I’ve gotten some extra things done this fall, thanks to the nice weather. It’s so nice to work outside without warm gloves and a jacket. I hired an Amish woodworker to make some wooden windows for the old schoolhouse. Because the weather has been so nice, I was able to put three of the six windows in this week. The old windows were cracked in several places, and the old glass was so warped it distorted my view. The new glass is so clean and clear and much more camera-friendly.
Monday, the chipmunks were busy gathering seed and taking it to their secret place under the brush pile. It’s getting late in the season for chipmunks. They are usually sleeping by mid-October. The woodchuck was out and about, enjoying a little of the cracked corn I put out for him. He, too, should have packed it in for the winter by now. There’s been hard frost the past couple of nights with the nighttime lows around thirty degrees. The daytime highs have been in the fifties with some sunshine. It’s the kind of weather we usually enjoy in late September—all creatures are active, including deer ticks! This time last year there were hardly any ticks in the valley, but this fall they seem to be everywhere, and will be until the ground freezes.
The frost hadn’t been gone for more than an hour when a pretty dragonfly landed on the porch step next to me. I was just sitting there enjoying a little morning sunshine, when suddenly he dropped in to say hi. This has to be the latest I’ve ever seen a dragonfly in the Kickapoo Valley. The sunlight cast his shadow on the wooden step, making him look like he had an extra set of wings. It was a special treat on the 26th of October.
I took a ride Thursday and stopped to see ol’ Pete the peacock. He’s been looking pretty good in spite of missing most of his beautiful feathers. He’ll spend the winter eating and basking in the sun. Come spring, he will be strutting around with a whole new set of colorful feathers. His timing will be perfect, because I hear his owners are planning to get a peahen to keep him company soon.
Once Jack Frost has done his job, the landscape begins to show its true autumn colors. Corn fields seem to turn beige overnight, and oak leaves turn from green to red. Tall grasses and weeds turn at least fifty shades of brown, and wild, red apples jump out from yellow leaves. The marsh is a gorgeous painting, a hundred subtle colors blending together on an autumn canvas. I truly love the marshes in the fall.
Some of the cattle are leaving their summer pastures and there’s still some hay for farmers to get into the barn. Corn silage season ended quickly when the corn got too dry and the soybeans dried out quickly after the frost. There’s a lot of work to do this time of year for farmers—a LOT of work. I’m sure they are grateful to have the weather on their side come harvest time.
There has been some rain, but not enough to keep potholes and backwaters full of water. Some of these wetlands don’t have enough water for ducks and geese, but shore birds like the wet mud. I saw a Jack snipe standing on a mud flat this afternoon. He probed the mud with his long bill for worms and aquatic insects.
Scattered among the dry leaves on the ground were the black and white feathers of a downy woodpecker. I wasn’t sure what happened to the woodpecker, but my guess is that he was caught, plucked and eaten by a Cooper’s hawk or a sharp-shinned hawk. It’s sad that the little woodpecker met his fate, but it’s good to know that the hawk won’t go hungry and will survive to see another day.
The wind that came Sunday blew most of the leaves from the trees. Many of them landed in the creek and drifted down stream until they gathered in a lovely blanket in the shallow pool. It’s one of many subtle and beautiful signs of autumn that we can enjoy by simply keeping our eyes open to the changes around us.