Summer in Wisconsin doesnít get any better than this. Perfect weather just pulls at your spirit to be outside. In todayís modern society, the majority of people spend most of their days working indoors. They try to be diligent and responsible as their natural instincts urge them to go outside. There are those who struggle at work when the weather is nice and those who have become numb to it. Then there are those persons who take breaks and eat their lunch outside and bring a little more nature into their lives by reading ďDown Natureís TrailĒ each week. Finding bits and pieces of the natural world is far better than finding none at all.
There have been only a few disappointments in the gardens this year. The lupines I planted from seed didnít make it, and the zinnias I planted from seed donít have enough different colors. I wish the seed companies would consider putting more red, yellow and white in their seed packages. It doesnít seem to matter much to the butterflies, though. Iíve never seen so many at my zinnia beds. Many swallowtails show up every day even though most of them are starting to look kinda faded and ragged around the edges. Iíll always remember this as a butterfly summer.
A Tuesday evening picnic with friends along the West Fork of the Kickapoo River was a beautiful summer setting. Good friends, good food and lots of wildflowers. To top it off, there were scores of dragonflies over our heads. A beautiful evening in the Kickapoo Valley, indeed.
A walk through the prairie meadow on Thursday morning gave me an idea whatís in bloom in late August. Some of the pretty flowers included Dotted Blazing Star, the tiny yellow flowers of the tall Indian grass, several kinds of goldenrod, Virginia Mountain mint, Compass plants, flowering spurge, Creamy gentians, and Blue vervain, just to name a few that are blooming now.
A large wolf spider let me take his picture but soon headed for the tall grass when I tried to get closer to him. Most people think these spiders are kinda creepy but they are harmless as long as you donít try to pick them up. I was too slow with the camera to get a picture of a three foot milk snake before he disappeared in the tall grass. He may be the same snake who left his shed skin here about a month ago.
Just after I climbed into bed Friday night, I heard a fluttering sound at a window. I shined the flashlight on the window and saw a pair of large hawk moths fluttering from the inside, trying to get out. I realized that the two larva cases I put in a yogurt container and stowed on the top of the bookshelf three weeks ago had hatched. Iíd forgotten about them until I heard the flutter at the window. They are also called hummingbird moths or White-lined sphinx moths. They are night feeders at the flowerbeds, so I caught them up in a coffee cup and turned them loose outside. The next night, I took the flashlight and searched the beds of phlox for the sphinx moths. I have been seeing the smaller variety of these moths but had yet to see the bigger ones. I counted four White-lined sphinx moths at different flowerbeds, their eyes like little white diamonds in the beam of the flashlight. Like spiders, their eyes glow in the dark.
Early Sunday morning I took a walk through the wet dew along the banks of the river. The fog was just starting to lift, and birds sang from the nearby marsh. A pair of Sandhill cranes called loudly as they passed. They passed only 50 feet above my head, yet I couldnít see them because of the thick fog. Several Canada geese clamored as they rose from the river, close enough to hear their wings flapping. A kingfisher gave out his rattling call as he flew from the branch of a willow tree and headed upstream for some privacy. Great purple clumps of elderberries hung at the ends of the branches. Itís hard to walk by edible berries without sampling a few, and I have purple stains on my fingertips to prove it.
At the edge of the marsh the arrowhead plant grows from the shallow water. Between the broad green leaves are stalks of pretty white flowers with lemon yellow centers. There are so many flowers to see now if you are willing to take a little walk Down Natureís Trail. I always recommend a walk at sunup. Thereís no better way to start your day.
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