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Nature’s Best By Elma Chapman - Random Thoughts

We’re about halfway through summer, according to the actual seasons, but it feels a lot later with kids and teachers already just a couple of weeks away from a new school year. The temperatures haven’t been too summer-like, but as a bicycle rider I like that. If you’re a beach and boating enthusiast, the temperatures have been disappointing.

Mother Nature was not kind to LaGrange during the June 30 and July 1 storms, but she had some self-inflicted wounds, too. The storm toppled quite a few trees at Delt Church Park, one of which fell on one of the picnic pavilions in the park. And a really big loss: the tree on Olin Lake that had held the eagle nest blew down. It remains to be seen if the eagles will return to the same general area next year and build a new nest. I haven’t heard if the eaglets had fledged before the storm or if they were casualties, too.

Spring is a time of rapid growth, but the summer is for maturing. I’m amazed how quickly the ducklings became “teenagers” and now are practically undistinguishable from the adults. Now is the time for seed production in a lot of wildflowers. Last Thursday I helped harvest some seeds from the wildflowers that were planted along the Pumpkinvine Trail just east of Middlebury for the purpose of seeding new areas along the trail later. The person I was helping – and who was teaching me which seeds to gather and how to tell if they were ready – had done this before and been yelled at by passersby for “vandalizing” the flowerbed, so we took along a sign this time that read “Volunteers working to collect seeds” and no one harassed us. We gathered seeds from poppies, gaillardia, and black-eyed Susans. Lots of other flowers haven’t gotten to the seed stage yet, and they are spectacular along the Pumpkinvine Trail. We’ll be going back later to gather some other varieties.

As early as July 1, fall migration had begun. That seemed awfully early to me, but some of the waterfowl that breed in the far north or even in the Arctic have already started their long treks south. Some of them go all the way to the southern tip of South America! Shorebirds such as white pelicans, willets, American avocets, marbled godwits, and whimbrels have all been sighted recently in Indiana by various birders and noted on the rare bird alert website and the Birding Indiana Facebook page, often with very impressive photos.

As I look out my windows into River Bend Park here in Middlebury, I’m seeing occasional yellowed leaves drifting down from the tall cottonwoods. It’s still July! Why are the leaves falling already? I’m not ready for fall yet!

The end of this week is the beginning of August. There’s still plenty of time to get outside, enjoy the warmth and sunshine, and appreciate nature’s bounty. The state parks are offering daily nature activities now before school starts up again. August 16 is the date for Riverfest in Middlebury. Come out and learn about the importance of our local waterways, enjoy a kayak ride on the Little Elkhart River, and see some live animals. August 23 is David Rogers Day at the LaGrange County Park by the same name, with lots of opportunities to explore LaGrange’s pioneer beginnings.

 There are still lots of opportunities to get out and enjoy summer – but don’t wait too long!