They're coming – in droves – creeping under the door, swinging through open windows, hanging off my jumper, and clinging to the cauliflowers that get brought in from the garden. Yes, it's spider time of year, that pre-autumn period when our eight legged friends feel the beginnings of a chill in the air and make a bee-line for the warmth of the house. This week, I swept so many webs from the corners of windows that I almost said "yes" to the pesky pest-control company that rings too-regularly insisting I need the house sprayed for bugs. Mice are appearing in the garden, too, scuttling out of holes in the compost pile and, just this morning, when I dashed outside to check on the chooks during a cackle of alarm calls, I spotted a big black rat racing through the long grass beside the henhouse.
I guess you could get paranoid about the sheer number of beasties that want to share the warmth of your hearth come autumn, but I prefer to give thanks for them. Just like the shining cuckoo (pipiwharauroa)whose spring call reminds me that it's time to sow the first vegetables of the new season, or the kelp flies that occasionally cluster on my windows at night and are my cue that it's time to hunt for flounder in the estuary below my home, beasts and bugs are nature's way of nudging us into action. Which is why, this week, I'll be working in the glasshouse.
Without removing the tomatoes vines that are still trying to ripen fruit, I'll be planting out silver beet and celery seedlings underneath them, and sowing mizuna under cloches in the sunniest spots of the garden. Those spiders, mice, and even the rat, are my reminder that winter days are just around the corner and that, if I want to be enjoying greens in the lean months of June to September, I need to fill the glasshouse now. Thanks to the beasties, I'm also going to throw some sheets of plastic over the courgette plants in order to hold in the warmth that's still around and, hopefully, keep these valuable bushes producing for a few more weeks. I might even shift a cloche over the last lot of brassicas I planted out, just to give them the boost they need to keep growing into winter. And if I pick a few buckets of rhubarb to freeze, and deliver the stumps a good dose of liquid manure, there's every chance, given a warm autumn, that I'll be rewarded with another crop.
Living in a country with a maritime climate, no season is predictable, and the name of the gardening game, wherever you live, is always to extend the growing period in whatever imaginative ways you can. So, I say, "Thanks, spiders. If it wasn't for your dash to the door, I might not be enjoying fresh greens this winter."