Friday, October 24, 2014

Autumn chill


The autumn colors have already faded, victims of the unrelenting breeze these last few days. The leaves that are left are more brown than colorful. As fall goes, the color this year wasn’t bad, but it sure didn’t last long. Often, the colors remain vibrant and firmly attached to their trees for a week. This year, the color was especially nice on Sunday and went downhill every day past that.
I cannot yet see Nell’s Hill, the mountain to the west of my cabin, but I can see one edge of Flat Hill, the one to my northwest. The view of the sky is now much more open than it was, and that late summer claustrophobic feeling I sometimes get has gone away, too.
The mornings are chilly, and once or twice I used my fireplace for an hour or so. Today, the temperature is no warmer than before, but the wind was calm this morning, so the cabin felt warm enough even without the fire. At least to me—the cats are taking up a lot more room on my bed than they were a month ago. Suddenly, I am their best friend again. Funny how that works.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Colors amid the gray


The fall color show is coming along nicely, whenever I get a break from the rain and clouds long enough to take a look at them.  That’s October here on Roundtop—gorgeous weather surrounded by rain, fog and big dark clouds racing across the sky.  The weather is very changeable, too.  Don’t wait to go outside when the weather is gorgeous, because in an hour or less it will be different.
A nor’easter just glanced my way, though this morning it is slow to clear out.  The rain has stopped but the clouds remain. Today’s photo is one I took two days ago, in a brief moment before the view was hidden.  This October I worry that the leaves will fall before I a chance to see the peak of the colors.  So though this view just past sunrise is not yet at the color peak, it may be the best I get to see. 
A fair number of the leaves already swirl around my feet.  The distance I can see into the forest is at least double what it was in midsummer.  That’s still not enough to see this mountain from the back of my cabin yet, though that won’t be but a few days or a week from now.
I see deer and wild turkey every day now.  The deer seem ever tamer, though neither me nor my neighbors feed them or do anything to encourage them. Likely, they were simply in the same spots all summer when the underbrush was too thick for us to see them. Now that the underbrush is going or gone, perhaps they still think they are hidden. They even ignore the dogs, though calm Sparrow is better tolerated than my wild Skye, who is never still a moment. I would almost not be surprised one day to find Sparrow and the old doe touching noses. So far not yet.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Last one?


Autumn is not yet in its full glory, but there’s glory enough in the autumn of today to know that summer is gone but winter is still miles away. The season is well and truly here, no half measures at the cusp between two seasons.
The late summer flowers, and indeed nearly all flowers, are gone. The lone exception that I found on my walk yesterday was a single chicory flower covered with drops of rain.  Even the fall asters have faded to brown, and other flowers on this stalk had already gone to seed.  Only this one late bloomer was in evidence.

I am soon ready for winter, if not quite there yet. I need to clean my gutters, a job I will probably have to repeat before the snow falls.  And I need to move the chicken pen to its winter quarters, though that isn’t something that needs done just yet.  So far, I have resisted closing my bedroom window for the season. It is ajar but with the nights approaching the first frost of the season, I probably won’t be able to leave it that way much longer. I like hearing the sounds of the forest outside my cabin, but once I close the windows, much of that will be lost until it is warm enough to open them again in the spring.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Gray day


unamed lane near Beaver Creek, Monaghan Township, York County PA
The fall color is coming along nicely at Roundtop, though unfortunately I have yet to see it at its best. Since Sunday, the days have been foggy, raining or gray, diluting the color of the leaves.  It’s not the interesting or bright kind of fog either.  It’s the dull, gray and dark kind of fog.  We’ve all seen at least a few photos of a gorgeous fall tree shrouded in a lovely fog. 
My gray and foggy days are not like those. Mine are the kind where the chickens go to roost at 4:30 because they think it’s getting dark.  It’s the kind where I hear the first great horned owl at 5 p.m., and it’s the kind that washes out the color on the trees. So, you (and I) will have to wait for sunny weather or at least that bright kind of fog to see any intense fall colors. Maybe tomorrow. Or the next day. I only hope the leaves don’t fall before that happens.

I have thus far been able to avoid turning on the heat or my fireplace.  However, my goal of making it to November 1 without doing so appears to be in doubt. It’s one thing to ignore cool weather for a day or so, but I will shortly be heading into a spate of days with temperatures near freezing at night and days bumbling around the mid-50’s.  I might not make it past the second or third day of that without giving in.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Watching and Waiting


October on Roundtop is usually marked by gorgeous sunny days surrounded by rain and fog.  Sunday I had the gorgeous weather; today I have the rain and fog.  I am awaiting the first juncos of the season, which can be expected at any moment, though perhaps not in this weather.  I have also yet to see many flocks of migrating waterfowl.  They are not late, at least not yet, though I might have expected to see more of them by now. I did have a lone pied-billed grebe last week, but one of anything is hardly full-scale migration.
The shortening hours of daylight make looking for birds on any but a weekend day more difficult now.  The chickens go to roost by before 6:30 p.m. now and likely will go earlier today in this gray weather.  Evening birdwatching is no longer possible for me.  By the time I get home, run the dogs and grab a bite to eat, only the crows are still out. I’m still getting used to that again. I can always forego dinner but the time I get home and the dogs need to go out can’t be changed.
For roughly the past week the improvement in my view (otherwise known as leaf drop) hasn’t changed much.  A few afternoons were breezy, and if those leaves had the slightest inclination to fall to the ground, they would have.  I am therefore stymied in my desire to see the western mountains reappear through the thick forest canopy.  I know it won’t be long before the view opens up, so I need to be patient about it. This is a bit like “a watched pot never boils” but with leaves.  “A watched tree never drops its leaves” doesn’t have quite the same ring but seems just as true. Maybe next week.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Apple Harvest Festival


The National Apple Harvest Festival in Arendtsville PA is my favorite fall festival, favored even over my own town’s Farmer’s Fair, if not by much.  I like that the fairground is at the foot of the South Mountains, the grounds are nestled against the mountain.  No macadam or blacktop is seen anywhere, and tall mature pine trees cover much of the site.
Even when the fair is crowded, as it always is, walking among the pines feels peaceful.  The buildings at the fairgrounds are old, too, so I feel as though I am entering another time when I’m there.  They are wooden, some clapboard, most from the 40’s and 50’s, the most recent from the 1960’s. 

And of course the fair itself boasts that great fair food, with everything from soft pretzels to apple bread to the ubiquitous chicken barbeque and pit beef, cooked outside and with the smell of wood smoke and cooking meat all around. 
For me, the fair is usually my first attempt at Christmas shopping for the season.  I always find something for someone or several someones.  This year was no exception.
After a rainy Saturday, Sunday dawned perfectly clear.  The early morning was in the 30’s, but the temperature warmed up quickly, bringing with it hordes of fairgoers from several states.  I make it a habit to go early and do my wandering and shopping. Then I eat an early lunch and leave before the crowd worsens.  This year, the crowd on Sunday was even greater than usual because many people, myself included, waited out the rainy weather of the day before.  Crowds or no, I try to attend this festival every year.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Bringing in the hay

Mt. Airy Rd., Monaghan Township, York County, Pennsylvania
On a grey and chill morning, some 12 hours before a day-long rain, a local farmer readies a load of hay to get it to the barn ahead of the storm. I hope I won’t have to light my fireplace this weekend, but I won’t be surprised if I succumb to the dampness and do it anyway. Early October is rather soon in this area to be thinking about using heat. 

In winter, I keep the cabin cool by most people’s standards. I am happy if I wake in the morning and the temperature isn’t below 60.  Partly I just don’t like the expense associated with heating in the winter, but almost as important, I am not comfortable with huge temperature changes going from the inside to the outside or vice versa.  I don’t cool the cabin very much in the summer for the same reasons.  But the dampness can get to me, just as humidity can in the summer.
So, while I will resist if possible, I may also give in—even if the leaves are still on the trees, and many of them are still green.