I could see my breath when I went outside this morning. The air was delightfully crisp, and I'm so happy that the weather in general has finally aligned with the calendar. It's October, and fall is here!
Evidence is everywhere. Squirrels are busily carrying acorns and patching up nests. Squirrels can smell the saliva they leave on nuts, even through snow and soil, which is how they're able to dig up their treasures when needed.
Birds are busy, too. They've nearly stripped my pokeberry bush...
...but leave evidence that many more pokeberry bushes will grow in the spring.
I find lots of feathers around...birds are either shoring up old nests or shedding feathers during their daily rough-and-tumble routines.
There's not as much life in the garden lately. As our temperatures dip into the 30s at night, most carpenter bees have begun their hibernation, although I still see one or two anemically clinging to spent blossoms.
I still see a few moths, huddled amid the pine needles...
...but I haven't seen a butterfly in a while. Sometimes, though, I'll come across an old chrysalis, like this one, belonging to a monarch butterfly.
Snails still hide under rocks, but soon they'll bury themselves in the soil. They secrete a type of lime that seals off the opening of their shells, and they hibernate until spring. Believe it or not, a snail can live up to five years!
I see lots of mysterious nests in the fall. This could be the nest of a jumping spider.
Insects and spiders utilize leaves, too...any small place where they can spin webbing and be sheltered and safe from predators and poor weather.
Everything has gone to seed. This zinnia, with its conical center, still provides nibbles for birds. I won't take the spent plants down for at least another month.
I love tree seeds, and frequently bring them home to arrange in pretty glass dishes. It's not a very common way to decorate ("Do you think you could have a few less seeds out?" my realtor asked nervously), but I love it.
This sweetgum seed pod has several protrusions that remind me of long, grasping bird beaks; gnarled, like the type of bird a witch might have for a pet.
Of course, I always have lots of acorns. One day, when I'm more organized, I'm going to make big acorn wreaths, but right now I have to settle for little dishes of them. Once, a squirrel got into the house, somehow slipping down the chimney and forcing itself through a small grill at the bottom of the furnace. I think he felt right at home in my house, because he had plenty of acorns to nibble on during his captivity! He certainly depleted my stash in no time.
I love these maple "helicopters." The thin, dry tops are delicately veined...
...yet they're able to catch the wind and, carrying the seed along, twist and flutter their way to an opportune spot.
I've seen some interesting transformations lately. I always like to watch for these progressive changes. Here, a morning glory bud, still green, prepares for seed.
Just a couple of weeks later, the seed head is dry, and the leaves pull back to reveal a paper-thin seed covering.
Next, the covering splits, revealing the inky seeds within. As more sections peel off and waft away, more seeds are exposed, and can drop easily to the ground.
Finally, all seeds are gone, and the seed pod opens up to reveal all. I like the rice paper-thin slivers that at one time divided up the seed chambers.
Not all is lost, though. Just as my sedums have finished flowering, my mums start to stir. In the span of a week, they open. On Monday, I have the tightly-furled buds...
...but on Friday, some color is seen...
...and by Monday, the petals open to reveal their creamy yellow centers. Mums are great for fall color and, of course, they're perennials, so you'll get a bigger and more colorful display every year!
The sap is starting to flow from some trees. Trees sap in the fall and spring through a complicated process involving internal pressures reacting to the external environment.
Fall berries are ripening, much to the delight of the local birds...
And, of course, the leaves are beginning to turn.
I have great memories of raking up - and then jumping into - great piles of fall leaves. I love the way they look, I love the way they smell, and I love the way they crunch when you walk on them.
These oak leaves are just beginning to turn...
...and so is this maple tree.
However, some trees have completely changed color, like this maple, which is a lovely shade of gold.
This maple tree's leaves have all turned to a brilliant orange color.
In the spirit of the season, I knit a quick owl for my new nephew's Christmas.
And, fall baking has begun as well. I decided to make a pie, which I almost never make. The flavor? A rather unfall-like lemon meringue.
My KitchenAid mixer whipped the egg whites into meringue in no time, and they waited patiently for me to finish cooking the rich, custard-like lemon to sweet perfection. I poured the mixture into my pie shell and spooned the meringue on top.
I had just enough to make a nice, thick covering. It's important to bring your meringue all the way out to the edges of your pie, covering the fluted edges of your pie shell, or you might get a thin, watery layer between your meringue and your pie.
It was perfect!
Now that the weather is cooler, we'll be curling up in our flannels, bent over board games with steaming cups of cocoa at our sides. It's no wonder that fall is my favorite season.
Enjoy your fall days!