of first, second and third place ribbons.  The 4-H scarecrow guy had hands pointing to his head, heart, another hand, and health.  Yes, he had many hands!  The farmer scarecrow in coveralls held a stalk of large sunflowers in one hand and in the other a wood post with several small inspirational signs: 'Plant Smiles. Grow Giggles. Harvest Love. Happy Fall.'  Sporting a huge smile, the happy scarecrow looked as if he had partaken a wee bit too much of the apple cider before arriving. 

Henryetta at the Fair

The real scarecrow in the bunch was Viola Rose.  Although she be small, her face reminded meof Raggedy Ann with yarn hair pulled into two thick ponytails, blue hat toprotect her from the sun and clothing handmade and tailored to her little body.  She was on a post ready for field work.

Viola Rose and Henryetta were both dreamed up and made byMulti-County Master Gardeners.  Nextyear, why not have your organization create a scarecrow? Or paint a melon! 

Ready to graduate to the big fairs?  Go see the OKC Oklahoma State Fair (Sept. 12th-22nd) and the Tulsa State Fair (Sept. 26th -Oct. 6th).  The fair I cut my teeth on is the ArkansasOklahoma State Fair in Ft. Smith (Sept. 20th-28th).  They still have Old McDonald farm!  The fair where too many years ago the man atthe hot dog stand was hollering 'Nice and greasy, goes down easy!'  I can see the Blue Zones folk curling uptheir toes right now!

Ragweed and grass pollen are HIGH, but you probably already figured this out. Make sure you know the difference between goldenrod and ragweed plants.  Although they both bloom at the same time, goldenrod pollen is moist and heavy, and spread by pollinators, not the air. They are your friends. Your enemy is the ragweed pollen, which can fly over two miles from squat to twelve foot tall plants.  Worldwide there are 50 species, but two main culprits are here in Oklahoma.  Do not despair.  The city with the highest pollen count is Kansas City, KS.. followed by Tulsa, OK. The band of concentrated ragweed pollen stretches from North Carolina to Texas tapering into New Mexico.  Roll up your windows and stay in air conditioning (which won't be a problem since it is so hot)!

Goldenrod on the left, Ragweed on the right

Or eat the ragweed. It is very edible.  The seeds are47% protein and 19% nutritious oil. Crush the leaves and put on bug bites and rashes. The juice is adisinfectant. Ragweed plants can remove heavy metals from the soil.  Pollen preparations are used in allergytreatments.  Think of it like the hair ofthe dog that bit you!