I'm in constant wonder at the lush green beauty of this Kickapoo Valley summer. The color green is at its utmost contrast with the white-cold of late winter. It's been a summer of rain, heat, humidity, weeds and mosquitoes. It's been a summer of prospering insects and those who eat them. It's been a productive summer for all in the natural world—how it affects a sense of balance remains to be seen. One thing's for sure—no one knows what's better for the earth than Mother Nature.
The dark green forest that covers these Kickapoo mountains is aglow in green as the morning sun lights the valley. The mountains are in full dress green and the life in them is at its highest peak. In the valley, a large patch of wild cucumber vine covers everything it can reach. Stems of tiny white flowers stand out from light green leaves in sharp contrast with the tall dark cornfield next to it. Nearby, the beautiful white flowering disks of the Queen Anne's Lace stand out in the tall green grass. The lacy white disks are covered with hundreds of tiny white flowers and often there is a single black flower in the center. From a distance, the single black flower looks like an insect. It's an insect decoy! It lures other insects to pollinate her.
The pretty blue chicory grows tall along the road and creates a short hedge of blue flowers. The blue hedge stretches along the country road for a quarter mile and is a pretty show for passers-by. Like the Queen Anne's Lace, the chicory is a non-native plant that is very beautiful when flowering.
A weekly check on the Sandhill crane family sees the adults in full molt as their nuptial plumage is beginning to fade. The new brown body and wing feathers have replaced the old gray ones. It only makes sense that the cranes would molt when they are not flying. They must stay on the ground for five to six weeks while waiting for their young ones to fledge. By then, the adults will have molted most of their flight feathers and replaced them with new ones. The young cranes look very good and their heads can now reach the bottom of their parents' tails. The late nesting of the cranes has given me a wonderful chance to watch the young cranes as they grow through the summer.
The landscape is ablaze in patches of yellow as they many wild sunflowers and coneflowers are in full bloom. The large yellow flowers on the top of a tall Cup plant were so showy that I had to take a picture of them—some things are just too pretty to pass by. The same goes for the flock of Red-winged blackbirds—all grouped together in the rushes, they were too pretty to pass by. For the most part, the Red-wings' nesting season is over and the new family groups are gathering together in larger flocks. There is something about their togetherness that has always appealed to me. I love the blackbirds' sense of community.
The early apples are looking good. Some are ready to eat. Red or green, it doesn't matter—I'll sample the zingy, tart taste of the season. Some of these early apples are sweet enough to be in a pie ... another thing I've been itching to try lately.
These warm summer nights have brought on the songs of crickets and other night-singing insects. Their peaceful music always lures me to a comfortable chair on the porch where I just relax and listen. I like it when the nightlife sings back to me and the crickets' songs set my mood as I settle down for the night.
At mid-day today a single bold coyote loped along through the hay field. His nose was up and he seemed to be on a mission and knew where he was going. You never know about ol' wily coyote. Summer has been good to him and I thought he looked strong and healthy.
While pulling weeds from a flowerbed next to the house, I couldn't help but notice a large Horntail wasp on the screen at the window. This wasp was 1 to 2 inches long and looked quite intimidating. She seemed to just be taking in some sunshine and could care less that I was so close. These unusual looking large insects drill holes in the trunks of hardwood trees and deposit up to seven eggs in them. The larvae tunnel into and feed on the wood. They pupate in the tunnels, reaching maturity in one or two years. Adults emerge from the tree trunk in the summer and fall.
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