My breath appears thick as smoke as I stand in shirtsleeves on the back porch. Surveying the white surroundings, I step barefoot into the frosty grass. I like to walk barefoot through the crisp frozen grass after the first frost has come. It helps bring home the reality that summer is gone and winter is waiting its turn. I know it will be the last time I see the garden flowers and their lush green beauty. When the morning sun moves slowly over them, they will wilt and droop. Old Jack Frost has had his way with them.
IFor the first time in months, I donít hear a single insect or frog. The quiet is complete, a reminder that Jack has paid his first visit. think of the little hummingbird I saw just the day before and hope heís okay. As it turned out, he showed up at the purple phlox a couple of hours later.
An apple has fallen off the tree and landed in the path. A cottontail rabbit nibbled at it in the night, and now the tiny red ants are getting their share of the tasty fruit. The rabbit returned again the next night but the fallen apples had already been eaten by a doe and her fawns. Itís time for me to get busy and pick some of those apples. Iíll pick extras for storage and make sure the rabbit gets some of them when the snow comes and food is hard to find.
The glossy red berries of the Jack-in-the-Pulpit stand out in the grass at the edge of the woods. There were several lovely, green Jack-in-the-Pulpits in this place since last spring and I know theyíve gone to seed. I put a handful of berries in the pockets of my jacket and spread the seeds in different places as I walk along. Itíll be fun to see where the new Jack-in-the-Pulpits come up next spring.
Iíve been seeing quite a few different kinds of caterpillars this week. They are the curious looking larvae of the many flies and moths that spend the summer here. Butterflies will soon be covering themselves with a smooth chrysalis, and the moths will be weaving a silken cocoon. With luck, they will be protected through the long winter, and a butterfly or moth will emerge in the spring.
Near the frog pond, the New England asters are mixed together with yellow bush sunflowers to form a beautiful natural bouquet. Both of these colorful flowers of the prairie can take a little frost and should bloom for two or three more weeks. I hope so. As pretty as all the summer flowers are, they donít have anything on those that bloom in the fall.
Hopefully, it will stay warm long enough for them to get pollinated and produce seed. When I see the true beauty of such flowers as the Evening primrose and the tiny Stiff gentians, it helps summer linger in my memory and strengthens my reverence for these beautiful gifts.
A sudden chill makes me think of how good a fire in the wood stove would feel, so I head back into the house.
It was too dark to see them, but I heard the raccoons quarreling last night, probably over which one got the best place at the bird feeder in the back yard. In the morning, I could see where they had been, as they left their footprints in the mud near the stream. Now that the insects are becoming fewer, I suppose the raccoons will be looking for other sources of food to satisfy their hunger.
Around 3:30 AM I was stirred from my dreams by the sound of rain at the window. I hadnít realized it was going to rain, so the woodpile outside was uncovered. There was nothing for it but to get up and cover the pile. Iíve long since learned that if I want good, dry wood, I have to cover it when it rains or snows.
My buddy, Andy, tells me that his male peacock molted out his tail feathers in only a few days. That amounts to 20, three-foot-long tail feathers and scores of other, shorter feathers in and around his regal tail. A week earlier he was as proud as a peacock in all his royal feathered trappings, and now he practically blends in with the chickens.
The beef cattle in the valley are fattening up on the last of the lush green grass in the meadow pastures. This yearís calves are fat and clean and are over half grown. It was a good summer for pastured livestock from what I saw. They look healthy and happy.
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