Summer already.

Pincushion cactus blooms only for a few days each year.

Ah, summer. Summer is my jam. Never have to grab a jacket, hands and feet always warm enough, plenty of daylight — perfect.

This particular summer came in on little cat feet, I think. We know by looking at our phones that the numbers assigned to days are still advancing, yet most activities that define spring or the onset of summer are erased. In this relative silence, heat and humidity hitched a ride as June crept in, and shazam, we’ve got summer.

Some bits of summer are on the agenda every year regardless of everything else.

One of us, some of us, and all of us have paid various visits to the pasture, where the cows and freshly-branded calves do their bovine thing while we run around like wildflower-addled mountain goats or tour the bottoms with a musk-thistle-seeking spray wand in hand.

Checks of the corn stand and the cute baby alfalfa plants provide excuses to pile into the Suburban and force the kids to get along in close quarters for a while.

Baby alfalfa!

My husband occasionally drives as if he enjoys it and weaves gently down the road just for entertainment value. It’s fun to watch the kids in the rear-view mirror lean in sync, left, right, left, right, like a parliament of owlets hissing to tell you to leave their nest in peace.

It is more fun because the kids don’t realize they’re doing it. Some parents are easily amused.

I might be the world’s worst gardener, and that’s not exaggeration, as far as I know. But the garden is in. Time will tell whether it produces, but I am hoping for at least some cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers. Beans, potatoes, watermelon, pumpkin, purple popcorn — they’d be a nice bonus.

We’ve got an older riding mower that’s got the fixit plague: Fix one thing, run a couple times, wait for parts, lather, rinse, repeat. We just picked up a clutch for it and are crossing our fingers that’s the only problem.

During every outbreak of the fixit plague, the kids get the opportunity to push-mow the yard. If there’s one thing that’ll build work ethic and require sunscreen, it’s push mowing three-ish acres of open area in an region that gets 25 inches of rain a year.

A brand loyalty joke from my childhood seems relevant here. Why are John Deere’s colors green and yellow? So they can hide in the sunflowers while the Masseys go by.

We’ve noticed that ticks have been especially prolific this year. Our kids have watched many, many episodes of PBS’s “Wild Kratts” and have decided that our dog needs an oxpecker bird. The adults in the house decided a dose of Frontline might be smarter.

One thing about ticks: If you make pliers marks in them, they die.

We — like everyone else, I’m sure — have also noticed the influx of army cutworm moths. One year when I was in high school, they were so thick my sister and I and our best friend played badminton with millers and fly swatters.

I’m hoping this season of millers doesn’t live up to that one, though we do have actual badminton racquets in case the opportunity arises.

Sadie, 8, in the foreground — When the county guys with the irresistible excavator were done for the day, the new 7-foot culvert was a pretty tempting raceway.

If you’re interested in attracting our children as an audience, I suggest showing up with some kind of enormous and relatively unusual equipment.

The county replaced a culvert damaged in last spring and summer’s floods, and that excavator was the best babysitter. The kids could stand in our windbreak and watch the proceedings to their hearts’ content.

I discovered while the road was closed that living on a dead-end road is one of my favorite things. It’s excellent traffic volume and speed control.

Our family has an inexplicable love for Bob Ross. It’s not really appointment TV, but if we happen to be flipping through our broadcast channels and he’s painting, we’re there.

On one recent episode, he had his pocket squirrel along for the ride. This is something only Bob Ross could get away with, in my opinion, but now our son thinks that since Bob Ross has a pocket squirrel, he surely could have one, too.

I’m pretty sure he’s not aware that “pocket squirrel” isn’t separate from “run of the mill gray squirrel.” Again, some parents are easily amused.

Jenna, 4, Raina, 6, Ivy, 10 — New-to-us kittens Cleo and Leo have had not a moment’s rest since they arrived, with the exceptions of the times they escape for a nap in a tree.

I started a list of Farm Parenting Axioms — things I never would have guessed until trying this gig. I haven’t compiled a huge list yet, but here’s a sampling:

• When you think you’ve found all the corn kernels on the floor, you haven’t.

• When you think you’ve found all the rocks in the bedding, you haven’t.

• A kitten is the best possible toy for all circumstances.

In conclusion, here’s a bit of recommended reading: “If You Lived Here You’d Be Home By Now” by Christopher Ingraham, a Washington Post reporter. He and his wife moved their family from the D.C. area to northwest Minnesota, and the book details that decision and the few years immediately after it.

He writes about what we already know about living in the rural middle part of America, good and bad, but it’s very interesting to see it from his perspective.

Cows and calves browse, graze and laze in a Gosper County pasture, and Jeremy relaxes out of cell phone range. The pasture makes everything look small, which is one of my favorite things about being there.

This Soils and Streams column first appeared in the June 15, 2020, issue of the Kearney Hub.

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