Summer Winds Down on the Urban Porch

The late summer view from the Urban Porch has been one of browned grass and parched hostas. This season of humid, yet rain-starved, scorching days has resulted in a drought. The herculean clouds of August have built up into billowing, snowy masses on the horizon, and yet have rarely morphed into the rain-making thunderheads that the ground has been crying out for.

Lots of muscular clouds but no rain

Cicadas sound out an electric whine in the afternoon. The evening air is filled with a chorus of katydids and and crickets. Some of their voices rise above the others. There is one somewhere in the rhododendron bush next door that has been calling out “Herbert! Herbert! Herbert!” over and over for the last few nights.

Over the past month and beginning early in the morning, a flying mass of swirling black insects has been hovering and mating over the dried-out lawns. Every year in late summer I have seen them in other people’s yards, but this is the first time they have settled here. They barely seem to alight long enough to be able to identify them, but I was finally able. They are Blue-Winged Wasps (Scolia dubia) and they are kind of cool. When the sun hits their wings at the right angle you can see that they are of a dark-blue iridescence. There are two bright yellow dots on their bodies and a hint of crimson on the abdomen. They are a helpful, natural predator of the Japanese beetle. Apparently they like the grubs that exist beneath the dirt to feed to their own larvae. The females will sting if you actually hurt one, but they are non-aggressive and are not interested in hurting you. Both the dog and I have walked among them daily and they seem to part and regroup in the airspace around us, co-existing.

A Blue-winged Wasp (Scolia dubia)
Blue-winged wasp landed on a parched hosta

I cannot speak as graciously about the yellow jacket that randomly stung me on the hand as I was walking down the sidewalk, minding my own business. Those things are hateful and wow, do they pack a nasty punch.

The corn growing in the median in front of the house between the sidewalk and the street has been an ongoing source of amusement. The main roads and highways surrounding where we live encompass acres of cornfields and nobody really focuses on it, but for some reason a couple of stalks growing in front of a house and sidewalk on a busy street seems to stop pedestrians and elicit comments. Because of the drought this corn is not as robust as it might have been, but the stalks way taller than I am, which has caused me to repeatedly and spontaneously burst out singing that line from “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” where “the corn is as high as an elephant’s eye”. Okay, maybe you have to be old to know that song, but it’s stuck in my head.

my big corn harvest

Each stalk has a few ears growing on them. Some of them were finally ready to pick, so the other night I went out for The Big Harvest. As it turns out this corn ended up being feed corn, not sweet corn. It’s edible, but not as sweet. It’s good for feeding livestock or for grinding into meal and supposedly for popcorn. We had some on the cob for dinner with butter and salt anyway, just because, and it was OK, but I wasn’t swooning over it like regular summer sweet corn. I’ve got some drying out to experiment making popcorn, so we will see how that goes. It’s been fun watching it and watching the reactions on the street though.

As we head into September, the potted cherry tomatoes have coughed up a couple every day or so to throw into a salad. The basil has been mostly made into pesto. My fig tree has only given me one rather anemic fig – I don’t know what that’s about. The crows never did return to the Crow Tree this summer. The House Sparrows fledged and left the nest but the gang is still hanging around in large groups in the ivy, the trees and perched on wires.

Mornings on the porch are breezy and pleasant. Afternoons are a blast furnace of full sun. Sitting there at dusk has been limited due to the mosquitos (I am a mosquito magnet). In the evenings you can catch the odor of marijuana or skunk (I am not sure which, perhaps both) from somewhere, wafting on the air. The squirrels are still leaving peanut shells on the porch and have been busy hiding their stores in preparation.

And so summer winds down on the Urban Porch.

~*~

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