Diane Prather: You know it's summer when ...

Sometimes summers in Northwest Colorado are remembered for something that stood out - like being hotter and drier than usual (even an all-out drought), or being colder and wetter than usual, or even for having an unusual presence of some type of insect (such as butterflies or grasshoppers).

This summer probably will be remembered for being wetter than usual, with lots of grass and wildflowers. However, no matter the year, you can tell it's summer in rural Northwest Colorado when:

• Implement dealerships and welding shops are doing a brisk business, supplying hay equipment parts and fixing machinery.

• Cars have to stop or slow down because sheep are being trailed on the highway.

• Ranch dogs are in their busiest season, chasing cows out of the brush or keeping sheep moving along a highway.

• Area pickup trucks are loaded with grease, tools, baling twine, and water jugs.

• Patches of white flowers (whitetop) start showing up on hillsides and in fields.

• Ranchers have tanks on their 4-wheelers and are out spraying weeds.

• Some of a rancher's cows have crawled in with his neighbor's herd. (Cows from each herd may have traded places.)

• The rancher has put away colostrum, ear tags, tagging gun and other calving supplies.

• Barn cats have had their second litters of kittens.

• Planes are out early on still mornings, spraying fields.

• 4-H and FFA kids are leading their cattle and sheep around, in preparation for the fair.

• Fair events are being advertised in the newspapers.

• Lots of does and fawns are seen in the hayfields.

• Robins are enjoying the fruits of the strawberry patch.

• The rhubarb is going to seed.

• Although the grass is two feet tall on summer pasture, cows have their heads through the fences, eating grass on the other side.

• Some of the barn cats have left for the fields to hunt mice, gophers and squirrels.

• Agriculture supply stores offer specials on livestock grooming supplies and show halters.

• It's hard to see cattle on high country pasture because the grass is tall, the brush is thick and there are lots of leaves on the trees.

• Ranchers are checking ponds to see if there's enough water for livestock.

• Bulls "converse" with one another across the fences.

• In places where cattle graze along a county road, the mailboxes are open because the cows have "helped themselves" to the mail.

• Garden corn wasn't "knee high by the 4th of July" but may be by the 4th of August.

• Bulls have decided that there are more attractive cows across the fence, in the neighbor's property.

• Sheep are being hauled to summer pasture by semi-trucks.

• The Farmers Market offers delicious produce and home-cooked goodies.

• Smoke can be seen in the distance, coming from a fire than has started by lightning.

• Sheep wagons are being moved on the highway, from one camp to another.

• Badgers are busy digging holes in fields and pastures.

• Kids are participating in Little Britches Rodeos.

• Stores run low on fencing wire.

• Ranchers cut hay, it dries in the sun, they rake the hay, it rains, and they start over again.

• The hay field is the "hot" place to be, literally.

• The hummingbirds have returned, and every house has containers of nectar out for them.

• At night, skunks let everyone know they're around.

• Mama barn cats put their second litters of babies in the newly-stacked hay.

• Corrals are being cleaned.

• Stock trailers, loaded with horses, run from home to summer pasture and back.

• Hoses for garden and yard run all day long.

• Trucks, pulling loads of hay, are running in every direction.

• People hunt up their barbecue and dessert recipes so they can participate in the cook-off contests held during the fair.

• Cattle rub the gates down.

• The barbecue gets a workout.

• Corrals are empty and lonely

Enjoy your summer. The white stuff will be here in the blink of an eye.

Copyright Diane Prather, 2009.

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