Butterflies and Asters

img_5521

Asters are blooming like crazy right now: Purple Aster, New England Aster, Fleabane. Black-Eyed Susans are done. Touch-Me-Nots are gone. Dandelions? Haven’t seen them. Asters rule the fields these days.

I don’t know my butterflies well. I have thought many a time that I should learn them. I got some exposure to learning them on a trip this summer the butterfly garden at the Fairbanks Museum in Saint Johnsbury. They had a tent full of them with signage to show what was what. I don’t remember squat from that. Poor student, I guess.

The butterflies in the photo above are American Ladies. I had to look that up. I might be able to tell a Viceroy from a Monarch, but don’t trust me too much. I know there is more than one Swallowtail in Vermont. Can’t tell them apart though. But I tell you this: they are just cool-looking.

It is kind of nice to simply not know the names of things. There is real pleasure in being able to look at an insect, or a plant or a bird, and to know its name. To name something is the beginning of getting to know it, to knowing more than just its name. However, there can be just as much joy in simply wondering at a thing, in watching and seeing with ignorant eyes, in being present to observe.

A sunrise does not have a name, but it is beautiful. We can watch the sky change and the clouds trudge along in their pinkness and just feel awe. We do not have to create a name for snow on trees to find it wondrous. So it is with butterflies. I am curious about what they all are, what makes them different, where they go in winter, what flowers they prefer–all of that starts with naming them. But I do not need to name them to find them wondrous. They dance, unnamed, among the asters I might be able to name, and I feel like kid. “That is so cool!” I say aloud. And that is enough.

 

Advertisements

Mowing. Finally. 

One of my favorite sounds of spring and summer is the song of the Meadowlark. That sweet whistling tune makes me smile every time I hear it. This year they nested in our field. Starting a few years ago they were around, nesting in surrounding fields and sharing their songs. Now they nest right here in our meadow. By mid-July, chicks have fledged. We had a half dozen young birds zipping around, buzzing out their calls rather than their songs, done with nests for now.

Other birds were out of their nests as well–Red-Winged Blackbirds, Savannah Sparrows, Bobolinks, Snipes. Birds fledged and Wild Parsnip not yet gone to seed? That means time to cut the field.

I had powered up our tow-behind brush hog in June. I wanted to make sure it started, that the blades spun, that it worked. So when mid-July arrived and the weather cooperated I hooked up the mowing system and got started. Unfortunately, after one pass of one edge of the field, smoke started pouring out of the brush hog. Dang! Busted belt. No more mowing.

There is a repair shop right up the road, so I just kept on going. It was Friday, of course, but they assured me getting parts is pretty quick these days. So I’m thinking they order a belt on Monday, put it on and maybe Wednesday I’m in business, best case scenario. But since I didn’t hear from them I called after a week. They had an estimate for me. Seriously? I’m hoping the thing is ready to go and they haven’t even ordered the belt?

So, giving them the go-ahead, I patiently waited some more. After another week I called again. It was still not done–complications, other parts needed, rust involved. After another couple of calls and another week, it was finally good to go. I picked it up Saturday morning, just before the place closed. It ran like a charm. So I headed out to field, three weeks after I started, Wild Parsnip now starting to go to seed, and started cutting.

I wasn’t sure just how much I could get done that day, but after about eight hours, I had most of it cut. It was a long afternoon/evening. I had planned to stop by 9:00 pm and stopped about ten minutes before that hour. I probably spread a few Wild Parsnip seeds but not too many, I hope. I left a couple of patches uncut but, since we planned to head out for a week the next day, it would have to do.

The birds were definitely cleared out by the time I started cutting. I missed my window between ground-nesters fledging and seeds falling by a bit but hopefully not by too much. If I can get out there and cut once more this fall, the Parsnip should be checked for this season. That stuff is aggressive and I need to keep at it. What I want is for grasses and native wildflowers to grow. I want better habitat for the birds and more food for the pollinators. It has been a long project and may take a good deal more time yet.

In the meantime I can look out over the cut meadow with relief. I don’t see those tall stalks with yellow flowers turning brown with seeds. I don’t hear much birdsong now, but come spring I look forward to the Meadowlarks, flying low across the greening field,  whistling their tunes once again.

Signs of Early Summer

IMG_0519I found this American Robin while I was on a walk in Colchester. I noticed it as it flew into a tree right near the path. As I looked more closely I could see that it had landed on a nest. Cool! But check out the beak poking out from under that mama Robin’s belly. She’s got a brood in there. Cooler!

And check out that nest. That thing was crafted with a beak. You can see the softer materials near the top, where the chicks are. All these people are walking past talking about challenges at work or local politics or relationship challenges, and there this Robin family is just getting on with it while we pass it by.

IMG_0514Earlier in the day I had gone for a hike up high. I wanted to see if I could find Bicknell’s Thrush where I used to search for it several years ago. Along with the Thrush I found this patch of bunchberry blooming on the trail, popping out at me in the morning sun light. Later in the summer they will produce small red berries that taste like tomatoes. And down near the left corner there is a yellow trout lily still blooming. It is a little late for those. Down in the valley they flowered out by early May.

IMG_0510And here is a view I caught as I hiked down from listening for various birds. I spent the day finding signs that summer is unfolding as it should. Birds are calling out for mates or marking territory. They are building nests and raising chicks. Flowers are blooming. Leaves are shushing in the wind. Again, this transition each year, the shutting down of so much life that slowly emerges with spring and then summer, the richness and diversity of it all, it elates me. All this life just keeps keeping on, doing what it needs to do to continue. Humans have big brains; they create and destroy and mold the world. But only humans have the capacity to be fools. That is easy to see if you look at all the other life that fills the planet.

Fine Summer Day

Perfect Summerness

We had some friends visiting these past couple of days and we got out and enjoyed them, both the friends and the days. This morning included a bike ride nearby and I was struck by the beauty of the clouds, the wildflowers, and the mountains in the high contrast light. The wind blew, bending the tall stems in the field. Smells of earth and flowers wafted about about. The river flowed cloudy with yesterday’s rain. We sat and, well, just sat for a while, before heading back home.

Queen Anne's Lace and Chicory

Late in the day, our friends headed home, I finally stained the deck. It took longer than I anticipated, as it always does, but I am glad to have that done. Now I just hope the rain holds off long enough for it to dry. I really should have 24 hours for it to dry, but I guess this will have to do. We are forecast to get rain showers by early afternoon. Maybe they will hold off until at least late afternoon. The forecast seems to change every day. It must be summer.

Field of Flowers

Lilacs Blooming

 

Lilacs in Bloom

Lilacs in Bloom

 

More Lilacs in Bloom

More Lilacs in Bloom

We have several different types of lilacs that bloom at our house in May.  These are my favorite–the white rimmed purple.  We have some that are your typical lilac-colored lilacs, as well as white ones.  They are nice to look at, but better to smell.  If I could post their fragrance here, I would post it with no accompanying text or photos.  It would be enough.

Flowers Talking to Each Other

Leaning Left

Leaning Left

Leaning Right

Leaning Right

Gathered Round the Tulip

Gathered Round the Tulip

I look over and see the daffodils, beautiful in their fleeting spring display.  They seem to be leaning in and listening.  They are circled, with open petals.  It turns out they are gathered round a lonely tulip.  The tulip is battered, its leaves and petals chewed by some critter.  It has a war story.  It survived the rodent and lived to tell about it.  It blooms several years in a row with no help from any daft gardener.  It is a tough bulb, a hardy flower, the rough character in the flower bed.  It is a leader.  So the daffodils lean in to listen.

Flowers for May Day

Last Friday was May 1st.  For 15 years, with two minor exceptions, I have given my spouse flowers on that day.  One exception was last year.  I am not sure what happened but I forgot, so I pushed it out one month.  June 1st is as random a day as May 1st.  The other exception was when I waited until the last minute and it was Sunday.  I had to wait a day that year.

We met at the end of April, 15 years ago.  That is a fair chunk of time.  I get her flowers both to suggest that I have been thinking of her and that I love her, as well as to, at least for me, commemorate when we met.  We did not meet on May 1st.  That was just the day I picked that was close enough.  Plus, if I don’t remember, no big deal.  It isn’t a specific day, just a time to remember and celebrate.

The thing is this:  I think my wife is amazing.  I love her like crazy.  I think she is one of the most beautiful women I have ever met.  If it didn’t sound like I was exaggerating, I would say that she is the most beautiful woman I have ever met.  She is a terrific mom and a great friend.  I am truly lucky to have met her, and I am fortunate that she is willing to keep things going.

I used to get her one red rose.  That felt pretty romantic to me.  I have expanded since then.  I got her a whole passel of roses after ten years.  Now I get a mix.  This year it was pink roses and gerber daisies.  They brighten the place up.  A couple of years ago I decided to make flowers a part of life.  So one rose seemed too insignificant.  A bouquet had more punch.

And so we stay at it.  My parents have been married for over 40 years.  My wife’s grandparents have passed 60 years.  I am hoping, if the cheesecake doesn’t do me in too soon, that she can bear me for that long.  I am hoping that flowers (at least) once every year makes a difference.