There is no line to cross as we pass from one season to another yet somehow we all seem to know when a new season arrives. For me fall has arrived. How can I tell?????? Well, the sunlight seems richer and calmer than the summer sun. The air carries a fresh-baked smell and there is a quiet I hear at no other time of year. For me fall is peaceful and rewarding.
Nature expresses the end of the growing season in a variety of ways. Flowers such as goldenrod, Chinese lanterns, chrysanthemums, and bluebird smooth asters appear in our wildflower garden. Surrounded by the aging bloomless flowers of the spring and summer, they are the last chance for bees and butterflies to find nectar.
Apples are visible in the orchard across the field as well as gracing the farm stands with their beauty and sweet fragrances. This marvelous fruit is part of the Rose family which also boasts of apricots, plums, cherries, peaches, pears, raspberries, and almonds.Originating in Eastern Europe and Asia
apples are consumed all over the globe. The 7,000 varieties of apples available today provide important health benefits. It is said apples help regulate blood sugar, prevent heart disease by regulating fat levels in the blood, have better anti-cancer benefits than other fruits and that eating an apple will leave you highly satisfied. “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”
The vineyard next to the orchard is also showing the fruits of its labor. Glamorous clusters of red, purple and green grapes hang from their vines. It is not only me that sees their beauty but hungry birds looking for a healthy meal. Some farmers shoot off poppers while others spend hours netting their
vines. In early fall the vineyard take on a ghostly appearance. Here the grapes are made into wine. Down state wine and grape juice is made.
The wooly bear, wooly worm or hedgehog caterpillar (it rolls up in a ball and plays dead when touched as does the hedgehog) leaves its grass in the fall to find a dark sheltered spot in which to hibernate for the winter. They are spotted on the sides of houses, headed for the garage or on driveways and sidewalks. My grandson used to bring them inside for a toy train ride when he was young.
This engaging caterpillar is composed of thirteen segments of rust and brown bristles. It is said by looking at them one can predict the conditions of our next winter. If there is more to the brown section the winter will be mild. A severe winter is predicted if the black sections are larger.
So what becomes of this caterpillar in the spring? It leaves its shelter, eats, pupates, and becomes an Isabella Tiger Moth. I have not seen this moth but will be on the look out next spring.
The color tour, a sure sign of fall. The pines or conifers are shedding a few brown needles. The deciduous trees begin to store sugar in their roots for next spring’s leaves. Once this is done the leaf’s shaft seals and chlorophyll is no longer produced. Once the green of the chlorophyll is absent we see the colors that have been hidden in the leaf all along. Brilliant reds, flashy oranges, and creamy yellows are abundant. People travel by the bus loads to witness this natural beauty.
Preparing for their return south birds and butterflies are flocking. The monarch butterfly will fly thousands of miles to winter in El Rosario, Mexico. Some birds will travel a short distances from a high elevation to a lower elevation. Others may move from one state to another. High flyers travel from continent to continent. What tells the birds to flock? It is thought that the change in the daylight, lower temperatures, food supply shortage and genetic predisposition all play a part.
Chipmunks, squirrels and mice are also busily working on winter arrangements. Unfortunately, our car has been the desired spot for both a mouse and chipmunk. Tearing the hood insulation and tucking it into the engine seems to be the design of choice. Nests have been destroyed and the car moved into the garage. My Jeep is now outside….I dare you!
This classy chipmunk has chosen a log cabin display in a public park as its winter lodging. The squirrel to the right is taking over a bird house. My back hill is full of holes as close to the bird feeder as possible. I will see mouse trails in the snow from the pine trees to the bird feeder. These guys are cute but, OH THE DAMAGE THEY CAN CAUSE.
The star of the season is the pumpkin. Farm stands display acres of pumpkins. Stores bring them in by the ton. As time goes on homes, stores, schools, zoos, etc. are all displaying this lovely fruit. Gourd, squash, pumpkin all name this fruit originating in the ancient Americas. It did not look like the pumpkin of today as it had a crooked neck. The pumpkin stores well and was roasted, baked, parched, boiled and dried. Its blossoms went into stews and its seeds roasted. Pumpkins strips were also dried and woven into mats. The hollowed rind was dried and served as a bowl.
The pilgrims enjoyed the pumpkin as food and drink by making pumpkin beer. The western Europeans used the pumpkin as a lantern. At home they has used turnips and beets to carry a lump of burning coal to ward off the evil spirits of fall.
Pumpkins are still popular today for both food and decoration. I love to paint pumpkins. This year I made a portrait of a friend’s
dog, R2D2 for my grandson, a comical cow for my grandson’s teacher, R.I.P. Read in Peace and Pete The Cat (the theme at the library this fall) for the library and a crow and butterfly for me. Carving pumpkins is great fun for young and old. I think my favorite use of a pumpkin was at a Big Cat Rescue. Local stores donated left over pumpkins to the sanctuary. The pumpkins were stuffed with meat and given to the cats to toss and play with until they eventually retrieved the meat.
Pies, soup, pancakes, cakes, bread, cookies, stew, stuffed blossoms and seeds are still consumed. I made pumpkin pancakes each fall for my students. Besides blowing all the circuits in that old place the children held tightly to the recipe.
We could go on forever as we enter fall. The rustling of the leaves, great piles of said leaves to jump in, the sweet smell of the mornings cool air, forgetting to take home a jacket at the end of the day as the afternoon is bright and warm, hearing the wind whistle or the sounds of children playing outside. Enjoy these last days, the days before we too huncker down for the winter. Nature will never disappoint.