For many years Iíve carried a shovel in the back of my car all year round. Not only does it come in handy for digging snow away from those tires in the winter, but itís also a good way to move road kills out of the traffic. I have been busy lately with the shovel. Mother raccoons and opossums with their youngsters in tow may all be killed together as they cross the road. A dead animal in the road may attract other animals that recycle dead animals. Crows, hawks, eagles and vultures who land in the road to feed on road kill may become road kill themselves.
In the past week Iíve shoveled three dead skunks off the road between Viola and La Farge, a distance of about 6 miles. The last one was this morning and, I must admit, the scent of skunk is hard to like. An hour later, I drove back by the spot where the skunk had been killed and, in the grass at the side of the road, there was a single little skunk. It wasnít hard to figure out that it was one of the dead skunkís young. Its siblings probably werenít too far away but, without their motherís guidance, itís going to be hard to learn how to survive. I wished them luck and drove off down the road with a slight scent of skunk lingering in the car.
The beautiful, rich, orange of the wild Turkís Cap lily is rarely seen these days, and Iím always keeping an eye out for them. At one time these colorful lilies of the meadows were a common sight and grew in places the plow or cow couldnít go. There are very few of those places these days, and the Turkís Cap has become a rare sight. The Prairie Turkís Cap lily is just one of hundreds of prairie plants that have become scarce because of something we humans refer to as progress.
There is another cap that has become less abundant in southern Wisconsin, the Black Cap raspberry. There was a time when I could pick 4 to 5 gallons of rich, ripe Black Caps in a day, but not any longer. I had to fight the brambles for several hours just to get a gallon of these tasty berries, but it was still worth it. To me they are the caviar of berries and, with some sweet, Organic Valley Heavy Whipping Cream poured over them, become fit for royalty. My good friend, Colette, wasted no time turning most of them into the ultimate winter treat: black raspberry jam. The rest will be consumed with heavy cream or maybe some vanilla ice cream. Oh, the taste of summer!
This morning I was showing a friend what poison parsnip looked like. I pointed out the plantís bright yellow flowers and seeds and cautioned him not to touch this plant in the sunlight. The sun activates a chemical in the plant that can cause a nasty burn and produce large water blisters on bare skin. As I was telling my friend how terrible the poison parsnip was, I noticed a little tree frog clinging to the stem. It had turned green to blend in with the plant and seemed quite content to be where it was. This poisonous plant wasnít off limits to the frog, and Iím sure it didnít pay any attention to a word I said. The tree frogís gentle song has been compared to the soft song of a birdís high-pitched trill. I think this frog sounds like a giant cricket that sings only a few notes at a time. Iím not hearing the tree frog song as often this summer, but maybe itís too early yet. Thereís still lots of summer left.
Summerís beautiful colors change with each passing week. Yellow sunflowers, white Queen Anneís Lace, blue chicory, red bee balm and even some pink. Where the ground is moist near the frog pond is where the Marsh milkweed blooms. The plant is three and a half feet tall and topped with one of the prettiest pink flowers youíll ever lay your eyes on. Yet another tall-stemmed pink flower is in bloom. If the Marsh milkweed is king of the pinks, then the Queen of the Prairieís gorgeous pink display must trump the kingís. The color pink always stands out next to the green surroundings of a marsh or meadow and is a special color to see.
There has been some new bird activity at the bird feeders this week as the fledglings are showing up with their parents. A young cardinal flutters his wings and chatters his begging call as his mother cracks open a sunflower seed and stuffs the sweet meat into the youngsterís open mouth. It will take only a few days before the young cardinals discover they can open the seeds by themselves. The adult Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are also teaching their children where to get a free meal. The pretty young grosbeaks catch on to the sunflower seeds a little faster than the young cardinals.
The summerís green glory is beginning to peak, and the landscape is lush and alive. I see these green mountains from sunup to sunset, and look forward to seeing them each day. They are part of my life and a part of who I am. There is no better place to watch nature as the seasons change.
I love this river valley when the sun rises in the morning, especially when itís hot and humid. A foggy steam fills the air in the river bottom and the sun appears in a pastel haze. There are so many good reasons not to miss any part of the day. The secret is to make the most of each day and enjoy the world around you.
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