Look around this summer, there is wonder in everything natural

Although summer arrived on June 21, umbrellas have been used on more days than air conditioners.

Mary Alice doesn’t like the heat, and I thrive on it. After hearing that 6- to 8 inches of snow had fallen in Idaho, on the first day of summer, she was ready to pack a suitcase. However, I love the days of July when temperatures hover close to 85 degrees, with late afternoon rumblings of thunder heard in the distance, and lightning streaks across the sky.

I know it won’t be long until big drops of rain fall, quickly changing to pouring so hard the storm drains overflow.

These summer storms pass quickly, and when the sun comes out from behind the clouds I look for a rainbow.

The rain drops hang from the trees and blades of grass, sparkling like diamonds.

After the thunderstorm passes, the air cools, and as night sets in, the countryside is aglow with lightning bugs.

The month of July also brings forth much to see in nature.

The milkweed plant will be in bloom, and this attracts the monarch butterflies.

Find the milkweed plant and you’ll find the monarch.

During July, these butterflies are laying eggs and heading north to far off places.

It is hard to determine when the movement changes to a southward direction as the monarchs head back to Mexico.

I often wonder how this little butterfly is capable of making that long journey.

The southern migration is made by the fourth and fifth generations of monarchs.

These butterflies will be making the journey alone, with no adults to show the way; however, they will land on the same trees that their ancestors left in the spring.

July is the month when we see the flowering of Queen Ann’s lace, mullein and chicory.

During WWII when coffee was rationed, chicory was often added to or substituted for coffee. Years ago, I dug up chicory roots and laid them in the sun to dry, with the intent of making coffee. I broke the food processor and the coffee was dreadful.

Cattail heads will begin to turn brown, and by the end of the month, the wood phlox will be in blossom. Dame’s rockets, which are seen in the spring, are often mistaken for wood phlox. Although the flowers do appear similar, a closer look at the plant will show that dame’s rockets have alternate attached leaves, with toothed margins; wood phlox have leaves attached opposite each other, with un-toothed leaves.

July also brings us flowers, such as Joe Pye weed, brown-eyed Susan, yarrow, bee balm, etc. Also, the elderberry bushes will appear to be foaming with white blossoms. By the end of the month, we’ll see golden rod blooming and dock turning to a deep red color. The blueberries will begin to ripen, and for many, this means an annual outing to the mountain for picking berries.

In July, I am often checking wild flower books to refresh my memory of the names of plants as they begin to bloom.

By the end of July, we’ll see small flocks of birds, especially doves and red-winged blackbirds. Then, during August, the red-winged blackbirds disappear into the swamps and other out of the way places. At this time, they go through a molt. After molting, the red-wings will appear and prepare for their journey south.

The full moon during July, which is known as the buck moon, falls on the 16th. The name of buck moon is because the buck’s antlers are growing at a fast rate at this time.

The bumblebees, honeybees, along with and other flying, creeping and crawling insects, are very active in July. What an incredible outdoor concert can be heard with all of the flitting, buzzing and humming. In North America, there are approximately 90,000 species of insects, including 27,000 beetles. Most likely the beetles enjoyed the most are the lightning bugs. We humans are outnumbered billions of times over by insects. To us, the summer is but a short span; however, to most insects, the summer is a whole span of life.

As July runs its course and the stars in the heavens seem to rotate, we’ll see Sirius (the Dog Star) appear, reminding us of dog days and hot weather. Sirius is in the constellation Canis major, which in Latin means Great Dog.

Whether you are looking up at the heavens or down at the flowers and the creeping, crawling things, nature’s clock is set on July, a good time to be out in God’s wild garden.