A sunny day just a little shy of 80, and a light breeze carries the downy thistle seeds high into the blue skies. The nodding thistles have changed their beautiful large purple flowers into fluffy balls of thistle down, which the wind may carry for miles. By the end of August, many wild plants have finished their flowering stage of growth and are sending out the seed that insures their very existence.
It's been getting cool in the valley some nights, which creates a heavy, early morning fog that lingers over the Kickapoo River. Once the sun peeks over the ridge, the fog quickly melts away, and this is how we start each day.
The dew-covered grass soaks my pant legs and shoes, but I don't mind. The early morning sun feels good and I like the way it makes the dew glisten. My eye catches something bright red and shiny on the ground—the gorgeous berries of a Jack-in-the-pulpit. From start to finish, spring to fall, the Jack-in-the-pulpit continues to be an eye catcher. When the berries are ripe, I'll return to pick them and scatter the seeds in a place where I can see them in the spring.
In the path there's a wing feather that was molted and left by a turkey. It wasn't there when I walked this way two days ago. The large feather was lying in the grass under a wild apple tree whose branches were heavy with fat green apples. They tasted fairly sweet and were crisp and juicy, so I stuffed a couple in my pocket for later.
The branches of the Prickly ash are laden with clusters of red berries, but they are just for looking at, not for eating. They are too bitter for my taste, but there are some birds that wouldn't mind them later. Like the apple trees, the leaves of the Prickly ash will soon begin to yellow, as the colorful face of fall starts to appear.
My trail leads me to a glistening spider web at eye level. It has already dried in the sun, and the tiny spider is busy mending the strands. A simple spider web can be such an amazing thing. It was five feet off the ground and seemed to be suspended in midair. For ten feet on any side there was nothing taller than the spider's web. The spider, in her wisdom and ability, was able to place her web exactly where she wanted it. The guy lines to the web ran from a tall tree on one side of the path, to a large sumac on the other. One of the most fascinating things you can watch is a spider building her web. You'll be amazed at how little time it takes them, and they don't have to read any instructions. Late summer is the best time to take some kids on a morning walk through the grass and stop to watch a spider build her web. I guarantee these kids will never have a fear of spiders after they find out what it takes to be one.
I nearly stepped on a little milk snake who was sunning himself in the path. His colorful reddish-brown body was striped all along with black-bordered cream-colored patches. He is one of the more colorful snakes you can see in the Kickapoo Valley, but like many snakes, he has the bad habit of lying in the road to get warm.
When I got back to the house and closed the screen door behind me, I noticed a large Katydid just above the door. He gave me a chance to get a good look at him before I caught him and let him outside. Whenever I have to catch a wayward insect in the house, I thank them for visiting before I let them go. Then I say, "Have a nice life!"
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