Saturday 23 June 2018. Catching up with the Bloom at Meadowbrook, and Catching a Little Rain Just South

It was 64 degrees F under cloudy skies at

7:00 this morning (just before which spotted this perfect exoskeleton of a nymphal cicada) as I went to the garage expecting to take Rhododendron to the KRT to St. Joseph.

But Rhododendron was not in the garage; after a very brief moment of panic remembered that my husband picked me up from my job assignment at Clark-Lindsey yesterday and I’d forgotten to load the bike in the car.

So the plan changed from the KRT to a circle of Meadowbrook and maybe a ride south on Race Street. l drove to CL and parked in the lot: unlocked my bike, and headed east along Windsor Road for a counter-clockwise circle of the park.

The spiderwort still were plenty evident, but they bore lots of brown seed heads, indicating that more of their bloom was behind rather than ahead of them.

But false sunflowers,

purple coneflowers, black-eyed Susans

yellow coneflowers,

and compass plants

were just beginning their bloom.

Farther down the path, at the viewing platform, the apparently expanding (compared to previous recent years) patch of lead plant was in mid-bloom,

as was the Baptisia.

Framed by lead plant blooms was this new inflorescence of rattlesnake master.

Decided that lead plant is much more spectacular in detail than from a distance.

Noticed that wild quinine, also in mi-bloom,

was more abundant than I remember from previous years.

Noticed a patch of pasture rose already full of green hips.

All along through the prairie, the common milkweed still was full of fragrant pink spheres of flowers, but didn’t stop to photograph them till I saw this one next to an early Monarda bloom.

Noticed that the wet place where the irises and cardinal flowers appear (in their respective times) was quite grown up with willows.

Tree swallows (there were three, all flew at my approach,and one returned) perched on a bird house.

Continued on and crossed McCullough Creek (which was quite full) at the rabbit statue bridge,

opposite my usual direction of travel.

Did not go straight out to Race Street but continued north on the path and exited near the “wonky Christmas tree,”

which looked like it had been trimmed (or had grown) since I observed it last.

Turned south on Race Street toward the open farm fields, where there was incredible corn!

Light rain began to fall before I reached Old Church so turned back

Was surprised by two deer, right next to the road.

They were completely unperturbed by my stopping to photograph them.

Then returned to the CL lot, packed the bike into the car and headed home, somewhat better synchronized with the season.

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Saturday 9 June 2018. Dodging the Rain

It was 69 degrees F and partly cloudy at 5:45 this morning as I headed for my job assignment in Savoy.

Stopped for a photo of the yellow cabbage roses on Race Street,

which made a beautiful picture, even if the plant appears beset with disease

Alas.

Headed west on Windsor Road, stopping near the Polinatarium to look east and view the sunrise,

one of the joys of being an early riser.

Near Neil Street, at the sign for the City of Champaign Prairie Restoration, stopped to catch the very first tiny blooms of the lead plant.

Arrived at work in plenty of time and, as always, enjoyed my shift.

But about half an hour before it was time to go, the sky opened up and the rain that I was convinced would wait till I got home arrived in abundance. And continued to fall past my clock-out time.

So I sat in the lobby of my workplace and watched the rain outside, checking the radar on my phone periodically.

After twenty minutes or so, decided to venture out into the now very light rain, at least to the Starbuck’s on South Neil. It seemed to be clearing up some as I rode and considered makings break for home, but then there was a clap of thunder, and so reverted to the Starbuck’s plan. About half a block away the rain fell more heavily, and I got fairly wet.

As soon as I walked in the barista said the hand dryer in the bathroom might help. I accepted the invitation, and in fact, it helped a lot!

Then I hung out and had a spinach feta egg wrap and coffee and worked on an older blog post.

Soon the rain subsided, and after a pleasant time of writing headed back homeward, passing on the way this little “waterfall,”

Rode homeward on St. Mary’s Road and stopped to see a horse near a recent puddle.

Then stopped briefly at the prairie planting on Florida and Orchard and saw one of the many handsome pairs of milkweed beetles.

and proceeded, dry-shod (and dry-clothed), toward home.

Friday 1 June 2018. To Work with a Stop at Meadowbrook, and Back

It was 67 degrees F and partly cloudy at 5:43 this morning as I rolled Rhododendron down the driveway on the way to my job assignment in Savoy.

Thought about how fast the mid-to-late spring garden flowers (like peonies, irises, and poppies) had come and gone. Now the summer flowers were beginning.

Wanted to stop on the way at Meadowbrook Park to check on the the spiderwort and Penstemon before the hot weather finished them off, and also wanted to get back to my poor neglected blog, even if time constraints prevented long, leisurely rides or descriptions thereof.

After reaching Windsor Road turned east to view the nearest corner of the prairie.

Indeed, there were spiderwort

and Penstemon.

These latter looked like most of their buds had opened in unison.

Rode west on Windsor Road and stopped at the City of Champaign Prairie Restoration to check the progress of the lead plants. Their incipient inflorescences were well into development.

Then had another enjoyable 3-hour day at my job and made my way (stopping on the way back at FM Avionics for fine coffee, fine granola, and a fine lavender-glazed donut) and then back home.

Wednesday 23 May 2018. Early Spiderwort and Earliest Penstemon at Meadowbrook

This morning at 5:20 it was 58 degrees F under mostly clear skies as I rolled Rhododendron down the driveway, destination: Meadowbrook Park. Wore my feather-light cycling jacket, that, with a bit of positive attitude based on the conviction that it would soon get warmer, kept me comfortable enough.

Was delighted to be rolling south on Race Street before sunrise, in the quiet, calm, pristine morning, all the more because the opportunity to do so has become rarer that in the past. Marveled at how pleasant it was to be riding in comfortable temperatures with good light.

Stopped a little way down Race Street at the stand of spruce trees to check for mushrooms, but there was no sign of them. This utter (visual at least, they certainly are there in some form, underground) absence is part of their mystique, part of the wonder of when, suddenly and abundantly, they do appear.

Crossed Windsor Road at my now-favorite, very responsive, traffic signal.

Rode straight to the rabbit-statue bridge, over which I coasted at high speed and had to (chose to, anyway) apply the brakes at the turn.

On the other side of the bridge saw a low blanket of fog resting over the landscape.

Then turned back to get a view of Douglas and McCullough creeks, with the sun coming up behind them.

Then back over the bridge and down the path where there were more good views of the sun rising over the misty prairie.

Looked in the wet area a little way down the path for blue flag iris, in early bud last week. There they were, well into their bloom,

a few close to the path, and the large patch farther away.

Noticed that the area had been “managed” to allow reasonably easy passage from the path. Still, the ground was wet and was glad I’d worn closed shoes and Smart Wool socks.

Thought as I proceeded along that there still were no spiderwort to speak of, but just then, there they were.

And to the left of this one was a Penstemon in bud.

It was the opening of the grand procession of the prairie bloom, and what a privilege it was to be there to witness it!

Rode on past lots of spiderwort, some receding golden Alexanders, and plenty though less dramatic blackberry blooms

on the way toward the prairie viewing station. Stopped for a moment to listen to the song sparrows and to the red-winged blackbirds, which today seemed to say, “talk with me!”

Just about every patch of spiderwort beckoned to have its picture taken, but I resisted many of them.

Was going to look over the prairie from the viewing station but saw what looked like an occupied sleeping bag and opted to pass today. Didn’t really sense danger about it, but you never know, and anyway didn’t want to disturb the person. Did stay close enough to get a photo of the lead plant,

which seem to be spreading.

Watched one of the many red-winged blackbirds

a little while before moving on.

Had thought about riding on at least to Yankee Ridge, but still wanted to time to swim and was very satisfied with what this short ride had revealed. So headed back homeward along Windsor Road. At almost the farthest corner of the park saw Penstemon starting to bloom!

And now to follow their progress.

Wednesday 16 May 2018. The Last Shooting Stars and First Spiderwort at Meadowbrook

It was 57 degrees F under mostly clear skies this morning at 5:35 when I brought out Rhododendron for a ride to Meadowbrook Park.

It was wonderful to be heading out so early to Meadowbrook. Lately I’ve been biking to my work assignment in Savoy, and that has been lovey, but haven’t felt like there has been enough time to linger over the landscape or stop for photos.

So was happy to be heading south on Race Street for the purpose of observing.

Stopped to see a planting of peonies just starting to bloom.

I love the varieties that this gardener chose.

Made another stop at the grove of spruce trees where Amanita muscaria mushrooms have burgeoned in the past several years.

They’ve seemed to occur mostly in the fall, but I’ve also seen them here in the spring. No mushrooms were visible today, however.

Noticed that the growth tips of the spruces were in a variety of stages of development; wondered whether that meant anything about the health of the trees.

At Meadowbrook was about to take my customary counter-clockwise loop around the park but saw a man having an interaction with a large dog and decided not to distract them, reversing the direction of my trip.

There were plenty of golden Alexanders and some wild geraniums blooming, but so far the prairie was mostly green.

Rode along McCullough Creek and heard high-pitched frog-song, eerie and beautiful.

stopped to listen a while.

Saw ducks below the Vine St. bridge

and deer crossing the path into the prairie,

Saw a mourning dove and tree swallow on the prairie viewing station.

Checked out the progress of the nearby lead plants,the leaves of which were beginning to emerge and take shape. Turned onto the unpaved path to check on the shooting stars. It took some searching to find these last blooms. Their seeds looked to be well along in development. Walked along the path a little way searching for the pink shooting stars, on the way seeing tree swallows interacting then spotting my first of this spring’s spiderwort. Caught a view of a well-defined shoot of compass plantand finally found a couple lingering pink shooting stars.

On the way back saw a shrub with goldfinches–the yellow birds of happiness!

It was a joy to be among them under the sky, among the tree swallows, the deer and frogs and red-winged blackbirds. The joy was noticeably therapeutic; could feel the weight of various difficulties lift a bit. Was again amazed by and grateful for the medicine!

Then looped back toward the rabbit-statue bridge. where the walnuts seemed to be doing fine, but lots of other trees, for whatever reason were not. Alas. Rode to the end of Meadowbrook through the grove of haws and crabs.

And then back homeward and off to the pool for a swim.

Wednesday 9 May 2018. A Decent Ride, with Shooting Stars

At 5:40 this morning, the temperature about 58 degrees F, the skies mostly cloudy and a moderate wind from the south-southeast, I headed toward Meadowbrook Park, hoping to find shooting stars (flowers, that is).

A swim would have been nice, too, but didn’t want to miss seeing the first showy flowers (if you don’t count the golden Alexanders), the shooting stars.

Stopped on the way to check for mushrooms under the stand of spruce trees,

but there were none.

At Meadowbrook saw the sunrise over the confluence of McCullough and Douglas creeks.

Then a little down the path saw the sunrise through the young walnut leaves

A little way down saw at least two of what I’m pretty sure were eastern kingbirds . But got no photos.

Walked Rhododendron on the unpaved prairie path and saw golden Alexanders and blackberries breaking bud.

And then, in the place I’ve seen them for ten years, at least, there they were in all their glory: shooting stars!

They beg to be photographed!

Walked down the path a little way and looked to the right (north). Almost missed the pink shooting stars; they were rather low to the ground.

Saw one plant and at first and thought that was all there were. But then more seemed to materialize.

Trump or no, a world with shooting stars can’t be all bad.

Retuned to the paved path and stopped to get a view from the prairie overlook.

It’s getting green, but so far no floral display.

But already the tree swallows had returned to the nearby bird house,

a comforting recurrence.

Checked the lead plants near the overlook ,

the buds of their compound leaves were just starting to swell and reveal their structure.

Then rode on through Meadowbrook, east on Windsor and south on Philo. Saw an indigo bunting to the west side of the road, but was not fast enough for a photo.

The ride toward Old Church Road was effort-full: uphill and into the south wind!

But at Old Church turned west,

and the ride got easier.

Stopped at the Barnhart Prairie Restoration

and was glad to see the bike rack, though couldn’t imagine being far enough from you bike there to worry about locking it.

Then a dark shape swooped in front of me:

It was a turkey vulture, riding the wind.

And then headed home.

Saturday 25 November 2017. Pandamonium. And Mushrooms.

It was 45 degrees F under clear skies at 8:30 this morning as I set out after yoga practice to the legendary Pandamonium Doughnuts. It was a nice 5 mile bike ride to neighboring Champaign and I was curious about their acclaimed product.

Rode west on Windsor Road and stopped at the City of Champaign Prairie Restoration Project.

where dry lead plants framed the signage.

The west wind blew toward me and the net grade was uphill. But overall the ride was pleasant. Was glad I made this choice rather than stay closer to home.

Had a “salted caramel ” doughnut which was covered with a thick layer of gooey frosting. Spectacular! But, in my opinion, not so fine as Lucky Pierre’s vanilla cardamom glazed. Whatever they were fried in was not ghee. Still, it’s good (luxurious!) to have the choice.

Who knew Champaign-Urbana would become a source of fine doughnuts?

On the very easy (net downhill, and with a tailwind!) way home, stopped to check for mushrooms at the usual spot.

There were some, even a pretty good-sized and fairly developed one

but it seemed like they had been disturbed, many dug up an laying on their sides.

Not sure what that was about. I’m pretty sure that more will be back next year. Will watch and see.