Wednesday, September 23, 2009

AUTUMN'S FIRST FULL DAY

Today is our first full dose of autumn. It has been cloudy and dim all day, even a bit on the foggy side this morning. Looking for all the world like it might rain any minute…though not so much as a sprinkle has fallen thus far. Still the grass is damp, as are the stones around the cottage and the boards of the deck which overlooks the river. Leaves on the sycamore gleam with moisture. Except for all the the green trees and grass, it might visually fool you into equating things with a dreary day in early winter
Which probably explains why, upon his first glance outside, a certain fellow momentarily thought of putting together a pot of jalapeno-laced chili on the stove, and later stirring up a pone of spicy Tex-Mex cornbread. Of course, when our astute fellow stepped onto his deck and found the temperature to be a muggy 79-degrees, he wisely reconsidered his meal plans.
Birds are busy at the feeders—chickadees, titmice, lots of goldfinches, a few house finches, sparrows, a blue jay, cardinals (yes, that near-bald bird is growing feathers) and a half-dozen others. Herds of doves have been marching to and fro across the yard. The hummingbirds are squabbling like tired-out six-year-olds at recess. I keep expecting them to disappear for their wintering grounds any day now…but so far at least four or five continue hanging around. I was awakened at dawn by a pair of Carolina wrens trying to outsing one another.
I did have a fat fox squirrel in the side yard near the cottage this morning, the first I've ever seen on this side of the river. Squirrels are strict segregationists hereabouts—grays on this side of the stream, fox squirrels on the island across from the cottage. The twain does not intermix.
There are also a few pine or red squirrels zooming around over here from time to time, and I sometimes also see them on the island. I would claim these pineys were perhaps trying to bring peace to the warring tribes of fox and gray…except if you know anything about red squirrels, you know they're pint-sized troublemakers and equal opportunity provocateurs.
Squirrels can swim well enough if they want to to make it across the channel between the island and this shore. Too, given the river's current low-water state, an agile fox squirrel could probably hop and leap from rock-to-rock across the riffle and never get his paws wet. But I expect this heretofore unprecedented visit came about because of the tree which fell across the river a month or so back [here] and created a made-to-order fox squirrel bridge. That's the direction he headed when Moon the dog startled him with her through-the-window-screen barks.
All in all, today didn't appear much different than yesterday, or the day before; and tomorrow is apt to look pretty much the same. But it feels different somehow, though maybe that's mostly the power of suggestion and a bit of wishful thinking. Still, a view up the river sees a less vibrant green, a bit of yellowing, a few small patches of tan in the tops of the sycamores, and even a curl of crimson woodbine among the shadows.
Autumn is here in name, and it's beginning to arrive in fact. The times they are a'changin'.

22 comments:

Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

It's pretty unseasonably warm up here too, but I agree- it does feel different. I can't decide if it's all in my head (there's lots of free space in there) or if I'm tuning into the light changes. I'm not migrating but I do crave soup and pumpkin pie.

I've never seen a fox squirrel.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Lynne…

Ha! I've given up the notion of chile for today (settled for nachos chips with melted cheese and my homemade black bean dip) but I'm thinking seriously about baking a couple of loaves of pumpkin bread.

So you think you might be respond to photo periods? Could be. Something stirring in my noggin', too. I'm not feeling the urge to migrate or start digging out a hibernaculum or den, but I feel like I ought to DO something.

Maybe it's just guilt because it's too hot yet this year for splitting firewood, not quite time to rake leaves, and I don't feel like picking up and hulling several bushels of walnuts.

Never seen a fox squirrel? Guess I forgot you don't have them that far north. Think of a much bigger, heftier gray squirrel with hair the color of Anne Margaret's—a flaming blondish red, not at all dark red like a pine squirrel. I'll take some pictures and do a post.

Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

Funny that you mention the urge to DO something. I'm in the beginning stages of "nesting" that comes in the fall. I fing the season change invigorating and usually have a flurry of cleaning and baking. Art notices that I always stock the pantry at the beginning of fall. In fact when I told him I was going to Costco tomorrow, he said he's been waiting for that announcement and that he's already moved money from savings to checking for my fall big shop!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Lynne…

Well, I don't know what it says about any of this, but I'm set for a serious shopping round at Sam's and Meiier's tomorrow for my own pantry stocking—including the pumpkin for that pumpkin bread I mentioned above.

The cleaning urge hasn't hit me yet—though I actually did a lot of that a couple of weeks ago, so maybe I've built up some immunity.

I'd say your husband has been paying closer attention than you might have thought (they usually do) and like any good naturalist, knows the habits of his favorite "wild thang." :-)

Alicia @ boylerpf said...

Ah...the ticking clock in our head that says it's fall even though the outside world is warm. All the birds and animals preparing I think gives us that urge that we need to start to do something to chime in. You must be a fabulous cook!!

Anna said...

Oh I cannot believe summer is gone, but then what am I complaining about, I like fall too. We been having hot and humid days lately, but you can start noticing the reds and yellows. Nice photo, so green still. Thanks for sharing your story and thoughts. Anna :)

TheChicGeek said...

Hi Grizz :D
I think you better make a little boat for those red squirrel rascals and send them right back across the river or you may be in for trouble!
Probably the smell of hot chile enticing them, sneaky little buggers :D

The river is looking good! Oh, and eating hot chile on a hot day is good for you...sweats out all the toxins...LOL

Have a Great Day, Grizz :D

KGMom said...

First glimpse of your river photo--and I thought, my--the river looks low.
Of course, we live near the Susquehanna that gets to be famously low. And high--at times. But the usual river run near our house is 3 to 5 feet. Not very deep for such a broad river.
I was wondering about the fate of the fallen tree--so now it has becomes a bridge over troubled waters. ;-)

On the unseasonably warm weather note--it has been oppressive here in central PA. Soggy even. Finally tonight there was rain. I hope that clears the air.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Alicia…

We riverbank critters who live where seasons are really seasons have a message which says PREPARE! PREPARE! PREPARE! that begins flashing in our brains whenever the first leaf on the Virginia creeper turns scarlet.

Some of us dig holes in the bank and line a back chamber with soft, dry grass. Others of us hit the ATM and head for the grocery store…the modern equivalent to stuffing Mason jars with peaches and green beans and tomatoes and stocking rows upon row in the cellar. (Yes, Mom's and Grandma's canned goods yielded better-tasting food.)

A "fabulous" cook? Nahh. But pretty good. I've been cooking since I was five years old, and don't really know of much that I can't manage…though I tend to like peasant food more than haute cuisine. Not necessarily "man food," but fairly simple, hearty, good-tasting fare prepared with good ingredients. There's no danger of me starving, for sure.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Anna…

It does seem too warm here to be fall…but then for most of the past three months, it has been too cold to have been summer.

As the photo shot today looking upstream from the cottage shows, it is still mostly green here—just a bit of yellowing. If I don't forget, I'll try and run a similar shot a couple of weeks from now for comparison.

Gail said...

HI GRIZZ and happy first full day of Autumn, I love the photo AND reading all about the changes you share about the river and your surroundings. Here too, so many changes, although it was a balmy 80 degrees today.
We got or kindling wood snapped and in barrels yesterday. The brook is still barely a trickle and our woods have a hint of red and some burgandy and there is gold and yellow all around. Autumn is a promise soon to be realized. I am so happy I can share in the change of the seasons with you on your riverbank.
Love to you
Gail
peace......

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

ChicGeek…

I'm not about to try and get a squirrel—red, gray, or fox—to do anything! You can't herd squirrels, reason with them, or teach them much in the way of manners. (They do, however, have their use in making a good pot of burgoo.)

It wasn't the heat of the chili that dissuaded me from my initial meal, it was heating up the kitchen with a kettle on simmer for several hours. My black bean dip had a jalapeño and a bit of habanero in there, along with scallions, cilantro, and some Louisiana hot sauce, plus a few more things—so trust me, it was hot enough to clear toxins from stainless steel. I could feel the back of my eyeballs sweating after about the tenth bite.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

KGMom…

The pool just beginning to show in the left side of the photo is probably about five feet deep now; and the stretch upstream above the riffle rocks is maybe four feet, so it's not as shallow as you might think. A few inches makes a big difference in the riffle's appearance—and a big difference in whether the inexperienced canoeists slip between the rocks like eels, or bang down like they were riding tractors.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gail…

Unseasonably warm here, for sure—but autumn weather will get here sooner or later. You have more color now, however, as you can see from my upriver photo.

I didn't get any outdoor chores done today—and there are several awaiting my attention. Maybe over the next few days…

I'm looking forward to sharing autumn, too.

Jain said...

I liked the mental image of your fox squirrel maneuvering across the rocks. I saw one on our far bank last week and think they will be seasonal, nesting and hiding across the river in summer, and coming over for food in fall and winter.

Happy Autumn!

Jayne said...

Like you, I see the subtle changes, but when you are hit with 75-80% humidity, even temps in the high 70's feel... well, not like fall. :c)

Carolyn H said...

Griz, I've never seen a squirrel swim. That would be quite a sight. If you can ever get a photo of that one, it would be a great post!!

Carolyn H.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Jain…

That's been of of the surprises to me since moving here—how the river acted as a dividing line for certain species…you'd see one over here, another on the island, but not vice versa.

I see fox squirrels—sometimes three or four at the same time—on the island practically any moment I care to look. This puts them at most a hundred feet from the cottage. But yesterday's visitor was the first I've ever seen on this side of the river—though I have five or six gray squirrels, and maybe a red squirrel or two, chasing around the yard every day.

Since summer usually sees its spell of low water, which exposes the riffle's rocks to the state you see in the photo, I'd expect if fox squirrels crossed that way, I'd see one over here occasionally. However, the downed tree was apparently a bridge at least one fox squirrel liked. But a bridge that will either disappear or swing against the far bank come the first hight water.

Hey, happy autumn to you, too!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Jayne…

I know what you mean…I can't quite convince myself it's autumn when it still looks and feels so much like summer.

This has just been a weird year all around.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Carolyn…

I've actually seen several squirrels swimming over the years—grays, fox, red squirrels up north and once a black-phase gray. I imagine at least a few ended up in the drink by accident. But one or two might have gotten there on their own.

You also have to wonder how islands become populated with squirrels if they don't occasionally swim. Plus there are many historic records of squirrels swimming across large streams—I know of several, for example, which reports squirrels even tackling and making the mile-wide Ohio!

Once, on this very river—though a few miles upstream—I was floating downstream in my canoe on a bright but crisp late-September morning, doing a bit of smallmouth fishing, gathering a basket of pawpaws, mostly admiring the smell and color of autumn. I saw something moving in the shallows below and quietly stuck my paddle into the gravel bottom and held still, watching. It turned out to be a big fox squirrel retrieving walnuts which had floated down from somewhere and lodged on a gravel bar about thirty feet from the bank. Most of the water between the shore and the bar was shallow—an inch or two, but there was a channel about midways that was nearly a foot deep. The fox squirrel would bound toward the nuts, splashing, getting into ever deeper water, before finally having to swim a couple of yards until his feet again touched bottom and he could splash/bound the remainder of the distance to his treasure. He'd then pick up a nut and head back, hopping, splashing—and swimming!—with that walnut in his mouth.

Now that would have been the photo!

Bernie said...

Your stomach must be made part cast iron by the sounds of your ingrediants in your dipping sauce. You are probably so use to it you don't even notice, I got a chuckle out of the back of your eyeballs sweating.
We had another 33C day here yesterday, absolutely beautiful but it wasn't long cooling down in the evening and early this morning. It has been a strange year for weather.....enjoy the beginning of Autumn, ah tis good too love the weather.....:-) Hugs

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Bernie…

Nope, not a cast iron stomach by a long shot—just somewhat used to a fair amount of various pepper capsaicinoids—the chemical stuff that make 'em hot. However, my palate is a long shot away from being tempered-in enough to face a whole habanero. (I'm not convinced anyone ever reaches that fireproof stage!)

Since I'm a Buckeye, old enough to remember dial telephones, and bullheaded Irish, I also am, as you might then guess, centigrade-challenged…therefore I had to convert your 33C degrees into a temperature I could understand. (Do I have it right…91 degrees Fahrenheit? Really!) Only about 80F here yesterday—but still too hot to feel like fall to me.