Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Summer, Do Your Worst!

These wee wispy things pass for clouds these days

Happy Lammas Day, everyone! 

Although the first of August here in north Texas is only partly about harvesting (I'll have some peppers from the garden, and the last of the tomatoes, tonight in celebration), the need to find something to celebrate rises with the temperature. My antipathy toward Texas is always at its height in summer, and more so this one, during which it looks like we could have weeks of 100ish days before we get a break. 

Lammas Day pretty much marks the true Midsummer, occurring as it does about halfway between the summer solstice and the autumnal equinox. In Medieval times in Scotland it was called the Gule of August, perhaps from the Latin gule, for throat or gullet, and hence "opening"--but perhaps also, or instead, from associations with gluttony or feasting. My Latin dictionaries don't provide any direct origins, but either might work. In Ireland, it's called Lughnasad, and established by the Celtic god Lugh in honor of his foster mother Tailtiu, who died on August 1. (See the article on Newgrange.com for a more complete account.) Robert Burns had his way with Annie on Lammas night (The Rigs O' Barley), so there's that aspect as well. I'm thinking that The Beloved Spouse and I can forgo the French murder mysteries we've become addicted to and instead opt tonight to revisit the 1998 film, Dancing At Lugnasa, which I remember enjoying, and which we have on DVD.

As I write this, I sit at my desk drenched in perspiration. It's "only" 98 outside (on its way to 105), but the humidity (40%) and the dew point (70 F) make it feel like 104 already.  The window air con is set at 78, but there's no real insulation in the walls, so even having all the shades and curtains drawn doesn't help all that much. 

In fact, however, the temperatures here haven't hit much higher than 100 most days, and if I get out in the morning, it can be quite pleasant if there's a breeze. The snug is kept cooled for the Very Large and Very Hairy Dog, and even the heat-tolerant cat has been kipping upstairs where we also keep a unit on all day. She and I spend time up there in the early afternoon, where I read or nap, and she sploots like a squirrel. Except upside down, belly bared. We have another week of this before there's a chance of cooler temperatures and even a bit of rain. I'll believe it when I see it--and may go out and dance a bit to celebrate that.

For anyone who's been wondering about my attempts to save the Eastern Black Swallowtail butterflies, I've had one success out of two. The first one pupated, but never hatched. The second pupated much later, and hatched after only about 10 days. I was so anxious to free it from the hatchery that I didn't get a photo. Its egg was laid in a pot of parsley, so I was able to keep it fed and sheltered until it created its chrysalis, and then transferred it to the net cage for metamorphosing. Fewer than two weeks later I was checking on the other one when I noticed a fully transformed male butterfly and promptly let him out.  

While all this was going on I was reading Becky Chambers's compelling novella about space travel (To Be Taught if Fortunate) in which she describes the metamorphosis of a moth. Here's a snippet:

It walks and eats and walks and eats and walks and eats, until one day, it stops. It finds a branch or a leaf. It wraps itself in a protective net of protein. And then, improbably: it dissolves. 

The rest is science poetry, and I urge you to read the book.

Caterpiller #2, walking and eating

Our red neon skimmer dragonflies are back, and one is very fond of a long piece of rebar in our raised bed. I got a nice closeup, and now have a five-year collection of portraits. Every year we also harbor a couple of dagger moths (American?) who blend in beautifully with our big pecan trees. It's common for us to walk by without seeing them, and then they flit off to another tree.

Red neon skimmer dragonfly

Some sort of dagger moth

Making sure that there are enough pollen sources, watering holes, and other amenities is a major preoccupation at the Farm during inclement weather of all sorts. Fortunately, there are enough perennials to provide nectar and other food for birds and bugs passing through. I do like how the trumpet vine looks on its trellis, because it provides nutrition for hummingbirds--and ants (which probably get sucked in with nectar by the birds). 

The one disappointment this time of year is ho-hum skies. For days we'll see no clouds at all, which means that sunrises and sunsets don't offer much excitement. But tonight we'll get to enjoy the Full Sturgeon Moon--with a blue supermoon at the end of the month. I probably won't try to get a shot of the Sturgeon moon because it rises rather late for us, and heat-wise it's still in the 90s when we head upstairs. But by the time I'm ready for sleep it should be up, so I should be able to spend a little time gazing at it before I call it quits for Lammas night. 

By the way, the title of this post comes from Dorothy Parker's almost metamorphic (as well as metaphoric) poem, August, with which many of us who get ourselves mixed up with plants can empathize.

Be (and stay) cool, and dance for rain.