Me and a Watermelon

moon phase Week of 07/03/2011 Best days to do general farm work.

I always kinda watch where I put my feet before I take a step, because I know there is a chance I could step on someone if I donít watch where Iím going.

Ground Spider Ground Spider As I walked into the basement this morning, I stepped over a little ground spider. I wasnít looking for him, but I noticed he was there just before I put my foot down. I never harm a spider. Spiders work hard to make a living catching small insects and they have earned my respect. Ground spiders may be seen anywhere: in the grass, the garden, woods, fields and your garage or house. They are harmless and are always left alone at my house and gardens.

Near the road at the edge of the driveway was a little Short-tailed shrew that had been hit by a car. I felt sad that it met its end in such an unfair way, but I was able to take some close-ups of this small gray predator. Shrews are active both day and night and throughout the year. Young Bluebird Young Bluebird They have no external ears and their eyes are so small you can barely see them. They dig their tunnels in the ground or through the snow, or use the tunnels of moles and gophers. They search for insects to eat and can dispatch small mice with their poisonous bites.

A young bluebird had somehow found its way into the car. I had left the windows down, and it may have spotted an edible insect inside and went in after it. I thought it would fly out when I opened the door, but it batted against the windshield instead, and I had to catch it to get it out. I told it to stay out of trouble as I released it, and to stay away from cars.

Peacock (photo by Karlee Tainter) Peacock (photo by Karlee Tainter) Friday was hot! When the thermometer climbs to 100 in Wisconsin itís no fun, especially when itís humid, too. When itís that hot, I get up before sun-up and do any outside work that has to be done before it gets too hot. I give it up around 8 a.m. and, for the rest of the day, Iím pretty much motionless on the screen porch. Just me and a watermelon. Days like this donít come around that often, and Iíve learned how to wait them out. Iím still not sure whatís worse: 100 degrees and humid in July, or 30 below in January, but I guess Iíll take summer heat over winter cold any day.

Saturday I saw a Brown thrasher fly into some thick brush along a fencerow. I tried to get a few pictures, but it stayed hidden in the leaves. The bird never stopped singing and was joined soon by a Catbird. Brown-Eyed Susans Brown-Eyed Susans Together they sang from the thick brush and made quite a vocal ruckus. Both of these birds are known for their many varying songs and notes, and it was fun to listen to their duet.

There was a time when I would recommend getting a pair of binoculars for a young, aspiring naturalist. Seeing Nature close up is a good way to encourage anyone to see and learn more. Black Swallowtail Caterpillar Black Swallowtail Caterpillar Things are different today, thanks to the age of digital cameras. With a zoom lens, anyone can take a close-up picture that can be saved on their computer and referred to again and again. Digital cameras do what a pair of binoculars did and much, much more. If you want to learn more about the natural world, get a camera. The picture of the beautiful peacock was taken with a digital camera by Karlee Tainter. Pretty good, huh?

My Sunday morning walk through the meadow was full of pleasant surprises.

A white, yellow-and black-striped caterpillar caught my eye, the larval stage of a Black swallowtail butterfly. This caterpillar looks much like a monarch caterpillar, but itís a little smaller. To find a caterpillar is to find a future butterfly, and itís fun to figure out which ones they are.

Milkweed Beetle Milkweed Beetle I stopped in a large grassy area on the hillside that was covered with pretty, Brown-eyed Susans. They are the essence of summer when the grass comes alive with yellow flowers and little brown eyes. Iím sure these flowers of the prairie must be named after my sister.

The milkweed plants are getting close to putting out their lovely, soft, purple flowers, and the insects visit them constantly. The most colorful insects that are attracted to the milkweed are the Black and Red milkweed beetles. Almost always seen in pairs and not worried about being seen, they sit on top of the flower heads. They must taste bad or the birds would have a field day eating them.

Itís hard to believe that itís July already, and I try not to think about the days getting shorter. The best of summer is yet to come. I donít know about you, but Iím not going to waste a day of it.

Naturally yours.


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April from from Boise Idaho on July 28, 2011 at 06:33:01 PM
I am very disappointed. I planted some milkweed as you said for the butterflies. Mine cam up ok but something is eating the leaves. The look like a skeleton, only the veins left. They are in flower now but look just like a sunflower. Not at all what I expected. Do you know what is wrong?
Sandra from from Colorado on July 6, 2011 at 12:03:09 PM
Dan~ I'm not sure my last comment went thru. Are you related to the Hazletts in Forest Grove Oregon? I'm doing my family genealogy.Do you have HALL, Steber, Warbis, Pirie..or Elwin & Lesta Hazlett?
Sandra HALL fairbourn
You have a great column! Fun to read.
Sandra from from Colorado on July 6, 2011 at 11:54:53 AM
Dan~ This is off the subject, but I do genealogy & are you connected to the Hazletts in Forrest grove, Oregon? Or Hall,Steber,Warbis etc.?
Sandra HALL Fairbourn
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