July 19, is the 200th day of the year, and now the tide of summer reaches as far north as it can go, and then starts to slip away back toward the Gulf of Mexico. The rate of the retreat varies with each year, but the balance always shifts during the seventh month. The day's length becomes one to two minutes shorter every twenty-four hours, and the countryside responds with changing color and sound.
At the start of the year’s ebb tide, the land is in the middle of bee balm and coneflower bloom. Fireflies mate in the humid nights. The first katydids and crickets chant after dark. Woolly bear caterpillars, chiggers, ticks and Japanese beetles become more common. Thistledown unravels in the sun and collapses in the rain. Seed pods form on trumpet creepers. Milkweed pods emerge; they burst their shells at the approach of middle fall, just 80 days from now.
The first peaches and summer apples are coming in. July's wild cherries ripen, and elderberries set fruit. Blueberries are blue. The best red mulberries have fallen. Late summer’s white snakeroot, cup plant, ironweed, boneset, wingstem, and tall coneflowers are budding.
This year's ducklings and goslings are full grown. Cicada calls balance the diminished cardinal song and robin song. Rough-winged swallows have started to move south, leading the migrations.
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, under the new Blackberry Moon, scout the fields and walkways for blackberries warmed by the sun.