One would think with the 90-degree weather we’ve been having that summer will last forever but those with a keen eye for autumn know the heat and humidity can’t last. Glancing out my office window I can see splashes of color in the maples, pale reds and yellows that some like to blame on “stress,” but there are a few other signs that suggest a major change in outside conditions.
Ignoring the fact that we’ve lost nearly three hours of daylight since June 21, it’s hard to miss the nuances of change that are all around us. For one thing, the tourists are gone and the scholars are back hitting the books (if they even use books anymore!). The daytime quiet is measurable once the 8 a.m. rush comes to an end. After that it’s just the birds, squirrels and occasional loon flying over, no doubt lamenting the end of easy times.
While my carnival of marigolds is still going strong the morning glories are all but finished, faded remnants of what they were just a month ago. A “glory” or two pops out to bloom each morning but the burst of color that greeted me at dawn all summer is but a memory, although I did take a few pictures to use as screen savers when snow blankets the ground this winter.
Flocks of robins have been roaming the treetops of late, apparently taking advantage of the bounty of acorns that have been dropping steadily for a couple of weeks. It’s rare to have back-to-back abundant acorn crops but where I live the nuts are binging and banging rooftops, sheds and exposed decks ‘round the clock.
That, of course, gives the resident squirrel population something to do, and their wheezy calls can be heard as early as 4 a.m. as they lay claim to the thousands of acorns they’ll never be able to gather. What they don’t eat or drop from on high is sent twirling to the ground on nibbled twigs that look as if they’d been cut by a frenetic landscaper. The forest floor is littered with oak twigs with acorns still attached and yet for some reason those clusters are ignored once they hit the ground. I’m not sure what the purpose of all this pruning is but the squirrels think it matters.
One sign of fall for me is getting my annual taxes, inspections and registrations taken care of so I don’t have to lose valuable hunting time in October or November. My mechanic was quite surprised to find five dead mice and a fabulous nest filled with gnawed acorns in my vehicle’s cabin air filter – the filter itself was hardly visible amid all the carnage and clutter, but there’s a sign that fall is coming; rodents are always looking for a better way to beat the cold. In this case the cabin filter was a poor choice for that family of deer mice but who’s going to convince them otherwise?
The garden, of course, is already “going by,” as the saying goes. The cucumber and tomatoes gave up the ghost more than a week ago and my dry beans are about ready to harvest. I’m letting the squash and watermelons have a few more days but, from the looks of things, the party is over for this year. I have a few cabbages, turnip and broccoli plants still in the ground but things are about ready to dive into dormancy for another winter.
Evenings and weekends now I hear the drone of chainsaws in the distance, which tells me I’m not the only one who’s thinking it’s time to get busy on firewood. Fortunately, I had my wood all cut, split and stacked in the woodshed back in May, but now I need to go out and spend a day making room for all the summer tools that I won’t be needing once the snow flies. That then reminds me to get the snow shovel, heavy broom and roof rake ready to go as well. I don’t do many meaningful chores during the hunting season which means if I don’t get ready now I’ll be fretting over my sloth when the first big storm hits. According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, we’re in for another “eventful” winter, so I’ll be checking and cross-checking to be sure I have enough sand, salt and other basic necessities. Granted, it’s 90 degrees right now but that’s not going to last.
Of course, there is no need to panic as it’s only mid-September. I am on my deck every dawn and dusk these days hoping to see or hear passing waterfowl, but so far I have not heard the first wood duck or Canada goose. It is in fact goose season right now but for some reason the big resident birds don’t seem to care about their evening or morning flights as much as they did in years past. Last year, in fact, I had flocks flying directly over the house nearly every day, often at dawn but almost always at sunset, and this year I’ve not heard the first one all summer. My friends on the local ponds say they haven’t seen many geese, either, which is never a good sign. Much time, effort and expense was invested in building up Maine’s Canada goose population over the past 40 years – where have they all gone? The distant honking of wild geese is one sign of fall that I’ve enjoyed for over 50 years. I hope they are simply waiting for cooler days to begin their gradual southern sojourn. Fall without hearing or seeing waterfowl would be a dismal season, indeed.
Hot as it is the 2015 bear hunting season has been open for a couple of weeks. No matter how you choose to hunt bears, doing it when temperatures are in the 90s and dew points are in the high 60s is not fun. Bears don’t like hot weather, either, and are less likely to travel far in such conditions, but there is also an abundance of natural forage this year which will make bears less likely to go after prepared baits. Sitting in a tree stand or blind with sweat running down my neck is not my idea of outrageous fun but it is what it is. I applaud the hunters and guides who have been faced with tropical conditions all month.
Nobody wants to see summer go but it is September – and time for a change!