October has shot its load of yellow, red, orange and maroon. November is now resting in shades of brown and gray. I enjoy the browns this time of year; from leaves, acorns, seed heads to tree trunks, nature does a wonderful job with browns in November. Evergreens are much more pronounced after all the leaves have dropped. Hemlocks, rhododendrons, laurels, white pines, junipers and Christmas ferns are showing off their leaves and needles.
After losing their leaves, deciduous berry plants like winterberry holly and viburnum have large striking red berries. Not only do birds feed on these berries as they ripen, but many of us use them as decoration during the holidays around our home.
It’s the time of the year we finish raking the leaves. The pyromaniacs burn the leaves while most gardeners compost them. Don’t be such a ‘neatnik’ with leaves. Remove the bulk leaves off of the lawn and garden and keep a thin layer in place to break down and compost into the soil. Decomposed leaves will build the soil by adding organic material. Maple leaves decompose quickly and oak leaves break down slowly and acidify the soil. Use oak leaf mold around rhododendron, laurel and holly.
Have you noticed the acorns this year? One of the biggest crops I’ve ever seen. Generally, it’s a sign of what’s to come this winter. So sharpen the snow shovel.
Owls can be heard this time of year in the late evening and early morning especially during cloudy nights. Sound echoes and travels during cloudy nights. Early morning, before sunrise, while working at the garden center, I can hear owls hooting up on Corbin Hill across the swamp. There are quite a few owls on the ridge and they seem to be calling to one another. What are they saying?
What happened to the partridge? Twenty five years ago, while hunting up on North Quaker Hill at Carrol Lodge, I approached a large blow-down and fifteen to twenty grouse blasted out of the downed tree. I haven’t seen a grouse in five years. Some say the coyote got them. I hope they found a good hiding place.
Crows tend to gather this time of year. One of their winter gathering areas are the fields and trees behind my house. As in the Alfred Hitchcock movie, these birds congregate and speak their mind. Crows are smart birds and take advantage of any opportunity presented to them. Their calling would bother most people but I look at it as wildlife conversation during an ordinarily quiet time of the year.
The first dusting of snow will occur any day now. It brings the kid out in many of us. It cleans the atmosphere as it falls. Its presence lets us know what’s walking around the yard and adjacent woods. It’s fun to get out and track wild animals in the snow. Deer, turkey, fox and bear are some of the tracks I have followed in the deep woods.
The atmosphere is clean in November. These crisp nights are filled with stars. It’s time to use your imagination to find the Dippers, Orion, Pegasus and Taurus. On November 17th, the Leonid meteor shower peaks. This is best observed after midnight after the moon has set. Find a dark hillside to enjoy the Milky Way on a clear November night.
The turkey, a true American native, was first served on Thanksgiving Day in 1789. The Indians of the south and Mexico domesticated the turkey long before the arrival of the Spaniards. Originally, the Indians raised turkey for their feathers not its meat. The Spaniards brought the American turkey back to Spain where it was distributed throughout Europe. Early European settlers brought the turkey from Europe to the east coast only to find the eastern woods loaded with the big black game bird. Early settlers sustained themselves on the native turkey, deer, elk and buffalo as they migrated west. They learned how to farm and grow the native corn and gourds from the Indians. If Ben Franklin had his choice, the American turkey would have been our national bird. This American turkey is a Thanksgiving tradition. This bird stuffed, baked and served with sweet potatoes, corn, carrots, creamed onions and cranberries is as American as pumpkin and apple pie dessert. I’ll gobble this meal up any day.
Pete and the Natives