Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Mayflies, wild black razzies, and the return of the prodigal (?) son.

Last night, as we approached the Salt Fork on the way home from town, we were surprised as a swirling cloud of diaphanous, pale creatures enveloped the car. Mayflies, intent on their annual mating ritual, filled the air where the road drops to cross the river. Females skimmed the surface of the water laying newly fertilized eggs in a frenzied burst of fecundity in this last stage of their year-long lives.

Alex is coming home from New Mexico today! He taught Biology in Gallup over the last school year, and he plans to go back for another year this fall. Just in time for Alex's arrival (and his 30th birthday), the wild black raspberries are ready to pick. I've seen lots of ripening berries on my walks, and I sampled the first of what looks like a bumper crop yesterday afternoon. The flavor is an indescribable concentration of the bright, sweet lushness of late spring in Central Illinois.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Thursday night the full moon was brilliant: milk moon, flower moon, corn planting moon. Friday dawned crystal clear and cool, a welcome break from the unseasonable heat and humidity we experienced early last week.

I feel really fortunate that I've had time to observe and appreciate the progression of blooming wildflowers this spring. I saw the first wild petunia on a walk a few days ago, and now there's a large patch of them blooming in the bottomland "prairie." Pale beard tongue is blooming among the fading golden Alexanders, and blue-eyed grass, beautiful and dusky blue, made a brief appearance before Jim mowed the path on Sunday.

Moneywort, which covers the moist areas of the path, is blooming underfoot, and purple rocket is beginning to replace blue phlox and daisy fleabane at the margin where the woods and grass path meet.

The sheep were miserable in the heat, so we moved them into a shady pasture just behind the barn. Andre is lonely now with only Moritz to keep him company.
Andre came to us about 6 weeks ago from Guard Dog Rescue of Iowa, and he is truly a magnificent fellow. He is somewhat shy of us (unless it's storming, and then he wants as much comfort as he can get), and the ewes and lambs literally lay down with him. He takes his job seriously, barking to let us know when 2- or 4-legged intruders approach, and the guineas take shelter inside "his" pasture when threatened by coyotes, which are all to common at the farm this spring. His responsibilities include guarding the guineas. (I was surprised he didn't regard them as tasty morsels!)
At the feeders we've seen red-headed woodpeckers, white-breasted nuthatches , white-crowned sparrows, indigo buntings, and the usual year-round suspects. The rose-breasted grosbeaks have been in the area for several weeks, now, and last week a determined little male ruby-throated hummingbird faced off with me through the upstairs window demanding nectar. The barn swallows are back, eastern kingbirds and flycatchers are everywhere, and meadow larks are singing from the fence posts. Baltimore orioles, with their melodious songs, are nesting in the tulip trees, and kildeer are calling and teasing the dogs when we walk near the fields. Nighthawks swoop and dive at dusk, their distinctive buzzy call heralding the beginning of summer.