Sunday 25 June 2017. North on High Cross to Ford Harris, with a Glimpse of Weaver’s Early Summer Bloom

At 6:12 this morning it was 56 degrees under clear skies as I pointed Rhododendron to the east and north to check out High Cross Road.

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Did not expect a Meadowbrook-like flower display, but on the way, Weaver Park was just starting to offer a bouquet of prairie flowers:

False sunflower,

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Monarda,

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mountain mint,

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at least three of the Sylphium sisters (cup plant, rosin weed, and prairie dock; cup plant is shown here) and budding yellow coneflowers

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common milkweed

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butterfly milkweed,

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Baptisia,

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and an early-blooming aster.

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And this on a pretty casual inspection.

Then rode on Main Street, across University through the Beringer subdivision and north on High Cross Road.

The corn and soybean crops were well underway.

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Rode as far as High Cross and Ford Harris

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and turned back.

Noticed bone-like pieces (turned out to be wood) imbedded in the road.

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Saw a dead possum, presumably hit by a car, with its immature babies scattered around it. Alas. Almost showed a photo but decided against it. Photographs of violence have their importance, but they always feel disrespectful to the victims.

Stopped on the pleasant ride southward (it seems there is a bit more downward slope in that direction) to get a picture of chicory (exotic weeds) because their discs of pale violet-blue radiating petals seemed exceptionally lovely just then.

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On Main Street on the way back stopped at the place with the native plant garden, across from Weaver Park, where lead plants were blooming.

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And, as at Meadowbrook, troubled by Japanese beetles.

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Shortly afterward I was troubled by the next-door dog, who must have thought I was about to trespass on its territory. I used the high-pitched “Good doggie!” approach, its owner called it back when he saw what was happening, and no damage was done.

Except that I got out of there so fast I didn’t get my phone securely into my pocket. After crossing the street I heard a sound that reminded me of crushing an empty bottled-water bottle and unwisely rode on without investigating it. Only when I stoped for another photo did I realize that the phone was not there.

Alarmed at being without my life-support (sad, I know) phone, I retraced my path and desperately hoped it was near the site of the sound I’d ignored.

Fortunately it was! I retrieved it, and the day proceeded without any more such near-disasters.

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Sunday 11 June 2017. To Philo, Center of the Universe, and Back

It was 66 degrees F under a cloudless sky at 5:50 this morning as I rode Rhododendron south on Race Street.

It sounded so calm outside, but the phone weather ap said there was a 9 mph south wind. Have learned to respect that information so planned for a trip to Philo IL, Center of the Universe, according to its water tower.

Indeed, riding south presented me with a noticeable headwind.

Stopped, as I almost always do, at the rabbit-statue bridge over McCullough Creek.

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Noticed dying trees.

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Too common, alas.

Saw the continued bloom of spiderwort

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and Penstemon

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Used restraint to continue around the prairie without further stopping to Windsor Road. Rode east to Philo Road, south to Old Church then east again.

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Rode on Old Church Road to Yankee Ridge

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that lovely little oasis of vantage and sacred silence, then rode around the corner onto Yankee Ridge Road, past a friend’s amazing house, complete with extensive prairie landscaping.

Turned east onto section road 900 N (County Highway 18) to Philo.

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Rode to the water tower; went off the road along the train tracks to get a view of all the words.

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On the way back saw my friend who lives in the amazing prairie-landscaped house, out walking her dog. It was nice to actually stop and talk a bit this time!

Then rode downhill with the wind at my back toward Old Church Road.

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Stopped at Barnhart Practice Restoration

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Could not see spiderwort but there were lots of Penstemon.

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Saw a good number of prairie dock leaves: large, erect, serrated spade-shapes, with the sunlight and shadows showing through them.

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Saw spiderwort farther down, along the road, among waving grass flowers.

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Stopped on the way back to check for Amanita mushrooms under the spruce trees. They were prostrate and dried up.

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Felt a little more centered for having visited Philo this morning.

Saturday 3 June 2017. Greeting the Early Sun and Catching the Abundance of Spiderwort and Penstemon

It was 67 degrees F under mostly clear, mostly calm skies at 5:17 this morning as I wheeled Rhododendron down the driveway and toward South Race Street.

Was determined to be present to receive the gift of additional daylight and thus additional time with which to take in the outdoors. I am a morning person but this year have not quite managed to get up with the birds and not squeeze in too many little activities to make it out the door before official sunrise. Until today!

The bike felt smooth and easy, and the morning was fresh and of a perfect temperature, but today I felt very much not quite awake. As an inveterate morning person, this does not happen to me very often, but when it does I think of the night-people who have to be awake early for something unusual and am sorry for my past insufficient empathy for their situation.

Stopped not far into the ride for the irresistible pastel cabbage roses

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and the fuchsia-colored sweet peas

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Looked like there were lots of little apples on “my” tree.

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Saw some Amanita mushrooms under the spruce trees,

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but not tons of shiny, new, succulent specimens.

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Saw also a couple individuals of another species,

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which looked healthy enough.

At Meadowbrook Park, was delighted to welcome the rising sun.

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Stopped at several spots to take it in, over McCullough Creek at the rabbit-statue bridge

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and down the path a little way

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Wondered whether there still would be blue flag irises, and, oh, there were!

Framed by prairie dock leaves,

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and close-up.

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The park was empty, the morning fresh, already mint-fragrant!
the Penstemon

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and the spiderwort

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therapeutically abundant!

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Stopped at the Freyfogle overlook

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to check on the lead plant, which were in bud, but, alas, bearing a collection of robust shiny reddish-brown beetles on their foliage.

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Fervently hoped the beetles were just resting there or at least readily sated with little damage to the plant’s integrity.

Rode on through gloriously abundant white Penstemon and blue spiderwort. The landscape was deeply soul-filling. Was happy to be smack in the middle of another stage of the year that’s anticipated before it comes and missed when it’s finished.

Near the Vine Street entrance to the park got a shot of the abundant serviceberries

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Then rode west on Windsor to check the lead plant at the City of Champaign Prairie Restoration, which more than ever looked in need of stewardship,

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so overgrown with invasive exotics. But the lead plants looked well enough.

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Did not want to walk through the overgrowth to check for beetles on these.

Rode south on First Street, which felt mostly uphill! My hip muscles were starting to tire though knees and shoulders were happy enough. At 900 S, turned back.

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On the way back stopped at the roadside prairie garden, which featured spiderwort, lace-edged (not an official name, just a description) cup plant,

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butterfly weed

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and a small, less showy milkweed.

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Spied a great blue heron while crossing over a creek on First Street. Parked the bike and carefully walked back to the bridge, Just in time to see the heron take off.

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They sure are wary.

Got a shot of a dickcissel (had been hearing lots of these “mini-meadowlarks”) on a fence post.

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The way home was mostly downhill, which I gratefully enjoyed!

Sunday 7 May 2017. No Fox

It was 41 degrees F under clear skies at 7:30 this morning as I finally got Shadow on the road. Headed north and east to see whether the fox would be in its customary place across Main Street from the Dart plastic-lid factory.

It was not.

So went on to see what was happening at the edge of Weaver Park.

Blooming were golden Alexanders.

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Recognized shoots of common milkweed, wild bergamot (Monarda), I’m pretty sure,

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as well as prairie dock, compass plant, cup plant, to name a few.

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Rode only to the edge of Weaver and turned back.

Across the street on the way back were pink evening primrose in a garden generously planted in native plants

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The field next to the Dart parking lot bloomed in butterweed.

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Wondered whether there would be corn or soybeans (if anything) planted there this year.

Thursday 25 August 2016. Gentian Debut, Royal Catchfly Farewell

This morning at 7:37 it was 70 very comfortable degrees F under a blue sky.

Headed south on Race Street to Meadowbrook Park on Rhododendron, feeling ever so slightly impatient and thinking about what I wanted to and had to after the ride (ha ha!) i.e., not yet awake in the present.

Felt the usual grump about the stoplight at Windsor (which is proving to be a surprisingly challenging obstacle to inner peace! My response to it, that is.) and went directly to the Art and Billie Spomer Prairie, walking Rhododendron, with a stop at the little wooden bridge over McCullough Creek

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The recent rains filled it higher than it typically is this time of year.

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Farther along into the prairie, saw lots of thistles.

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which somehow don’t usually attract my attention unless they hold bees or butterflies, but the abundance of these was striking.

Planned for today’s visit to be focused and brief: gentians, the foliage of which has been visible for a while but not the flowers, royal catchfly, cardinal flower. That proved difficult, however, as other images beckoned: maturing pods of white wild indigo,

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the first stiff goldenrod, accented by ironweed,

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a common milkweed stalk in pod,

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leaning out into the path, prairie dock,

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and delicate pale-pink Gaura.

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Then, there they were, the first cream gentian flowers, which certainly were not there last week,

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and immediately, once I could shift my focus just below the surface of the sea of prairie plants, they seemed to be everywhere. Always find it amazing how well these large, abundant flowers can hide until the first one is recognized.

Noticed that many blooms surrounded stalks that had been severed, presumably by hungry deer

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It was a testament to their vigor.

Noticed also that many blooms were open.

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Here, at least, pollinators were present and seemed to be accomplishing their job.

Looked for royal catchfly where I’d seen them a couple weeks ago and expected to see a few last red flower-stars but did not. Was surprisingly sad about it. Knew they would not be there forever but wished for more of a transition. Made me think of the common human desire to be able to say goodbye. Interesting how it doesn’t change the outcome of a situation, but somehow one feels slightly less “violated” when allowed a conscious acknowledgement before the loss happens.

And then, farther down the path than I expected, against all hope, there they were!

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It was a reprieve, a space to fill with a little more gratitude!

Then it was time to check the area near the Marker statue for evidence of bottle gentians. On the way were sunlit purple coneflowers,

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compass plant blooms,

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“bouquets” of tall coreopsis (or perhaps tickseed) and turning blackberry foliage.

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Then, near the Marker statue was foliage (which didn’t look especially healthy)

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but no blooms of bottle gentian. Their season, however, still is early.

Did see some nice bush clover nearby.

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Moving along the path on the way to the first cardinal flower site saw a fall sunflower, maybe a Jerusalem artichoke.

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There was goldenrod that was not the common species–need to look it up.

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Also noticed the broken branch of a tree

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whose brown, clinging leaves suggested that the trauma had happened earlier this year.

And then on to the upland cardinal flowers!

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Saw even more blooming plants than last time, which I noticed through the aging spikes of blue vervain.

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Walked heedless of my soaking feet through the wet ground to get close to them,

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And they were accented beautifully by the yellow tickseed, which were just starting to bloom.

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So glad for these fabulous flowers that wait until the prairie’s season of decline to make their bold display. Love the metaphor of it.

Friday 5 August 2016. Not One but Two Meadowbrook Cardinal Flower Places!

Actually made it out a little before (5:35) the sunrise this morning,

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when it was 70 degrees F, the sky party cloudy, though the phone ap claimed, erroneously in my exact location, that it was raining (?).

Rode to Meadowbrook Park to see whether the cardinal flowers had appeared and also whether the cream gentians (of which I’d seen the beginning of buds) had started to bloom.

Took the Vine Street route and saw the bifurcated ash tree at the edge of Blair Park,

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which was still mostly leafy. Close to it was a newly planted tree. Was not sure that it wasn’t another ash. Ashes, ashes, so many are falling down….

At Meadowbrook took the loop around the Art and Billie Spomer Prairie

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in a clockwise (not my usual) direction. Was happy to see the colors of the dawn sky over the prairie again, after what seemed like a long time.

Rode fairly directly to the Freyfogel observation deck, where there were tick trefoil

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and a bumble bee getting what it could from an old wild bergamot flower,
full green pods of white wild indigo

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as well as dark, ripe ones,

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aging Culver root,

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tall Coreopsis and two of the “Sylphium sisters” (compass plant and prairie dock) in the same frame,

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and foliage but still barely buds of cream gentian.

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The false sunflower were present and photogenic as ever.

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Liked the human-like forms of rattlesnake master flowers.

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Noticed a lot of “browning” in the flowers;

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wondered whether it was more than maturity, maybe disease.

The sky over the prairie was gorgeous and dramatic this morning.
and it was hard to resist taking lots of photos.

Got a modest shot of the Marker statue with a good sky behind it.

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Whether or not you like the sculpture, I think one has to admit that it really interacts well with its environment.

Saw gentian leaves near the statue

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but wasn’t sure whether they were of the cream or (blue) bottle species. Soon there should be flowers that will tell.

There was more dramatic sky farther along the path

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and then, when I went to get a close shot of the Liatris by the two little trees, saw some blue vervain and, wonder of wonders, in the place they had been for several years, then not for at least the past two, there were cardinal flowers!

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There were at least two different plants with the red flowers!

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Ah, the joy of having let go of something loved and then for it unexpectedly, against hope, to have it return!

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Yielded to the draw of another shot of the sky

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then stopped briefly at the rabbit-statue bridge to check the cardinal flowers there.

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There they were (if you look really carefully!). But was content not to get into the stickers to be close to them; was just glad they were there.

Felt overflowing with the abundance and generosity of my surroundings, this place, this day!

Sunday 10 July 2016. Weaver Beauties, and the Fork in High Cross Road

It was 61 degrees F, the sky clear, this morning at 6:15 as I wheeled Rhododendron out of the garage (and then back in briefly for some lubricant on the chain) and headed toward Main Street and High Cross Road.

The sun was well-clear of the horizon so didn’t get any sunrise shots.

But the morning was beautiful, and the buzzing of waking doubts and worries about the usual things, and and now some new ones, began to yield to the sweet, cool air and the road under my wheels.

Stopped at the outer edge of Weaver Park, where an abundance of native prairie plants had been planted. And a lot of them were blooming together–a mid-July prairie bouquet.

Included were wild bergamot

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false sunflower and cup plant

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yellow coneflower,

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purple coneflower

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rosinweed

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and compass plant.

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Also saw flower stalks of the fourth Sylphium “sister,” prairie dock, but it was too far into the middle of the planting to get a good shot.

Did not venture southward to the buffalo-wallow pond but rode on through the Beringer subdivision to High Cross Road, over the I-74 bridge and over the Saline Branch through slightly moist air that varied from comfortably cool to comfortably a little cooler in the lower micro-altitudes.

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Along Brownfield Woods, not much was obviously blooming among the poison ivy, stinging nettle, and giant ragweed except Joe Pye weed,

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Which is so tall and the flowers so small that it’s hard to get a good photo of them.

Seemed like herbicide had been applied to a good stretch of the edge of Brownfield between the road and the outside of the fence. Alas.

Saw the sun catch the fuzzy leaves of a field of vigorous-looking soybean plants.

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Then noticed a visual pun,

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which made me laugh out loud. Reminded me of the bones and other materials I’ve observed imbedded in roads, how the road has modern fossils and is made of more things than we’d guess.

Went as far as Ford Harris Road

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a nice little corner where soapwort

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and a few other non-native but nice enough flowers bloomed.

Also it was a good place to see how crazy-huge and already-tasseling the corn was.

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On the way back saw an impressive three-flower-spiked great mullein plant.

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Across Airport from Brownfield Woods spotted a cluster of attractive very pale-pink flower-spikes I couldn’t immediately identify.

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Close-up, the structure of the flowers looked wildly exotic.

Later looked it up, and it turned out to be American Germander (Teucrium canadense) which now I remember finding a couple of years ago, a little farther north on High Cross and wondering why its name referred to three (or at least two) different countries.

Noticed in the home stretch back that now I felt all engaged in this ride, that the worries and doubts were folded and stowed into the appropriate compartments and for this while I gratefully occupied the present. Hooray!