The pictures I snapped of the skyline north of the house three days ago show a mostly green landscape. After the season's first hard frost on Saturday night, the same hill is turning colors. The autumn colors this year have been a little slow in coming, but after last night's sharp biting frost, the green leaves will turn quickly to yellow, orange, red, copper, and bronze.
The glistening white frost did its job as it touched all the remaining blooming flowers and they quickly wilted in the early morning sun. The pretty morning glories that gave me such pleasure only yesterday are wilted and drooping on their vines. The long, tall double row of zinnias was ablaze with many colors just yesterday. In a single frosty night, they turned from red, yellow, purple, orange and white to all the same color of dingy yellow—all zapped by Jack Frost.
The white-tailed deer are starting to move around as their season in the "rut" begins. The does move often from one place to another—day and night—as they are being pursued by the very motivated bucks. The bad part is that they are crossing the roads more often and many of them don't make it to the other side. There are more deer killed on Wisconsin's roads in October than any month of the year. My best advice to anyone driving along country roads is to be attentive and slow down 10 mph. Just ask anyone who has had a collision with a deer how they felt—it's not a good feeling to say the least.
The milkweed pods have finally dried out enough to pop open and release their fluffy seeds. It's always fun to help some of them on their way by tossing them in the wind and watching them drift off across the field. It's a timeless tradition of dreamers and wonderers and children of all ages. The beautiful Monarch butterfly was enjoying his visit to the New England asters Friday afternoon. The hard frost Saturday night will do little damage to the asters but I would be surprised to see the Monarch today. I'm sure the killing frost claimed some of the flying flowers as well. A big blow to what is left of summer.
I come across lots of different mushrooms on my daily walks and they all look so fresh and pretty. They look good enough to eat and a tiny slug thinks so, too. He has been nibbling on one of many little puffballs on a mossy branch on the ground. Not far from the puffballs was another dead branch with clusters of tiny honey caps that had an alluring sweet color.
The bright red branches of high-bush cranberries also look good enough to eat, but they are very bitter and the birds wait to eat them in the spring. The berries will freeze and become uneatable until they thaw in March. The migrating birds are enjoying the tasty little crab apples that thickly cover the ends of all the branches. The robins are especially fond of them and quickly swallow them whole. I tried to take their picture but they would have none of it and flew off every time I lifted the camera. They are extremely shy now, just the opposite of how they are in the spring and summer when they're almost underfoot in the yard.
It is a time for death for some of Nature's wonders and a time of harvest for others. The chipmunks and squirrels have been very busy gathering nuts and seeds. The skunks and possums are putting on body fat that will sustain them through their long winter of sleep. Some seeds are harvested unintentionally as they stick to an animal's fur and are carried off to new places. My socks and shirtsleeves are always a good place to find stick-tights and tag-alongs. I'm always careful about where I am when I pick them off my clothes, making sure none of the weed seeds end up in a flower garden near the back porch.
Luck was still on my side early this morning—I got a good look at the family of Sandhill cranes as they hunted for food in the frosty fog. The young cranes look nearly as tall as their parents when they stand side by side, but they look much smaller when they bend over to pick up kernels from between the rows of picked corn. From a distance, they just look like four cranes; you have to look very closely to tell the parents from the kids. It seems like a very long time has passed since I first saw the pair of cranes back in mid-March. It's been a very busy but bountiful summer for the crane family. With a little more luck, I'll be able to enjoy them for another month or so. That's when the young cranes will be strong enough to make the long migration to points south.
I have picked a couple boxes of apples and stored them away in a cool dark place. They'll last until January, maybe. The frost has wilted the squash vines and leaves and it's time to pick the exposed squash and pumpkins. There are still a few hills of potatoes to dig and I need to get some garlic in the ground—lots of loose ends to deal with before winter.
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