<![CDATA[OKLAHOMA FIELD AND FLOWER - June 2020 Journal]]>Mon, 12 Oct 2020 08:25:46 -0500Weebly<![CDATA[June 30, 2020: Observing]]>Tue, 30 Jun 2020 19:55:07 GMThttp://oklahomafieldandflower.com/june-2020-journal/june-30-2020-observing


We left earlier than usual for our morning walk, so the light was dim. The sun hadn’t yet reached above the horizon and anyway the sky was fitful with clouds. As we made our way past the second cattle guard, I noticed something white - stark in the dawn light - stuck to one of the barbs on the wire fence that runs along the woods. As I got closer, I could see that it was a handful of soft feathers, white with bands of very pale brown. I looked down and a few more feathers lay just below the fence and then a few more were on the grass directly across the way. My guess is that a barn owl, flying low, brushed just enough against the top wire of the fence that some of its feathers were pulled off.
 
The western pasture is slowly coming back to life after the departure of the cows, but it is still just a shorn shadow of the wild eastern pasture. However, I noticed that the diminutive and low-growing wild petunia is thriving with its exposure to more sun. It was as if the pasture had been sprinkled with purple.
 
Two Dark Fisher spiders have taken up residence on the front porch. One in an empty flower pot (he’s currently crouched in a very defensive position), and the other has flattened itself, legs splayed, near the front door. It’s hiding behind some old, empty garden orb egg sacs. We don’t see these large spiders very often so it’s quite a treat to have them around.
 
An elegant monarch butterfly has been drawn to the tiny white flowers on the oregano I have planted in the front of the house in my “kitchen” herb garden. The oregano has taken over the spot I gave it two years ago (which is a good thing), along with two huge rosemary plants. I wonder if the monarch will visit the flowering dill plant?

Picture
Photo from 2019.
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<![CDATA[June 29, 2020: Be Like the Squirrel]]>Mon, 29 Jun 2020 18:46:16 GMThttp://oklahomafieldandflower.com/june-2020-journal/june-29-2020-be-like-the-squirrel

High Temperature: 91F
Low Temperature: 75F
Sunrise: 6:15 am
Sunset: 8:43 pm
Humidity: 61%
Wind: s 16 mph
Chance of Rain: 10%


Although it feels early, the season of "putting up" has officially begun in our household. Every summer we have basil that self-seeds - bushes and bushes of it! We no longer plant it unless it's a new variety, like the spicy basil we planted this year. I've already made a few batches of pesto which went into the freezer as small, dark green cubes. And as I write this, the dehydrator is drying out several trays of basil leaves which will go whole into large opaque jars. There is no comparison to home-dried herbs to their store-bought counterparts.

Hit with a pile of zucchini recently, I decided to make pickles with them. I dusted off (yes, I literally dusted off) the water bath canner and assembled the rest of what I would need: jars, lids, tongs, clean kitchen towels, various spices, and of course, the zucchini itself.

Canning seems as if it will be a monumental, day-long task - and it can be, of course - but doing it in small batches is easy and can be done fairly quickly. Checking the seal, applying labels, and then storing the pretty jars away for later provides a deep sense of satisfaction. Much like the squirrel must feel as he busily buries acorns in the abundant summer that later will nourish him through the lean winter and early spring months.
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<![CDATA[June 28, 2020: Sand Bowl]]>Sun, 28 Jun 2020 13:06:28 GMThttp://oklahomafieldandflower.com/june-2020-journal/june-28-2020-sand-bowl

High Temperature: 87F
Low Temperature: 73F
Sunrise: 6:14 am
Sunset: 8:43 pm
Humidity: 76%
Wind: s 13 mph
​Chance of Rain: 10%


Over the past two days, we've had to look closely to detect any hint of blue in the sky. It's there, but the deep blue of summer has been obscured by a grayish haze swirling around the atmosphere. The smoky look does not come from wildfires somewhere out on the prairie, but from Africa. Each year from the spring to the fall and occurring every few days, sand forms a layer over the Sahara Desert and this dusty air drifts westward for thousands of miles. The Saharan Air Layer (SAL) has reached the Dust Bowl state. According to NOAA, besides befouling the air, the SAL can cause toxic algae blooms (we will keep an eye on the ponds). On the plus side, they temper hurricanes.

I don't ever recall the phenomenon happening here (or elsewhere) before and I have no idea what conditions are needed to send it packing. The high winds, high humidity, and oppressive heat haven't made being outdoors any more pleasant. Being out in it for even a short period of time, one can feel the grit in the eyes and a metallic taste in the mouth. Ironically, I am glad - at least for this particular reason - to have a face mask handy. 
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<![CDATA[June 27, 2020: Knee-high]]>Sat, 27 Jun 2020 15:29:49 GMThttp://oklahomafieldandflower.com/june-2020-journal/june-27-2020-knee-high

High Temperature: 89F
Low Temperature: 73F
Sunrise: 6:14 am
Sunset: 8:43 pm
Humidity: 61%
Wind: ssw 14 mph
​Chance of Rain: 10%


Where I come from (the old-timer that I am), the crop was on track if it was 'knee-high by the fourth of July." Ours is well past that now; about shoulder-high or taller, but it makes sense since we are farther south than the state of my birth. And unlike the cornfields of my childhood - fields that stretched beyond the horizon and hugged the road - we have a diminutive patch. We aren't feeding a nation. 

Another summer staple missing here in Oklahoma, at least locally, is the roadside stands that families would put up in front of their farmhouses. Ears of corn, still smelling of just-pulled greenness and dappled with drops of water, lay stacked high onto rough tables, silky tassles all facing one way. There might be someone attending the stand, there might not be - and if not, some brown paper bags and a metal box to leave your money (25-cents per ear) were nearby. A quick, sharp pull on the thick layer of husk revealed the butter-colored kernels underneath. Were they firm? Nicely developed? Any sign of insects? In it goes into the paper bag, just eleven more to choose.

Every summer we get a few dozen ears of "sweet" corn from a friend, and maybe it's the exalted and faulty burnish that some memories attain over time, but it just doesn't taste as sweet as the ears we had back then. Anyway, we will see how our little corn patch does over the next few weeks. With luck, the kernels will taste of the sweetness of childhood. 
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<![CDATA[June 26, 2020: A Good Book]]>Fri, 26 Jun 2020 15:03:38 GMThttp://oklahomafieldandflower.com/june-2020-journal/june-26-2020-a-good-book

High Temperature: 89F
Low Temperature: 69F
Sunrise: 6:13 am
Sunset: 8:43 pm
Humidity: 62%
Wind: 2 10 mph
​Chance of Rain: 10%


A misty gloom greeted us as the pack trooped out for the first walk of the day. The sheltering gray, welcomed after several days of blazing sun, had the opposite effect of what one would expect: it brightened our spirits. Days like these, especially when they arrive unexpectedly as we slide deeper into the oppressive heat of high summer, put me in mind of my much younger days, when during summer breaks from school, I would spend hours happily reading. I could immerse myself so deeply into the story of a good book that pulling myself out of it was painful. It usually resulted in me being a grumpier-than-usual teenager.

I don't have time now for reading on the couch or in a gently swinging hammock, but today's weather calls for it. Especially since I'm deep into an excellent book, a classic: A Tale of Two Cities. It's the first Dickens I've read (!) and though I've bumped along through some passages, there is no doubt that Mr. Dickens knew how to write a story that was sure to captivate his readers. All I knew of the plot prior to purchasing a battered hardbound copy in a Tulsa used book store was that it involved London and Paris and the French Revolution (timely, no?)

I've had to slow down or re-read some sentences; there are cultural references that are unknown to me and a turn of language that makes it difficult for me to catch the meaning, but the characters are wonderfully drawn and the sense of "where is this going?" keeps my attention. A younger me might have sped through it faster and with better comprehension. 
I just hope I have retained enough mental acuity to put together the disparate pieces of the tale.
Picture
Dragonfly waiting for the sun.
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<![CDATA[June 25, 2020: Rana catesbeiana]]>Thu, 25 Jun 2020 15:38:03 GMThttp://oklahomafieldandflower.com/june-2020-journal/june-25-2020-rana-catesbeiana

High Temperature: 90F
Low Temperature: 69F
Sunrise: 6:13 am
Sunset: 8:43 pm
Humidity: 49%
Wind: sse 10 mph
​Chance of Rain: 10%


"Primarily active at night, but does bask in the sun during the day." That describes a new resident of our little tadpole pool. He appeared a few days ago and hangs out on one of the rocks we've placed in the water, or sometimes rests half in, half out (when the sun gets too warm). In the late afternoon he'll sit in the shade thrown onto one rock by a higher rock and stare out into the expanse of the yard, no doubt yearning for something to find its way into his mouth. When startled, he pops back into the green water and disappears into the murk.

I've identified him as a juvenile American Bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana) because he lacks dorsolateral folds (thick ridges that run along the backs of true frogs), and for his coloring. My reference book* goes on to say that the American Bullfrog is the largest frog in the state - a record frog reaching 8" long and weighing in at two pounds. This guy has a long way to go. But reading that a bullfrog like this will eat "anything that will fit in its mouth," he has a chance of challenging that record.
*Over the years I've referenced A Field Guide to Oklahoma's Amphibians and Reptiles, by Greg Sievert and Lynnette Sievert more times than I can count. It's been an invaluable resource.
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<![CDATA[June 24, 2020: Herons Overhead]]>Wed, 24 Jun 2020 17:44:50 GMThttp://oklahomafieldandflower.com/june-2020-journal/june-24-2020-herons-overhead

High Temperature: 85F
Low Temperature: 64F
Sunrise: 6:13 am
Sunset: 8:43 pm
Humidity: 41%
Wind: e 7 mph
Chance of Rain: 10%


I couldn't find much about it online, just a few anecdotal postings. I'm adding my own observation here. Something made me turn back and look up at the sky this morning as we made our way up the driveway towards the oil pump. There, flying in a loose formation, were six herons - assuming great blues - heading in a northwesterly direction. One heron, perhaps the lead, let out a hoarse honk every few seconds. Otherwise they made their way silently, steadfastly.

We frequently see single herons crossing over the property or coming in for a landing on one of our ponds, but the idea that these natural loners would move somewhere together is quite strange. Especially since it isn't migration season; and anyway, around here, herons stay year-round. (I made the lame quip that perhaps they had decided to leave the country due to all of the chaos and unrest.) More likely it was either a related group or a small heronry (like a rookery, except for --- herons) either headed home or looking for a new home. Either way, it was a rare sight to witness and a real treat.

Critter report: Two tomato burglars have been safely caught in the garden, an opossum and a juvenile raccoon. Both have been relocated to a different area and we wish them well in their new home and great success in their future endeavors.
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<![CDATA[June 23, 2020: Reflection]]>Tue, 23 Jun 2020 14:48:09 GMThttp://oklahomafieldandflower.com/june-2020-journal/june-23-2020-reflection

High Temperature: 87F
Low Temperature: 60F
Sunrise: 6:12 am
Sunset: 8:43 pm
Humidity: 71%
Wind: n 9 mph
​Chance of Rain: 10%


The month has sped by. We are a week away from being deeper into summer, yet the hours of daylight have started to tick backwards. It's been a summer of feeling unfocused, unmotivated, and scattered. I can't even stay tuned in long enough to read a book to completion. I've lost count on how many I have started. I recently jettisoned the last of my social media (Instgram) and I'm contemplating restricting myself to checking the "news" once a day rather than multiple times. It's just too dispiriting.

What I need is a good, all-consuming, positive project, but the things I have in mind require advanced carpentry and remodeling skills. My husband, who possesses these skills, is more inclined to be out in his garden. So I should probably find some other kinds of goals on which to focus until the cool weather and my energy and concentration returns.

This morning I kicked off another kind of season (related to summer, however): it's canning time! We've had a nice, steady flow from the garden of beautiful zucchini that has amazingly stayed pest-free. I didn't want it to spoil so I've pickled and canned 5 pint jars of it and shredded four cups. The shreds have been frozen to use later in zucchini bread - most likely when the wind is howling outside, the sky is gunmetal gray, and some hot chocolate is warming on the stovetop. 

​Oh, that sounds good right now!
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<![CDATA[June 22, 2020: A Thin Band of White]]>Mon, 22 Jun 2020 10:51:26 GMThttp://oklahomafieldandflower.com/june-2020-journal/june-22-2020-a-band-of-white

High Temperature: 87F
Low Temperature: 69F
Sunrise: 6:12 am
Sunset: 8:43 pm
Humidity: 55%
Wind: nw 5 mph
​Chance of Rain: 30%


A wintry-looking sky greeted us this morning after a night of thunder and rain, but summer hadn't ended, it was just an illusion that burned off with the sunrise. It's full-on sun now with lovely, puffy clouds slowly advancing across the sky.

Due to the recent rains, we've seen a return of ticks, unfortunately. I pulled two off of myself today. No doubt the standing water will also mean more deer flies and mosquitoes.  
Picture
Oregano flowers.
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<![CDATA[June 21, 2020: Fly-by]]>Sun, 21 Jun 2020 12:44:58 GMThttp://oklahomafieldandflower.com/june-2020-journal/june-21-2020-fly-by

High Temperature: 85F
Low Temperature: 67F
Sunrise: 6:12 am
Sunset: 8:43 pm
Humidity: 61%
Wind: sse 8 mph
​Chance of Rain: 30%


Yesterday afternoon during our walk we were treated to our own private airshow. Just beyond our western property line, a biplane roared along, dipping and turning above the treeline, back and forth across the sky as it laced our neighbor's field (though we couldn't see that part of the show) with fertilizer or perhaps an herbicide. Although the thought of being in a plane of any size now gives me the willies, I couldn't help but think of how much fun the pilot must have been having. 

A second, less spectacular show coincided with my early afternoon walk today with the dogs. As luck would have it, I had brought along my camera. Though I did not have my long distance lens, I managed to get a few far off shots.

​Critter note: Kel spotted this fuzzy, downright cuddly Oklahoma Brown Tarantula on the driveway in the evening yesterday. Despite a childhood and early adult fear of spiders, I've come to love [some of] them. Now, I won't be picking up one any time soon, but I find them endearing. Apparently they are shy and gentle and would rather skedaddle than bite. I learned that - interestingly - they migrate (to where??) in the fall and sometimes can be seen moving in large numbers. That would be quite a sight!
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