It’s confirmed. Our little patch of Pennsylvania which hasn’t had decent rain since mid July, sits in the middle of a rain-garden of Eden. In the last few weeks we’ve traveled out on each of the points of the compass and in each direction the lawns are lush and green and the roadsides are bursting with flowers. But not here. The lawn hasn’t needed mowing since the second week of July and the less popular plantings are dried and hanging with drought. Such goes our summer. Still I prefer this to the icy blast of winter, and I’ll take it. I’ll just slow down the pace, stare at the brown lawn, and continue to drag around the hose.
The watered areas of the yard seem to be drawing in more than their share of wildlife this summer. Besides drought, we’re experiencing a plague of frogs this season. Gray tree frogs both large and small are showing up all over, particularly around the house.
Before grilling the bbq gets a once over, and before moving furniture a quick look around helps prevent an ugly accident. Raising the deck umbrella is always fun, since the plopping down of a frog or two on the table and umbrella-raiser is always a possibility and refreshing shock.
I like the frogs but never really thought I’d have to add “sweep frog-poop off deck” to the pre-party to-do list.
This year’s babies seem to prefer the large leaves of amaranthus and corn, and in the baby-green phase they fit in pretty good.
Another surprise this year is the bumper crop of snakes showing up. Our plague of snakes is fortunately of the garter snake variety and because of that, non-poisonous and small (two pluses), but there’s always a shock to seeing a snake slither away from the path or slide behind a step. A different kind of shock than having a frog drop on your shoulder, but a surprise still.
Here’s a shaky shot of one that was calmly hunting through the plantings just off the front porch. I didn’t know they were such good climbers of shrubbery, maybe I’d still rather not know that fact.
Drought, Frogs, snakes…. I think we’re still far clear of repeating the 10 plagues of Egypt, but we do have a lot of gnats this summer, and we did get a number of flies when a garbage bag stayed around too long.
Next: bees and wasps. This is paper wasp nest #3 on this year’s list of evicted wasp nests, it was brought to my attention one evening by the screaming of a stung five year old playing in the playhouse where they set up shop. I’ve never had a large wasp nest in the garden until this year, so I’m not sure what’s brought on all these new neighbors, but at least I now know none of my kids nor the neighborhood kids are allergic. They’ve all been tested as well as a few kids who were over for a birthday party last week.
One day I’m going to try and figure out what all the bumblebees are. The kids call them “fat bees” to group them away from “skinny bees” and “paper wasps”. I still don’t follow their logic on the skinny bees, but it might be time for me to go a little more scientific and figure out all these black and yellow fatties.
The bumblebees are interesting to watch. On most of the flowers they “cheat” since their mouth parts are too “fat” to fit into the flower openings (hey, maybe the kids are on to something!) On phlox for example, they stab a hole into the base and suck out the nectar without returning the favor of pollination to the bloom. They seem to do this with a lot of plants such as butterfly bush, agastache, salvia… it’s actually a little annoying since on flowers such as the salvia and butterfly bush, they push in their mouths with enough force that they rip open the entire side. The split flowers brown and fall off and I’m left with nothing colorful. Oh well, at least they’re not stinging everyone. I guess they’re more suited for open flowers such as hibiscus and sunflowers, or flat topped flowers like thistle.
Butterflies have been late to the party. I’ve only just seen my first Monarch this week, and other types have been scarce all year. But it looks like they’re working on it. Here’s a Black Swallowtail on the potted parsley. There’s something about these guys that I always like, and they’re more than welcome to a share of the herbs.