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Nature's Best by Elma Chapman - Winding Down

The cottonwood outside my window started dropping leaves almost as soon as it quit shedding cottony seeds. The leaves on the hawthorn tree next to it are turning a yellowish brown. The squirrel has turned his attention from the now fruitless mulberry tree to the little white berries of the hawthorn.  It seems like summer just started, and yet there are so many signs of the coming autumn. Birds aren’t singing as they did in the spring and earlier in the summer. What sounds they make are much more raucous now, and large flocks congregate in fields or trees, awaiting the time of migration. During the day the cicadas are humming, and at night crickets are chirping, the lightning bugs are more infrequent, and the August meteor shower is coming up this week. Schools are starting up again. The school year keeps stretching, shortening the summer break, and it seems as though Nature is shortening the summer to stay in step with the schools.

The wet weather earlier in the summer played havoc with some of the Indiana State Parks and Reservoirs. Their summer season in places was pretty much non-existent due to flooding in the campgrounds. We went canoeing on the Tippecanoe River near Winamac last Friday (August 7) and it was the first day the canoe livery was allowed to be open since June 1 due to the high water levels. There were a lot of trees that had recently fallen into the river, which made navigating a bit more of a challenge, but nowhere we went was the river blocked or portaging necessary. It’s a fairly slow-moving river and we had plenty of time to plan our route between the trees. We put in inside the state park and drifted downstream to the canoe livery. That section of the river is still quite natural. There are a few houses on the banks, but for the most part you are canoeing through the state park. The river is wide, but there are a lot of twists and turns to make it interesting. There are even a few islands. We saw a few turtles, but not as many as I expected. We did see a large snake swimming across the river. I’m definitely not a snake expert, so I couldn’t identify it, but I could tell you it was about four feet long and moved quickly through the water. I wasn’t planning on getting in the water, anyway, but that sealed the deal. Tubing aficionados beware!

So now the campgrounds are open again and the canoe liveries are running, but schools are back in session. That’s not a formula for a big money summer for those entities that rely on vacation dollars. I hope they have a good fall season to partially make up for the losses of the summer.

The Amishlands and Lakes bicycle tour that has its headquarters at the Howe Military Academy was this past weekend. We saw several of the riders on Sunday on the Pumpkinvine Trail. Apparently a lot of the roads on Saturday’s route were freshly chip-sealed and some of the people decided to abandon the planned route and come over to the trail instead. Not only are chip-sealed roads bumpy, but when a car passes you in either direction you get showered with small stones—not a pleasant sensation! Elkhart County is doing extensive chip-sealing this coming week, so I’ll be staying on the trail a lot more, also.

If there are few or no clouds at night, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday should have good views of the Perseid Meteor Shower. It’s supposed to be especially good this year because it falls on nights with little or no moon to compete with the light of the stars and meteors. You may be able to view as many as 100 meteors an hour! For enjoyable viewing, take plenty of bug spray and chairs or blankets. Get away from light sources as much as possible, allow time for your eyes to adjust to the darkness, and if you need to use a flashlight for something, cover the lens with red cellophane so it doesn’t compromise your night vision. Look to the northeast. Let’s hope the clouds cooperate.

Happy viewing!