I knew the frost was coming, so I covered a few special things with sheets. The nights are getting chilly, and thereís been a fire in the woodstove every morning this week. When the old thermometer dips down into the 20s, you know there will be a frost hard enough to do damage to the perennials.
I usually pick a couple of nice bouquets of zinnias for the house and let the frost claim the rest. Itís also time to harvest the squash and pumpkins and let them cure in the sun during the day and cover them against the frost at night. That job done, I notice how last nightís hard frost has zapped the zinnias. They were a beautiful bed of different colors one day and brown stems and leaves the next. They will be pretty much dried out in only a couple of days. The finches and chickadees will eat the seeds in the flower head, but the deer will eat the whole flower top.
The frost also claimed all the lovely morning glories that climbed the side of the house and shed. I havenít seen a hummingbird around for a few days and doubt if Iíll see another one until late next spring. There arenít many of the little hummersí favorite flowers left, so Iím pretty sure theyíve headed south. Summer is disappearing before my very eyes, and thereís nothing I can do about it except adjust my attitude to fit the season.
The little white-throated sparrows are now wearing their winter plumage as they migrate further south. They will be much showier when they return in the spring. There are lots of small birds moving through the area as they head south for the winter. Itís been said that 80 per cent of the song birds migrate at night, which means you may hear them, but wonít see them. They are not nearly as vocal in the fall as they are in the spring, but often Iíve heard their faint calls as they pass by in the darkness.
This coulee landscape has become a blaze of red, yellow and orange as the maple, ash and hickory trees show off their autumn colors. In a way, itís like having one last magnificent flower show for all of us to enjoy. The autumn trees are really making a beautiful statement this year, and I intend to enjoy it while it lasts. It will also be a good month to take a walk in the cool, crisp air when the moon is full.
The squirrels have been extra busy lately gathering nuts. I watched a couple of gray squirrels running off to bury walnuts that had fallen under a huge walnut tree in a neighborís yard. These busy little fellas were about the same size but looked much different from each other because one of them was jet black. I saw a black squirrel in the valley last winter at my house, but hadnít seen him since. I wonder if itís the same one? The black squirrels are just a color phase of the gray squirrels, so I guess you could say they are ďblackĒ gray squirrels.
There have been five frosty mornings this week, a definite wake-up call for all the wildlife in the valley. If you have fur, itís time to grow those warm guard hairs to help keep you warm. If you have scales, itís time to think about finding a hiding place for the winter. If itís a coat of feathers that you wear, itís time to add a warm layer of down. There are a couple of birds that have trouble with that. Wild turkeys have featherless heads, for instance, but they spend the winter here anyway. Turkey vultures, on the other hand, also have featherless faces. They put up with a little frost, but when the real cold comes, theyíll be gone. For now, they may be seen dining on road kill and going about their business. This is the time of year when more road killed animals start showing up on the pavement. Vultures are large, slow moving birds and may have some difficulty getting out of the way of an oncoming car. This morning I crested a rise in the road to see two very large bald eagles enjoying a possum in the middle of the road. I stopped and dragged their meal into the field where they could dine in peace and safety.
I was outside doing a little garden work Friday afternoon when Pettie landed next to me. I hadnít seen him all day, and I was thinking that he had finally left. He wasnít looking for a free meal, but he did take a bath in the pan of water I left out for him. I gave him a few free worms before he flew into the woods. Every time I see him I wonder if it will be the last time. I try to get a picture of him every day. He looks a lot different than when he came to me over two months ago.
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