Saturday, August 10, 2013

Fading August

                The summer wears on. Just over her prime she is now somewhat diminished like a faded debutante, tattered at the end of a long dance. Weary and worn she still has a few surprises left for the astute observer. The velvety oblong green fruit orbs of the paw paw tree growing, swelling with dewy freshness and added weight with the help of gravity pull the branch tips towards the ground. It begins to offer some of its exotic fragrance drifting around the base of the tree.  The fruit enlarges by leaps and bounds with each additional day hanging on the tree in August. It is a promise of sweet things to come. When ripe the fruit has an unusual taste and fragrance sweet, melting and somewhat erotic in its complicated odor. It is something you either really like or abhor at first taste and scent. When it is peeled, the large black seeds removed and the tender golden flesh cooked it has a custardy sweetness that appeals to most everyone.

The small green apples hanging on the espaliered trees down by the garden are now not so small or green and exhibit a slight reddish pink blush appearing on one side of their surface. Even the Granny Smith apples are swelling at an alarming rate. My small knotty apples are no match for the fruit grown in the commercial orchards here in Gilmer County where everything is done on a rigorous tight schedule and never is a spraying of insecticide or fertilizer missed. Their apples are huge and hang in clustered abandon like from a Flemish still life painting. Not a blemish or disfigurement is theirs, much less a worm. My apples are not in the same class with these perfect specimens from the commercial orchards but they do have their allure for the person with an organic mind set. Their appeal is exhibited by the hornets, wasp, bees and yellow jackets that rush the fruit like a barbarian horde and eat their fill during the diminishing hours of heat typical of these fading August days.  When picking the fruit in the waning days of summer you have to be very careful or you might grasp a handful of angry, yellow and black stinging insects, incensed from the interruption of ingesting the sweet fruit. They can exhibit quite some unanticipated anger from the accidental intrusion too.

                There must be some mention of the approaching fall wild flowers that begin to spot the sides of Big Creek Road and the other county thoroughfares.  The Black-eyed Susan, (Rudbeckia hirta) are scattered in wild excess all along the county roads as though planned by someone without any sense of moderation. Along the roads one can occasionally see as well the fairly rare, Yellow Fringed Orchid (Platanthera Habenaria cilaris). It is a diminutive wildflower, an understated golden exclamation point that when examined under close scrutiny is breath taking. The Crane’s Fly orchid (Tipularia discolor) is another example of overlooked botanical wonder because of the tiny size. The leaves have a fluorescent purple underside and grow all winter only to disappear in the hot summer months. Later in August they offer an abundance of tiny light brownish white flowers with a green tint exhibited on twelve to fourteen inch tall stems completely devoid of leaves. They are still at the top of our driveway in profusion this morning. You have to get down on your knees with a magnifying glass to fully appreciate the wonder of these tiny flowers.


Yellow fringed orchid


 Crane's fly orchid

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