October

GOING NATURE’S WAY
By Kate Crowley
As we begin October we have the same number of daylight hours as we had in the middle of March, but alas, we know which way the sun is going and that the coming weeks will bring only shorter, darker days.  That is why a weekend such as this is all the more glorious.  It is the very end of September and the temperatures have been in the reached 80, with low humidity and hazy blue skies.  As Paul Huttner, MPR’s weatherman suggested this weekend you should, “Bike, run, boat, swim, putt, walk, languish, repeat."  These kinds of days are gifts of nature and need to be savored like the finest red wine.
In addition we are being treated to one of the prettiest fall color seasons.  All that rain played a role in what we’re seeing now.  When trees are stressed by drought condition, they generally fail to produce the fabulous reds and oranges we’re seeing now.  I drove from Sandstone to Askov on Saturday and let my eyes feast on these colors in the hardwood forests lining the edges of the fields.  The golden-yellow of the aspen and birch trees stood out, contrasting with their ‘white’ colored trunks. Quaking aspen is our state’s most abundant tree, growing to 45 feet.
 I know that sometimes it’s difficult to tell which is a birch is and which is aspen. My technique is to look at the uppermost branches of the trees.  If they are a dark reddish brown, then it is a birch. The trunk of the paper birch if old enough will have the characteristic peeling, but on young birch and on aspens, the trunk color is more similar, ranging from greyish white to greenish white.  The leaves from a distance appear similar in shape, but the aspen has more of a heart shape, while the birch is oval. The birch will begin to turn yellow before the aspen, but right now both are filling the landscape with their golden glow.  All too soon they will fall to the ground creating a carpet that gradually fades to brown.
I stopped before reaching Askov to visit friends Joyce and Tim who have in the past three decades created an oasis of trees and blooms; a mini arboretum that is filled with birds and insects. What these two have created is proof that we can do so much for wildlife, just by using our hearts, bodies and minds, and in the process create an Eden for ourselves to be enjoyed year round.  I was amazed by the black walnuts trees and the Chinese chestnut. Living as Mike and I do on a sand plain, we can only look on with wonder and some jealousy at such abundance. It has been a labor (truly) of love for these two and inspiration to others. Before I left Joyce gave me a ‘bouquet’ of tall Miscanthus grass – a feathery mass of plumes that now decorate our deck near the front door; a perfect autumn companion to the mums in the basket below.
As I write, I watch the maple leaves, like bits of saffron drift down onto the deck.  There are bees still visiting the flowers in the garden and the blooms in my flowerboxes are still going strong.  Each day that they continue to exist is one more day of celebration. Until the frost ends their lives I will continue to water and drink in their bright colors.  I just check the extended forecast and it appears that we may continue to have weather much like this for another two weeks. 
So I echo Paul Huttner’s directive and encourage you to spend as much time as possible outside, raking leaves, hanging clothes on the line, walking the trails at Banning or Moose Lake State Parks, planting tulip bulbs, washing the windows, stacking firewood, eating at your patio table, or any other thing you can think of that gets you out of the house and into this autumnal bonus.


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