End of Summer in Sight

A small eggplant I harvested from my garden.

There is a feeling of fall in the air.

We had a blistering hot July in western Montana, and as a result, and depending on where the wind is coming from, we have various degrees of hazy skies and eye-burning smoke from many Montana wildfires

Still, the last week or so, early mornings have a crisp feel that warn us that the sands in the hourglass of summer will soon be running out.

Our chokecherries are ripe, but there’s not much of a crop and the robins are harvesting what’s there.

Our high country garden looks promising. The tomato plants are full of fruit, and my chile peppers suggest there might be a good bite to the autumn salsa. The green beans finally have pods big enough to pick. Somewhere, below the ground’s surface, root vegetables are gaining bulk, as well.

Still, it’s a race for time, and here in the mountains the starting blocks of a cold spring always put us at a disadvantage. In my home state of Minnesota, people are picking tomatoes and corn. My Hoosier buddy, Charley, lives in Evansville, Indiana, just across the river from Kentucky, and his gardening standard is ripe tomatoes on the Fourth of July.

There are just over two weeks left in the month of August and from then on gardens in Butte are on life support.

We normally go camping over the Labor Day weekend. Fishing is good and the upland bird season opens on the first day of September. It’s a great way to celebrate the end of summer.

On the other hand, I don’t know how many times we’ve come back from the long holiday weekend to find the garden suffering from frostbite. In fact there was one year in the early 1990s when temps on Labor Day morning dropped into the teens and the garden was just plain frozen to death.

The countryside, and yes, that means all of Montana and beyond, is in desperate need of rain and, hopefully some fall rains are on Mother Nature’s agenda, but that also likely translates to high elevation snow. Living at over a mile-high here in Butte, Montana, that means snow right in our backyards.

But, bring it on. We’ll take that late summer rainfall any way we can get it. In the big fire season of 1988 it was a snowstorm, the weekend after Labor Day, that ended the fire season.

We’re now just a couple weeks ago from the opening of the fall hunting seasons. Upland bird seasons open the first day of September. Archery seasons for deer and elk open the first Saturday in September, and that means that archery season opens the day after upland bird season. It’s too early to tell what to expect in early September, though unless we get some meaningful rainfall, the mountains and prairies will be crispy dry when we start taking those walks across the landscape in search of birds or critters.

I have talked to a couple mountain grouse fans that have been doing some scouting and they report that they’re not seeing many birds. That’s not exactly a scientific assessment, but it might be a good indication of what’s happening out there.

But, it’s still summer and that means fishing, and with permission I’m sharing this remarkable story from Mark Daily, a businessman and fly-fishing guide based in Cascade, Montana.

“Today on the Missouri River, my client was landing a good sized brown. I was standing up with the net in hand ready to land the beauty, when out of the corner of my eye, I see an adult eagle with talons exposed coming right at my client. It was that close. It swooped down and took the brown trout right in front of us. My client had the trout and eagle on his fly line in the air, as the big bald eagle started his ascent; the line broke and left the two of us in complete amazement.”

I’m betting he wishes he had someone running a video camera when this happened.

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