It's the end of the second week of July, and I would have thought the hot weather would be here by now. Oh, it's been warmer lately than in June, but this June was the coolest I can remember.
Of the things that make gardening a challenge, many of them are beyond my control. Being in the valley, my garden doesn't get as much sun as most, but it does pretty well in a normal summer season. This year I've been counting on July to be hot and give the garden plants the boost they need to reach maturity. The cabbage, carrots, and potatoes I planted on Good Friday are blooming and look great, but some plants seem to be taking forever to get going. The tomatoes won't have edible fruit until September at the rate they are growing. The squash and gourds are just now putting out runners. I might be lucky and get a few acorn squash, but there is little hope of getting any large birdhouse gourds. The bell peppers are also very slow, but if there's hot weather I may still get some.
The deer made quick work of taking down the tall sunflowers the other night. They nibbled off every leaf on all 50 of the two-foot tall plants. I hope they don't have a taste for the zinnias. Several people have suggested that I put up a fence to keep the deer out, but I don't like the confining look of a fence.
Many of the garden flowers are taking their sweet time putting out flowers. The bee balm is now a glorious show of red, three weeks later than last year. The hummingbirds finally have plenty to eat. Some of the yellow and orange day lilies are in bloom, and others will have flowers in a week. Other tall flower stocks are full of blossoms, but have fallen over from the heavy rains, which just keep coming. The weight of lots of rainwater causes the tender stems of large flowers to give way. It's a sorry sight to find them all lying on the ground because I forgot to tie them up. The delphiniums are a good example of a tall flower that needs to be staked and tied.
I had a few interesting sightings this past week. One morning I heard the song of a bird that didn't sound familiar. It came from the thick, heavy cover along the creek behind the barn. I jogged back to the house and grabbed a pair of binoculars to get a better look at the mystery bird. I made a squeaking sound with my lips, and his curiosity brought him just a few feet away. There was no doubt he was a wren, but twice as big as a house wren. At first I thought it must be a rare visit from a Carolina wren, but the song was not the same. Then I remembered when I'd heard that song before. In 1990 I'd heard what I thought was a song sparrow but it turned out to be a Bewick's wren. I hadn't seen one sense then. Rare sightings like these make me keep my ears and eyes open.
I also spotted a turtle under the feet of cows in a short grass pasture near the road. It was a rather large turtle, and I wanted to get a closer look, so I pulled over and walked up. As I suspected, it was a Blanding’s turtle. Her large dome-shaped, oval shell was spotted with yellow, and her throat was also a rich yellow.
The beautiful Blanding’s turtle is a threatened species here in Southwest Wisconsin, so it's a rare treat to see one. They spend most of their time in the freshwater streams here. This particular turtle may be looking for a place to lay her eggs.
There is a trout stream nearby and I hope the fishermen don’t decide to riprap the banks, because it makes life very hard for these rare but once-common turtles.
A good friend who lives up the valley reported that a pair of bald eagles have nested and fledged two young eagles. The young took flight last week and can be seen every day on their Kickapoo River farm. My friends are truly blessed to have these magnificent birds so near.
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