Of Bees, Snake Doctors, and Many Things Yellow

In the wildlife preserve that is my home, a change of season is rapidly approaching.  Approaching but not yet here and in all likelihood, we will not experience significant temperature and humidity changes for another six weeks or so. 

I calculate the middle of October, or thereabouts, before any serious changes.  There will be some cool mornings followed by blistering afternoons. Maybe a frost in late October followed by a forty or fifty degree temperature increase by afternoon…but it is 2020 and I will not wager a bet or even venture a guess on anything weather related. 

The calendar tells me it is slightly less than a month from the Autumn Equinox but it is still ‘dead of Summer’ hot and humid with myriads of mosquitoes and gnats in my little piece of heaven. 

As I type this, a hurricane is pumping tropical air our way, but the crystal gazers of weather say lower humidity is filling in behind it.  I hope their crystal ball is not broken but trust them no more than a midway carney playing three-card monte or a fortune-teller named Momma Amelia.

I predict that mosquitoes and gnats, along with the humidity, will be with us well past Indian Summer…maybe well past Christmas.  Such is the world I live in.  Since it is 2020, hurricanes may be with us until the new year.

Despite the heat and humidity, there is a difference I both feel and see.  The sunlight is a bit more golden, the wind angling from a slightly different direction, the days a bit shorter and myriads of yellow wildflowers of different types are blooming with bees working them with a frenzy driven by the change of seasons. 

It is as if all the insects have decided they must “make hay while the sun shines.”  Even the “snake doctors” residing at the lake where I meander are more numerous and in an eating hysteria. They are voracious and eat just about anything, mosquitoes, tadpoles, fish, other insect larvae, and even each other.  With the numbers of mosquitoes present, I would say dragonfly cannibalism has been placed on the back burner.

Yellow is the color of the season.  Bees, bugs, caterpillars, and butterflies seem to incorporate yellows and golds to match the sunshine.  The new wildflowers are yellow, Black, and Brown-eyed Susan, the bane to my existence, goldenrod, and varieties I have no clue as to their names.  There are none of my favorites, my sunflowers. For some reason, not one planted survived. The curse of 2020…or deer and raccoons.

There are colors other than yellow, some purple or light blue, maybe a hint of pink. The white and pink Abelia shrub attracts black and yellow butterflies…or is it yellow and black butterflies? There are black and blue ones also.

South Carolina - State Butterfly - Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
An Eastern Tiger Swallowtail…the SC state butterfly https://sites.google.com/site/southcarolinauplandbutterflies/

I have massive Pokeweed with purple berries the birds seem to ignore but not my t-shirt as I saunter past. More than once my bride has panicked “What have you done to yourself?” “Nothing my love…this time at least.” I understand her concern.

Insects are not alone in their frenzy.  I just startled a chipmunk with a mouth stretched tight with sunflower seeds, cute little chubby cheeked thing. A squirrel was seen burying a black walnut in my wife’s planter.  Will he remember where it is when he needs it?

I’ve seen evidence of my wild turkeys and deer. They have been absent all summer but may be on the move. There are tracks and scratches everywhere. I know the turtles are moving, their yellow and orange splotches shining in the sun. I moved three from the road today and two from the path I was cutting.

Eastern Box Turtle | South Carolina Public Radio
Eastern Box Turtle with a leaf stuck to its shell

It won’t be long until the long vees of ducks and geese will be seen. I wonder if the old coot at the lake will stay or make his migration. Where do coots go in the fall?

I am reminded of the fable of the grasshopper and ant.  The ant worked his behind off all summer long while the grasshopper jumped and sang the summer away.  As the seasons change, I feel much more like the grasshopper than the ant.  I admit I don’t jump quite as high and my song may be a bit off-key. I also admit I haven’t gotten a lot done this season.

Well, there is the rest of the summer to make hay…or cut wood…or put in the fall garden…or clean-up the yard that I’ve allowed to revert back to an old-growth forest.  Yep, there is time…right after I jump and sing and after a short nap.     

From 1934 The Grasshopper and the Ants

Walt Disney’s Silly Symphonies The Grasshopper and Ant,
http://www.youtube.com

Don Miller’s author’s page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR3-Y9SE4wsP0I2tn3R8VkrP6WR89h6xUmPGnjRksOLNSeBKswbUoCgHNsY

The image of sunflowers is from https://www.housebeautiful.com/lifestyle/gardening/a27545572/save-the-bees-plant-sunflowers/

Summer’s End

 

We need water badly.  Little rain for the past month has taken the starch out of the leaves, fall blossoms…and me.  A wet early summer has turned into a dry late summer.  A cold front is on the way…a dry cold front.  Rain is as likely as me eating Pumpkin Spice Spam…well, Spam period.

The dry weather seems to have angered the already angry yellow jackets too…I think my mere presence angers the yellow jackets.  I water my bride’s flowers daily so she doesn’t get carried off or bled dry by mosquitoes.  The yellow jackets appreciate the water, they just don’t appreciate the person laying it down.  Three have expressed a stinging rebuke of me over the past week along with two red wasps adding their own firey reprimand.  Fair is fair.  I dislike them too and retaliate with wasp and hornet spray.  “Die you little bastards, DIE!”  I may be as angry the yellow jackets.

My own anger comes from more than the lack of water or hostile flying assholes.  Less than a week from the Fall Equinox, despite the summer-like temperatures, I can tell the seasons are changing.

“All things have their season, and in their times all things pass under heaven.”  Or, if you like the Byrds better, “To everything, turn, turn, turn.  There is a season, turn, turn, turn”…so forth and so on.

A change in wind direction causes falling leaves to swirl.   The wind still blows warm but the fallen leaves crunching underfoot turns the backyard into a minefield of sorts.  Searching for puppy leavings and not finding any until I step on them.  Not realizing I stepped on a turd taco until I get back into the house.

Being knocked unconscious by this year’s bumper crop of falling black walnuts or rolling an ankle over on those already on the ground when not paying attention.  I hate black walnuts almost as much as yellow jackets.

Oh, Lawd, gutters to clean out and what to do with Linda’s plants as the temperatures fall.  The power washing I didn’t get to do in the spring.  Wood to cut and split. Time to pay the piper I suppose.  “All things have their season” and ’tis the season of doing today what you should have done three months ago.

I’m of two minds…both very small.  I welcome the fall temperatures while lamenting the end of summer and the shortened days.  I don’t know why I lament.  I’ve been very non-productive this summer…can I be less productive in the fall?  Yeah….

Will we even have a fall?  Some years autumn in the foothills of the Blue Ridge lasts for a whole two hours on the third Tuesday of October.  Otherwise, it is straight from summer to winter.  The weather has been so crazy maybe this year summer will last through winter…”But the mosquitoes!”  It doesn’t seem to matter about the mosquitoes.  If they can survive in the sub-Arctic tundra, they will have no problem here.

Bonfires, hoodies, boots traded for flip-flops, Wranglers for shorts…there will be no bonfires if we don’t get some rain and I don’t ever totally put away my flips.

Store promotions ignoring Halloween and Thanksgiving while attempting to sell Christmas tree lights and tinsel.  It’s a month and a half till Halloween Wally World, two to Thanksgiving.  You’ve already turned your garden area into a bicycle area.  Slow it down a bit okay?

Pumpkin spice…pumpkin spice everywhere.  In an autumn beer?  In Spam?  Pumpkin spice should be limited to pumpkin pie and pumpkin pie…well…should be limited.  Does citronella come in pumpkin spice scent?  Pumpkin spice scented Deep Woods OFF!  I’m sure the mosquitoes would love it.

“To every season” maybe my problem.  Every time I turn around it seems I’m facing a changing season.  The realization that there are fewer seasons ahead than behind?  As God or the Byrd’s song reminds me, “A time to be born, a time to die, A time to plant, a time to reap, A time to kill, a time to heal, A time to laugh, a time to weep.”  I don’t know if I should laugh or weep.

Quotes are from:

Ecclesiastes 3, 1-8

“Turn, Turn, Turn” The Byrds, 1965

The image of Pumpkin Spice Spam https://www.spam.com/varieties/pumpkin-spice

For more click on https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Signs, Signs, Everywhere….

I see signs, not those signs.  I see and hear true believers espousing the nearness of the apocalypse; wars, and rumors of wars, national disasters, the anti-Christ, prayers for the rapture.  Those are not the signs of which I speak…mainly because doomsayers have been warning us since the book of Revelations was written, I guess.  The doomsaying is probably warranted but I have hope and believe humanity will come to its senses before we self-destruct.  Regardless, the Earth will continue to make its trips around the Sun whether we are around to enjoy the change in seasons or not.

No, not those signs but signs of changes none-the-less.  Here in the South, it is hotter than forty hells even in the foothills of the Blue Ridge.  Not the pressure cooker heat of the lower Southern states but plenty hot for me.  The heat will continue for the foreseeable future if the weather gurus are to be believed.

Image result for melting in South Carolina

Still, the signs of fall are upon me.  Years ago, I promised I would never protest the heat due to a particularly cold baseball season and my depression which intensifies as the days shorten.  This summer is taxing my promise, but I realized yesterday, the signs are everywhere.  The days are shortening, and dark days of winter will be too soon be upon me.

First, there will be Autumn, maybe a whole two hours of it…but there will be Autumn.

Many years ago, I noted the change when football practice and school began.  Since my retirement, I monitor the changes in more subtle ways.  The writing spiders spinning their webs, vees of geese flying south, a pair of wood ducks I haven’t seen since spring, bees and butterflies working the remaining blooms as if their very lives depend on it…or upcoming generations lives.  Damn the yellow jackets, the little bastards are working too.

animal-beautiful-bee-266731 (1).jpg

My wild birds have returned to the feeders from the mid-summer break as they fed their young juicy bugs and worms instead of my sunflower seeds.  New birds, small and quick, are flitting hither and yon.  There seems to be a bumper crop of gold and purple finches.  A new generation to enjoy our symbiotic relationship…my viewing enjoyment for their food.  Despite the cost of sunflower seed, it seems to be a fair trade.

Image result for yellow finch sunflowers

The turkeys are on the move too.  Hens followed by Jakes and Jennies and even smaller poults are passing through my backyard.  I didn’t see a Tom but there must be one somewhere…although I didn’t get much of a chance to see.  Despite Mr. Carlson thoughts on WKRP, “Turkeys can fly”…at least wild ones.

Image result for wild turkeys on the move

I stepped outside last night to partake of one last puff on my cigar…the one I have been nursing all day.  The air was filled with the smell of citronella from the torches I burn to keep the mosquitoes at bay.  I watched the smoke dissipate into the freshening breeze…a breeze that seemed different than the humidity filled breezes from earlier in the day.  There was a hint of fall in it, just an underlying current of cool.  The best sign of all despite my wish not to wish my life away.    Pumpkin pie and ripening persimmons are just around the corner.

bright-cake-cinnamon-sticks-248469

If interested, more of Don Miller’s wanderings can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The image of geese at sunset is from https://blog.theclymb.com/tips/signs-autumn-northwest-enjoy/

All photographs were legally lifted from Pexels.com.

 

A HOPE FOR AUTUMN

 

After sweating through three clothing changes; the one I walked in, the one I worked in, the one I thought I was lounging in, it’s easy to grasp at straws, but there was something different about the wind yesterday evening.  Thunderstorms had rumbled around and about, none finding us.  With them came a change in the late afternoon wind.   Could there be a herald of better days to come hidden in its breath?

Sometimes we don’t even have fall.  Indian Summer will hang on like an old river cooter battling you for a fish.  Tantalizingly cool mornings turn into blazing hot afternoons with high humidity hanging on until a late October cold snap sends us straight into winter…but there was something whispering in the voice of this northwest breeze.  It was the voice of hope…but don’t get excited quite yet.

My excitement was tempered this morning.  I had to face the fact, it is still late July.  As I met my friend Hawk for our weekly seven miler, I made the mistake of checking my weather app before we began to solve all of the world’s ills.  Ninety-seven percent humidity with a DEW point of seventy-three.  It didn’t matter the temperature was only seventy-three at five thirty in the AM.  Even we South Carolinians living in the foothills of the Blue Ridge know, “it ain’t the heat, it’s the humidity.”  We returned to our cars covered in sweat, our running clothes five pounds heavier than when we began and the world was no better off.  From experience, I remembered, despite the flip of the calendar, there is little difference weather-wise between late July and August…unless it gets worse.

Still, later this same morning, as the heat rose and the humidity decreased to a DEW point of ONLY a tongue in cheek seventy, there was something about the wind.  As I made ever decreasing circles on my lawnmower I noticed it again, the breath of the wind.  Instead of blowing hot and moist as if from the lips of the devil, there was the underlying coolness of Autumn…like a cool lover’s kiss.  There were even a few leaves falling from the trees, caused more, I’m sure, by the strength of the wind than a change in season.  But they were falling.

I hope for an autumn.  Pumpkins and sweet potatoes, coffee and sweat shirts as I sit around a campfire watching the sparks defy gravity in the thermals created by blazing, dry wood.  Cool, crisp morning air causing me to see my breath rather than drowning in the humidity.  Long vees of geese and leaves changing from green to red, yellow and gold.  I hope for autumn like a child hopes for Christmas morning.

Damn, just saw the extended forecast.  Looks like summer will last into November.  We may go straight from flip flops and tees to long johns and polar gear…but then global climate change doesn’t really exist.

Don Miller has written several books that can be purchased or downloaded at   https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

His latest release is a fictional novella entitled OLIVIA which may be downloaded at  https://www.amazon.com/Olivia-Don-Miller-ebook/dp/B0742DF8B2/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Featured picture attributed to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autumn

 

HARBINGERS OF AUTUMN

Despite the thermometer’s reading and the gallons of perspiration I am wringing from my tee-shirt after this morning’s run, FALL IS IN THE AIR. It is just a hint mind you but it is there. Could it be that the humidity is just a bit lower, or the direction of the wind a bit different? I guess it could be the fact I went to a football game this past weekend. In the South at least, fall means football even if the heat index is near one hundred and play must be stopped to dodge a thunderstorm or five. Nothing stops a Southerner’s worship at the altar of the religion known as football.

I have learned over the years that there are more subtle changes taking place. The bees and butterflies are frantically working over anything with a bloom. There seems to be a late summer “weed” that puts off a yellow flower the bees are in love with…frantically in love with. Milkweed is covered with beautiful black, orange and yellow butterflies as are any blooming purple…including cocklebur, beggar lice plants along with the sweet smelling kudzu. Linda Gail, my better half for the past thirty years, and I have different ideas as to what a backyard should look like. I coached for over forty years and believe they should look like well-manicured ball fields. She believes any plant that puts off the smallest bit of color is a flower, no matter what that flower might produce later. Linda Gail also loves morning glories and they must have something to grow up on right? This time of year with all of the activity I guess I am glad I acquiesce to her desires…plus it makes my life much easier in the long run…even if I have to clean up the mess in the winter. At least she lets me cut the kudzu regardless of their long purple blooms and sweet, almost sickly aroma.

My oaks don’t quite have the “leaves of green” they had earlier but they haven’t started to change yet but they do look different. I expect to see vast “V” formations of ducks and geese any time now… right after I walk into a painted spider’s web. The woodpeckers and red birds have returned to my bird feeders. For the past couple of months, they have been more concerned with gathering protein rich bugs for their young and I am sure food has been plentiful. Now they are looking for a handout I guess. They will get one if they can beat the squirrels to it. Poke salad has changed into Pokeweed and “my” mourning doves are anxiously awaiting the purple berries growing from magenta stalks.

As I sat on my front porch enjoying a “post run cigar” which sounds absurd but is one of MY Southern paradoxes. Let’s try again. As I sat on my front porch the bunny born this spring in a heavy patch of periwinkle made an appearance. “Bugs” is still all legs and ears but was attempting to put on some weight by eating some of Linda Gail’s potted plants…until he saw me. “Wascally wabbit!” With my puppies too old and blind to chase him off I guess I better look up what “wabbits” eat so he won’t starve when fall turns to winter. For now, I will just wait for summer to change to fall…which for me at least, is the most wonderful time of the year.

For more unique life stories by Don Miller visit his author’s page at http://goo.gl/lomuQf