Country Roads

It’s not technically fall yet, but feels like it.  This is a very beautiful time of year, with cooler temperatures, dries air, and usually clear blue skies.  I rode my bike to Martensdale today, a small town about 20 miles south of Des Moines.  The trail that goes there is a former Great Chicago Western railbed — this particular branch ran from Oelwein, Iowa to Kansas City.  The day was absolutely picture perfect.  Nearly all of the cornfields are brown now.

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Four Months

September 3

May 3

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September Morn

The calendar says it’s still summer, but fall is definitely in the air.  The days have grown shorter, the nights are slightly cooler, the stalks are brittle in the breeze, and (finally) the air and ground is dry.   The fields are especially beautiful in the long shadows of morning and evening.

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Harvest — Already?

This seems unbelievable, but it’s true:  The harvest has begun.  I drove by a field east of Ankeny today and combines were picking the corn.  In all the years I have lived in Iowa, this is the earliest I have ever seen a harvest — it’s still August, for heaven’s sake.  The field I saw didn’t appear to be one that was damaged by water.

It was one of the earliest planting seasons ever, so I guess it makes sense the corn would be done early too.  Plus, after record rains all summer, the past couple weeks have been dry.  I’m sure farmers are anxious to get the corn picked in case the rains return.

Normally, the harvest begins in mid September or so and continues throughout October.

This picture was taken on August 28, 2010.

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State Fair

I was out at the Iowa State Fair last week.  Coincidentally, the day that I went was designated as “Iowa Corn Day.”  (Actually, I always thought that EVERY day at the fair was corn day.)  Had I known there were special corn things going on, I would have taken my camera — these are pictures from my not-so-great cell phone.  There were many corn exhibits, corn contests (such as guessing which consumer products contained the most corn), ethanol displays, and more.  And of course in the food exhibit hall, there were a number of cookies, cakes and other things that were made to look like corn.  It made me so hungry I had to eat a few corn dogs while there.

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Fire Up

As the corn approaches maturity, it begins turning brown from the ground up.  I don’t know the official name of this, but I’ve always called it “firing.”  It’s one of the first visible signs that the growing season is coming to an end.

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Dog Days

The corn grows so fast in May…June…July.  Each time you look across a field, it’s different from the time before.

And then there’s August.  While changes are still taking place inside the husk as the grain matures, from the outside, the corn doesn’t seem much different.  August 23 looks just like August 13, which looks just like August 3.  Sure, the stalks might slowly turn brown near the ground, and the tassels perhaps take on a slightly darker gold color, but these are subtle nuances unlike the dramatic changes of the previous months.

The sun shines a little further south in the sky.  Shadows grow longer.  Darkness sets in earlier each night, and daylight arrives about 3 minutes later each morning.  Summer winds that used to make tassels dance in the breeze are calmer now.  The air is still thick with humidity, but there’s are different sounds wafting through it….instead of blackbirds, it’s locusts and crickets.

There’s just a distinct feeling of late summer that’s hard to describe, but live here long enough and you’ll notice it — that is if you are attune to your surroundings.

These, truly, are Dog Days.

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