Sunday, February 19, 2017

Yikes! It's Spider Season!!

Self-Reliance Activities

Personal Finances

The LDS church has recently released a new self-reliance manual which should have broad appeal to any age, but especially young adults and young marrieds.  It is called "Personal Finances".

This course focuses on budgeting, getting out of debt, preparing for emergency expenditures, saving and investing.

We are facilitating this 12 week course for a group of three friends, one of whom is a church member and the other two who are not.  They all seem to be enjoying the straight-forward, effective lessons.  As is normally the case, each lesson starts with a spiritual principle and then goes on to the temporal aspects of the lesson topic.

A PDF file for this manual and related videos can be downloaded from:

Personal Finances Manual


The LDS Church has another program called "Pathway", which prepares adults who want to go back to university or other advanced tertiary education.  It exposes them to several basic, university level courses over a 1 year period, so that they can experience the typical university environment and the kind of effort that they will need to expend to be successful.  There are also some religious study classes included in the program.

While we are not directly involved in Pathway, John did get an opportunity to remember some of his math skills.  He was asked to help tutor students in several study sessions, teaching basic math and algebra skills, with the use of electronic spreadsheets.

Working on Spreadsheet Formulas

Feature Creature - Spiders

We don't normally see a lot of spiders in the daytime, although Jan has seen a couple of "red-backed" spiders (venomous) while weeding in our back yard.  John also has to be careful when taking out the garbage, as they lurk under the lips of the various trash and recycling bins.  The red-backed spiders are about 1 cm in size (or smaller, if you are a male of the species) and so easy to miss - a pair of garden gloves is a necessity in either activity.  The red-back spider is related to the black widow spider so well known in Canada.

Red-backed spider
(photo courtesy of Google images)

We also have a new implement for dealing with spider's webs - a giant bristle-brush designed to clear out webs without getting too close.

Spider-web Cleaner
(This looks like it will be way too much fun!)

Here is an example of the types of spiders with which we deal.  Some are small, like this guy (about 0.5 cm across):

While small, he is nevertheless able to construct this random, chaotic web all over our (outside) water heater:

Who wants to service this water tank?

Other spiders are very large - the following spider built this web hanging between a tree and our house, anchored to a friends car, while they were visiting us inside for a few hours.  He was roughly 80 mm in diameter (3 inches for our US friends) and the web was easily 1 m (3 ft) or larger across.  We had to take the photo using a flashlight, so he looks much whiter than in real life, (notice we are saying "he", but it could just as easily be a "she"):

While we were waving the flashlight around, we noticed a couple of large fruit bats flying overhead.  Good thing that they don't like to eat spiders!  (And good thing their sonar lets them avoid the webs).

We keep our vacuum cleaner handy (in the spare bedroom), since spiders are frequent visitors inside our home, and the practise of gently picking them up in a tissue paper and depositing them outside doesn't really cut it down here.  Sorry to say, they all end up inside the vacuum cleaner.

One particular surprise was when John pulled his towel off the rack to dry his face and a large, black spider dropped onto the floor.  Not sure whether he was friend or foe, but we didn't wait to find out.


We have seen a lot of water birds at one of our local ponds (Banyule Flats).  Some of them seem quite exotic to us.  Here is one photo of a Straw-necked Ibis - the reason for the name is obvious, but what is also clear is the lovely, iridescent purple colouring of its wing feathers.

Straw-Necked Ibis

Another variety of Ibis (the White Ibis) can be quite "tame" around people, in that they are not afraid to approach you at a picnic table and try to mooch some of your food.  We usually forbear, as human food is not healthy for birds (and sometimes it is not healthy for humans), but obviously not everyone does or they wouldn't be so conditioned to people at picnic grounds.

We were really lucky one day to see a Buff-banded Rail up close.  They are an extremely shy bird, to the point of being sneaky and secretive, heading for cover when they know they have been spotted.  The following one was either young and not yet wise (although it has its adult plumage) or we caught it during a daydreaming moment.

Buff-banded Rail

The other unusual visitor to our local pond is the White-necked Heron - a beautiful, large bird, very graceful in flight and patient/deadly in the water.  First, a late afternoon shot of a pair in flight, under gorgeous lighting.

White-necked Heron in Flight

The next photo was captured later that afternoon and this bird was entirely still, waiting for an unsuspecting fish to swim by.  It was a photographer's dream, as John could compose and shoot to his heart's content (within the limitations of NOT having a pair of hip waders).

White-necked Heron - Waiting Patiently for Dinner

Finally, we wanted to end up with a photo that has no birds but that we thought was quite cute.  We infrequently see cattle as we are out walking, but one day we caught some in the same paddock as a few kangaroos.  To us, the juxtaposition seemed amusing, although perhaps to Australians, it is just a common occurrence.  I guess we were thinking how incongruous it would be to see these "mates" on the Canadian Prairies :>)

Cattle and Kangaroos
(Not a Canadian Scene!)

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