The weather we have waited for is here

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The summer weather in Ohio’s Amish country has been superb so far. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

By Bruce Stambaugh

If you’re like me, you’ve been enjoying this wonderful summer weather. It’s the weather we longed for last winter when the wind howled, snow slanted sideways, and the temperatures were ridiculous.

After the long winter came a cool, wet spring, and torrential rains in June. I’m glad the weather has changed for the better. We are grateful for the abundant rain. By the looks of it, so are the crops.

Most corn was well beyond “knee high by the Fourth of July.” Its deep green, leafy stalks are soaring in most places. A soft breeze enhances that vibrant corn aroma after a summer shower.

Where water from June’s heavy rains pooled in depressions, crops are struggling, or non-existent. Weather can be cruel after all. Weather can be magnanimous, too, like recent days.

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Rainbow following flash flooding. © Craig Stambaugh 2014.
After horrible lightning and flash flooding, the loveliest of rainbows appears just at sunset. Nature always has her way with us. Fortunately, she has been kind to us here. Historically, the hottest days of summer are already behind us.

That doesn’t mean it won’t be unusually warm again. But the chances for a long heat wave or extended dry period are pretty slim. It would be nice if the same could be said for the parched western states.

We rejoice here for the many white, puffy cloud days we have enjoyed with perfect temperatures day and night. After the persistent rains of spring and early summer, contractors, excavators, farmers, and any other outdoor workers dependent on fair weather have had their prayers answered.

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A typical summer scene in Ohio’s Amish country. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

Fields of oats turned from lime to gray-green to golden right on cue. Now squadrons of shocks stand guard for the showy corn against any unwanted predators. In other fields, combined oat stubble serves as a russet reminder of where the wind recently played with amber waves of grain.

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Rainbows appear in flowerbeds, too. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.
Summer’s hues, natural and human-induced, have been simply amazing. Besides the ripening crops, the flowerbeds seem to have invented new color combinations. Splashed against a blue, blue sky, they seem brighter still.

Foggy mornings wet the grass that has grown inches again overnight. The weather has been so nice that lawn care people can hardly keep up. Lush doesn’t even properly define our blessed verdant conditions.

The heirloom tomatoes flourished to the point of having to be trimmed back, least they topple their cages. The pleasant weather encourages them to counter attack by growing even bushier.

Evenings have been extraordinary. Friends ring campfires to rest, relax and celebrate nothing more than the fine company they are with. Families and friends picnic. Children and adults play ball, or just rock away the time on the front porch. That’s the way summer evenings should be shared.

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Another blazing summer sunset. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

I can think of only one word to describe recent sunsets, spectacular. One evening’s fiery show outdoes the next. And when I think the rich, warm colors will cool, they blush all the more.

Whenever I venture outside on these blissful days, my mind wanders back when the neighborhood kids spent the entire day outside, save returning to home base for sustenance.

After supper, we were back at it. If we didn’t have a ball game, we’d play hide and seek or rode our bicycles until dark. Then we’d lie on our backs in the cool grass and watch the stars.

It’s glorious not to have to rely on dreamy memories this summer. The weather we have longed for is here. Let’s enjoy it to the max.

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Tan oats contrast nicely against a rich, green field of corn. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014

The little things of spring are spring

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After a long, chilly and wet winter and early spring, true spring has arrived in Ohio’s Amish country.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Finally, it really is spring! I was beginning to think we would never receive its blessings.

I for one am certainly glad to embrace May. In Ohio, it’s the calendar’s conduit between a long cold, wet winter and early spring, like we have experienced this year, and summer’s usual balmy offerings.

Springtime has much to offer nature lovers. She is especially mesmerizing. Spring lulls you to sleep with her vivaciousness, her lusty beauty and verdant perfumes.

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Once the weather warmed and the days brightened, the leaves of the deciduous trees quickly unfurled.
However, you have to be alert, or you could miss a few of her best offerings. In our hustle and bustle to catch up to what we think is important we may miss her most amiable samplings.

May is one of the main accomplices to this annual transition from hibernation to horticulture. The month has a lot to offer.
We have to pay attention though to absorb it all because the transforming processes evolve so quickly. One day we notice the maple tree buds swelling. The next, it seems, the full canopy has unfurled. How and when did that happen?

To grasp the full measure of spring requires the honing of all of our senses. For those poor souls with pollen or grass allergies, no reminder is likely needed.

Spring, and especially May, is anything but quiet. The spring peepers are the first to break loose. Their noisy outbursts are their celebrative acknowledgements that spring has arrived. The amphibious cacophony is music to our ears.

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Wild yellow and purple violets are in full bloom now in Ohio’s woodlots.

Just one sunny spring day beckons buttery coltsfoot and dainty spring beauties. They brighten dusky roadsides and carpet forest floors and spacious yard-lots alike. Yellow and purple wild violets and lacy trilliums soon follow in all their grace and glory.

Clumpy lawns have already been mowed, evening the emerald patchwork from one neighborhood to the next until the prodigious dandelions appear and reappear. Try as you might, there is no obliterating them. Overnight, their yellowy blooms turn to silky seedpods, which succumb to certain spring gales and find a home just around the corner.

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The beautiful sights and calls of the Baltimore Orioles fill the woods and neighborhoods in Ohio’s Amish country in and around Millersburg, OH.
For avid bird lovers, this is prime time for migrating birds, especially songbirds. A whole host of magnificently colored wood warblers, Golden-winged, Yellow-rump, and Black and White among them, pass through our area on their way north. A few, like the convivial Yellow Warbler and gregarious Baltimore Orioles, will stay to nest and brighten the days with their vigorous choruses.

American Robins have already chosen their first nesting spots, and not always in the choicest locations. Mud-based nests on door wreaths or porch lights are only temporary inconveniences to those who enjoy their early morning wake up calls without setting the alarm clock.

The sooty Chimney Swifts have returned and chatter as they snatch dinner with spring’s first batch of insects. American Goldfinches seemingly changed to their day glow yellow and contrasting black overnight.

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For once the magnolias bloomed without fear of a killing frost in northern OH.
Native shrubs and ornamental flowering trees light up the landscape with their rainbow of colors. One day the neighbor’s giant Magnolia is bursting in pink bloom. The next, her Cinderella gown morphs into a colorful comforter spread on the ground beneath.

Just like a fast moving thunderstorm, the rubies of spring don’t last long. Will we grant ourselves the privilege to gather them in?

It pays huge personal dividends to be alert and watch as spring magnifies the hills and hollows with sights and sounds and fragrances for all to behold. Spring is here. Let’s enjoy it before it’s gone.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2013