Autumn isn’t exactly glorious this year, but beauty is all around. Nature finds a way to show off.
We had to irrigate more than usual because of the prolonged dry weather, but the hickory trees managed their usual gold leaves that fade to a rusty bronze. A few maples timidly turned yellow and red, and our faithful, favorite holly tree is laden with red berries.
I don’t know if the holly is defiant or a hard winter is on the way, something the old folks used to say when a bumper crop of berries and acorns occur.
The oaks are dropping acorns like a hailstorm, just when the hickory nuts are all but finished. The hickory trees start their cascade in late July, so we get about five months worth of crunchy squirrel food all around the house.
The dogwoods turned a muted red. The oaks are never showy and are more drab than usual.
The Burning Bushes are aflame, however, and the Beautyberry bushes are drooping with snow-white berries.
The Nandina bushes seemingly never fail. They have loads of orange fruit that will turn brilliant red. The squirrels will dine on the Nandina berries, but only after the holly berries are fading. Squirrels and birds — mostly robins and waxwings — always engage in acrimonious disputes over who rules the holly trees.
About two dozen geese flew over the house the other day. They were heading due south at a rapid clip. It was almost as if the leader was carrying a compass. Geese are a sight to behold. Their wings always beat to the same rhythm. They have no tempo, however, in their honking.
The geese move as one, but are entirely out of synch when they call out. I don’t know what they’re saying, but it’s not about their flight plan. Once they start, they won’t deviate from a straight line unless they have to fly over or around a natural barrier.
It’s a good habit if you think about it.
We have one plant that is supposedly tropical. It has beautiful, bright red, trumpet-like blooms. We thought the hummingbirds would love it. They could have cared less. Perhaps it grows too close to the ground.
It hasn’t got the word yet about the autumn-to-winter transition. It’s still blooming even though the lavender, marigolds and other flowers have packed it in until spring. I brought it into the house, however.
If we can keep it going over the winter, it will make a fine Christmas decoration.
With frost coming late, few leaves have fallen, except for the poplars. I still had to clear the yard and driveway even though leaf-dropping has been a mere drizzle instead of a downpour. But the cascade is coming; leaves will flood our plot. Breeze-blown leaves are a lovely sight, until they actually land.
Then, the real work compelled by autumn begins. All those aggravating acorns will be under layers of leaves.
Johnny Mercer and Roger Williams (the pianist) didn’t live in the woods.
I have two handheld blowers — one electric, one gas-powered. The electric blower is much more efficient, but extension cords won’t reach as far as I need to clear the leaves. If I did have enough drop cords, I would have to build another shed.
I am saving up for a battery-powered blower and a solar charger to clear the leaves and all the broken hulls the squirrels leave on the deck, the patio and every elevated, flat surface they can find.
Acorns and hickory nuts are inevitably trampled into the soil by me and other animals that pass through the yard. I don’t kick dirt to dislodge them.
I learned (by accident) that if I put the blower tip on the ground in front of a partially buried nut and roll the nut slightly backward, it will lift just enough that when the gush of air hits it, the nut shoots away. Sometimes far away.
The trick offers a bit of entertainment in the midst of a dull chore. I can hit a tree, if it’s big enough and close enough, with a stuck acorn. I doubt if propelling acorns with a blower will become a competitive sport.
However, all you need to do is say “I can do this better than you” and the game is on.
I could remove stubborn acorns with my slingshot but that would be a lot of stooping and gathering. I have better things to do, like splitting firewood.
Hmm. The slingshot doesn’t sound like such a bad idea after all.
Two things are certain: I would never run out of ammo, and nature — in spite of the layers of leaves — is wondrous. This isn’t the most spectacular of autumns but it’s still pretty as a picture and a blessing we can’t do without.