My flower gardens make August such a lovely time of my annual interactions with nature

My flower gardens make August such a lovely time in my annual interactions with nature

The flower gardens have been a pleasant surprise this summer. The mixture of colors around the yard is as beautiful as ever. I’ve been weeding, but not watering as often as I used to. Since I was a boy, I’ve had a soft place in my heart for flowers. They have always enhanced my life.

Lilies and bee balm in my garden

Day lilies and bee balm highlight my flower garden this year

It’s been a good year for day lilies, and it just gets better because I especially like those that bloom late in the season. The bee balm is the star of the flower show this year. It is still in bloom after a month and a half. I’ve never seen the red bee-balm bloom so long. Hummingbirds love it. The pretty black-eyed Susan at the corner of the house have opened up this week and their bright yellow faces greet me every time I go in or out the back door. The tall green cone flowers have bloomed a little early this year to add a nice splash of color near the west side of the house. I watched a gray squirrel this morning as he clung to a tree trunk with is hind feet and reached out to nibble on the heads of the coneflowers.

Against the weathered siding of my 150-year-old school/house, red runner beans and morning glories paint a beautiful picture

Against the weathered siding of my 150-year-old school/house, red runner beans and morning glories paint a beautiful picture

The red runner beans and morning glories are climbing out of control. The vines have reached to the eave of the entire south side of my house. A hungry woodchuck ate some of them back about a month ago but the vines just keep growing. I love having hummingbirds come to my windows where the pretty ink and purple flowers frame the screen. It’s especially nice from my bedroom window early in the morning as they hum to me while I lay in bed at sunrise.

While moving a lawn chair this evening, I noticed a little green tree frog clinging to the underside of the seat. I held him in my hand and took a couple of pictures. He was very cooperative and didn’t try to hop away. I’ve been hearing a few bird-like, tree frog songs lately and I think I’ll hear them more and more often as we head toward autumn.

The cardinals are the old standbys around the yard. I can always count on them coming to the birdfeeders every evening and early every morning. They are the first ones to the feeders and the last to leave just before dark. They have been bringing their second brood of youngsters to the feeders—to show them the ropes you might say. The pretty red males seem to be just as colorful in August as they are in January and they are always a wonderful sight to see. The little tufted titmouse feeds her begging young one a shelled sunflower seed. I also notice that there are not any cowbirds at the bird feeders. There were several hanging around late into the spring but I haven’t seen one since.

Nothing says home to me more than the restored prairie that runs for hundreds of yards south of my yard

Nothing says home to me more than the restored prairie that runs for hundreds of yards south of my yard

The meadow is looking beautiful this summer and the tall bluestem and Indian grass is waving in the breeze. The yellow cone flowers and purple cone flowers are mixed in with grasses, and several very tall compass plants show their large yellow sunflowers high above the others. This morning, a pair of pretty fawns stepped out into the tall grass and began to nibble on whatever tasted good. They are about half-grown and their white spots are beginning to fade a little. Morning is a time for fun and games for the fawns as they chase each other through the grass, kicking up their heels and bounding like lambs in the sunshine. There is plenty to eat now and their mother is still providing for them. They will grow in leaps and bounds through the month of August.

I don’t think I’ve seen even a half-dozen deer flies in the valley all summer, not at all usual. Normally I would see deer flies by the third week of June, but they just haven’t showed up here. Yet. I did see a single horsefly yesterday, and a single dragonfly was hawking mosquitoes along the creek. It was a big year for black flies, but, other than that infestation, the insect population in general seems barely a presence on the landscapes. Maybe this is a cause for many of the insect-eating birds to move elsewhere. I feel there is a good chance that the inconsistently timed changes in the temperature patterns may have a negative effect on the insect hatches. Things don’t seem to be quite jelling for bugs.

Rabbits are always a little strange and always a bit hard to figure out. In May, there were five or six rabbits in the yard and gardens and yet I haven’t seen a rabbit here since June. I know it sounds a little strange, but rabbits have always been that way. They come and then they go; where they go, who knows but they seem to like to move around.

It’s not like me to leave a handful of dried grass in the middle of the yard, yet there it was. I understood when I attempted to pick it up and discovered several tiny, hairless baby voles tucked into a warm nest under the pile of dried grass. Why a vole would pick such an unsafe place to make her nest is beyond me. She must have known what she was doing because, six days later, the nest is still there and the young voles are nearly big enough to leave. I guess mother really does know best.

I saw the first sphinx moths Sunday evening and counted at least three different moths as they hovered around the sweet summer phlox. They probe the lavender flowers with a long proboscis for the sweet nectar. The sphinx moth is drawn to the phlox like a bear to honey—and, amusingly, both sphinx and phlox end with the rarely used letter, x.

I never thought of myself as an eagle whisperer, but this immature bald eagle sure treated me to a close-up, wonderful experience early in the morning

I never thought of myself as an eagle whisperer, but this immature bald eagle sure treated me to a close-up, wonderful experience early in the morning

I was up early, driving slowly along a Kickapoo country road; the quiet dampness of the morning greeted me as I rolled the window down. The road finally dropped downhill and into the valley, it was then I noticed a large dark bird flying just above the road and right at me. I quickly pulled safely over and stopped just as the young bald eagle landed in the middle of the road right next to me. He just stood there and looked around while I snapped his picture. This was not the safest place for an eagle to be so I got out to shoo him off the road. I was surprised that he didn’t fly until I was only six feet from him. It sure was a great way to start the day. Talk about being in the right place at the right (early) time!

Naturally yours,

Dan