This has been one hot summer, and it may be the way our summers are going to be for a long time to come, unfortunately. The temperatures are hotter, but much of life is still the same, and the Tehachapi summerscapes are familiar to me after more than half a century of spending my summer days outside.
We actually had several seconds of rain last week, though it wasn't anything measurable, or really even enough to settle the dust. But it did result in some very interesting, shape-shifting clouds.
That's a typical sight in the summer skies overhead. We don't have much thunderstorm activity, nothing like in the Midwest, but a diversity of clouds moves through regularly and they often blunt the heat of the hottest days. That happened during the heat dome recently that brought unbelievably hot temperatures to the Pacific Northwest. On a couple of the hottest days, we had just enough drifting cloud cover to stave off the worst of the heat, and we didn't really set records like many other places did.
If you grew up on or live on a farm like I do, or keep a backyard flock of chickens, the sound of a rooster crowing is part of the summer soundtrack. Their reputation has them crowing early each morning to welcome the rising sun, but anyone who has ever lived around roosters knows that dawn is NOT the only time they raise their voice and sing out.
Headlights shining near them in the middle of the night, an unusual sound that they perceive as potential competition, or just the apparent desire to hear their own voice leads roosters to crow at many different times besides dawn. I love to hear them (just not right outside my bedroom window) so their cocka-doodle-doing doesn't bother me. It's like the Tehachapi train noises — I miss them when I'm away.
I took this photo recently of a young Long-jawed Orb-weaver, Tetragnatha, also known as a "stretch spider" for their appearance and the way they hold their legs when hiding or resting. It was hanging out on a nightlight made from a seashell, which I bought at Morro Bay's famous Shell Shop on Embarcadero Street many years ago.
I don't know why the stretch spider was there, they usually build flimsy webs near water, but maybe it was still trying to find its way in the world. With its sleek, streamlined appearance, I thought it was cute, not creepy.
I've seen a lot of butterflies this summer, happily, though Monarchs certainly aren't common like they once were. I took a photograph last week of a skipper nectar-feeding on a Jupiter's Beard flowerhead. I think it was a Sachem Skipper, but they can be difficult to identify.
Skippers are small winged insects that are butterflies, but they are also considered an intermediate form between moths and butterflies, since they have some characteristics of each. They are active during the day, like butterflies tend to be, but they have small, stocky bodies like moths. They also tend to hold their wings vertically when at rest as butterflies typically do, while moths most often hold their wings horizontally when resting.
Skippers can fly very quickly with their powerful wing muscles, and they are good at vanishing when they want to. I cherish them as they add color and motion to a garden or among wildflowers.
Despite the drought and the higher temps, when I look around the Tehachapi Mountains these days, the natural world has assumed the recognizable patterns of summer. I look at the sky and the hills and the valleys, and I see both people and animals, busy in the cooler mornings and less active the drowsy afternoon heat. Challenging though it may be, I like summer. . .
Have a good week.
Jon Hammond has written for Tehachapi News for more than 30 years. Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.