Coulees of the Kickapoo Valley

moon phase Week of 06/24/2012 Favorable For Planting Peas, Beans, Tomatoes, And Other Fall Crops Bearing Yield Aboveground.

Bladder Campion Bladder Campion 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. New England Asters New England Asters 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. Sandhill Crane Family Sandhill Crane Family 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. Bluebird Bluebird 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? Spiderwort Spiderwort 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. Cows on Grass Cows on Grass 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. Birds Birds Birds Birds Birds Birds 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. Raccoon Kids Raccoon Kids 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.

Naturally yours
Dan

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Comments

Kelly from from Mullen, NE on July 3, 2012 at 03:48:16 PM
You sure do have some good advice for the young'uns! Write more in a REAL notebook! :) The grandkids will thank you for it.
Elaine from from Hernando, FL on June 30, 2012 at 11:19:40 AM
Loved your posting it really made me see your part of the country.
We just got done with tropical storm debby. We needed the rain but in some places it was a bit too much.
The grass is so green and the flowers are blooming. We have a hibiscus hedge and they are blooming brightly. The crype myrtle is blooming too, I think they are a little out of the right time but our weather has been crazy. The mexican sunflowers are not blooming yet but are about 10 ft tall. The ginger plant is getting its blooms. My garden suffered this year, from first too hot then too much rain. I am slowly letting everything go. The squirrels, birds, and rabbits love it when I put the cabbage leaves out for them and the little tomatoes.
Of course nothing takes the place of the sunflowers and peanuts I put out daily.
I am going to get off the computer and go write in my garden journal as things are changing daily. Have a happy 4th of July. sincerely, Elaine
Liane from from IL on June 28, 2012 at 06:26:08 PM
Hi Dan~
I look forward to reading your newsletter. The beauty of nature is all around us if we just look, listen and slow down. Kickapoo Valley sounds like a lovely place to live!... Thanks for all the great pictures and for the very insightful newsletter.
Judy from from NE Ohio on June 27, 2012 at 10:17:37 PM
Hi Dan, I'm like you in that I can't believe how early everything is this year. I was harvesting my Chamomile the first week of June. I usually start that the middle of July!Lightening bugs were out in early June too. There's not going to be any pretty things left to enjoy in the fall if this keeps up...it'll all be done and over with.*sigh* We've had a strange sight at our bird feeder lately...3 wild mallards, 1 duck and 2 drakes. One drake has a bad eye. Unusual for 2 drakes to be with her. We have had a pair here over the years, cleaning up the seeds the birds leave on the ground, but 2 drakes? hmmmm.... Our coopers hawk is here almost every day too. Boy I know when he arrives and departs. The blue-jays are the best watch-dogs around. hahaha When he takes flight, they are hot on his tail, screeching the whole way until they're satisfied that he's gone.
AS usual, thanks for the great pictures and stories too.
Your Fellow Nature Pal!
Jan from from TN on June 27, 2012 at 07:38:48 PM
I hope your Kickapoo Valley has now had some rain, I heard most of MN had gotten a pretty good amount. NOT TN, we are close to 100F and dry as a bone.
Your picture of the raccoon kits reminds me of the one I raised from a "bottle baby" in FL (with the blessings of the Wildlife Department) which was found orphaned. She was babied and cared for (read that spoiled) for 13 1/2 years until age took it's toll. Such a wonderful experience! Had the Spiderwort in the yard, also. It is so pretty.
I am always so glad to see you newsletter, so many things from Mother Nature each time!
Thank you for mentioning the notebook! Good habit to have.
terry from from NJ on June 27, 2012 at 02:42:43 PM
Another great read. Thanks.
Rx: Nature
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