Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Advancing Autumn

The past week brought rapid changes of weather: much needed rain, a [last?] gasp of steamy heat, followed by brilliant blue skies and cooling temperatures.
A male hummingbird winged in and spent several days with us, drinking deeply from the hanging feeder. During his first day here he was wary of Willis and company, before realizing that the cats had little interest in him.  He made a final visit to the feeder last Tuesday morning--wings whirring, his body a dark silhouette against the pearly fog that wrapped the porch.

The cosmos were flattened by the gusty rains.
I noticed today that while there are still a few pretty blossoms the plants are bedraggled, spent.
I've learned that cosmos reseed abundantly with no help from me, but I will gather a few seeds as they dry; some to share, a few to drop in the spring just where I want them.

Bobby Mac is somewhat frustrated by wet mornings. He picks his way daintily along the walk that edges the side porch, ventures into the sopping grass, then returns, shaking the wet from his paws.

Rain water, blown in around the pot of nasturtiums, apparently tastes better than what is on offer in the kitchen.

Tulip poplars begin shedding leaves early in the fall.  There has been a steady drifting of them, visible from the kitchen window.

Seeds have ripened on Clematis Candida.  I will clear weeds from the base of the trellis so that new seedlings will have a sporting chance.  I've also brought in some of the fluffy seed heads and picked out the hard dark seeds with the thought that I would like to experiment with starting some inside during late winter.

Rugosa Rosarie de l'Hay has produced a few soft fragrant blooms.

Hawkeye Belle, Double Red Knockout and the beautiful nameless rose. I cherish these late blooms over those of early summer, so quickly beset with Japanese beetles.

I admired my neighbor's dahlias and was given a bouquet to bring home.

This cactus has usually bloomed in late November--a 'Thanksgiving cactus.'

It spent the summer, nearly neglected, on the shady side of the porch.
I noticed with surprise that buds were forming in early October.

Jim dug sweet potatoes to take with us for sharing with family in Tennessee.
This was the yield from two hills, spread in the afternoon sun to dry the clinging soil.
We've found that washing newly up-earthed potatoes seems to limit their keeping quality.

Jim is fond of noting that one sweet potato could feed the two of us for a week!

Willis the Cat monitors our activities from a chair on the porch.

Home from our lovely weekend in Tennessee to find that the weather has turned crisp and cool.
The 'bones' of the surrounding trees are more visible each day as leaves drift slowly to the ground.
The sky wears the deep and brilliant hue that moved the poet to write of 'October's bright blue weather.'

Day shades into early evening in our back dooryard while the lower farmhouse is still swathed in the golden light of late afternoon.
After the bustle of unloading the car on our return Monday afternoon, greeting the cats and serving their 'tea', starting a load of laundry, we decided to build a fire.
I sat late in my rocking chair enjoying the gentle warmth, nodding over a book, delighting in companionship of Teasel-cat in my lap.
This morning the needle on the thermometer outside the kitchen window stood at 38 degrees.
We built up the fire and cooked the first meal of the season on the woodstove--a late breakfast of blueberry/buttermilk pancakes with maple syrup, crisp slices of turkey bacon, eggs. 
It is time to put away summer clothes, to shake out the sweaters which have been folded on the bottom shelf. 
Time, soon, to trim the begonias and geraniums, bring them inside. Time to tidy the tangled flower border, time to stack away pots and gardening paraphernalia. 
Time to savor brisk mornings that warm into golden noons, to cherish the hope that winter will not cut short the joys of autumn.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Restless Weather

There has been a subtle strangeness to this first week of October.
Mornings have been cool and misty, burning into noontime temperatures worthy of late August or mid-September.  Evenings have drawn in, early dusk melting into moon-washed nights.

The nameless rose at the edge of the garden has put forth a clutch of sweet-scented blooms, undamaged by Japanese beetles.

Lavender spills over the steps below the side porch; a few butterflies, an assortment of bees and hornets are enjoying the lavender, sampling the dark red cockscombs that have taken over at the edge of the walk.

Two juvenile hummingbirds lingered after the parent birds departed; we watched them late last Thursday afternoon as they zoomed around the feeder--by Friday they were gone.
I wondered: did they launch at first light or wait until the sun had driven away the mist and warmed the air? 
I left the feeders up, having read that hummers don't migrate as a group, but was surprised when a week after our resident birds left, a lone male flew in as I was working on the porch.
He seemed nervous and uncertain, darting at the feeder, but not landing to drink. 

I backed carefully to my rocking chair and was immediately joined by Willis the Cat who may have been at least partly the reason for the bird's wariness.
Willis and I sat quietly while the hummer swooped back and forth at the edge of the porch, his green plumage shimmering in the sun.
Finally deciding that we posed no threat, he perched on the feeder and drank deeply.
He was still here this afternoon, coasting in on the rising wind, tanking up on the sugar syrup.

It has been overcast today, the wind a constant presence, leaves drifting down . 
I was filling the kettle for tea when I saw the deer slip out of the woods below the barn.
We usually see them in groups of two to five, but this was a lone visitor,

The wind was blowing toward me, and I was able to walk close enough to use the zoom lens for photos. 
Several hours later, just before dark I gave no thought to deer when I walked out the path into the woods where I dump cat litter.
Either this deer or one of its friends bounded out of the underbrush and dashed ahead of me into the darkness.
Now, at nearly midnight, the wind has dropped, a fine mist of rain is falling.
The air is soft, the moon hidden.
Perhaps this week autumn weather will move in.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Morning Walks Along The Lane

September stayed warm, a turn-about from the unexpectedly cool days that characterized the later part of August. 
Prowling about outside, walking up and down the lane, I attempted to create a photo record of the changes leading into fall.
Days after the goldenrod edging the lane had faded, these stems were a spill of color along the retaining wall that flanks the narrow front drive.

Leaves are still clinging to most of the trees, hickories showing a tinge of bronze.
The tulip poplars and sweet gums release their leaves in slow drifts of deep gold.

The  airy prettiness of cosmos is a summer-long delight--they are much hardier than their lacy foliage suggests.

Ironweed in the pasture has gone to seed.

Sometimes a plant that Jim has leveled with the weed whacker sends up new growth, providing a burst of color after those beyond the fence have had their season.

Cobwebs cling to tangled wet grass, disappearing as the sun's rays absorb the dew.

Wild morning glory trailing along the asphalt near a culvert--annoyingly invasive, but delicately pretty in bloom.

Dark red dahlias, double knock-out roses and one lovely Hawkeye Belle--

The second round of nasturtiums, growing quickly.  I'm watching the seeds developing on the originals--the vines have shriveled.  I intend to gather the seeds for new starts in the spring.

Cool mornings with banks of fog rolling up from the creek.

Fog and mist disappear in wisps across a field of soybeans.

Goldenrod by the pasture fence.

An exuberant welter of cosmos at the end of the side porch walk.

When the morning mist burns away the air is fresh and clean, the sky a vivid blue.

The last hummingbirds, two juveniles, departed on Friday.
We watched them on Thursday, skimming above the red cockscomb growing below the porch, zooming to the feeders to recharge on sugar syrup.
I wonder, did they leave at first light--or did they wait for the sun?
I will leave the feeders in place for a few days, in case there are needy travelers.