What We Love About Summer!

Winding Pathways asked for reader submissions on what they love about summer and here is what folks shared. 

Dan P was the first. with this short, pithy remark: “Summer = it’s not cold ;)”  

And here is the back story on that. As a kid and teen until his Junior year in high school, Dan delivered first the Penny Saver and then the Cedar Rapids Gazette.  Every day all year round.  Only a few times, when we did our annual Black Hills vacation, did he get a substitute.  So, he was up before dawn, bagged and banded papers and walked his route.  Then, he’d come back and go to bed, or head off to early bird classes at Washington H.S. On really bitter winter days Rich went with him to get the route done safely and more quickly. He has always been a hard and reliable worker with the mantra:  “Show up. Work hard. Be honest. Be nice.”

Here is a picture in winter 1994. And a recent photo. So now you know what Dan loves about summer.

Daddy Sunflower

Giant Sunflower

Jan Watkins added this amazing picture of the “Daddy Sunflower” in her yard and how it came to be.  “I have never raised sunflowers, so last year when a sunflower appeared in this location, I was delighted. It seemed so special there on the ledge. Not really looking into the sun, but rather it seemed, it was looking in at me. It was fun to see the goldfinches feasting on the seeds. This year, I’ve watched the sunflower grow and bloom in the same place as last (year), again facing into my house. It makes me think of Roy. He lived in Kansas for years, the Sunflower State. Its leaves have ruffled edges, a big flower on a short, strong stalk, different from the others.  Definitely special. I have to smile.  I love it.”



From Joye Winey: “The best part of summer is Saturday Morning Market. From early summer with jackets and jeans to midsummer with short and flip flops. From greens, rhubarb, peas, to melons, zucchini, tomatoes, corn eggplants and sunflowers— A great way to start the day. :)”

From Rebecca Groff:                                   “A Peaceful Iowa Morning”

“The lack of any human noise outside my bedroom window greeted me on an early August morning, and the Universe’s message was clear: preserve this special moment. So I grabbed my camera to capture the sights and sounds on our acreage, which happens to be my favorite kind of church.

“Outside, sparrows and mourning doves took breakfast at the bird feeder in among a stand of white pines as I strolled around the yard videoing this peaceful Iowa morning. A capiz shell wind chime jingled softly in the background.

“It was too early for butterfly activity, but just right for the small rabbit that darted out from the butterfly garden, having finished off most of the young delphinium I’d planted in my butterfly garden this past spring. Ah, well. There is a bit left and maybe it will come back. I know bunnies need to eat, too. (Sigh . . . . ) At one time I’d considered seeding that spot over to make it easier to mow, but then the idea came to plant it solely for the butterflies and other pollinators, and I’m glad I went with that decision. Pink and purple phlox, native purple coneflowers, various lilies, Japanese iris, gaillardia, coreopsis and bee balm in red and pink have been well received so far this summer.

“Were someone to offer me a tranquilizing pill, or a chance to be outside working in my yard, hands and nails filthy with soil, the dirt work would win every time. “Dirt therapy,” my sister and I call it. We both agree it can soothe the roughest emotion days.

“In front of our house I established a circular butterfly garden. This year I filled it with pink and white cosmos, coreopsis, nasturtiums, and zinnias to keep company with the two tomato plants I set out — one red and one yellow. Just enough for us and for sharing with our neighbors.

“The acidic smell of tomato plant green is one I never tire of and I couldn’t resist rubbing the tender leaves between my fingers. There was a B-L-T sandwich coming my way in the near future!

“The sun was edging higher in the sky, and the sound of traffic on the main road a mile away was starting to pick up. Soon there would be lawn mowers whirring, and kids bursting outdoors to play and the weekend busyness of humanity all about the neighborhood.

“But for a few minutes, I had the best spot in the Universe all to myself, surrounded only by trees, flowers, birdsong and fresh dew on the tips of my toes.”

Susan F in Arizona wrote: “Weather is easing back from triple digit temperatures to upper nineties.  And we have had a bit of humidity the past week or so.  Of course our humidity is nothing like what happens out east.  Humidity was in the 50’s this week.  The monsoon rains have been causing quite a bit of flooding but it has been spotty.  All depends on the terrain what kind you get, flash floods in the hill country or just high water on flat land.  Canals and runoff ditches help in the larger cities, but there is no decent drainage system to keep streets (from) flooding.


Finches fun to watch.

“I still enjoy my birds.  I continue to get sparrows, finches, hummingbirds and Quail families.  I have watched the baby quail grow from tiny babies (no bigger than a silver dollar) to toddlers, preteens, to teenagers.  Right now the oldest of this year’s babies have color patterns which have helped ID them by sex.  I know I have three male teenagers.  The next batch coming along is almost to that stage and the littler ones are developing the topknots on their heads.  Sometimes I have all three age groups, other times only the oldest three come alone with no parents to escort.  The younger ones come with their parents still.  Fun to watch.  I also have a curve-billed thrasher that spends more and more time each day by the food block.  It especially likes mornings and late afternoon.”


Jackie and Peter Hull in Virginia take in the back roads with these observations: “On a pristine day with not a cloud in the skies we often begin a journey northwest to the Blue Ridge Parkway. It is here that we can see for miles to the north, south, east and west. Looking westward over the Great Valley we can view the Allegheny Mountains stretching clear to West Virginia. We marvel that the pioneers were able to cross the Blue Ridge and Allegheny mountains on foot, horseback and rafts down the multiple rivers and streams to settle the country centuries ago. Enjoy our country and love it!”

Virginia Mountains

Clouds over mountains

And another observation from Virginia: “Tuesday we had some intense storms here in Bedford,
Virginia. As I looked out the French door windows, I could see some nasty clouds slowly slipping over the mountains. For a while nothing happened. I turned away to fold some clothes. As I moved back into the living room, I was startled to see a grey white cloud had completely enshrouded the
western mountains. At first I was perplexed. Then I whispered, “Oh, my gosh.” I could hear the rain pounding as this cloud  steadily moved closer to us.

“The trees disappeared as did the silo and then the house next door became a blur. All at once the rain was pounding on the roof and I could hardly see my vegetable garden. Passing slowly over my house the rain continued eastward obstructing the eastern view of Turkey Mountain. After all was said and done, we had two inches of rain in a short time frame.”

High Summer Labyrinth Walks

What fun hosting  Bankers Trust staff and clients and welcoming an out of town visitor to the Phoenix Harmony Labyrinth.  Tuesday, July 11 was steamy and threatening storms.  But, the hardy crew engaged in lively discussions and asked probing questions about the more simple lifestyle we embrace at Winding Pathways.  Now, simple does not mean easy.  Tending a large yard and five circuit labyrinth are work.  Rewarding work. And, people are curious about chickens, managing small gardens, maximizing space, retaining water on our property, heating with wood, and creating diversity that welcomes wildlife. Topics like ways to save energy which saves money to be invested or used caught their attention. And questions on managing pests like ground hogs and deer. We touched on a lot and had a great time.

Go to 1080 Labyrinth for a photo album of the afternoon and evening.

Then, with storms obviously to the south showing off cumulus and anvil clouds but no threat, all walked the Phoenix Harmony Labyrinth.  Mike T’s comment summed it all up.  As he and Terri entered the center a cool breeze touched their faces.  Mike paused and said, “I never want to leave.”

Thanks Terri Doyle for organizing and promoting!

Black Snake!

Our blog on snakes in the yard struck a note! People loved it and some shared their “rattler” experiences. But, for most of us, snakes are helpful in the yard and we can help them, too, as these readers did. From Jackie and Peter Hull in Bedford, Virginia, a story about how they rescued a black snake.

“Several years back to protect my strawberries from birds we tucked some netting around the raised bed of strawberries which seemed like a good idea at the time. It allowed the bees and butterflies to pollinate the blossoms, but kept out critters or so we thought. One morning I was out strolling through the raised beds noting what was coming along. Much to my dismay I spotted a huge shiny black snake had become entangled in the netting. It was trying to retreat or move forward but every move just made his situation worse.

“A black snake is a godsend to gardeners and their gardens, so to have this garden friend tangled and suffering was not so good. I scurried to the house letting my husband and tough ex-Marine, Peter, know that I needed his help in the garden immediately because a black snake was in distress. I grabbed some scissors while Peter put on a long sleeved shirt, pants and leather gloves. We met by the strawberries. Peter was not in the least bit interested in untangling this creature, but I was. So I began snipping the plastic strands from around the snake’s body. Snip by snip I finally released the snake who had spent a very long time struggling to become free. He didn’t make an aggressive move so we picked him up and put him across the lane near the shrubs.

“This scenario repeated itself the following year until an idea formulated in my head. I thought: “Let’s build a screen like a window screen and place it on top of the raised bed.” We measured and ruminated about the size since we needed it to be tall enough for the plants to grow their berries. This was a complete success as the following spring we attached this contraption to the top. The bees and butterflies were able to do their work, but the birds, mice and black snake never could get in.

“The black snake is still around but not in the strawberries. Peter said he saw him a few weeks back slithering up the gravel driveway. I’m just glad he doesn’t get tangled in netting anymore.”





Chickens with Hoover’s Hatchery!

If you missed our first Facebook Live watch this Hoover’s Hatchery video.

We chatted about Chickens and Gardens, Insects and Pests, Keeping Chickens cool in the summer and free from insect bites and predator invasions, and gave some tips on keeping water and feeders “poop” free.

We’re live with Winding Pathways talking with Hoover’s Hatchery about gardening with chickens!

Posted by Hoover’s Hatchery on Thursday, June 15, 2017


Join us next time.

String Bean Labyrinth

A Kansas Couple Creatively Walk The Path
by Emily and Zach Hemmerling, guest bloggers

Anyone who has ever spent hours picking green beans knows it’s a thankless job. Aching backs, mosquito bites, and soaked sweatbands, all for a few pounds of produce that is consumed almost embarrassingly fast. Last spring, I made a resolution. If I was going to toil under the summer sun in that special brand of syrupy humidity unique to south-central Kansas, then I was going to make it look good.

String Bean Labyrinth

I decided I wanted a green bean labyrinth. My indulgent husband got quite a kick out of the idea, and planted the seeds in the sketched-out shape I left for him on the kitchen counter one morning. It’s a simple labyrinth, just a few turns, and the lines are three plants thick. We planted three different varieties: Jade, Royalty Purple Pod, and Dragon’s Tongue.


Two great flushes of beans gave us about twelve pounds before a sudden heat wave crumpled all but the inner circle.  It was still a job to “go pickin’,” but the labyrinth made it easier. And, it was always nice to suddenly find myself in the middle, and even nicer to see I’d already filled my basket without realizing it.  Sometimes when my husband got home from his landscaping work we would walk the labyrinth. We’d talk about our days or plan a camping trip, or dream about what the orchard will look like in a few years. Those few minutes to reconnect before moving on to our respective evening chores would keep us going. Then the pig-weed moved in, and by that time the grapes were turning, leaving the labyrinth to slowly dissolve back into the ground. The field where the green bean labyrinth was is already planted to red clover and will be fallowed next year. Since the next plot in rotation is a bit too narrow to hold a proper labyrinth, it might be a few years before the next vegetable labyrinth takes shape. It’s worth the wait.

Editor note:  Below is a You Tube video about drawing three and five circuit labyrinths. Lars Howlett is a skilled builder and facilitator connected with The Labyrinth Society.