All the talk among the locals is about how hot and dry itís been, and thereís no relief in the near future. For these rural folks, the weather always seems to be the topic of conversation, especially when it gets severe. They live close to the land and the weather affects their lives more than others. Farmers have been getting some pretty good looking hay off the fields, but once itís cut, it needs rain in order to grow again. Pastures that were thick-green and lush a month ago are starting to look thin and stressed. The soybeans could look a lot better, and the corn also needs a good soaker.
Today is Sunday, and the weather fits the day. Itís 95 degrees, and the skies are clear blue. Carrying pails of water to the gardens is getting a little old, but itís worth it if the plants survive. The green has been baked right out of the lawn, but I donít miss mowing. Iíd much rather carry water than mow, anyway.
The seasons are two weeks ahead of schedule. Red bee-balm that usually doesnít bloom until the first week of July is about gone by now. I love the bee balm for its benefits. All year I look forward to seeing its tall green stems and large red flowers. When its spicy fragrance drifts in through the windows, its the best aroma therapy that I could ask for. This special plant attracts a host of insects and birds. Hummingbirds canít resist bee balm nectar, and itís no secret that they are attracted to the color red. When bee balm's deep red flowers blossom, the tiny hummers seem to come out of nowhere. They are hard to count for obvious reasons, but Iíll guestimate there are a dozen or so around the house. I love to hear them as much as see them, and all I need to do is sit on the back porch for a good hummingbird show. I take lots of pictures, but very few catch these little birds; they are always in high gear.
The ruby-throated hummingbird is the only hummingbird Iíve ever seen east of the Rocky Mountains until today. I snapped a couple of pictures of a hummer that was perched on a branch. I never see the woodchuck during the heat of the day. He likes to get a little sunshine early in the morning. His favorite place to stretch out is on a long platform bird feeder near a brush pile. When itís hot like this, he spends his day keeping cool in his favorite hole in the ground.
Is there anything as sweetly pretty as a fawn? The little guy I saw today is looking leggy in his new coat of white spots as he trots across the road in front of the house. Heís nearly big enough to keep up with his mother wherever she goes and will be eating greens soon. He has a whole new world to explore, but I wish he would stay out of the road and closer to mom.
A little warbler chattered at me from a thick cover of green leaves this morning. I was only trying to get closer to some black raspberries I had spotted, but the noisy little common yellowthroat would have none of that. I turned my attention to the large white flower clusters of a nearby elderberry bush. If there are as many elderberries as there are elderberry blossoms, it will be a big year for them. Iíve been told they make for some pretty fine wine.
Another new discovery came in the form of another little yellowish-green bird, one I donít remember ever seeing in the Kickapoo Valley before. At first, the small warbler looked like a Tennessee warbler, but the field guide suggested it might be a Philadelphia vireo. The two look very similar with the vireo being slightly larger. I believe the birdís long pointed beak classifies it as a Tennessee warbler.
Dragonflies follow mosquitoes and the best place to see both of them is near the water. This evening I watched several spotted skimmers as they cruised over a marsh pond searching for mosquitoes. Often a dragonfly will return over and over to the same perch, a tiny stick, blade of grass or maybe the end of a fishing pole. If youíre patient, you may get a better look at one if they arenít darting about over the water. If you see a dragonfly perched and he flies away, watch for a little while. He may return. It seems to be a good summer for dragonflies and damsel flies in our area. The more of these mosquito hunters there are, the better.
In spite of the dry weather, there are quite a few prairie plants blooming in the meadow. A couple of the more colorful native plants showing their true colors are the bright orange butterfly weed and the beautiful blue flowers of the lead plant. Native prairie plants have a very deep root system, which helps them survive drought conditions. Regardless of the weather, their beauty always shines through.
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