The trails I made led outward into the hills and swamps, but they led inward also. And from the study of things underfoot, and from reading and thinking, came a kind of exploration of myself and the land. In time the two became one in my mind. -- John Haines
The Transition Week to Late Fall
Astronomical Data And Lore
The Corn and Soybean Harvest Moon wanes throughout the period, entering its fourth phase at 8:42 a.m. on Nov. 8. Rising in the evening and setting in the morning, this moon passes overhead as the day begins, encouraging fish to bite and game to be more active around that time, especially as the cold fronts of Nov. 6 and 11 approach.
The recent end of Daylight Saving Time could cause animals and family to be out of sorts because of the change in feeding and eating schedule. Seasonal affective disorders may also increase in many people due to the shift in sunrise and sunset times that accompany the time change.
The S. Taurid meteor shower peaks on the night of Nov. 4 and 5.
Weather history suggests that the cold waves of Late Fall usually cross the Mississippi River on or about Nov. 2, 6, 11, 16, 20, 24 and 28. Snow or rain often occurs prior to the passage of each major front.
November’s average temperatures fall one degree every 50 hours, finding the middle 30s by the end of the month. Normal highs slip down to the middle 40s and lows dip below 30 by Dec. 1. With averages plummeting more than a dozen degrees, around a dozen mornings below freezing occur in the next 30 days.
There is an average of only one or two days in the 70s this month, just six in the 60s and only eight in the 50s. That makes just half the month with moderate afternoons, and many of those fall within a week of Halloween. Beginning at this time of month, the percentage of daily sunlight drops quickly, and the wind blows a little harder, rising to its winter levels.
Notes on the Progress of the Year
Cabbage worms still eat the cabbages and kale, but the seasons of tomatoes, beans, eggplant, and squash are over in northern states. Some years, houseflies still get in the back door. The last crickets sing in the milder afternoons and nights. A few butterflies still hunt for flowers. Grasshoppers and woolly-bear caterpillars are still common. Small tan moths play in the sun. But the last robins and doves follow the valleys south. All the other major migrations end within a few days.
Sometimes the maple and white mulberry leaves that survived October drop in a day. The ginkgoes do the same; they can shatter overnight into a shining circle below their limbs. Willows, though, are only half turned. Decorative pear trees are still green, prolonging an illusion of September. Silver maples seem to be untouched by the radical shift in the season; they hold until the nights go into the teens. Dogwoods will be pink, magnolias gold, oaks red-orange for a few days longer. Beneath them, privet and spicebush will remain strong for another two weeks.
In the Field and Garden
As harvest time ends for grain crops, the holiday market gathers momentum. Christmas cacti, dried flower arrangements, grapevine wreaths, grasses, and bulbs for forcing sell briskly, offering welcome income to the small farmer and hobbyist.
When soil temperatures fall into the middle 40s, consider placing mulch around prized plants and bushes. Dig manure into the garden. Plant next year’s sweet peas and spinach. Set garlic cloves for spring.
Break up Halloween pumpkins for mulch or for your sheep.
When the last maple leaves fall, test the field and garden soil, and mow the lawn for the last time.
When thimbleweed heads are tufted like cotton, then late fall arrives with killing frosts.
When the poinsettia crop arrives at the market, then the last crickets die in the cold ,and many farmers are feeding hay to their livestock.
When beech and pear leaves finally fall, then wrap young transplants to protect them against frost cracking.
Nov. 8, 2019: Hard freeze like last year. The last castor bean plant has finally given in to the cold, leaves tight against their branches, gnarled and crisp. Across the street, the canopy of Mrs. Timberlake’s maple is collapsing. Jill called to say all the ginkgo leaves in town came down over night. And in my back yard, the white mulberry tree and the paulonia are bare.
Near the pond outside of town, at least a hundred geese in the fields. Leslie reports five juncos, back in the area for winter at her bird feeders. When I checked the climbing bittersweet this morning, I saw that the bright orange berries had begun to emerge from their hulls; two days ago, I couldn’t find any coming out.
Robins still chirping in the alley, autumn violets still blooming, all the asters gone in the woods. The beech tree on Dayton Street has its full rusty color. A few roses, tousled by frost, brought in and put in a vase.
And a squirrel or raccoon is back in the attic banging and clumping around just before sunrise.
Coming Clean: A Chicken and Honesty Story
By Jeanne Flanders
Lewis and Iola married in 1940, moving into the farmhouse with Lewis’ widowed mother, Gladys.
Many Sunday mornings, Gladys went to the chicken yard to kill and dress a little rooster to fry for their dinner. The ritual continued after Gladys remarried and moved to another community with her new husband.
Three children were born to Lewis and Iola. We all grew up and left the farmhouse. Most weeks Iola continued to fry chicken for their Sunday dinner, serving Lewis the legs, thighs, and breast while Mom ate the bony pieces.
One Sunday Lewis held a chicken leg between his thumb and forefinger, his mouth primed for a bite. He laid the leg back on his plate, and said, “I have never liked fried chicken.”
Mother related this story to me shortly after it happened. She never fried a chicken again. Dad, however, later started ordering fried chicken when they ate at a restaurant. Mom thought the price on the menu was a contributing factor.
Poor Will is STILL low on stories! Send yours to him at P.O. Box 431, Yellow Springs, Ohio 45387 or to firstname.lastname@example.org. You’ll receive $5.00 payment if your story appears in this column.
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Copyright 2020 - W. L. Felker