Deep in July, the tide of summer reaches as far north as it can go then starts to slip away back toward the Gulf of Mexico. The rate of advance or retreat varies with each year, but the balance has always shifted by the middle of the year’s seventh month. The day's length becomes one to two minutes shorter every twenty-four hours, and countryside responds with changing color and sound.
At the start of summer ebb tide, the land is on the early side of cicada song and fireflies are still vigorous. Woolly bear caterpillars and Japanese beetles become more common. Thistledown unravels more dramatically when summer’s tide has turned. Seed pods form on trumpet creepers. Catalpa beans are fat and long.
Farmers and gardeners now count the days: sixty to ninety frost-free mornings remain in the season, and about three months of growing weather are left for cool-weather crops like cabbages, kale, collards, beets, turnips and carrots. Out in the field, the second cut of alfalfa is well underway; the wheat harvest is nearly over. Summer apples are coming in. Blueberries and elderberries are ripening. Peaches are sweet and warm.
This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the fifth week of middle summer. In the meantime, go out into the high tide of the year, wade along its shore.