For me, the end of summer is heralded by spiders - as if by magic, the garden is strung with magnificent, stringy webs, and at the centre of each one, a plump bottomed garden spider. I am not a big fan of spiders, but these copper and cream beauties are so stunning that I don't mind them, even when they spin their webs across my washing. But of course, they don't just magically appear. For the last month, I have been noticing miniature versions in the cottage, and popping them outside. Today I found evidence of just how fast they grow. This tiny skin must have been recently sloughed, for I saw the owner hastily scrambling up her safety line as I approached.
Put next to a normal black peppercorn and medium egg, it is like a miniscule glass sculpture.
Here is the owner, watching me, watching her - from the ceiling. Now her body is about 2-3 mm in diameter, still a far cry from her destination size, which can be nearly 2cm - and that's just her bottom - or, technically, abdomen.
To put her into perspective - there she is, a little dark speck in the top right hand side of the picture. Since then she has been relocated to an outside shrub, where one day in early autumn I may find her catching the flotsam of dying summer insects, her web sparkling with dew diamonds.