Lush pasture makes the cows happy as summer is just around the corner

Lush pasture makes the cows happy as summer is just around the corner

What a way to end the month of May! Every day this week was a beautiful spring day. Temperatures in the seventies and lots of sunshine, just what the farmers needed to get their fields worked and planted. Gardeners will tell you about their aches and pains these days, but always with smiles. They know that a little pain now can mean a lot of gain later. I spent every day this week digging and planting tomato sets and lots of annual flower sets. I lost all my red bee-balm over the cold winter, so I planted some tall mixed color cleomes in those beds.

The butterflies, bumble bees and hummingbirds love cleomes and the tall red salvia. Due to the warmer nights, I felt it was safe to plant the red-runner beans that will grow up the east and south side of the house. I even got my zinnias planted and just in time, too, because the soaking rain that came Tuesday night would set them in.

So much accomplished this week and so much to feel good about. The air is fresh and warm; the sights, sounds and smells of spring are everywhere, and the Kickapoo Valley has turned completely green. Spring is looking more and more like summer with each passing day and it’s safe to safe to say that there is no turning back now. Onward to summer!

Look closely to see the outstretched heads of the hungry robin chicks

Look closely to see the outstretched heads of the hungry robin chicks

At first I didn’t notice the hidden robin’s nest in the center of a very branchy, leafless shrub. I was quite a distance from the shrub when I noticed a female robin fly out several yards then drop a fecal sack on the ground. Realizing that there must be a nest in that shrub, I walked over for a closer look. Sure enough, the nest was cleverly placed where it wasn’t obvious in the thick branches. I gently bumped the outer edge of the shrub with my hand, which I knew would send a slight vibration to the nest. It was a signal to the sightless and featherless baby robins that their parent has lit nearby and has brought them something good to eat. I didn’t bring anything for them to eat but I did find out that they were in the nest without getting too close.

The red-tailed hawk stood on top of her large nest of sticks placed in the upper branches of a cottonwood tree. The three downy hawklets are not big enough to move around in the nest—they can barely stand yet—so she takes her time when feeding them pea-sized pieces of meat. Her TLC will help the young hawks grow quickly; they can double their weight every day until they are full-grown in a little over two weeks. When the young hawks are two weeks old, the parents will bring them something to eat and leave it in the nest and then just get out of the way. The hawklets won’t leave the nest until all of their flight feathers have grown in and they are strong enough to fly.

The ruby-throated hummingbird displays all the normal activities of a contented bird

The ruby-throated hummingbird displays all the normal activities of a contented bird, only smaller

These early spring mornings are the best times to be outside rubbing shoulders with Mother Nature. At sun-up, I watched a hummingbird fly up from near the spring creek. Often I let my eyes follow them for as long as I can and this time the little hummer flew straight up to the very top branch of a box elder tree and perched there in the warm sun. Silhouetted against the sky, I could see him rouse his feathers and begin to preen. He probably had just taken a morning bath in the spring and flew up to a sunny perch to dry off.

Because the nights are warmer now, the river valley is a slowly moving vision of fog just before sunrise. It only adds to the already lush green moistness of a valley pasture. The cattle have no worries about finding the best grass to eat. It’s right at their feet.

A green heron flew up from the riverbank; he let out a guttural “squawk” as he landed on a dead tree limb. The little crow-sized heron is a pretty sight silhouetted against the early morning, foggy sky. I’ve seen these birds more often in recent years here in the Kickapoo Valley of southwest Wisconsin.

As May heads toward sunset, it can't help but show off just a little more spectacular color

As May heads toward sunset, it can’t help but show off just a little more spectacular color

As I watched the sky turn colors at sunset, I thought about how nice a day it was and how quickly the month seemed to pass. Sometimes, I wish summer would last longer, but the important thing is to enjoy each day and live in the moment as much as you can. Live life as it comes to you and don’t spend so much energy chasing after it.

Friday evening was a good time to just take it easy and relax in a chair on the screen porch, but I realized that the chair was already occupied.  A single moth, about as wide as a half-dollar, was resting on the seat. The field guide told me that the moth was called a lunate zale, a rather common but seldom seen North American species. I took another seat, as long as the first one was taken, and the moth was still in his chair when I went into the house an hour later. It’s good to see some insects around again. I also saw several swallow-tailed butterflies today and a few big, brown June bugs.

Even the cows appreciate the goodness of a wild apple tree in blossom

Even the cows appreciate the goodness of a wild apple tree in blossom

The sweet scent of flower blossoms was in the air this week as the wild apple trees are covered with pretty white flowers. My favorite smell drifts through my bedroom window each night and I’m lulled to sleep by the sweet perfume of the lilacs near the house. The last thing I thought of before falling asleep, was that I needed to remember to pick a bouquet for the table in the morning.

Naturally yours,

Dan