Dear Sunday Letter friends,
Happy August! Ready or not, here we go headfirst into the downhill side of summer. Dang, it is HUMID here in northwest Arkansas. We’ve been promised a break in the heat this week, and I’m keeping my fingers and toes crossed. Gracie and Annabelle like to walk 3-4 times a day, but for now, a walk in the early morning and one after sunset has to do it. Gracie is the first to feel the heat—her black coat heats up in no time (plus she’s closest to the scorched Earth)—and she doesn’t like it one little bit. She lies on the back porch in the shade, as close to the back yard as possible, dreaming of fall.
Sweet girl just turned nine months old in July!
Life is busy-busy here at butterfly camp. I took in so many caterpillars that for a while I was barely keeping up with food demand for these hungry kids. But what a stellar week. I released my first monarch a few days ago.
It was a girl!
Since then, I’ve released five more monarchs. The tally currently stands at five females and one male.
Here’s our boy:
Can you spot the difference between the male and female monarch?
Male monarchs have a black spot in the veins of each hind wing. (There are other differences but this is the most obvious to me.)
You might say I have a new obsession.
Naked Ladies & Mums
It seems way too early for Naked Ladies to be blooming, but they are showing off all over our neighborhood. We even have them in our flowerbeds in places I’ve never seen them before.
Ever wonder why we call them Naked Ladies? It’s because they bloom once their foliage has died back (like stripping off clothes, I guess.)
My mums are beginning to bloom too!
I believe that crazy deep freeze we saw last winter has caused lots of plants (especially bulb varieties) to over-perform this year. I imagine it to be a sort of a survival mechanism. We nearly froze to death last year so we better give it our all this summer.
Or maybe this is a sign of an early fall? It’s hard to envision an early fall when you can cut the heat and humidity with a dull butter knife.
What could be better on a stifling summer day than a plunge in cool water? We’re on a quest to squeeze every last drop from summer, and one way we plan to do this is by visiting as many Ozark swimming holes as we can. The hills and hollows where we live are filled with creeks and streams and naturally occurring swimming holes; many are only a few minutes from our house.
Last week we visited Gar Hole in rural Washington County. It’s located off Fate Anderson Road 526 (an easy-to-miss gravel road off AR-12). This swimming hole is part of War Eagle Creek which empties into Beaver Lake.
I don’t know how it came to be called Gar Hole, but the name doesn’t suit such a gorgeous spot.
We arrived just before ten on a weekday morning and stayed two hours. Other than a couple of cows downstream, we had the entire heavenly oasis to ourselves. (No doubt a weekend afternoon would be crowded.)
The water was clear and clean and nature was aplenty! A variety of butterflies, damselflies, and blooming wildflowers provided bonus entertainment. Walking along a creek bed is good for the soul.
Sleep, Creep, Leap!
There’s a saying amongst gardeners regarding native plants—the first year they sleep, the second year they creep, the third year they leap. This adage has certainly been true for several of our native plants including this dwarf Joe Pye Weed (“Little Joe”).
The first year I planted it, Little Joe disappeared into the soil, and I thought he was a goner. Turns out he was sleeping.
The second year, he grew to be about twelve inches tall and put forth a tiny blossom. In other words, he creeped around, barely noticeable.
This year, he has grown by leaps and bounds, standing at least four feet tall.
Bees and butterflies are drawn to his whisker-like blossoms.
According to the Missouri Botanical Garden, Joe Pye was an Indian herbalist and healer from the New England area. As the story goes, Joe Pye was instrumental is stopping a Typhus outbreak in New England by using this plant in his treatment protocol. This herb has also been used in curing bacterial diseases.
Just imagine how widespread Typhus might have been if the good Colonial-era folks refused his treatment.
Things Momma Says:
You just can’t depend on the weather anymore.
As always, thanks for reading yet another Sunday Letter friends. Thunder is rolling through our area, and I sure hope we get a little rain.
Stay safe and be smart. Covid isn’t over yet, not by a long shot.
Grace Grits and Gardening
Farm. Food. Garden. Life.