It was 90 degrees and sweltering last Sunday. The plants really need water. Itís been dry, too, and the chances of getting any rain soon are iffy at best. The sun passes low over the ridge bringing soothing shade over the yard and garden. Itís my favorite time to give all the little veggies and flowers a drink. That means carrying it in pails from the spring creek.
While dipping a pail into the pool, I noticed a purple flower half hidden in the grass. When I bent over for a closer look I was surprised to see a lovely, blue New England aster in bloom. These grassland asters usually appear in mid-September, but have been blooming earlier and earlier the past 5 or 6 years. Last year, they began to flower around the second week of August. Iíve never seen one bloom as early as this, though itís only the one plant. The other asters have a ways to go before they flower.
The pretty, white, bell-shaped flowers of the bladder campion are also early this year. They are not native to the area but are very pretty nonetheless. When I look around, I can easily tell that pretty much everything is growing at an alarming rate. I have to remind myself that itís the second week of June and not the first week of July.
The family of sandhill cranes is doing fine. The two young cranes are still fuzzy and brown and are nearly half grown. I watched another pair of adult cranes early Tuesday morning as they searched for insects between the weedy rows of soybeans. Following them at their feet was a single week-old chick that ran from one parent to the other as they fed him whatever they found. Heís about the size he should be on the second week of June, yet there are many young cranes that are much bigger.
One of the adult cranes had a wing feather hanging. Itís molting and hasnít quite dropped. The parent cranes are pretty much grounded while their chicks are growing, so they take this time to molt their flight feathers. Wild ducks and geese in the area are doing the same thing. This is the time they get new feathers. These are the strong new feathers that will carry them south in the fall and carry them back in the spring. Thatís a lot of flying, and itís no wonder they need new feathers at least once a year.
A male bluebird perches on a dead branch and scans the area for insects. Itís pretty much all he does all day. Itís easy to spot tiny insects in the short grass of the mowed lawn. The female is on her second clutch of eggs inside the bluebird house, and he takes her insects. Who has the prettiest blue, the bluebird or the blue jay? Or is it the little indigo bunting? Who would dare to judge one from another? The beautiful blue of the spiderwortís flowers can challenge the blue of any feather or petal.
Iím in a constant state of awe and wonder as my eyes take in the magnificent green coulees of the Kickapoo Valley. How could the landscape be so completely lush and green everywhere I look, when only 4 short months ago there was none to be seen? Be it on the top of a ridge looking out at the horizon, or down in the valley where it can almost seem tropical, itís green on green. These are the days I see in my dreams on one of those frozen, cold January nights. Right now, Iím living the dream!
Each morning the birds seem to be waiting for me to come out the door with my small pail of sunflower seeds. The trick these days is to put the seeds out where the birds get as many sunflower seeds as the squirrels and chipmunks. The birds donít like to share the same feeder space with them and usually wait till they are gone before flying down to the feeder platform. Iíve been spreading most of the seed in the short grass, giving them plenty of elbow room with each other and a safe distance from the squirrels and chipmunks. Besides, itís fun to see all these different kinds of birds together at one place in the short green grass.
Tuesday and Wednesday were cool, around 70 degrees, but there was lots of sunshine. Itís nice to have cool weather in between the hot spells. Cool nights make for good sleeping. In this kind of weather I tackle tough jobs, like digging a couple of holes at the edge of the yard for clothesline poles. A large tree blew over in a strong wind a while back and landed on the clothesline, breaking two of the poles. Itís a half hour job that will take two hours because of all the large rocks Iíll have to dig out. I remember what it was like the first time I did it 12 years ago. But, if I want a place to hang my clothes out to dry, I have to dig a couple of holes for poles.
Momma raccoon ran across the road in front of me this morning with five, two week-old kits following single file behind her. By the time I stopped the car and grabbed the camera she had disappeared into the tall grass. For some reason, two of the kits stayed in the middle of the road. I put the flashers on, then got out and kind of shuffled them off in the direction their mother went. Theyíll find her, Iím sure.
It was just before sun-up Tuesday morning when I heard the begging calls of the first fledgling rose-breasted grosbeak. I finally spotted her sitting under a canopy of sumac leaves. Her high-pitched begging whistle never seemed to stop, even when I stood right under her. She will be the first of many more to come. There are 11 pairs of these beautiful grosbeaks that come into the yard, and I can count them at the bird feeders. Each pair can raise 4-5 young. That adds up to around 50 of these little birds all talking at once. They quickly learn to feed themselves but it can be ďmusicalĒ around here for a couple of days.
If thereís something you saw, heard, smelled or tasted and you want to remember what it was, write it down. Do it the old fashioned way: get yourself a notebook and a pen. This is something I encourage all young people to do. The more descriptive, the better. Itís something youíll always have, something you can pass along.
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