Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Off Season

The pansy doesn't have a white blotch--I had difficulty with the angle of the sun, and didn't check the only photos I took until too late to get another!
These little flowers have struggled back after the plants were nibbled down by the deer in early August. In New England I've had pansies and violas revive as late as December during a few warm days. These had a cool, earthy-sweet scent when I leaned over them.

Perhaps a robin's nest, as many of those cheerful birds bounce about in the trees and on the ground during spring and summer.

This little nest at the tip of a slender branch, swings over the edge of the pond. I'm wondering if it belonged to an oriole [?]

A rather disheveled nest tucked in a precarious tangle of small branches. Perhaps it was occupied by a rather boisterous bird family.

I'm sure there is a nest in these branches, but maybe this isn't the photo I meant to select! I was lurching about a bit trying to walk, look up into the tree tops and focus the camera. I think that's called "multi-tasking"--something I shouldn't attempt. Doing this two afternoons in a row has given me a "crick" in my neck.

Two dainty hanging nests. These are in the ditch-bank tree where the female owl was perched yesterday. It seems a miracle of engineering that these little bird-built structures can withstand wind and weather.

This nest is wedged untidily against a knot on the tree trunk. I shouldn't think it was a "desirable residence."

A yarrow has sent up some out of season new growth, probably encouraged by the moisture from melting snow.

This beautiful little nest was woven in the top of a struggling old lilac just above the pond. In the spring of 2008 a goldfinch huddled there on her eggs throughout dreadful weather---days and nights of rain, pelting sleet, and howling winds. The nest was vacant this season. If you enlarge the photo you will have a good look at the thin strands of plastic looping from the nest to catch on the lilac twigs. I don't know that it was designed that way with "anchors" of a sort; I suspect that in the past year these threads have loosened from the nest and whipped free only later to be snagged on the branches.
Autumn can be the natural season for a bit of melancholy reflection, even when several days unfold with a mellow golden sun slanting low from a clear blue sky. We have already had a foreboding of winter's reality with snow and cold temperatures assaulting us during the first week of October.
I do enjoy the tracery of nearly bare branches against an autumn sky. I marvel at the bird's nests which are revealed in such sturdy delicacy. As I plodded along the ditch banks yesterday afternoon and again today, I thought of the cottages and summer hotels which were a large part of the local economy in upstate New York where so many generations of my mother's family labored. It was a country setting of small hillside farms, but there is also proximity to Lake Champlain and Lake George which lured well-to-do "city people" to spend summers there. In their middle age my g-aunt and g-uncle acquired some land near the shore of Lake George at "Indian Kettles" and built several house-keeping cottages to rent by the week or month. In the spring the cottages had to be "opened up"--the water turned on, windows and curtains washed, everything swept clean. In the fall, after the last late renters had departed, the reverse process was carried out. Pipes were drained, floors were swept one last time, cupboards checked to make sure nothing was left to entice a stray mouse or two. The shades were drawn and all was carried out to keep the cottages secure and weather proof for the long months of winter.
So, too, a generation or two previously, the owners of the big hotels and boarding houses dismissed the summer dining room help, put away clean bedding and towels, boarded up windows and stacked the wooden porch rockers under cover til another season.
Farm gardens which had worn protective sheets or old blankets for protection on chilly evenings had now been abandoned to the nights of killing frost. Potatoes were stored in cellars, rows of filled mason jars promised good eating for the winter. A few last green tomatoes ripened--or rotted--on a windowsill in the back entry.
Stove wood, cut and hauled the previous winter, was sliced into accomodating lengths and woodsheds stuffed full. The whine of a tractor-powered circular saw rang on the cold air. Kitchen doors, quickly opened and shut again, let out a waft of mincemeat or simmering applesauce, made from the last of the bruised apples which wouldn't "keep."
The little songbirds departed, one day there, chirping and twittering, the next, gone. Woolen blankets and heavy jackets brought from trunks smelling of cedar and moth balls, bounced for a few hours on the clotheslines to air.
November is not a time which I anticipate happily. I grumble a bit about the coming months of cold, the expense of heating the house to a bearable level. I think of the need for new snow tires on the car.
I try to line up interesting projects to accomplish indoors til spring unfolds again with light and warmth.
A co-worker's 6 year old grand daughter asked her last week when the clocks were "set back, " Will nights be longer now?" No---but they will seem that way!
Whatever mankind may do, the earth continues to turn in the deliberate pattern of the seasons. It is only we who may feel "offish."


  1. I really enjoyed reading this, like you I love the tracery of bare branches against the sky in winter and I like spotting the nests that have been hidden away all summer. I actually enjoy Novemeb the slowing down and withdrawal into a slower lifestyle filled with crafts and domestic tasks. Your winter is more severe than ours though and often the little pansies will flower right through until spring in sheltered spots.

  2. I agree with Rowan - this made lovely reading. I have a pile of winter reading by the sofa and by my bed, a bulging craft cupboard which will keep my evenings amply filled until I am rushing about like a mad thing in the garden again. Leaves still on some trees here (beeches and oaks mainly and low-growing hazel bushes) so I can't go nest hunting here yet. You look to have lots around your homestead.

  3. Wonderful photo of the nest ...clinging on for grim death(no idea where that expression originated).They look so fragile yet are so strong cleverly they are constructed. love the pansy ... a vibrant splash of colour