August Means Start of Agricultural Fair Season

“By August’s end the warblers are moving through here again, on their way south. But more quietly than they came north in May. I see them, but I have to listen to hear them. The Summer wanes, well before the Equinox.”

From, “Beyond Your Doorstep: A Handbook to the Country” by Hal Borland

July came in hot and hazy and went out wet and muggy. Let’s see what August brings for summertime weather. The autumnal equinox is not until September, so August is not officially the last month of summer, but for many August brings a winding down of the season. The agricultural fair season kicks off this month, and that usually means another school year is soon to begin.

Here in The Last Green Valley, the natural world continues to remind us of the slow but steady progression of our New England seasonal calendar. We are now in full summer growth mode and the flora and fauna of the National Heritage Corridor are looking and acting quite different from the spring birthing months of May and June. Here are a few highlights of nature for August.

At this writing, the blueberry-picking season is still going strong, however, by mid-August bushes will be picked clean by happy harvesters – or eaten by birds. I like to freeze a few gallon bags of blueberries to enjoy throughout the year. After cleaning them of any remaining stems, I spread them on cookie sheets and put them in the freezer for a couple of hours before transferring them to gallon size freezer bags. I learned the hard way putting them into a freezer bag without freezing them on cookie sheets first usually results in a ball of frozen blueberry mush.

August means homegrown tomatoes and sweet corn. I don’t grow corn in my vegetable garden, so it will be trips to a farmers market to satisfy my sweet corn cravings. We just had our first cucumbers and tomatoes from our garden – the flavors of August.

A sign summer is on the wane is when I first hear the katydids singing at dusk. In years past, I have marked the first evening when I hear them on my calendar – the reverse of marking my calendar for the first time I hear spring peepers. Katydids are insects in the cricket family Tettigoniidae, of which there are 6,400 species.

They are green and 2-4 inches long. Seldom seen, they resemble leaves which help them hide in trees. Their strange call is produced by rubbing parts of their front wings together. To me it sounds like “zit-zit” but their call is what gives them the name katydid, as if they are saying “kay-tee-did.” Whichever way you pronounce it, the call of this little insect is a noisy reminder that summer is almost over.

To me, there is nothing more beautiful than the flute-like song of the hermit thrush. Thankfully, they have an extended breeding season and their melodious song will continue this month after most songbirds have fallen silent. We have both wood and hermit thrush in the woods near our house in Putnam. Their songs at dusk are one of the joys of summer.

The young bald eagles in each of the six active nests in The Last Green Valley fledged in July and are now flying and hunting with their adult parents at the ponds, lakes and rivers near their nests. They are as big as their parents and a dark brown color with some white speckling on their chests. They will not get the white head and tail of the adults until they are about 5 years old. They will stay with their parents in the nest territory until late fall when they will begin their own journey.

August is a sneezy, sniffling month for me, and it will really kick in when the ragweed is blooming. The plant has a very fine pollen and when airborne is a major irritant and problem for those who suffer from allergies.

Back in June, you may have seen female snapping turtles crossing roads or venturing through your yard to find a good nest location for depositing their eggs. This month is when the baby snappers will start to hatch and dig their way to the surface. Their journey to the safety of water can be treacherous. If you find a turtle hatching, help it on its way, and place it in the brush near the water source. It will find its way into the water.

There is still lots of summer left, so get out and enjoy the warm weather. There are a few local town festivals and events in August, and that is the month when the larger regional fairs kick-off. Two fun, small-town events include Union Old Home Day in Union, and the Holland Zucchini Festival in Holland, Mass. The towns border each other, so you can catch both events on the same day – though it will mean traveling between two states.

Starting next weekend, the agricultural fair season will kick into high gear. The Lebanon Country Fair, sponsored by the Lebanon Lion’s Club, is from Friday to Sunday. It is a fun fair with similar activities and vendors of the larger fairs, but on a very comfortable, smaller scale. A perfect opportunity to take the young ones for a fun day seeing animals, enjoying the rides and lots of great food.

In this column last week, I mentioned the Brooklyn Fair, sponsored by the Windham County Agricultural Society Aug. 23-26. Larger than the Lebanon Fair, the Brooklyn Fair has more animals and vendors, but still retains that small-town feeling that makes all country fairs so appealing to families.

The largest fair in The Last Green Valley is the Woodstock Fair, sponsored by the Woodstock Agricultural Society and always on Labor Day weekend. This year the dates are Aug. 31 to Sept. 3. I will be there with the TLGV volunteer rangers and our information booth. Look for us in the Agriculture Exhibits Building next to the main stage. We’ll have the 2018 Walktober brochures with us as well.

August provides numerous family fun events as well as a bountiful natural world at its peak of summer seasonal growth. I hope you’ll join me as we harvest the abundance of our region. Come with us as we celebrate the end of summer with events both large and small and experience the last weeks of the season here in The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor.

Bill Reid is the chief ranger of The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor and has lived in the region for more than 35 years. He can be reached at bill@tlgv.org.