What Happens In August
Barn swallows, foxes, and the peacock in August
August. It’s the beginning of the end of summer.
August 2 is the mid-point between the beginning of summer and the beginning of autumn. Summer harvests are in full swing. The first apples are picked at the end of the first week of August; the first pears are picked at the beginning of the second week; the first spaghetti and butternut squash are picked the end of the third week; more pears and apples are picked by the fourth week. And we are still picking zucchini and beans, peaches and plums. August is the high point for peaches in flavor, quantity, and juiciness, AND it is the start of apple season—Ginger Gold, Jonamac, Early Goldens, Early Galas. First cider pressing. August is also the push to get fall crops planted. We are racing daylight hours and nighttime temperatures for the plants to reach maturity before those delightfully cool nights halt plant growth. And this year, August has given us extra hot, extra humid days and nights for the last week of the month, so all of the seeds and young plants are growing quickly.
If we have forgotten to look at the calendar, the animals remind us that August is the month of big changes.
By the first of August, the peacock starts to shed his beautiful, long tail feathers. Within 10 days, the tail feathers have all dropped and George looks a little funny. He starts to grow new feathers in September, and by the first of March, the peacock is gorgeous again, just in time for spring mating season. Growing new feathers actually helps with insulation for the winter.
This year, we have watched some fox kits that have been kicked out by momma fox—time to hunt for yourself! The young ones are not good at hunting yet, are not savvy enough to stay out of sight, and pretty scruffy looking. We see them frequently around the farm, even during daylight hours. The adult fox, who is in gorgeous summer coat of a brilliant red color, is rarely seen. The young ones will need to learn how to trap their natural prey—rabbits and rodents—if they are to survive this winter. Although the foxes check out the chickens frequently, the fencing and chicken coop have held secure.
At the end of August, our graceful barn swallows leave us to begin their 9000-mile migration to South America (no border checks for them!). A bird that weighs one-half to three-quarters of an ounce flies to South America…and back. Completely fascinating! We love our barn swallows. One reason is because they consume thousands of insects, but their grace and speed while flying are mesmerizing. We always watch the last fledglings carefully. It seems there is one nest that cuts it close, and the babies start to fly one day before that August 22-25 departure. And that happened this year. The babies were still in the nest on August 21, started to fly on the 22nd, and departed for South America on the 23rd. How do the swallows know it is August 23? Daylight hours? We miss them as soon as they are gone, because the insect population increases immediately. The babies who hatched this summer will return next summer and refurbish the nests for the next generation. It feels oddly quiet with the swallows gone. It will be April 22-25 when they return.
August is a sneaky transition from summer to almost fall. By the end of the month, we have over 1 hour less of daylight than at the beginning of August. School starts. Two thirds of the year is gone. Everyone is getting ready to celebrate the holiday weekend for Labor Day…and fall is peeking around the corner.