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For those who fear that summer is at an end I have some encouraging news. I was in Ashland last weekend, scouting for moose, and the camp I was in still had its hummingbird feeders out. Every morning no less than a dozen hummers visited the feeders and they stayed all day, even though nighttime temperatures dipped into the 30s. The leaves were just starting to change (I saw more color in Portland than I did in Ashland!), and, overall, things didn’t have that “summer’s over” feel. It’s coming, no doubt, but we are in a bit of a lull right now. No need to rush into fall, is there?
I have been taking it slow, getting a little wood in every day, cleaning the stove pipes, splitting some kindling, ordering propane – just small steps toward the inevitable. Now that cooler weather is here I’m content to sit on the deck and enjoy it, but anyone who lives in Maine knows that sooner or later more serious weather is going to arrive. It’s best to be prepared rather than be taken by surprise. Back in my homesteading days I knew folks who waited till snow flew before getting their wood in. They spent a miserable winter roaming back roads looking for dead trees to cut up and burn. Punky, wet and rotten, the wood was difficult to light and burned like an old sock. Not a good way to go!
I know that the squirrels and chipmunks have been busy stealing seeds from my feeders and storing them in my boots on the porch. Lately I’ve had to dump a few pounds of seed back into the feeder every three or four days. When they do it I can’t say, most likely at night, but while I have yet to catch a single critter entering or leaving my boots they are always full of sunflower seeds when I check them.
Another interesting sign of things to come is that the local beaver population has suddenly become more industrious than usual. On my daily walks around a nearby swamp I’ve noticed the number of cut poplars and alders seem to have doubled over the last few weeks. Cut trees are everywhere and piles of limbs are showing up all over the swamp. Beavers will spend most of the winter under water, and they know enough to cache their favorite foods well before ice forms. They have become so active lately that the trail I use is now littered with limbs and fallen trees. A sign that winter is going to come fast and suddenly? The beavers won’t talk but their actions sure are saying something!
I take some comfort in the fact that the five bucks that visit my back-yard feeder are still in velvet, getting along and feeding side by side during the night, no indication that, in a few weeks, they are going to be challenging each other for territory and breeding rights. The two 10-pointers always muscle their way in and are obviously dominant, but there is one mature 6-pointer with a very wide rack that takes no guff from them or the fat raccoons that meet them at the feeder at about the same time every night.
I did notice “up north” that the mountain ash is almost ripe, the berries a light red color but close to maturity. The yellow transparent apples are ripe and falling to the ground already (normal for that species), and I noticed that deer and bear are making good use of them.
Closer to home, the wild turkey poults that were so cute and fuzzy all summer are now grown to adult size, mirror images of their parents and interested only in getting their share of the sunflower seeds, wildlife grain and cracked corn I keep out for them. Just for fun I pour my seed out in long rows, and my trail cameras get some great shots of a dozen or more turkeys standing shoulder to shoulder as they fill their crops. The squirrels stake out a territory (they have a distinct personal space that must never be violated), and the deer tend to come in one at a time to feed, but turkeys are flock birds and make their visits a free-for-all. The raccoons still show up at night and lay right in the seed pile, shoveling food into their mouths like teenagers at a pizza party.
Some say what we’re enjoying right now is Indian Summer, and I suppose that’s true enough. The days are warm (in the 90s just a few days ago!) and the nights are cool but not frosty. Many folks say they could live with this kind of weather year-round but of course we know that’s a major pipedream!
There are some places in the world where the climate is perfect every day of the year but those are a long way from central Maine. New Englanders may wander far from home, sometimes for decades, but there’s something about the changing seasons that brings us back where we belong. As is the case with most things, you don’t miss it till you don’t have it, and sooner or later you’ll come back to the land of four seasons. Ducks, ospreys, bluebirds and hummingbirds migrate south for the winter but they all return in spring because this is the place to be.
Now we’re entering fall, one of the most popular seasons of all. A splash of red or yellow here and there in the treetops is a signal, along with cooler nights and crisp, clear days. Boots full of sunflower seeds are just one indication that summer is waning.
Find the time to get out there and enjoy. The show lasts only a few weeks and soon there will be noticeable changes every day. A month from now the fall colors will have peaked and a month from then . . . well, no sense in projecting!
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