Sunday, May 24, 2015

Flowery May

The Wisconsin spring is following its usual rollercoaster course of temps - 80º one day, 40º the next. Between the hot spells, we've had freezing nights, weeks of chilly rain, and some icily windy days. Though the weather sites say it's been a warm spring, the overall feel has been chilly. (Perhaps this is the psychological effect of being cold when we were expecting gentle heat?)

But the wildflowers are up and out in force - many of them early - so maybe spring has been warmer than it seems. Here are some photos taken on last weekend's (mid-May) rides....

Saturday: Honeysuckle is everywhere, pink and white and pink again, smelling engagingly sweet:

This pine has burst into knobbly bud:

Some miles later, while scanning a ditch for flowers, the Micawber eye spots something white. Closer inspection reveals it to be what I think is wild strawberry:

I'll have to keep an eye on this ditch. Maybe I can catch the fruit when it's ripe. :)

A patriotic barn quilt:

Honeysuckle aren't the only things blooming right now. Of course we have plenty of these:

And by default, these:

Notice the bike in the background :)

Whatever lawn-lovers may say, I like dandelions. They're the first bright spot of colour we get after a long drab winter, and their cheerful sunniness lights up many a waste space that would otherwise be dull brown-green. And they're a good source of food for bees and other wildlife.

Lilac time is drawing to a close. Last weekend, you could already see the blossoms beginning to rust:

("Ahem," says Tallulah. "Weren't you going to say something about how well I match the lilacs? Some witty remark about turtle camouflage, perhaps?" "Sorry, Miss T," say I. "You certainly do blend in well, except for the helmet and shell cover. Just try not to get any brown spots, okay?")

Around the corner from the lilac stands a Favourite Tree in all its glory of delicate spring leaf:

At the willowy bend a few miles on, I see two families of Canada geese. One pair has seven goslings, the other six. The seven-gosling family scrambles messily and hurriedly into the water, refusing to pose nicely. But the six-gosling group lines up obligingly:

The young 'uns are out of the tiny fluffy stage and just entering their gangly pre-teen days. But they're still awfully cute.

Down the road and around another corner, I find a new-to-me wildflower. The blossoms look very like forget-me-not, but copious research reveals them to be Greek valerian or Jacob's Ladder (Polemonium caeruleum):

As I squat in the grass taking photos, a cyclist pulls up and says, "I'll bet you know where you are, don't you?"

"I do," I say. "Do you?"

Turns out she's out for a long morning ride (about 90 miles - what a gal!) and has missed a turn somewhere. She asks if she can ride back to town with me, as she can find her way home from there. I warn her that I stop for wildflowers, but she's fine with that, so we take off together, talking as hard as we can. It's rare that I get to ride with anyone, so it's a great pleasure when I do run across a kindred spirit.

At the crossroads we say goodbye and wish each other good riding. Perhaps we'll meet again sometime on a winding country road.

~ ~ ~

Sunday: Thunderstorms have been forecast, and I sit around all morning waiting for the heavens to open. In the afternoon I fall asleep, and wake a few hours later to blue-and-white skies. Hooray!

I do like a late-afternoon ride, when the sun shines levelly across the fields, lighting up the trees and barns.

Dame's Rocket is already out in force - about two weeks earlier than usual:

I've set myself a goal this year to record every wildflower I see - with photos where possible, but otherwise as a written list which I'll combine with this year's Riding Diary. (I've missed logging some of the flowering trees, but hope to do better from here on.)

The first Canadian anemone are beginning to peek up like stars from the shady verges:

Here are some unknown tree buds about to burst open:

(When I see the blossoms a week later I realise it's probably dogwood.)

Today I discover a tiny clump of another new-to-me wildflower. It's Blue-Eyed Grass, a beautiful, miniscule member of the iris family:

Each blossom has a lime-green flower-shape at its center:

Two new wildflowers in two days - excitinger and excitinger! (I need to get out more.)

Golden Alexanders are just coming on, those tiny yellow first umbellifers of the year:

And the Wild Geranium is just beginning to spread its rosy loveliness in the shady ditches:

At the top of a hill, I see another new flower:

These are found on a tall tree-like shrub with leathery leaves and an abundance of creamy blossoms. I have no idea what they could be, though the leaves make me think of bay. An arduous Internet search Sunday evening finally yields a name: Autumn Olive or Spreading Oleaster (Elaeagnus umbellata). Another invasive plant with lovely flowers - and later in the year it will be covered with dark-red berries.

Shadow shot:

Miles on, these sweet-faced creatures watch placidly as I stop to take their photo:

I think they're Jersey cattle - not a common breed in these parts.

Up hill and down, past the first barn quilt I ever photographed years ago (and still a favourite):

Fields and trees bask in the warm sun under wide spring skies.

What a blessing to be able to ride out and see all these things. The year is a banquet of beauty, with new courses appearing continually on its table. What will it serve up next week?

Something lovely, I'm sure.

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