Red, White and Blue at Home

Photo by Sarah Myers

Those “H” Words

We know it’s coming. It’s annual, it’s inevitable, it arrives to mixed reception — we just don’t know when it’s coming.

It’s those “H’s” of summer: heat, haze and humidity.

And recently, when the first blast of “the H’s” hit, after weeks of lingering morning chills, dampness and persistent blustery breezes, it seemed to spur a rash of other abrupt changes.

Heading for a quick morning meadow check, I was alerted by The Farmer to watch for an unexpected visitor to the ponds. He’d just spied a great egret, a beautiful, stately white bird. We’d been seeing others (possibly this same one), at a few other locations around the neighborhood, but it was the first known visit here by this welcome beauty.

Before I’d walked more than a few dozen yards, I spotted another warm-weather feathered friend which had also returned: a green heron. These shorter, somewhat stubby herons have taken a liking over the years to an old willow at the first pond, which grew a long branch far out over the water. The goldfish and koi in the pond spend lots of time in the shade of the branch overhang, which the fishing birds quickly learned to use to their advantage in snatching a handy meal.

Perhaps the “little green guy,” as the heron is nicknamed here, is actually a stressed, feathered mom with young hatchlings back in a nest, begging for their next bite of fresh fish. Fortunately, the goldfish have continued to be extremely prolific over the years, reproducing plentiful babies to feed hungry herons and keep the pond’s fishy population plentiful.

But neither of these feathered fishers had been seen here until “the H” weather hit.

And we need to add “hasten, hustle and hurry” to those seasonal “H” words. Corn planting is completed, with a mini-patch of late sweet corn still to go in the ground. Soybean planting is on deck, more field spraying awaits completion and hay that was mowed before successive days of spotty showers (just enough to dampen it!) finally dried enough to be gathered and compressed into bales.

Tractors need to be fueled (at choking, record-high diesel prices), drill seed boxes must be filled, and hay equipment has to be greased and prepped for the next round. And the farmers, the equipment, and the trucks with supplies must be shuttled around periodically as work progresses from farm to farm.

The arrival of “H” word weather also brings backyard “crunch time” to move the array of seedlings, rooted cuttings and potted plants out into garden, borders and planters, after persistent cool weather. A few tomato plants await the removal of the fading spinach for a spot in the garden, while squash, cucumbers, zinnia and annual blue salvia seedlings started from last year’s seed crop are rapidly maturing for moving outside.

Young strawberry plants intent on migrating into the asparagus patch are moved back to their rightful place, among their elders that have already treated us to a few early berries. Asparagus needs a topdressing of manure, sugar snap pea vines are being trained up their trellis and the large section of wire that annually supports cucumbers climbing the outside of the calf nursery is finally hooked back up in place.

But the warmth also means the guinea keets, now fully feathered and growing tail stubs, can be moved outside during sunny days, to lounge on soft grass in the safety of a portable wire run. The two old guineas will promptly find them, with their innate curiosity over anything new in the yard, and hang close to the newcomers, already trying to boss the babies.

With an aromatic pork roast in the oven heating up the kitchen, the arrival of “H” words weather prompts me to take another major step toward summer. With a yank, the storm window slides up and another yank brings the screen section down into place. A welcome, cooling south breeze instantly nudges aside at least a little bit of the oven heat.

And we welcome summer, unofficially, on this Memorial Day weekend, grateful for those who have and continue to put their lives on the line that we can enjoy our multitude of blessings, the beauty of the changing seasons, and, yes, the freedoms which allow us be able to whine about “H” words weather.

Thank you, all veterans of past service and those currently serving. May God bless and protect you all.

Lancaster Farming

Joyce Bupp is a freelance writer in York County, Pennsylvania.

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