When the temperatures seem they can't get any higher, and humidity is almost visible in the Iowa air, you know it's a special time of the year - county fair time.
Now, we all know that Clay County has the king of all county fairs, but I must admit that I've been to my "fair" share of other county extravaganzas around the state.
Growing up in a rural family, and one which likes nothing better than to load up some livestock and head to a show, county fairs big and small hold a special place in my heart. I'm a romantic about county fairs - the smell of freshly popped corn, the sound of hogs oinking in the barns, and the sight of excited youngsters in their 4-H T-shirts, with freshly pressed jeans and show sticks in hand.
At our house, this is the first summer in a decade that we're livestock-free (we don't count the lazy black lab as livestock, Duke is more a lawn ornament dozing in the old shed in the shade). While I don't miss the evening exercising of the sheep, nor the constant checking to ensure they have plenty of clean, cool water on these hot, hot days, I do miss the family time we always spent on the project.
It's a bit sad that this phase of our life is over, but the benefits of the experience will stay with son Drew, and with his parents, forever.
With a niece and nephews still showing livestock, we've got family to root for at area county fairs. Another nephew has taken his experiences in his family's livestock operation and his college education, and has been spending time this summer traveling to county fairs, judging beef shows. It's wonderful to see this continuation of the family tradition in the next generation.
Speaking of traditions on hot summer days, it's sweet corn time! Why is it that there's nothing that satisfies a summer appetite like a few ears of sweet corn, covered in melted butter and sprinkled with just a little salt and pepper? It doesn't make sense that something so scalding hot hits the spot like it does.
Call it a mystery of summer.
If you couldn't sleep on Saturday night, headed outside and looked to the north, there was a chance you saw something pretty unusual for Iowa - the Northern Lights.
A much-anticipated solar storm hit the Earth on Saturday.
Over the past few days the sun erupted with a series of powerful flares. During the outbursts, the flares sent billions upon billions of charged particles into space. On Saturday, blasts of energy from Thursday's flares made it to Earth.
When the highly-charged particles of energy hit our upper atmosphere, they interact with Earth's magnetic field, causing individual charged atoms to emit light, creating the multi-colored curtains that are the Northern Lights. Also, solar storms can cause disruptions in electronic communications. In 1989, a solar storm was so strong that it knocked out power over a large part of Canada.
For those of us living in the northern hemisphere, auroras are common in high latitudes such as Canada and the Scandinavian countries, and higher. Those of us at the mid latitudes don't see the phenomenon often.
While the latest opportunity is over, there is more activity predicted on the sun, and more opportunity in the future to see the breathtaking phenomenon.