July has been a month of heat and water. The two abiotic factors combine in various ways that the students at the Farmstead get to see, hear, and feel each day. We often notice dew in the cooler mornings before the heat of the day dries it up, or sometimes it lasts until we get rain. The students often hear the sound of thunder in the distance. We talk about how thunder is the sound lightning makes when it strikes, and how we can use the time between a flash and a boom to tell how far the lighting is.
The creek is a popular spot in the summer; it offers multiple ways to have fun when it is hot. The creek has many trees, so there is often lots of shade around muddy creek banks. The water itself feels cool and refreshing as well as the mud. Some students cover their arms and legs with mud that feels cool, even when they are standing in the sun. Mud can protect us from the sun as well as stinging and biting insects.
The Farmstead is full of blooming flowers and green leaves, which supports a healthy community of organisms and we have had many nature sightings this month. We have seen groundhogs, squirrels, and turkeys off in the distance, as well as cardinals, turkey vultures, hawks, and hummingbirds in the sky. We have seen many creeks, crawdads, salamanders, aquatic larvae, and even turtles and many invertebrates like worms, spiders, beetles, etc, ladybugs, fireflies, and many more in the plants, soil, and leaves.
The large annuals and herbaceous perennials demonstrate the power of change as the forest has transformed from a brown earthy terrain to a maze of giant green walls. The students spend time mining for red clay on mud mountain, socializing in a clearing under a spicebush ceiling, and fishing for imaginary creatures with sticks in creek kitchen. As the adults trim the plants to keep the trails clear, the students use the trimmings as loose parts when making ice cream at the stump circle or as potion ingredients. The abundant plant life has provided the backdrop as well as the props for the imaginary adventures the students engage in.
As July comes to an end, we feel the transition from summer to late summer. The early summer bloomers like daylilies and crocuses are gone, the mid-summer bloomers like bear’s foot are here in full force, and the late summer bloomers are starting to get ready for their turn to shine.