Tarantula Keeper’s Journal Entry 3 – Deep thoughts

Tiphane G. proteri

“Tiphane”
G. proteri

Noob-keeper post:

So after a ton of reading and researching, the general conclusion I’m seeing about arachnid intelligence is…all over the place.

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Iskierka G. rosea

Recently my G. rosea sling “Iskierka” managed to squeak out of an air-hole that was just a tiny bit big and go on “walk-about” in my office bedroom. I found her on the floor merrily tromping along toward a book case a good 10 feet from her starting point. (And In no hurry, she was just walking along.)

As an experiment, I placed her cage in a larger wide container, and placed a glass lid on her cage. (not exactly lightweight, but unanchored.)

She escaped the cage.

How? She isn’t more than 1/2″ in complete diameter and the lid is 1/8″ thick glass. She SLID the lid back enough to squeeze out. She then wandered slowly and in no hurry about the large container, checking here and there for who knows what. I re-caged her easily with a light tap on her rear leg and she waltzed into a small pill bottle. I put her back in her original home and she went back to her normal spot as if nothing had happened.

Now WHY should she want to? Or care? We keep these wee ones in tiny little cages no bigger than a large vial or deli cup at this point as it is supposed to be “big enough”. If these creatures ARE comfortable in this kind of an environment, WHY BOTHER with the Houdini act? -rhetorical.

Without anthropomorphizing, this tells me that even as a tiny sling, these animals can problem solve.

Tiphane on the left and "Ms. Fumblebutt" - temp name-- on the right.

Tiphane on the left and “Ms. Fumblebutt” – temp name– on the right.

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Tiphane checking things out.

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Ms. Fumblebutt sucking down some water. She can’t make up her mind as to whether this is a drinking hole…or her toilet. :-D

I have two larger T’s who are within 1/4″ in growth of each other, the same species…and couldn’t be more different personalities. In fact I keep falling back on my “cat” analogy. If you put eight legs on cats, I don’t see a whole hell of a lot of difference in behavior. (Granted cats are larger, and do some different things, but way too much is the same for me to just blow it off as imagination.)

These animals have moods.

They can determine that their owner isn’t a threat and allow itself to be picked up and handled as opposed to lunging/running or what one would assume to be an automatic flight/fight response.

OBT on the attack!

OBT on the attack!

Or they can be like OBT’s (Orange Bitey Things or their name:Pterinochilus murinus) and make the attack the primary modus operandi no matter what. (UNTIL the exception…there are always exceptions with T’s.)

Not saying “brain surgeons” here, but there is a whole hell of lot more going on in those prosomas (the front body part that contains the brain), and it doesn’t take a biologist/entomologist  to figure THAT out.

They can barely “see” as vertebrates do…until you realize/discover that they have an overall sensory apparatus that would make Daredevil feel like a 2nd rate charlatan. (Their entire body is a sense organ in essence.)

I’m betting that these creatures can “SEE” better than we can, but in an alien way that combines all of this stuff into a coherent picture that we human types can’t really visualize…much the same way that multiple dimensions beyond the 4th one buggers up our poor ape brains.

And then I read over and over how little they have actually been studied, and the first thought that pops up in MY prosoma is…WHY THE HELL NOT?  -heh.

Also Tarantula wikipedia entries need fixing…badly. (egads.)  :-)

Tarantula Keeper’s Journal Entry 2 : Random Observations

Sometimes there is too much information absorbed too quickly. For instance, in my reading of “sling care”, I interpreted my Grammostola pulchripes [the Chaco Golden Leg’s real name] behavior as “pre-molt” (what they do before shedding the old exoskeleton). Instead, it uses the bark hide and burrows below it normally. Badass hunter, probably 2nd only to the adult G. porteri. I’d take a picture, but the booger is in its sling-cave vegging. (If I ate 1/2 a cow in one sitting, hooves and all, I’d be vegging as well.)

—–update—-got a shot of the Chaco peeking out of the hide/burrow.  :-D

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I’m probably going to name my G. rosea sling: “Iskierka”, after the baby dragon born on the battlefields in Naomi Novik ‘s “Temeraire” series.
That dragon was a little bloodthirsty fiend, an awesome smartass, and I cannot help but make the comparison. (Yeah, I’m a geek. …heh.)

This lil go-getter tries to take down crickets almost as big as herself. Then she realizes, “uh…nope, nope, nope” and boogies to the top of her hide until I injure the food for her. Then, of course she pounces, and drags it all over the cage before settling down to devour the entire thing like she did the deed all herself.  :-D

I have four spiders, and they all have different personalities. (We won’t mention Fumblebutt and her need for bifocals for hunting.) …heh.

Tarantula Keeper’s Journal Entry 1: History

From the pov of the spider
So the last week I’ve been busy. It seems that a new hobby always requires an inordinate amount of time at the outset before settling down.

I am now the proud owner of four Tarantulas. Two immature adults that I rescued from a Petco and two spiderlings (slings) that were mail ordered from Swift’s Invertebrates in Mississippi.

This post at first seemed like an overwhelming task as there is a lot to say and describe, and I’d rather be writing novels than a non-fiction book about this, but like any hobby that intrigues and excites the hobbyist, I get excited talking about it.

I decided that I’m going to treat this section of my blog as an ongoing journal. Not so much date specific, rather things I find interesting about the hobby, the antics of my 8-legged cats (which I will elaborate on in further posts), and my journey from a noob “Keeper” to an experienced one.

The nicest part of this hobby is that it is far less intense than many other pet-keeping responsibilities. These creatures are extremely hardy, long-lived and the only emotions they have involve catching their prey and kicking back. They don’t care about their owners, pretty much like cats…mostly. And I’ll get to that part as well going forward.

For now, this is a little background on how I came to WANT to do and be a part of this hobby.

The Golden Orb Weaver Spider

The Golden Orb Weaver Spider

First up, I have been a fan of spiders…arachnids, for most of my life…as far back as early elementary school when I read E.B. White’s “Charlotte’s Web” and fell in love with the little barn spider who saved the piglet’s life. The picture above is that of a Golden Orb Weaver which was actually my first pet other than some goldfish in a 10 gallon aquarium.

The Weaver's Web

The Weaver’s Web

At around the age of 15, one of these  spiders set up shop outside my basement bedroom window. Watching her build her web and catch bugs was endlessly fascinating. This was also the year that I took Biology class in highschool. So after a quick request from the teacher, finding an old terrarium/aquarium in the class storage area, I captured the weaver and we set her up in the terrarium at school. The spider received so many crickets, grasshoppers and other bugs that I’m surprised she didn’t burst at the seams. In her web, there were at least 5-10 “sack lunches” dangling every day the rest of the year. (My classmates thought it great fun to help out here.)  -heh.

Sadly, as is the nature of most “true” spiders, she laid her egg sac and like Charlotte in the story, curled up and died shortly thereafter, having done her duty.

Years went by, and I would occasionally read up on the animals, getting irritated with how people always seemed to want to just kill them. It is my firm belief that Hollywood is directly responsible for a lot of this, turning these amazing creatures into the stuff of nightmares.

They are nature’s very own “no-pest-strips” and in general are not pests. They kill and eat the pests. But try and convince someone who just watched that pile of dogcrap film “arachnophobia”. -sigh.

For a long time I admired people who were raising tarantulas (the pictures of people holding the animals was just sooo cool!) and I often wondered if I would have time and money to get my own.
Then several months ago I happened upon an article talking about the spider trade, and I discovered that the hobby is actually very reasonably priced, so I started researching.

I found that the prices of these creatures depended upon the species, with some being as expensive as some rare or large songbirds or salt water exotic fish, and others being as cheap as 20$-30$ (U.S.).
Hope sprang up and more reading and researching was done. Then based on online recommendations  in several places, I picked up a copy of this book:

T Keeper's GuideThis volume is pretty much universally considered “THE BIBLE” for T-Keepers. After devouring it pretty much cover to cover in a reading frenzy I usually reserve for fiction, I realized that not only did I have the funds to do this, I had the time. Tarantulas, after all, don’t eat all that much or that often, and for the cost of one bag of good quality dogfood, I could probably keep 6-10 of these creatures fat and sassy in crickets for a coupla’ years. :-D

Originally I was going to just order a couple “slings” -the hobby term for “spiderlings” which are very inexpensive, but while shopping at my local petco for some preparatory supplies, I stopped by their reptile aisle (where the “T’s” are kept) and saw they had two “Chilean Rosehairs” available.

They aren’t actually called that, but I’m nit picking. The bad thing was that they were housed under UV light, and that is a bad BAD thing. (More on that later.) One was about 4 1/2″ diameter, and the other a little smaller. They get to about 5″ at maturity, so I knew that these spiders weren’t all that old.

Seeing that store had a 50% off sale in the reptile aisle, this meant that I could purchase both of them for 30$ total.

So I did. :-)

And that is the history in a very condensed fashion.

Next post will be all about first impressions, learning the habits of these amazing animals, “SLINGING it”…as well as discovering that they at some point share more than a few qualities with cats.  -and I’m not kidding there. More than most folks realize.

Grammostola porteri

Grammostola porteri
“Chilean Rose -Brown”
One of mine!

 

So I’m going to be a pet owner at last…

chaco_golden_knee2

Chaco Golden Knee Tarantula – Grammostola Pulchripes

So after some research, I’m not getting a Tarantula. I’m getting TWO tarantulas and I’m seriously jazzed. All my life I have been an “Arachna-head”, probably due to an utter love affair with Charlotte’s Web when I was young.

Wilbur the pig? Meh. (baconnnn…mmmmm.)

It was Charlotte who caught my attention, and never fully released it.

Most of my life, with the exception of a period of marital “un-bliss” many years ago, I haven’t had the time nor inclination to have a pet, except for the house spiders who weren’t really pets, rather roommates. :-D

I don’t kill em’, won’t let guests kill em’, and have, over the years discovered that they are the best no-pest strips ever invented.

Currently I have three different species of spider I co-habitate with:

1. A solitary Wolf spider who lives in the back of my pantry, only occasionally coming out to wave at me while I’m in the bathroom. (About the size of a 50cent piece tip to tip.)

wolf spider

2. A solitary “Parson’s Spider who roams the corridors in search of evil pesty bugs and such. (Size of a nickel tip to tip.)parson's spider - herpyllus-ecclesiasticus

…and 3. The Barn funnel weaver. These buggers are pretty much everywhere in Colorado, and pretty much stay out of the way. (Size varies, but usually small, and almost always the dumb asses fall into the bathtub, requiring rescue.) If you see cobwebs in the winter in the corners of rooms, pretty much blame these walking raid cans.

barn funnel weaver

BUT, at the back of my head has there has always been a desire for two types of pet. The choices would be large bird (McCaw, or something similar), or Tarantulas. The problem with the bird choice is that they are smart, and social, and you cannot just leave em’ alone or they go nuts. Literally. They need company and companionship and attention, and I’m not willing to commit to that. Maybe at some point, but not yet.

Tarants on the other hand are more like cats. As long as they get to eat once in awhile, they could care less about you.

Also, no walking, no grooming, no spaying, neutering, and no picking up of poop or putrid smelling litter boxes…

and of course they are absolutely gorgeous in coloration, form and movement. (Although some variations are about as mobile and exciting as a rock, and in the trade are actually sometimes referred to as “Pet Rocks”. heh. )

Decision firmed up in the last few weeks, I started heavy research on sellers, habitats, mating information, breeding stuff, and general handling characteristics.

There are some types of Tarantulas that are known as Arboreal, meaning tree dwellers. The other type are “terrestrial” meaning ground/burrowing types.

Of the two, the Terrestrial variations are much easier to handle, care for and have a wider tolerance for different climates. They are also much more “docile”, meaning they can be handled if necessary (in fact some species actually LIKE it).

As a first time owner, I decided on two different…similar species. The first, a Chaco Golden Knee, which are considered docile, and can grow to over eight inches in diameter. Big, but not the largest. The Golden Knee, if cared for properly can live up to thirty years.

The second is a more common “first timer” called the Chilean Rose which is less expensive, has similar characteristics (mannerisms) to the Golden Knee, and are slightly smaller (Five inches diameter) and live 5-15 years.

So in the next week or so I’ll be the proud pappa, er, owner of two Slings. Oh…slings means “spiderling”. Both of them will be less than inch in diameter, meaning they are just out of the “nymph” stage (what they are called when they hatch before their first molting.) Think of it as a kitten or puppy that has opened its eyes and is big enough to take care of.

The slideshow below has captions and such. The picture at the very top of the post is the big girl, the Golden Knee.

Bet you can’t tell I’m excited, eh?  :-D

Now back to my regularly scheduled date with a word processor.

Writing progress

Screenshot from 2015-07-16 06-28-24As you can see from the picture, I’m playing with progress meters on the site. Part of this is for you loyal readers who have been asking where I’m at with the second book in this series. The other part is a small prod for moi to kick things into higher gear. I am not as happy with the progress as I would like to be, and any “anti-cat-vacuuming” tool that I can think of to sit in chair and put words in the word processor is a good thing.

Now some of you might think that this in and of itself IS cat vacuuming, but for me, “seeing” where I’m at rather than staring at a page of text every now and again is a good thing. It is also teaching me more than I ever wanted to learn about CSS and HTML, and this is NOT a good thing, but hey.

I’m an “admin” bigot from the IT arena going all the way back to the days when I taught myself visual basic and clipper/foxpro thinking I’d make a go of a programming career.

Yeah, that didn’t fly.  :-D  Coding sucks. heh.

Anyway, while I am not as happy with the progress, I will admit that if I were running a race with G.R.R. Martin, I would have probably won it a couple of years ago.

Also, while I had the “bones” of book 2 going as far back as last June, I didn’t really buckle down until after Book 1: Princess was finally up and finished in print form on Createspace in early December of last year.

So, all things said and done, I guess I shouldn’t really be complaining. 70,000 words isn’t just a sneeze in the short story bucket.

Lastly, the target number you see of “145,000” is just a place holder at the moment. At a guess this word count may go as high as 200,000 in the first draft. BUT, based on the outline itself at this point, 145k is doable.

Now, off of this writing platform and back to scrivener.

10 Questions With Andy Weir

C.J. Peter:

Nice lil’ Q&A with Andy Weir…the guy who wrote this book:

the-martian

Originally posted on Leighgendarium:

Welcome to the second edition of 10 Questions With…

This evening our guest is
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Andy Weir

I will be honest with you, I did not think I would get an answer when I sent Andy the email asking if he would participate.  I figured that his calendar was pretty full at the moment, and would be for a while.  But he responded and agreed.  I was so excited.

The Martian is one book that everyone should read.  The writing is great and the story lines grabs you from the beginning.  It is very easy to get lost in the story.  And let’s be honest, Mark Watney’s humor is great.

My Leighgendarium calendar has been filling up pretty fast with interviews, July is completely booked and August is almost booked.  September and October are going to fill up really fast and I knew that I did not want to wait that long to…

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