Our local strawberries and raspberries are putting on their annual show and the results are spectacular, as usual. Freshly baked shortcake crowned with those beautiful fruits and just a touch of sweetened whipped cream is a wonderful temptation few -- if any -- of us could even begin to resist. The trick is to keep enough of those delightful berries away from the rest of the household so they can be transformed into jars of jam before they disappear for another year.--We've all been spoiled this summer by some extraordinary clear blue skies and soft warm breezes, and when we're blindsided by rainstorms and dark clouds it's hard to recall that June weather is typically on again, off again. Those of us who have lived in Oregon for many years know that -- no matter what the calendar says -- summer doesn't really happen until after the Fourth of July. Warm and sunny days are a wonderful bonus this time of year.--We're eager to celebrate America's Birthday in MI Town as both of our communities have so many outstanding and fun events planned for everyone to share. Celebrating any season in our small towns is wonderful, but I can't think of wanting to celebrate the Fourth of July anywhere else. Next week's Itemizer-Observer will publish a schedule of all events in Polk County, and we'll do our best to attend as many as we can.--The Friends of the Independence Library and the Friends of the Monmouth Library are actively seeking new members. The two groups provide funding for many library projects that aren't funded in the regular budget process, and there are always interesting projects to become involved with. Stop by either library to learn more about really getting involved with various fun and interesting projects. Whether you are a new resident to our communities or have lived here for many years, your ideas and suggestions are always welcome. Friends' membership is very reasonable and well worth the cost.--Concerts in the park and at the amphitheater are coming soon, and we're all looking forward to picnics and music under the stars.--These sunny days and long evenings give us all many good excuses to spend more and more time outdoors enjoying MI Town and all the good things our communities share. It's also a time when many of us are riding bicycles on country roads and city streets. Kids and pets are out and about, not always paying attention to traffic. Drivers need to be alert to all of us who are distracted from sometimes watching both ways before crossing streets, or those deep in conversation or just drifting along on a summer breeze.