By Lynn R. Mitchell
Thank goodness there was a fairly blustery breeze most of today because it was hot — 88 degrees and humid — but much nicer in the shade if you weren’t doing much. Yesterday’s half-finished flower garden didn’t get any attention today while I wait for the promised cooler weather by the end of the week to finish weeding and put in new mulch.
Tomatoes are coming in by the bags-full from the garden and we’ve been glad to be able to share with friends who are mater lovers. I would hate to see them go to waste.
This has been, for the most part, one of the more enjoyable summers as far as moderate temperatures with few days in the 90s and none in triple-digit range. We have not had a dry spell this summer and grass that is normally parched and crispy brown by now is still lush and green. Same with trees and bushes — it has been so lush that we had to trim and cut branches to push back the jungle. The numerous shade trees in our yard offer an oasis from the hot summer sun. Of course, we had that rain storm last week that parked over Staunton and surrounding vicinity, and dumped 3-5 inches of rain, depending on where you were, for four hours. That was the night our basement, for the first time in the 18 years we have lived here, leaked and we were left mopping up and doing repairs.
It’s now August and this is when Fall begins to creep back into the Shenandoah Valley evenings … those cool temps that suggest the long days of summer are shortening and we are not far from the beginning of school and colorful autumn leaves. We’ve already had a few nights in the low 50s. I’m not rushing the season but it’s impossible to miss the loud daytime chorus of cicadas while watching squirrels busily burying hickory nuts and acorns. Driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway on Sunday, the branch of a black gum tree had already turned scarlet, a definite reminder of what is on the way.
I didn’t plant as many potted summer flowers this year which has actually saved some work with watering and feeding. I was working a political campaign that went into June at the time when I am normally potting and nurturing dozens of terra cotta pots of colorful annuals. As it turned out, the summer has been so busy that it was probably for the best. There’s always next year.
As I sit on the deck in the hour before sunset and look across the yard into the woods, there’s a comfortable breeze that makes the 82-degree temp feel cooler. The apple tree at the edge of the woods has fruit but it won’t last for us to retrieve when it’s ripe because it’s a favorite smorgasbord for the deer who stand on hind legs to reach higher branches. The other woodland critters take part in harvesting whatever apples they can reach. Hickory nuts are again plentiful, just as they were last year.
I just heard the gobble of a wild turkey in the woods behind the house. They roam this area, sometimes in flocks that strut through the yard. A few weeks ago our neighbor had a black bear with two cubs on her back patio that had knocked down her bird feeder. She ended up leaving the feeder down and is just filling the hummingbird feeders that the bears haven’t bothered. Bears have shown up at other neighbors but we’ve not seen any in our yard this summer, and they have never bothered the garden. Having a 12-foot-tall wire fence probably helps with that though we are aware they could scale it if they really wanted to get inside.
I’m looking at reports from weather forecasters who are guesstimating what the winter of 2015-16 will be like and, so far, everything indicates we will have colder than normal and snowier than normal weather. Since I’m a snow lover, that’s fine by me. We will stockpile split logs for the wood stove and get things ready in case we have bad storms and lose electricity.
Time to go water flowers. The cicadas are not as loud but they are steady. A neighbor’s lawnmower drones far away. Under the sound of the cicadas are the crickets chirping and only an occasional bird call. The quiet is a beautiful thing in rural America. It’s summer in the Shenandoah Valley….
Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell