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Summer in Ohio

Yesterday, June 21, I sat outside on my deck surrounded by potted herbs and flowers enjoying the 80 degree temperature.  In our corner of the world, the U.S. state of Ohio, it was the first official day of summer, having more daylight than any other 24 hour period of 2017.  Sunrise was just before 6:00 a.m. and sunset didn’t occur until 8:56 p.m., giving us more than sixteen hours of daylight.

I have lived in the state of North Dakota where the sun did not set until 9:49 p.m. yesterday.  Having daylight until 11:00 p.m. was fun, but caused me to experience some summer insomnia, having wakeful energy well into the night and needing to get up with kids shortly after the 6:00 a.m. sunrise. I did prefer this, nevertheless, to the December days that had as little as eight and a half hours of sunlight.

More daylight means more time to enjoy the sounds, sights, and activity of Summer in Ohio. The sound of our summer day begins well before sunrise. Our early bird, a robin soon joined by friends, begins singing around 4:00 a.m. and continues until after dark. There are more bird songs in the air than I can identify. The robins’ and cardinals’ tunes are blended with chirps and trills of song sparrows, finches, and mourning doves with occasional blue jay and crow calls. Most days I forgo turning on music, content to listen to nature’s song. Yesterday’s breeze stirred the leaves of our backyard trees, creating a swelling and subsiding soft percussive sound.

I also enjoy seeing a variety of birds and other wildlife visit our yard throughout the summer days.  We recently installed a bird feeder near our bird bath. The menu is limited.  Today’s feature is black sunflower seeds. Tomorrow’s feature will be the same. Our patrons don’t complain. Many varieties of birds frequent the feeder, but often find it empty due to the hoarding instincts of our chipmunk and the persistent squirrels who scurry up and down the pole for a bite to eat.

We are blessed in our neighborhood to have a melanistic subgroup of the Eastern Gray Squirrel who also likes black sunflower seeds.

The bird bath is popular for more than washing up, and serves as a  watering hole for birds, squirrels, and occasionally a white-tailed deer.

I had the great pleasure of watching a days-old fawn from our dining room window for a couple of weeks this year and expect him to be back for snacks throughout the months to come.

While summer in Ohio has its rather laid-back  warm hours, it is not void of activity. Both my husband and I were born in the Buckeye State and enjoy traveling a few hours to our family reunions – a Lake Erie Fish Fry for the Frisch side and an August Sweet Corn Roast for the Vent/Pfeiffer side. Celebrations of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, as well as the patriotic holiday weekends often find us driving two hours to spend time with our sons and daughter-in-law in Columbus. I enjoy the lighter packing and freedom from fear of snowy or icy roads.

During this stage of my life, I have several volunteer commitments that follow our nine month school schedule. That frees up time during the summer to accomplish some practical projects at home. This year I am sorting through closets, cupboards, drawers and boxes for items to include in a summer garage sale. My husband and I are working together on some home improvement projects including reupholstering dining room chairs (complete) and remodeling our upstairs bathroom (in progress).

I have come to anticipate the weeks of summer as a time for personal renewal and spiritual growth. I seem to find more time for lunch with a friend. I feel free to take the time to sit on the deck and read a book, not wanting to waste the season by remaining in the air conditioning. It has become important to me, also, to spend some hours considering what God’s current assignment is for me. Are there things I’ve been doing that can be considered finished? Is there something He would like me to start doing? It was  during this prayerful openness to His plan for my life last summer that I heard the words “begin a blog.”  There are some stirrings in my heart this summer that need more definition and I joyfully anticipate the unfolding of new things.

As the afternoon of the First Day of Summer gave way to our longest evening of the year, a dark cloud rolled in bringing the threat of rain and I heard our garage door going up, signaling my husband’s returned from a two-day work trip. Since I had not started our gas grill to prepare dinner yet, he took me to a Chinese restaurant where we chatted about our day as the shower passed. No matter that it was 8:30 p.m. until we began our evening neighborhood walk. There was still plenty of daylight as we took in the stunning summer sunset.

This is the day the Lord has made;
We will rejoice and be glad in it.

Psalm 118:24

 

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Annual Snake Hunt

One thing I love about our Eastern Ohio town is the close proximity to retail, restaurants, church, etc. and to nature’s flora and fauna.  It’s hard to imagine, living in our quiet neighborhood in St. Clairsville, that trains used to run about a block from here.  In 1997, a 2 1/2 mile Rails-to-Trails project transformed the abandoned track into a wonderful paved bike and walking path that includes the 522′ tunnel where trains passed under Route 40, a 342′ bridge that crosses Route 9, and a new tunnel that underpasses I70.  Those impressive features interest to a natural tree-lined trail where spring rains flow down cut hills and ever-changing seasons bring early spring flowers as well as stunning fall leaves.

The flora is beautiful, if not somewhat predictable, however the fauna can be quite surprising.  Lacing up our sneakers and heading for the trail is a favorite exercise and get-away all in one.  Every time we visit the National Road Bikeway, a variety of birds are present, including many of my favorite cardinals.  But, once in a while, a group of wild turkeys strut down a hill and cross the path in front of us.

As in our backyard, gray squirrels scurry and forage about along the trail.  However, one of the best surprises about living here is the presence of white squirrels.  I was amazed at seeing seven of them during one walk!  This one lives in an oak tree next door and visits our yard daily.

Leashed dogs are permitted on the path, and we’ve seen countless breeds.  But one afternoon while I was on a solo walk, a coyote stepped out of the brush to cross in front of me.  I have no idea how I would have reacted had a neighbor not reported a week earlier that she had seen one in our neighborhood.  The large canine and I both stopped in our tracks for a moment before he moved off to the other side and disappeared.  This was so alarming to me that I called the police department to let them know that a wild animal was in town.  No reaction.  I’ve since learned that folks who live outside of town are familiar with the howls of coyotes and that they do wander into town now and then.

We often we see white-tailed deer grazing along the trail, but we need only look out our back window to watch them resting or nibbling on our landscape plantings.  I’ve decided that I enjoy the deer more than hydrangeas anyway.

Other wildlife sightings include a fox and her kits, tadpoles and bullfrogs, and evening bats.  And then there were the 17 year Cicadas whose crescendoing drone was loud enough to send us to the mall to walk last summer.   

So we have mammals, insects, amphibians, birds, and, oh yes, reptiles.  It’s not surprising that snakes enjoy the trail’s access to shade, water, and an asphalt path for afternoon sunning.  What surprised me while out on an early spring walk not long after moving here was the sight of MANY small snakes swimming downstream in the ditch beside the path.  I’ve since realized that our spring garter snake broods, which can number 3-80, leave the nest shortly after St Patrick’s Day.  While not crazy about being surprised by a snake on the path, I have taken an interest in locating the little fellers on early warm afternoons such as we experienced earlier this week.  I’ve learned to stop and listen for them slithering among the dead leaves on the hills and then to spot the camouflaged reptiles.  When I’m successful, I can’t help but share my excitement with other walkers and smile at their reactions.  Those who are wearing headphones, riding bikes, or walking dogs are not likely to notice the emerging snake population.  Let me be clear.  I stand on the paved path and view the snakes while having NO INTEREST in venturing into their habitat.  Anyway, it’s against Bikeway rules.

Garter snakes are pretty nonthreatening .  On occasion, though, a 3 to 4 foot black snake startles a walker.  I’ve only seen one once.  It was lying in the grass beside the path.  My husband, however, was notified by our mail carrier one afternoon that there was a big snake resting beside our front porch.  Mercifully, I was not home at the time (although I would have snapped a picture) and only heard the story of the disposing of the snake when I returned.  I guess we don’t get to choose which critters make their way from the country into our quiet little neighborhood.

 

 

 

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