October 2009

10.20.09 Creature Feature: Orb Weaver

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photos by george billard
Can you actually believe that this is a fairly common and harmless spider? My jaw dropped when I saw this babe casually gliding across the side of the house. It's a marbled orb weaver (Araneus marmoreus). I wonder if her appearance had anything to do with today's ladybug invasion. I looked out the window at this gorgeous sunny morning and saw clouds of winged creatures filling the air—a truly extraordinary sight. Next thing I know, they are bombarding the house, finding any crack and cranny to slip inside. This is an annual occurrence, and I've certainly noticed them in the house during other fall seasons, but I've never been present to actually witness the onslaught. They're looking for winter shelter. Poor things, the inn is full. If they didn't smell so funky, they might be welcome. I've heard their particular aroma described as a cross between burning rubber and burning hair but I think it's more like ear wax (TMI?). Apparently, they are attracted to light surfaces but our house is green, so WTF? Fly away home, ladies—or risk getting munched by Mlle. Spider... 
Leaves 790 xxx
photo by george billard

10.14.09 Fall in Love

FALL, LEAVES, FALLby Emily Jane Brontë Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree.I shall smile when wreaths of snow
Blossom where the rose should grow;
I shall sing when night's decay
Ushers in a drearier day. This pond is right across from our house. It's at the start of a long road that leads out to a big open meadow where our friend Gib has his hunting cabin. We've been hiking out there almost every day and I feel like my bronchial tubes are grateful. Fall is really here, and the last 2 weeks or so we have followed its progress with the leaves on these trees. It's been perhaps the most breathtakingly beautiful season up here yet (since 2006): so many incredible shades of russet and marigold and copper and garnet and saffron. I'm really looking forward to cross-country skiing here this winter. G found 5 pairs of Rossignol skis with boots on craigslist for just $100! I've never been before so can't wait to try it out. (I hear it burns a lot of calories and I want to wear a bikini when we go to Turks & Caicos in March!) 
Imgp1296 790 xxx

10.10.09 Flight of the Concords

I was in the city this week (I'm taking a novel-writing workshop at the New School that meets on Monday evenings) and couldn't resist these gorgeously purple, dusky and enticingly fragrant Concord grapes I came across at the farmers market. Plus I had seen Meredith Kurtzman's recipe for sorbet in New York magazine and was dying to try it. I tweaked it a little bit because I'm always looking for good ways to justify the $30 tin of fennel pollen I bought at the Demon (aka Dean & Deluca). It was SO GOOD—mouthpuckeringly tart and yet just sweet enough, full of the grapiest grape flavor ever (like Welch's on acid), and with that essential counterpoint of salt. WOW. Not to mention all the wonderful antioxidants. You simply have to make this whenever you can get your hands on some beautiful, organic Concords.
Grapes 790 xxx

10.7.09 Grape Expectations

My apologies for the wordplay. I simply can't resist. The talented farmers up the road from us at River Brook Farm in Cochecton grow a few grapes and I was lucky enough to get my hands on some. These green beauties had the most amazing smell! I don't know which variety they are but they were bursting with fruity flavor, sweet and tart and juicy. I was beside myself trying to come up with a way of using them and I finally decided to make a syrupy juice that could be diluted with water. Of course, we ate quite a few of them as a snack and now that I've been clued in to the nutritional benefits of the seeds, I have taken to chewing them (not that bad) or simply swallowing them whole (less bother).