Now that my gardens have succumbed to the frost, I've been able to do some serious gardening. I had covered some of the tomato plants with a light tarp, and was able to save some of the precious fruit. I picked a few and set them aside on the straw mulch. While I dug potatoes a few yards away, I watched a chipmunk scurry across the yard and into the tomato row. He wasted no time finding the three red tomatoes I had intended for my dinner. He nibbled a little of one of them, which I didn't mind, because it gave me a chance to watch him eat. After several good bites, he was satisfied, and scampered off to look for another tasty treat.
The little chipmunks have been very busy on these warm fall days. The majority of their time is spent collecting seeds and nuts to hide in secret caches. Chipmunks spend the winter in hibernation. Larger squirrels, such as pine, gray and fox squirrels, need to store away more food for the winter, because they are active throughout the cold months.
The potatoes that I dug filled a five-gallon pail, which had a good, hefty feel as I carried it to the porch. A bunch of twittering goldfinches flushed from under a bird feeder as I walked by. Seeing it was only me who startled them, they quickly returned to clean up birdseed on the ground. Then came the song of a bird I hadn't heard since late last spring. It was the melodic buzz of the Slate-colored Juncos. They spend their summers in the far north and migrate here for the winter. These hardy little birds are a sure sign that winter is on its way.
There's always something to see or hear, even on a short walk to the house. The new morning sun warmed the south side of the house, and the bright rays glistened off the wings of a thousand flying Asian ladybeetles. These uninvited little guests just showed up this past week. They will soon cover the side of the house, and many are clever enough to find their way inside. The Asian beetles, or "false ladybugs," are a hot topic of conversation among locals, who agree that they give meaning to the word "PEST," and who all wish that they were gone. The box elder bugs, too, are making their charge towards the house, but not so many as the Asian beetles.
All I can tell people is be patient, because the bugs will be gone when it gets colder. Unfortunately, only the beetles that are outside will feel the cold. The ones that are already in the house may be a problem for a while. How you deal with them can be a challenge both mentally and physically. Personally, I've learned to ignore them unless they land on me. I don't have time to let a little bug get me down.
The fall colors are nearly at their glorious peak. It's such a beautiful way for all the lush summer trees to give their last hurrah!
I didn't hear the song of the Towhees today, and I'm thinking that they've decided to move to a warmer place, further south. Many of the turkey vultures have also moved out of the area. With so few feathers on their bald heads, the frosty weather makes staying warm a little tougher.
Missing their constant summer supply of insects, the snakes, turtles, frogs, toads and salamander have gone into their long winter hibernations. They sleep away more than half their lives, so I will look forward to seeing them again in the spring. After all, the promise of spring is what helps all living things get through the winter, and sparks the flame in all hearts.
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