Officially, Mid-summer

Mullein, aka Verbascum, aka Mountain Toilet Paper

The spiders have strung their snares across every path, so that the lead walker breaks off a spicebush sweep, holding it at and above eye-height to prevent about half of spider attempts to drape themselves across your hat brim or glasses. How the other 50% get through continues to be a mystery.

The Joe Pye Weed is not quite head high, and the goldenrod, while abundantly growing, have not yet announced their presence by their conspicuous flowers that will soon dominate the roadsides.

The butterfly bush is nearly spent, Queen Anne’s Lace at peak, and Jewel Weed just beginning to set blossoms.

Avian transients are far south, resident crows rule the roost, and the Japanese beetles are settling in for a long feast on our garden.

Yellow jackets are beginning to get cranky, and make mowing an exercise in vigilance rather than the early-summer mindless push-pull routine.

Wild grapes are full size, fully green, and the blackberries will be gone in a week.

The mullein, seen here, is approaching it’s full height, and will spend its energy generated from its rabbit-ear downy leaves into making gazillions of tiny seeds the goldfinches like so much.

Dragonflies are not as abundant this year, now being when we see them daily in the slanting morning light, patrolling Goose Creek for the latest overnight hatch of Mayflies and midges. We see no bats at all this summer, and as I’ve told you, the butterfly abundance is abnormal. We did see our first “puddling” of Spicebush swallowtails yesterday at the barn crossing; the dog ate a few, always disappointed they don’t really taste very much like butter.

It is officially mid-summer when we begin to imagine ourselves once again, in a meer six weeks, gathering twigs on each hike around the place, setting them aside for morning fires when the snows fall and the living world has retreated south and underground for yet another year.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. One of the pleasures of reading of your morning rambles is the reminder of things long passed in my neck of the woods. Though, our drought has limited the silken tresses that follow you as you walk.

    But, your anticipation of the cooler months is almost depressing when I think about the fact that we are still five months away from those days… At the very least.

    Enjoy the summer while it lasts… You’ll be singing the opposite story come February.

  2. I can visualize several of the plants you describe, so I enjoyed remembering my childhood Tennessee summers through your well chosen words this morning.