Early fall, in nature and elsewhere

Published 8:54 pm Tuesday, September 15, 2015

By Biff and Susan Andrews

It’s after Labor Day. The yellow buses are rolling with heads bouncing in the windows, each with its own set of headphones. The autumnal equinox is only days away. Friday nights reveal stadium lights at our local high schools.

Fall is finally here, right?

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Not! It’s 88 degrees every day with 75 at night. It’s just extended summer. It’s surely not Indian summer, which follows a first frost. So when do we get highs in the 60s, foggy evenings — “the burnt-out ends of smoky days”? When do we get red and russet leaves on dogwoods and yellow ones on the maples? I begin to despair.

And yet, there are signs that summer is ending and fall will soon be here, belatedly.

  • Kudzu is blooming and scenting the air pleasantly (the only good things kudzu ever does).
  • Cotton blooms, and balls dot the dark green borders of our Western Tidewater highways. Can “snow on the shoulders” be far behind? (No, not dandruff!).
  • Sunflowers are going to seed.
  • Apples dot the lawn of my neighbor across the street, to the great delight of our squirrels and deer.
  • Pumpkin Spice Latte is available at Starbucks (Oops, that’s not a sign in nature of coming fall).
  • Nuts! Beechnuts. Acorns. The first walnuts. Hunters are anticipating the mast crop (and perhaps supplementing with the odd bag of corn). Soon will come the chorus of shotguns.
  • Cords of firewood are being delivered and stacked (Oops, another human sign).
  • Sycamore and poison ivy leaves are turning yellow, if few others are.
  • Days are shorter and nights are longer — my newspaper comes in the dark again.
  • There are leaves scudding across the lake in the cat’s paws.
  • Tomatoes on the vine are fewer, smaller, less sweet. Time to pull out summer crops and plant spinach, collards, kale, broccoli, cabbage, chard and so on.
  • Spiders are going wild with their web-spinning, as they are wont to do this time each year.
  • Numbers of hummingbirds and butterflies are dwindling slowly. Time to clean and store the feeders.
  • Covers are starting to appear on neighbors’ pools. Oops — not a natural sign.
  • There’s football on TV, and fans fly flags in their car windows for the fall season — even the Redskins fans. (Oops again.)

So what if autumn is not really here yet. There are signs that it soon will be. I just wish I could stack my oak without sweating off two pounds. And have my evening glass of wine on the deck in 70-degree comfort, not 86. Let’s see. The seven-day forecast has six of the seven days beginning with an 8….

Susan and Bradford “Biff” Andrews are retired teachers and master naturalists who have been outdoor people all their lives, exploring and enjoying the woods, swamps, rivers and beaches throughout the region for many years. Email them at b.andrews22@live.com.