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North Hills Monthly

Make the Most Out of the Last Days of Summer

Jul 30, 2015 01:35PM ● By Denise Schreiber
It’s almost the end of summer. Vacations are over, band camp is starting and you’re wondering what happened. It seems like just yesterday that the kids were out of school; you planted your garden and went swimming in the pool. Now there’s a rush to finish all of those outdoor activities before the dreaded winter comes. The good news is that cold weather is still quite a few months away, so there’s no need to get the snow blower out yet.

Take time to relax at home before bad weather forces us indoors. Put a lawn chair out under an umbrella and enjoy the warm, sunny days, now that the never-ending rain has decided to give us a break. If you have little ones, put a blanket on the lawn and see how many shapes you can spot in the clouds. Or roll over and just watch nature at work in the grass—sowbugs, otherwise known as potato bugs or ‘roly-polys,’ curl up when they are touched. Earthworms may squiggle by along with other ‘helpers’ improving the lawn.

Sit in the garden and enjoy the fragrance of lilies while listening to the sounds of catbirds and barn swallows in the evening. Early in the morning, you can hear the cacophony of bluejays, robins and cardinals vying for dominance. You may want to get a copy of Petersen’s Guide to North American Birds, which comes complete with photos and information on nesting, food sources and songs, to see how many birds you can identify. There are probably more than you thought you had in your yard. Have the kids keep score of how many they can find, too!

The Perseid meteor shower, perhaps one of the most well-known meteor showers in the northern hemisphere, will peak this year on August 11, 12 and 13. Building slowly to a peak, it often produces 50 to 100 meteors per hour in the nighttime sky. Named after Perseus the Hero, the meteors are usually very fast and bright, and frequently leave persistent tails.

Fortunately, this happens for us when the weather is warm, and this year, the waning moon will not interfere with our viewing of the showers. More Perseids tend to occur as it gets closer to midnight, and you can typically see more meteors in the wee hours before dawn. If you live near a commercial district, lights may lessen your chance to view the showers clearly.

I have to say that until a few years ago, I never bothered to watch these meteor showers, but now I make a point of staying up late and going outside to make sure that I don’t miss these gifts from the heavens. It is truly magical! Even on a clear night with no meteor showers expected, you can enjoy watching the stars and trying to distinguish the Big Dipper from the Little Dipper.

You can even create your own stars in a jar. Take a mason jar and coat the inside with glitter paint that dries clear. Put a battery-operated set of mini-lights inside, taping the pack to the lid. Turn on the switch and the kids will think you are so cool. You can make several of them to place around the yard to light up the night, and all of those items can easily be found at local craft stores.

To learn more about local flora and fauna, take a ride to the Penn State Demonstration Gardens at the intersection of Wildwood and Ingomar Roads in North Park, where you can watch the bees and butterflies pollinate the flowers. On Wednesday evenings, you can even get some tips from Penn State master gardeners. Walk across the road to North Park Lake to see the waterfowl making their way around the shore, or bring along a picnic lunch and a good book and just relax and enjoy the sounds of nature. If you are feeling a bit more ambitious, you can ride your bike around the shoreline or on the trails in the park, rent a paddle boat at the boathouse, or visit the Latodami Nature Center. There are a lot of activities for kids including the Junior Naturalist program.

The long, lazy days of summer aren’t that long anymore—so take some time to actually enjoy them!