Living in Wisconsin has taught me that in the winter there may be days when the severe cold will make you spend the day in the house. When summer comes we get to spend a lot more time outside but there are a few days in July and August when it gets too hot to do much of anything. It was 99 degrees outdoors today and 92 inside the house, too hot to do anything beyond fanning yourself. It’s been pretty hot and dry the past few days but at least the humidity hasn’t been quite so bad lately. A little rain would be nice even though I don’t mind carrying water to the gardens from 6 to 7 o’clock in the morning.
The wildflowers and garden flowers are really starting to come on now, in spite of the lack of rain. My early morning walk took me past many of my favorites that are in full bloom now. There are so many that I can’t list them all but there are a few that really are eye-catching. The ones that really make me turn my head seemed to be everywhere this morning starting with the fancy orange Turk’s cap lilies at the edge of the woods. They reminded me how beautiful the orange oriole is against a lush green background. There are a couple of other orange-colored flowers blooming now. The pretty, tall day lilies grow along the roadside, sometimes in large communities—always trying to add more to their families. The striking orange butterfly weed grows in small clumps in the prairie meadow. A member of the milkweed family, it’s good at attracting butterflies to its bright orange flowers.
The lovely, soft blue flowers adorning a thick patch of chicory are definitely eye-catchers. The roadsides and ditches are thick with chicory—one of my favorite shows of blue. My walk through the meadow takes me past a stand of New Jersey tea and a very showy group of Culver’s root with long spears of white flowers. I don’t spend too much time admiring most of the pretty wild flowers because I know the sun will be peeking up over the ridgetop, and it starts getting warm right away, very warm. Heading slowly back toward the house, I pass by two of my favorite tall sunflowers, the leafy cup plant and a nice patch of oxeye daisies.
Near the stream is where the water hemlock makes its home and nearby several beautiful pink crowns of queen of the prairie. The color pink is rare for wild flowers, and so is a special treat to see. The hot, dry summer of 2012 was hard on the common milkweed. I didn’t see any blooming in the valley. It’s just the opposite this year and there is more blooming milkweed than I’ve ever seen before. Pretty pink balls of flowers call out to every monarch butterfly that comes near. The sad truth is that there are no monarchs here this year. I’ve seen only two since May, and I doubt they will show up at this late date. What with all the flowers blooming now, I thought there would be more hummingbirds. After all, they always show up when the red bee balm and red runner beans are in bloom, so where are they this year? Maybe if I’m a little more patient they’ll show up yet.
I stopped to visit with a couple of special friends the other day, Merv and Sue Broten, who live over near Chaseburg, Wisconsin. The Brotens are two of the most dedicated wildlife rehabilitators I know. Their compassion (and experience) has led them to save the lives of hundreds of birds and other animals over the years. Merv showed me several abandoned raccoons the Brotens were caring for, and a couple of red-tailed hawks that were on the mend. Then he asked if I’d like to see the owl that someone had recently rescued from over near the Mississippi River. The owl turned out to be a beautiful barn owl, a rare sight in Wisconsin. It’s been 40 years since I last saw a barn owl in Wisconsin. I was very glad I paid the Brotens a visit. Sue brought out one of ten little opossums that were rescued after their mother was killed, along with two small young minks that seemed happy to be alive. The Brotens are truly a special couple, devoting much of their time—seven days a week—to care for unlucky wildlife that probably wouldn’t survive without them. It’s a shame they don’t get any financial aid from any state or federal agency.
I’m still seeing a few tiny baby wood ducks, but very few. The mallards seem to be doing better at rearing young this year. I caught a picture of a female with nine nearly full-grown ducklings in tow. After another night of young raccoons eating sunflower seeds in the window feeder, today was another cool, foggy morning, but I knew it would be another hot day and the cattle would spend much of their time standing in the cool water, and who could blame them?