Exploring The Last Green Valley – The First Day of Summer in The Last Green Valley


Exploring The Last Green Valley – The First Day of Summer in The Last Green Valley

Exploring The Last Green Valley, The First Day of Summer in The Last Green Valley

This Monday, June 20th, marks the first day of summer for 2016. Here are some first-day-of-summer facts from The Old Farmer’s Almanac, a handy source of weather information and wisdom.

  • The summer solstice heralds the beginning of summer in the Northern Hemisphere. The timing of the summer solstice depends on when the sun reaches its northernmost point of the equator.
  • In 2016, summer begins with the solstice on June 20 at 6:34 a.m. EDT.
  • The word solstice is from the Latin solstitium, from sol (sun) and stitium (to stop), reflecting the fact that the sun appears to stop at this time (and again at the winter solstice).
  • In temperate regions, we notice that the sun is higher in the sky throughout the day, and its rays strike Earth at a more direct angle, causing the efficient warming we call summer.
  • This summer solstice is the day with the most hours of sunlight during the whole year.

For most people summer is their favorite season. I enjoy all seasons and probably like fall the most, but summer is a close second. Here is a sample of what I enjoy about summer along with information on my favorite summer insect.

Summer means farmer’s markets and there are many to choose from throughout The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor. You can find a list of farmer’s markets on The Last Green Valley website at thelastgreenvalley.org, click on the Explore tab and then the Farmer’s Market tab.

Summer is when I take my vacation. I am fortunate that I can get away for a full two weeks and always go to a small New Hampshire town where my grandparents retired and spent the remainder of their days. Their old farm is my family place where I return to reconnect. I’ll hike, swim in the local lake, read books, unplug and recharge.

Blueberries are one of my favorite summer foods. In our region we have several pick-your-own farms for berry picking and you can usually find fresh local berries at farmer’s markets. A few years ago I planted some bushes at my home in Putnam but the bushes are still pretty small. My goal by the end of berry season is to have several quarts in my freezer to hold me over through the year. At this writing my supply has dwindled to half a quart so I can’t wait get out there and stock up.

For millennia, nature has lit up the start of summer with its own seasonal decorations. A thousand Tinkerbells suddenly arrive to fly and dance in the warm summer air, their shimmering lights aglow in the twilight. This year, it was Memorial Day, May 30th, when my wife Julie and I were enjoying the early evening outdoors when she exclaimed “look – there is a firefly.” Sure enough, a lone firefly lit up as it flew over the barn, down into the raspberry patch, then up and over the back field and stonewall. The light blinked every ten feet or as and we silently watched its zigzag route as it made its way into the night.

Here are some interesting facts about the firefly. Some folks call them “lightning bugs” and I have to admit to using both names. Whatever you call them, they are a summer favorite for people of all ages – especially children.

  • Fireflies are in the Lampyridae family of insects that are winged beetles known for their conspicuous use of bioluminescence during twilight hours to attract mates or prey. The light they produce is a “cold light” with no infrared or ultraviolet frequencies. The chemically produced light from the lower abdomen may be yellow, green or even pale red.
  • There are about 2,000 species of fireflies in the world, mostly in the temperate and tropical environments. They prefer marshes, wet and wooded areas where the larvae have sufficient food sources. They do produce light in the larvae stage and are called “glow worms.”

It has been about 50 years since I last caught a firefly. I remember one summer night my brother and I spent an hour or more filling a glass jar with the little lightning bugs. We were sleeping outdoors that night and the luminous jar lit up the walls of our tent with an eerie greenish glow.

My older sister made sure we released them before bedding down for the night. She unscrewed the top of the jar and gently waved it into the air to aid their winged escape. We watched the glowing lights scatter across the field and into the darkening night. What was but a fun childhood activity so many years ago is now a warmly-illuminated summer memory — thanks to a little bug.

What are your favorite summertime activities? Feel free to share them with me. We live in a beautiful place called The Last Green Valley. Enjoy it, share it, and remember to pass it on to a new generation of firefly “catchers.”

Bill Reid is the Chief Ranger of The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor and has lived in the region for more than 30 years. He can be reached at bill@tlgv.org

The Norwich Bulletin is granted first serial rights and associated electronic rights to publish the previous article.  The Last Green Valley, Inc. retains all other rights to the work.



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