Recent rains here in the Kickapoo Valley have made gardening more bearable. When it was hot and dry, weeds clung to the hard soil for all they were worth, their tiny roots searching deep for moisture. Now that the ground is wet, I can pull them, roots and all, with ease.
Before the rains came, watering the garden was a job I had to do three or four times per week. It meant dipping five gallon pails of water from the creek and giving each plant a little drink. I carry about 100 gallons in all, and I enjoy it for the first week or so, but then I start praying for rain.
The wet weather has made all the grass grow like crazy and it's a challenge to keep up with the mowing. I've noticed an abundance of black flies in the mowed lawn. They can make the job of weeding almost unbearable at times. They tend to land on your face and crawl in your eyes, nose, and ears. Although they are very small, they pack a pretty good bite. This explains why I don't see any robins in the yard now, and why the woodchuck and rabbits feed on the short grass and clover after the sun passes, when the black flies are less aggressive.
If you've ever fished for trout you probably have had a run-in with black flies. I have had many gruesome episodes with these tiny, pesky flies. I remember pulling the boat up to a marshy shore on a Canadian lake after a day of fishing. Though the truck was parked only a few yards away, we could not get to it fast enough. A huge cloud of black flies forced us to roll down our sleeves and turn up our collars. We tied handkerchiefs over our faces so we wouldn't inhale the flies as we quickly loaded up the boat and got out of there.
The worst I have ever seen black flies was while stripping teepee poles in the mountains of Western Wyoming. Daytime temps rose above 90 degrees and the black flies swarmed around me all day, turning the five-day job from fun to torturous. I had to wear a long-sleeved shirt and tie a kerchief over my face. I went through a lot of water that week. That was years ago, and I've since learned that the best way to deal with black flies is to stay away from them.
At the west end of the pasture, a bluebird-sized kingbird perches on a wooden fencepost. His black and white plumage clashes with everything around him. The kingbird is a member of the flycatcher family; he catches flying insects for himself and his nestlings. He watches intently, then quickly swoops ten feet, catches a damselfly, and returns to the post.
The kingbird is known for his courage and boldness while guarding his nesting territory. He chases away any bird that enters it with scolding chatter and a flurry of feathers. I have seen a kingbird land on the back of a passing crow or red tailed hawk, and, with wings flapping, peck the foe on the back of the head. I saw a kingbird deal with an eagle the same way. Very few birds dare to get close to the eagle. Even a cow or horse in the pasture that gets too close to the kingbird's nest will be greeted by shark pecks on the head and nose. No intruder is too large to be attacked. When it comes to sheer bravery in the bird world, the kingbird has few rivals.
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