Sunday, September 1, 2019


August in Wisconsin can be an uneasy, in-between month. Summer has peaked, and the downhill slide towards colder weather has begun. Skies take on a deeper, autumn-like blue. Squirrels begin digging little holes in the yard (though whether looking for old nuts or burying new ones it's difficult to tell). An anxious tree here and there starts to lose its green. The sun, after weeks of staying up late, suddenly decides on an eight o'clock bedtime.

On the bright side, long-awaited tomatoes begin to ripen, garden flowers are at their brightest, and an abundance of herbs means fresh pesto on our breakfast eggs, mint leaves and basil in our salads, and chives and parsley and tarragon gathered by the handful for scattering over every savory dish.

This particular August has seemed cooler than usual. Trees, normally heavy and tired-looking by now, are still lush and green. Wild grasses, instead of being parched by the summer heat, are fading slowly and gently.

We did have some hot days. On one of them, I set out for work on my bike, stopping to photograph wild chicory on the way:

Then, just before the river trail, I get a flat tire. I try to change it, but can't get the tire off the rim (my tires are literally glued to the rims, and this one has been in use for a couple of seasons, so the glue is pretty tenacious). I only have three miles to go, so I set out to walk the rest of the way.

Three miles is quick and pleasant on a bike, but on foot, on a morning of blazing sun, with a backpack and helmet and unwieldy bike to manage, it's not as much fun. But I trudge along, thankful for the intermittent breeze, and the chance to watch goldfinches darting from flower to flower by the side of the trail.

Geese are sitting on an islet in the river, and I find myself wondering which will be the first one voted off the island:

When I get to work, I call Mr. M, who kindly comes to change my tire so I can ride home that night.

Which I do, stopping for a photo of dock and Queen Anne's Lace along the way:


My next ride to work is blessedly uneventful. The most exciting thing about it is spotting these very small sprays of mystery flowers next to the river trail:


Assorted photos from my next few rides - here we have a cow gazing off to the horizon:

And this shot from a ride with Mr. M:

In which we pass a  mill:

And some Queen Anne's Lace getting ready to pack up for the summer:

Shadow shot from a solo evening ride:


Some rides yield few photos, and some yield dozens. My next ride is one of the latter, with wildflowers galore. :)

I see tiny flowering spurge:

The first goldenrod of the season:

A woodland sunflower with matching spider:

More woodland sunflower:

Hare's-foot clover:

Ragweed in bloom (achoo!):

On a stretch of road I don't usually ride, I spy a field full of yellow. This requires investigation, so I park the bike and climb up the bank to see what's growing.

It's the mother lode of wildflowers: a nature preserve simply crammed with Rudbeckia...

...and partridge pea, or sleeping-plant (this one I had to look up):

Hoary vervain:


And fireweed (with more mullein):

I'd like to linger in this wildflower-lover's elysium, but the day is windless and the skeeters relentless, so back to the bike I go, having collected almost as many bites as photos.

Down the road is an outbuilding with an elegant door:

And more wildflowers growing at the edge of a wood. This one I can't identify:

This one I can - it's boneset:

And here are some spotted jewelweed:

A mile or two on, I pass a patch of whorled milkweed. Nearly every blossom cluster bears a beetle or two (must be mating time):

The last photo from this ride is a favourite barn:


On my next ride to work I see this chilling sight:

Let the geese gather! It may be the last week of August, but summer's not over yet, as evidenced by these photos from a few days later....

Joe-Pye weed blooming at the edge of a marsh:

Summer fields under summer skies:

An ever-alluring bend in the road:

On this ride, I spy some mysterious white flowers growing in a marsh. Research reveals them to be broadleaf arrowhead, or duck potato (so called for its edible tubers which grow under the mud):

Here's a common sight on certain stretches of road (I guess you could call it street art?):

More beautiful by far is this blue vervain, growing amidst a stand of goldenrod:

Here's another variety of goldenrod, bearing, I am sorry to say, a dead moth:

Nearby grows a cheery wild sunflower (with clouds of flowering spurge visible in the background):


As August draws to a close, the parade of wildflowers continues. On my next ride, I see common thistle, some blooming, some dried:

And impossibly vibrant purple loosestrife, glowing in the sun:


On the last Sunday of the month, I take a ride under cloudy skies and see dried grasses are waving in the breeze:

Large, light pink thistle:

Tiny white aster:

More thistle:

Horsemint flourishing at the edge of the woods:

A beckoning trail through the trees:

A yellow tide of goldenrod streaming through the fields:

Tallulah and I stop at the lake to look at the water (Tallulah, you're facing the wrong way!):

Small waves come splashing in to shore:

Miles later, I stop at a favourite spot to see if the rough blazing star is blooming yet. Here it is, still in the bud stage, with a spent head of heliopsis:

On the ground grows a Very Large Mushroom that looks like a muffin:


The last week of August is a busy one, with little time for riding. On Thursday I sneak in a quick evening ride:

And on Friday the last ride-to-work of the month. On the way home, along the river trail, I see a spray of butter-and-eggs (yellow toadflax), with a beetle hiding in the blossoms:

Dried wild bergamot:

And water smartweed, small and rosy pink:

The days are getting shorter, so my homegoing shadow is getting longer:

A young buck bounds away as I pass:

And the very last photo of August is, appropriately, a sunset:

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In between rides and work this month, I've been plugging away at The Book. I hope (oh, how I hope) to finish it by the end of the year.

I hope you all had a pleasant August. To my friends in the northern hemisphere: are you looking forward to September, or are you sorry to see the summer go?

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