By Kate Crowley
For all the Minnesotans who barely made it through this past winter and long, chilly so called spring, the month of July may very well be what you’ve been waiting so long for.  Both heat (and humidity), historically, reach their peak in this month.  It is not unusual to reach the high 90s and even 100 if you factor in the dew point (heat index).  Personally, this is NOT my kind of weather, but I will try not to be a scrooge and deny others their joy at being able to sweat profusely and apply sunblock over all their exposed skin. 
For me, the joy of July comes from the abundance of life all around us (except for the flies and mosquitoes). If ever there were a summer where the world looks lush, this is it.  One of the flowers that is in bloom right now, in great profusion along roadsides of the North Country, is the lupine.  I admit I have Lupine jealousy. In the hill country of Texas they brag about their bluebonnets, but they cannot hold a candle to the spires of blue, purple, pink and white that carpet ditches and slopes in vast swaths. Here at home, I have one lonely lupine in a flower bed and I’m happy if I get one bloom out of it.  A neighbor just down the road has a good size patch growing near his driveway, so it should be possible for them to grow here.  If anyone has some they’d like to divide or share, I’d be happy to give them a home.  
I am happy to report that we have an abundance of milkweed plants growing in our old horse pasture; more than I’ve ever seen.  I’m less happy to report that we have no monarch butterflies visiting them. Every few days I go out to inspect the underside of the leaves to see if there are any eggs or caterpillars feeding on them, but I have been shut out so far.  In fact, I have only seen a couple monarchs flitting through our property since the beginning of June.  People have become aware of how important milkweed is to their life cycle here in the northland, but we feel helpless to do anything about the troubles they face on their journey through other states or in their winter home of Mexico.  Soon the milkweed will bloom and all of us can enjoy the sweet perfume they will send out on the breeze. Those flowers will also provide nectar for other pollinators and that is a very good thing. 
July is also the month when we should be able to start harvesting some of the long awaited berries of summer.  I plan to visit the strawberry farm east of us in the coming week.  We don’t buy bushels, but even a quart is a treat when you have picked them with your own hands.  Our three blueberry shrubs are showing a good quantity of fruit and I’m hoping we can get to them before the birds.  The wild blackberry canes are covered with white blossoms, something I don’t remember seeing before, so that is another fruit I hope to harvest; again in a race with the wild creatures who also covet them. 
In the bird world, things are going to get noticeably quieter as nesting season comes to a close for most of the migrants, but it also means there should be a lot more birds flying around.  The young will continue to harass their parents even after they leave the nest and are able to fly themselves. Listen for repetitive calls that are typical of the young begging for food from their harried parents. Whining and begging by the young seem to be a universal trait among all species.
It has been a tough season for farmers and home gardeners, but if the rain will abate some and the sunshine for a few days in a row, there will be significant progress in the fields.  Some people may even be able to harvest cucumbers and zucchini by the end of the month.  Farmers Markets will begin to expand in their variety and abundance of produce; always a treat for those who have less than green thumbs or a place to grow their own food.  
I look forward to the blooming of the daylilies that I have planted all around our yard.  I’m gradually adding more and more of these perennials to our flower beds. I love their long stemmed elegance and variety of colors and the fact that I don’t have to replace them year after year.  As I grow older, the ease of maintenance and reduction in financial output grow more important. 

This July may the wind blow the bugs away so that you can celebrate our countries’ birth, our invaluable freedom, our good fortune and the gifts of nature that surround us.


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