Good Time for a Fire

Somewhere between Jacks and Shade Mountain it will soon be time to start a fire in the fireplace. Maybe light up the firepit. Maybe light up a bonfire. As the weather gets cooler, a fire seems to sound better and better. The trees seem to have already caught fire. Yellows, oranges, and reds mix with browns and burn from the surrounding branches. The leaves fall like sparks to the ground where the first frost already claimed the basil.

Lettuce, onions, and spinach are still growing. They seem to like this weather. I have pulled up the tomatoes and peppers. Harvested the sweet potatoes. One by one, the gardens are getting ready for Winter. We blanket them with lots of straw and compost. The hummingbird feeders are put away until next year. The other feeders are getting more and more action.

I’ve been gathering rocks all summer long. Been digging them out of the yard, finding them in the tree line, and carrying them in from the woods. They are beginning to look like a wall for a Spring garden. I hope it will be the perfect spot for tulips, daffodils, and garlic.

The fairly large hornet nest is still hanging from a backyard tree, we’ll wait until it gets colder to take it down. I am still seeing Valley and Ridge Salamanders and Wood Frogs hiding in the leaf litter. Along with deer, a Black Bear, two Gray Foxes, and a flock of Wild Turkeys have been showing themselves on the trail cam. Not satisfied with just being seen on a trail cam, Mom saw twelve turkeys in the yard one day.

On another day, we put a chicken on the Weber. Rub it down with butter. Add salt and pepper. Put it over a drip pan on the far side of the grill and add charcoal when necessary. As a bonus, eat the liver, heart, and gizzard while the rest of the bird is cooking. The smells and tastes were awesome. We call it wicked good. Fall is a really good time for a fire. Not too long ago, my favorite season was Summer. Now, I’m starting to think I’m kind of a Fall guy.

Time for Shorter Days and Longer Nights

Here between Jacks and Shade Mountain we are adjusting to change. A phenomenon called the equinox came through and left us with shorter days than nights. We call it Fall and that is ok since we’ve been doing Fall stuff. Leaves are falling. The waning harvest moon is hanging in the sky. That seemed like a good time to harvest the remaining carrots and to pick a pumpkin. We are still picking tomatoes and the temperatures have been great for lettuce, spinach, and onions. Mom brought home a chrysanthemum. Other than that, we have started to clean up the gardens.

Hummingbirds and Monarchs are visiting less. Dragonflies continue in abundance. In the western part of the state, there are so many they are showing up on weather radar maps. We don’t see quite that many but are glad for those we do see. They and their cousins the damselflies are known by a lot of names; spiketails and skimmers and bluets and dancers. These critters are carnivores and they eat critters we don’t want. My favorite name for them is the mosquito hawk. A shout out to the dragonflies!

We have been hearing turkey noises. Young bucks have been showing up on the trail cam. And we have been shooting arrows at a target. Considering that we shoot and garden here and the popular idea of naming properties, maybe we could call the property “The Bow and Hoe.”  Probably not. But if we ever start a restaurant back here, that’s what we’ll call it. It’ll be one of those field to table places.

Keith trimmed the lane and it looks great. I think Mom’s marigolds are still growing and some stubborn Black-eyed Susans are still showing their colors. I pulled up some annuals, planted daffodils, and am still cutting trees at the edge of the forest and raking out places for shade plants. Teaberries are ripening in these places. I have plans for a new raised bed and have been collecting rocks for the project. The bird feeders are hanging again. This time on a stronger rig and we are looking forward to seeing more birds in the yard. I dare the bear to mess with it.

Quotes for Autumn

It is the first day of Autumn and here are some quotes for the occasion…


“Autumn has caught us in our summer wear.”

–Philip Larkin


“Even if something is left undone, everyone must take time to sit still and watch the leaves turn.”

-Elizabeth Lawrence


“Walking through the forest it’s as if a fire has been lit. Colors burn at the top of the trees. Leaves fall like sparks to the ground. If one lands on my head, will I be able to understand other tongues? They crunch under my feet as colors are unveiled. Sounds like autumn to me. I walk through various shades of red, orange, and yellow. It is as if the fire is catching. The true colors of the leaves only begin to show as they begin to die. Is that what it takes to reveal our true colors?”

Participant: Field Notes from Here and Now


 “I have stirred into the ground the offal, and the decay of the growth of past seasons, and so mended the earth and made its yield increase.”

-Wendell Berry


 “In the garden, Autumn is, indeed the crowning glory of the year, bringing us the fruition of months of thought and care and toil.  And at no season, safe perhaps in Daffodil time, do we get such superb colour effects as from August to November.”

-Rose G. Kingsley


“It is the summer’s last great heat, It is the fall’s first chill: They meet.”

–Sarah Morgan Bryan Piatt


“Autumn days come quickly, like the running of a hound on the moor.”

–Irish proverb

When the Horseman Comes a Riding

To continue the theme of adding some culture to this blog, here are some classic excerpts from another story to be told as the days become colder. There is a tale discovered among the papers of the late Diedrich Knickerbocker that is told often at this time of year. It took place on “a fine autumnal day.” We are told;

“The sky was clear and serene, and nature wore that rich and golden livery which we always associate with the idea of abundance. The forests had put on their somber brown and yellow, while some trees of the tenderer kind had been nipped by the frosts into brilliant dyes of orange, purple, and scarlet.”

This tale includes a night of “merry-making” that took place at the Van Tassel mansion. It was quite a night. In fact, most of the tale takes place on this one night. It started with a festive atmosphere.

“There was the doughty doughnut, the tender oly koek, and the crisp and crumbling cruller; sweet cakes and short cakes, ginger cakes and honey cakes, and the whole family of cakes.”

Several of those at the Van Tassel’s were;

“Doling out their wild and wonderful legends. Many dismal tales were told about funeral trains, and mourning cries and wailings heard and seen about the great tree where the unfortunate Major Andre was taken… Some mention was made also of the woman in white, that haunted the dark glen at Raven Rock, and was often heard to shriek on winter nights before a storm, having perished there in the snow. The chief part of the stories, however, turned upon the favorite spectre of Sleepy Hollow, the Headless Horseman, who had been heard several times of late, patrolling the country; and, it was said, tethered his horse nightly among the graves in the churchyard.”

We have Washington Irving to thank for this enjoyable prose. That is, all of us except for one Ichabod Crane. As the story goes, the night turned for the worse for Mr. Crane.

When the Raven Comes a Tapping

On January 29, 1845, the Evening Mirror published a poem that is a good one for cold nights. I admit some admiration for Edgar Allan Poe. In “The Raven” he excels at rhyming at the end of a line but also rhymes at other times throughout as well. This gives a sing song effect that makes even the less pleasant portions of content easy to listen to. Poe’s skill at vocabulary and his skill at using repetition make the poem sound like some kind of a “haunting hymn.” The opening strophe is enough to evoke something within the reader and I include it in an effort to maintain some classic culture, .

“Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,

Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—

While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,

As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.

“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—

Only this and nothing more.”

When the Cat Meows and the Hedge Pig Whines

In an effort to bring some culture to this blog, I thought I’d include some poetry. Here is something that seems fitting as the leaves begin to change and the air gets colder. William Shakespeare provides a scene and a song that has always intrigued me. The scene occurs in the middle of a dark cave where a cauldron is boiling. As thunder crashes, three witches enter. Three times a cat meows, once for each witch, a hedge pig whines, and the Harpier cries “tis time.”

The three witches chant and the fun begins. This might be a recipe you want to pass on.

“Round about the caldron go;
In the poison’d entrails throw.—
Toad, that under cold stone,
Days and nights has thirty-one;
Swelter’d venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first i’ the charmed pot!
ALL.  Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.
2 WITCH.  Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the caldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg, and owlet’s wing,—
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
ALL.  Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.
3 WITCH.  Scale of dragon; tooth of wolf;
Witches’ mummy; maw and gulf
Of the ravin’d salt-sea shark;
Root of hemlock digg’d i the dark;
Liver of blaspheming Jew;
Gall of goat, and slips of yew
Sliver’d in the moon’s eclipse;
Nose of Turk, and Tartar’s lips;
Finger of birth-strangled babe
Ditch-deliver’d by a drab,—
Make the gruel thick and slab:
Add thereto a tiger’s chaudron,
For the ingrediants of our caldron.
ALL.  Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.
2 WITCH.  Cool it with a baboon’s blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.”

A Fall Story

This is a Fall Story. I’ve always liked Fall, there are things I like to remember about it and things I look forward to. I like to watch the leaves change. I remember people always saying that leaf color peaked in the third week of October, but here we are and things are still green. I enjoy Fall for those mornings you can see your breath against the sky. I enjoy anything apple or pumpkin.

There are things about Fall that I have always loved and figure I have probably retired from. This is not an intentional retirement, but I haven’t done them in so long I suspect that I’ve retired. I’ve played a lot of Fall soccer, but not for some time now. It has been a long while since I’ve made a scarecrow or bobbed for apples or attended a costume party. I was never very good at that.

But, surprisingly, my Dad could pull off a costume. Dad was influenced by whoever influenced James Dean. He combed his dark hair straight back. I might also add that Dad had false teeth. Once when the church was in need of a drunkard for a play, Dad volunteered. He flipped the collar up on his jacket, pulled out his teeth, messed up his otherwise slicked back hair, and staggered up the aisle – he totally pulled it off. I think people were lining up afterwards to get his autograph.

Since it is Fall I am reminded of a Halloween costume party. At this particular party, there was an unrecognizable old man in a dark corner. He looked rough, he held a cane, he held it out if someone came near. He would sometimes yell and cause commotion. I stayed away, out of fear. When the party was over, the scary man stood up, combed his hair and put in his teeth. I had no idea that was Dad.

Each Fall there are things I look forward to. I like to overnight in the forest and Fall is the perfect time. The sounds, the smells, the way the fire feels against the cold, the way the star lit sky looks through the tree canopy. I like to carry my bow in the woods. I like to fit in one more fishing trip. And now that I have retired from some activities, I do things like clean out the gardens, clean out the bird boxes, clean the feeders. I used to run around on a soccer field, now I have become a maid for the local wildlife. I am seriously thinking about putting up an owl box. I am thinking about putting up a bat house.

But so far, I haven’t had a chance to do any of this. I have been busy writing a paper. 7500 words, for those counting at home that is 28 pages double spaced. Now that I think about it, I should have continued bobbing for apples and retired from writing papers.

This paper took over my life, at least it felt like it. A class I am part of was assigned a text and told to read it over and over. We were told to steep in it, like a tea bag steeps in water to make a delicious refreshing drink. It doesn’t happen instantly, it takes time. I took the request seriously and steeped and steeped for over two months. I read it in six different translations. I read it in a different language. I read it out loud. I moved to different rooms to read it. I read it upstairs and downstairs. I read it standing on my head (true story). I thought I might read it in a tree, at least in a hammock, but then I haven’t made it to the forest.

The text I’ve been reading is from the New Testament and includes apostles and widows and complainers and table servers and priests. I pretended to be all of them. I read as if I were auditioning for the part of apostle. I read as if I were auditioning for widow. I read as if I were auditioning for someone waiting on tables… you get the idea.

Did I mention this paper took over my life? Fortunately for me, I turned that thing in this week – all 7500 words. And the best news is, we are not yet halfway through Fall. I have time left to do some of those things I’ve been looking forward to…

True Colors

It is a good time of year to carry a bow into the woods. I can hear sit com character Barney Stinson now, “Ghillie suit up.” Walking through the forest it’s as if a fire has been lit. Colors burn at the top of the trees. Leaves fall like sparks to the ground. If one lands on my head, will I be able to understand other tongues? They crunch under my feet as colors are unveiled. Sounds like autumn to me. I walk through various shades of red, orange, and yellow. It is as if the fire is catching. The true colors of the leaves only begin to show as they begin to die. Is that what it takes to reveal our true colors?

From Participant: Field Notes from Here and Now, pp. 135-136

A Super-Harvest-Blood Moon is Rising

Next weekend we have the opportunity to witness a perigee moon, this is when the moon is closest to earth. It has become popular to call this a Supermoon. You and I may not notice anything different on account of that, but the ocean tides undoubtedly will. It is interesting that this is also the night of the full Harvest Moon. This is the name of the full moon that occurs closest to the autumnal equinox.

It is our good fortune that this full moon will also bring with it a total lunar eclipse. Of course, this is when earth’s shadow is cast upon the moon. When this occurs the moon turns a reddish, coppery, rusty color. It has become popular to call this a blood moon. Since this is the fourth blood moon in the past eighteen months, some will try to convince us that it has extra cosmic significance. Perhaps quadruple the significance.

Some love what is fascinating just for the sake of fascination. Some wish we were living in a science fiction novel. Some would like to sell us a science fiction novel. Some would like to convince us they have cracked God’s code – and behold it is a lunar eclipse.

The fact is, a Super-Harvest-Blood Moon is a sign. It is a sign that the Creator has an incredibly wild imagination and enjoys a celestial show. In our part of the world it will sit high in the sky. And we will have a front row seat. Pray for clear skies.

When Night Happens

Last week, I went camping.  I had camped at this site before and have always enjoyed the sound of the nearby Laurel Run.  On this night the water was particularly forceful due to rain we had earlier that day.  There have been other sounds that I have enjoyed from this spot before; a ruffed grouse drumming in the spring, a whip-poor-will on a summer night.  And I was looking forward to what November night sounds I might be able to listen in on.

I like to be outside in the forest when night happens.  But this night was different from the start.  For one, there was a strong wind all night long.  The wind was at times indistinguishable from the stream.  I could not tell where the stream ended and the wind began.  I was surrounded by noise and it seemed like I was surrounded by stream.  Sometimes, it sounded as if the stream was overhead.  The Laurel Run had merged with other water and become Red Oak Run or Hemlock Run.  It was rushing through the treetops, bringing leaves downstream onto the tent.  The noise of the wind blew in ominous harmony with the stream all night.

Other nights from this site I had stared up into space from a clearing in the forest canopy to enjoy a view of the night sky.  Tonight was different.  It was dark, no stars in view.  There was no sign of the moon.  When the fire died, visibility was not possible without a headlamp.

It was noisy.  There was plenty of November night sound.  All night long leaves were smacking against the tent.  It seemed as if every falling leaf in the forest was zeroed in on my location.  This added percussion to the threatening song of the wind and water.  The wind woke me no fewer than four times.  I had gotten used to most of the noises but when the wind attempts to separate your tent from the ground it is difficult to ignore.

It was cold.  You don’t really notice this when sitting up close to a fire.  I was reading when it began to sleet.  I used that as a cue to enter the tent.  The ground was cold but I had along a ground cover that provided some insulation.  The fire kept me warm but went out sometime before midnight.  I know this because the cold woke me about that time.

The closer to morning, the darker it seemed to get.  But the wind began to calm.  Not long before sunrise, it was calm enough that a loud, mysterious trill could be heard from a nearby tree.  The Eastern Screech Owl makes a big noise for a small bird.  And it can be startling when your ears are tuned in to other sounds of the night.

Night comes and with it, comes darkness, mystery, and surprise.  Things hide in the dark without our knowledge.  Things can be aware of us before we are aware of them.  We can make our best guess, but we really do not know what is out there.  We cannot know what will blow in next or what the next sound will be or even where the next noise will come from.  But, at least we can be there when it happens.