Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Embracing the dreariness

I am enjoying a dreary November day.  It is a bit foggy and overcast, so the day is dark.  The air is still and the trees are bare.  It’s chilly.  I had a fire in the fireplace this morning and may need one again before long.  For now, I am wrapped comfortably in a wool sweater, my hands warmed by a cup of hot chocolate.  This is how November should be.  At least it’s what I think of when I think of November. 

Novembers should be chilly and raw, not sunny and bright like an October afternoon.  So in an odd way, the dreariness makes me happy. Today feels like a normal November day, dreariness and all.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Dark and dreary

It was so dark and dreary this morning that I was late getting up.  I kept waiting for some semblance of daylight to appear, and it never did.  A black cloud hung heavily over the mountain, so even at 7 a.m. I needed a headlamp for a little while, and Doodle the rooster didn’t crow until almost 7:30 a.m.
The rain, while not heavy, was cold and the breeze blew little slivers of it onto my face, stinging it.  Even the Shelties were happy to turn around and head back to the cabin this morning and that has to be a first!  Birds were hunkered down in whatever shelter they could find, but a great horned owl was still calling just before 8 a.m. 
By afternoon, the day improved, and the sky soon filled with turkey vultures and a pair of red-tailed hawks.  The little birds came out of hiding too.  It is, after all, November and this is how November is supposed to be.  Or even colder, though it’s still sort of early enough in the month to let that pass for now.  Here on my mountain, November is a transition month.  It can be a leaf-less repeat of October, or it can be winter.  So far, this November is milder than average, but with the coldest part of the month still ahead, it’s too soon to complain about just how mild it’s going to be.

Instead, on this chilly and blustery morning, the dogs got a bit of a walk.  When we returned to the cabin, we had a fire in the fireplace, and I had a cup of hot chocolate, and that was enough to scare away the chill. 

Monday, November 09, 2015

Early morning frost

Roundtop has had both frosts and freezes this fall, but this morning was the first hard frost where I could get a photo.  Even though the temperature was a chilly 27 for a few minutes this morning, as soon as the sun rose above the horizon, the warmup began.  Now, just 3 hours after the early morning frost, the temperature is already up to 50, and the frost is long gone. The photos are all that is left.
I like the shadow of the rising sun’s rays on the oak leaf.  You just know that frost will be gone momentarily.  The photo captures the coming warmth of the day in the sun shadows while still showing the result of a cool night. Most of the leaves are down now.  The few that are left are no longer even bronze but are more like a deep copper.  The color is not much different than the color of the bark of the trees, so the forest is nearly monochromatic today.  Even so, I find this a pretty time of year. The long vistas are back.  I can see the mountain to the west, the pond to the north.  I can even monitor the chickens’ whereabouts instead of just hearing their scratching.

I can see the sky again, and monitor the coming rain without having to leave the cabin to find a patch of open sky.  Already the air has a chill, nearly raw feel to it.  I was forced to clear as many leaves off the decks that I can, to avoid a sodden mess when the rain comes.  Likely, my work will only be partly successful, as more leaves are already coming down.  I hope the most of them are removed, but one good wind gust before the rain will be enough to negate my work. 

Thursday, November 05, 2015

November's forest light

The first few days of November have been atypically warm, more like mid-October than the blustery weather that is more expected.  I find it hard to complain much about 70 degree weather and gorgeous late fall light.  The fall colors that remain have faded from brilliant yellows and reds into shades of bronze, but the mountains are still beautiful.
The leaves of summer now litter the forest floor, and it is impossible to walk quietly.  The leaves, as yet undampened, are as crunchy as crumpled paper and as light and airy as snowflakes.  The Shelties are belly-deep in leaves, and they are above ankle deep for me.  So it is difficult on this rare November day to grouse about temperatures so far above normal.  Instead, I simply enjoy the afternoon, marveling in the golden shades of light.
So many leaves are off the trees now that for the first time, I can see the mountain to the west of me, though it is not yet as clear a view as I will have when all the leaves are down.  I can see partway down the mountain, now, and the porchlight from across the valley bobs in and out of view at night with every slight breeze.
The sweet little fawns of summer have no clue about the winter ahead or the fall hunting seasons.  They stand still as I drive by, Baby Dog hanging out a rear window staring at them.  But she doesn’t bark and the now spotless fawns don’t flee.  A few birds of summer remain or perhaps they are birds that nested much further north than here that have now reached this area in their flight south.  A palm warbler, about the same color as its surroundings, pops up among a host of goldfinch, juncos and song sparrows.  We stare at each other for a second or two and then it is off.  I hope the warm weather is an aid to its southbound journey and that its travels are safe. 

Monday, November 02, 2015

Leaves falling down

This is the week of leaves falling down at Roundtop.  Leaves are everywhere, floating down like rain and crunchy underfoot.  So far no rain has dampened them or turned them into a sodden mess, the first step of decaying into new forest soil.

For the first time since May I can see the outline of Nell’s Hill to the west.  I can not yet see the porch light of my nearest western neighbor, who lives a mile or so down the mountain, across the narrow valley, across Beaver Creek, over the swampy area and starting up the next mountain.  When I can see those lights, I’ll know winter is approaching and that all the leaves are down.

So far this season, I have seen little signs of waterfowl migration.  I would have expected that to have started by now, but not even migrating geese have been spotted.  The local geese honk and fly over on their nightly rounds, pretending or perhaps thinking about migrating.  The instincts are there for them, even if they don’t head south.  A quick trip to Pinchot Lake this weekend saw it empty of any waterfowl, except for seven geese.  Those were certainly local birds, too.  Migration is late, perhaps a result of the warmer weather this week.
So this past weekend was a very nice one for the time of year, a tad warmer than it’s been and with no rain.  The photos with today’s post were all taken this weekend.  You can see that the brilliant falls colors are gone.  The leaves are not yet faded into all browns, but the drama of the season is past. It was a good time for enjoying the weather.  Not many more days this year can I expect the weather to be so balmy or so conducive to outdoor work.  I’ll take these lovely fall days however I find them.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Falling leaves

It’s official.  The peak of fall colors is past and the leaf drop has begun.  Of course, a hard rain last night and strong breeze today will push things along faster than is typical but that’s how it goes.  This is the week when I wade ankle deep through the forest’s leaves that litter my porch and deck.  I sweep the leaves every evening but for at least a week it does no good. Every day there are more.

One year I refused to sweep the leaves for a week, and I was soon knee deep in them on my front porch.  Having tried that once, now I sweep them daily until the leaf drop is over.  What I like to do is to study the leaves a bit and to name the species of trees they come from.  In my forest, white oak, red oak, tulip poplar, hickory and American beech are the most common species. I also find a few others, like chestnut oak, sassafras and wild cherry.  Sometimes I find an American chestnut, but these are likely from a younger tree that has not yet succumbed to the disease that devastated this species.

The leaves are blown from all over, who knows where, really, so if I find an unusual leaf, trying to then locate the tree it came from is pretty much impossible.  That doesn’t stop me from looking. Sooner or later I will be successful with one of them.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Color passing its peak


The fall color is now past its peak here on Roundtop.  The colors were gorgeous on Saturday and Sunday morning, when these photos were taken.  This year is a far cry from the drab shades in 2014, which were hurt by both wind and rain at just the wrong time.

Around noon on Sunday, a strong easterly breeze blew up, taking the first round of fall color with it.  Several more rounds of wind or rain will be needed before all the leaves are down, but the leaves that remain this morning are no longer as dense as they were.

I can, in a few places, see bare tree limbs.  On other trees, green leaves have reappeared, as the most colored ones have fallen. It will be another 10 days, perhaps a bit longer depending on the weather, before the trees are winter bare again.  As of last evening I could not yet see the outline of Nell’s Hill to the west of my cabin. I could see, barely, where the sky’s brightness stopped, but that’s hardly the same as seeing the neighboring mountain itself.  With more rain and wind predicted for mid-week, I may well see its outline or the mountain itself before the weekend.

The falling leaves produced an afternoon’s entertainment for the cats, who jumped at the window or the glass door, whenever another batch of them fell. Apparently, they thought the falling leaves were prey or perhaps it was only the motion that kept their attention. Poor Baby Dog was trying to sleep and was startled from it every time a cat pounced against the glass.  Finally, she grumbled and headed upstairs, where presumably she couldn’t hear the sound of paws against glass.
Outdoors, the smell of fall fills the air around the cabin.  It is a crisp smell, not yet with the bite of winter but no longer the sweeter smell of summer. I could smell moisture with it, and the musky scent of old leaves on the earth.  Every now and again came the whiff of my neighbor’s fireplace, with wood furnished by a downed tree from the front of my cabin. The air right now has an exclusively October smell and one that doesn’t last long enough for me.  Autumn is here.