July is the month when many of the colorful marsh and grassland flowers are in bloom. Some are non-native, but their flowers give new color to the landscape. Plants like the Day lilies, Queen Anne's Lace, Daisy fleabane, white Shasta daisies, Common milkweed, burdock, and Purple loosestrife are all invasive species, but their flowers are nonetheless beautiful. There are others that have been here for hundreds of years but are finding it harder to survive the aggressive non-native plants. Some of the native flowers that are now in bloom include the pretty lavender Joe Pye weed, a member of the milkweed family, Brown-eyed susans, Prairie coreopsis, Blue vervain, and White yarrow. Each year I see fewer and fewer of these and other age-old plants as we humans encroach on what little habitat is left for them.
Some of the first-hatched, young killdeers are on the wing already and a second nesting has begun for some of the adults. I nearly stepped on a nest of killdeer eggs but the excited female let me know I should be careful where I walk. I stopped and looked down and the two spotted eggs were right at my feet. They blended in with the pebbles at the edge of the road. It's not a nest per say, but rather a small scrape or depression in the gravel. Killdeers are one of the birds that benefit from not doing roadside mowing until after the middle of June. I'm not against roadside mowing, but there needs to be more consideration for the way it's done. I have no doubt that the mowing is the main reason that invasive plants have spread so aggressively.
On a peaceful, quiet summer night, I was relaxing while writing some letters and listening to the Brewers vs. Cardinals game on the radio—the same thing I've done for thirty years. It's a summer ritual, I guess. Tonight the only light was from a couple of candles on the coffee table, so the room wasn't very well-lit. A little green blinking light appeared on the ceiling above me. There is a 12-foot ceiling in the room and the light was dancing around everywhere. A little firefly had found his way into the house and paid me a visit. It was the only fireworks display I saw for the holiday. All at once the little firefly flew right by my face and I realized he was drawn to the candle flame. I promptly blew out the candle and went to bed. The last thing I remember was the tiny blinking light dancing across the ceiling.
I have enjoyed watching the Sandhill cranes in the valley this summer. A flock of seven first-year cranes are spending time together while the adult cranes are tending their new families. The first-year birds are non-breeders but seem to enjoy each other's company—besides the fact there is safety in numbers. I'm particularly curious about a single adult male crane that waits for his mate on her nest. I saw them together every day this spring but haven't seen the female for five or six weeks. Her two eggs should have hatched by now. I wonder where she is while her patient mate waits in the same place day after day.
Tucked neatly in the branches of a tall wild poison parsnip, a grass nest contains several downy blackbirds. In another week they will be feathered out and will try their new wings. I know they are a promise that I will hear the first song of a Red-winged blackbird next spring.
When I visited a good friend at her farm, she was weeding the garden with a smile on her face. She also appreciates this time spent alone to think and be productive at the same time. People who have gardens never seem to mind the weeding that comes with it. It's always fun to visit someone else's garden—all the gardens are different just like those who tend them. I always walk away with some new tips and maybe a chance to swap a plant or two. The garden I visited today was extra special—there were kittens peeking out from under the bushes and flowers. I can safely say I don't know anyone whose heart doesn't melt when they see little kittens playing, and the garden was the perfect playground for them.
So much new life to see in so many forms—so many, many new beginnings. Now is the time to renew your faith in Mother Earth by simply being outside.
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