It’s Monday, and if you are Amish, it’s wash day. Clothes will be dancing on drying lines throughout the coulee region. Washing clothes could mean starting up the woodstove in the summer kitchen to heat the water needed to do the job. This is just part of what needs to be done each week, and little thought is spent dwelling on it until the weather turns hot and humid, like today. It’s 90 degrees and very sticky, so in order to get some of the tough jobs done, you start early in the morning, in the cool of the day.
The garden work I do each day has to be done before 10 o’clock. Cultivating becomes too much when it gets too warm. As soon as the sun dries things off a bit, the black flies show up with a vengeance. They must have reached a cyclic high this year after barely making an appearance for the past several years. A couple of dozen will buzz around my head making me very anxious. They are tiny flies that have a thirst for blood, and their favorite place to bite is on the back of the neck around the hair line. They come with the hot weather, so I’m hoping they’ll leave when it cools down back into the mid- to low-80s.
I was outside at 5:30 this morning carrying water from the spring. I needed to give the flowers near the back porch a drink. The little pansies and daisies looked thirsty, and so did the bee balm, morning glories, and honeysuckle vine. There’s a half dozen three foot-tall cleomes next to the steps. As I gave the first one a drink, I noticed a very large moth clinging to the lavender flower head. It was a beautiful cecropia moth with its wings spread to a span of five or six inches. I felt lucky that it had come to pay me a visit. I rarely see these large, regal moths these days. They are mostly in my memories of my younger days on the farm. One of my jobs as a barefoot boy was to walk the rows of tobacco and pick the large, green cecropia caterpillars off the plants, which I’d put into a two-pound coffee can. Most folks would simply squish them under foot, but I would collect them and secretly release them around the yard. They like to eat the leaves of the apple, birch, maple, elm, willow and oak trees. I thought they were too pretty to kill, and I wanted to make sure I’d see them again next year. These days, chemical sprays have taken a toll on their population. Another victim of progress.
It seems like it’s been summer for well over a month, but the summer equinox wasn’t until the 21st. The real first day of summer was Thursday. Sweet, wonderful rain came Wednesday night on the wings of a southwest wind, along with dark clouds full of thunder and lightning. It was the perfect welcome to summer. The temperature finally dropped into the low sixties, and the cool breeze after midnight was so soothing. Relief at last. After that refreshing rain on Wednesday night, Thursday dawned with a new freshness in the air, and the songs of birds seemed to come from every tree. The towhee came right up to the house for some early morning sunflower seeds. How strikingly beautiful he is. He’s curious but very bold at times. While enjoying the morning birds, I heard the mysterious call of a cuckoo from up the valley. Cuckoos are very shy and I rarely see them. But I hear them frequently in the valley. I’ll be lucky to get a picture of him.
There aren’t many blue jays around lately compared to the twenty or so that usually show up at the feeders. The female jays are on their nests and most of the males stay pretty close to home as they stand guard.
I’m not sure why I haven’t seen an indigo bunting in the yard this spring. They usually come to the feeders from time to time, but I hadn’t seen even one this year until today. It was kind of fitting that a beautiful blue male indigo bunting showed up on the first day of summer. Being very small birds, they are quite inconspicuous and may be hard to see in the thick green leaves. Their gentle song goes “sweet-sweet-sweet, swit-swit, sway-sway-sway-sway, sweet-sweet.” To see this bird, learn its song.
Nature’s beauty is where you find it and all you have to do is open your eyes. The fancy white blossoms that covered a neighbor’s catalpa tree were all down after the rain. They covered the ground under the tree like a blanket of new snow. It gave me a chance to see how pretty they are close up and sample their subtle fragrance.
A great blue heron stands in the shallows of the river, a good place to catch small fish that are trying to swim upstream. He sure knows what he’s doing.
There were a lot more butterflies around on the first day of summer. There must have been a hatch of red admirals. They seemed to be everywhere, in all sizes, shapes and colors. The garden was aflutter with butterfly wings. The milkweed is just starting to bloom, and monarchs and fritillaries are attracted to them like bees to honey.
“We are like butterflies who flutter for a day and think it is forever.” Carl Sagan
All art ©2013 Organic Valley