Poor Will's Almanack: October 18 - 24, 2011

Oct 18, 2011

Poor Will’s Almanack for the Second Week of Middle Fall

"As the afternoons grow shorter and the early evening drives us home to complete our chores," wrote Henry David Thoreau, "we are reminded of the shortness of life, and become more pensive…..  We are prompted to make haste and finish our work before the night comes.

All across the northern half of the United States, the chemical changes in the foliage that became noticeable six weeks ago now accelerate until the fragile landscape turns all at once, reinforcing Thoreau’s reminder.

Shagbark hickories, maples, sweet gums, oaks, sassafras, and sycamores reach peak color.  Black walnuts, locusts, buckeyes, box elders, hackberries, ashes and cottonwoods are almost bare. Large patches of sky shine through the tattered canopy.

In the cooler, wetter nights, crickets and katydids are weakening. Only a few swallowtails visit the garden now, and just a few fireflies glow in the grass. Every monarch butterfly has left for Mexico.

Almost all the wildflowers have gone to seed.  Wild cucumber fruits are dry and empty.  Hosta pods are splitting, black seeds ready to fall in a storm.  The final sedum blossoms are closing for the year.

Weather history reinforces Thoreau’s reflections about making haste. Chilly lows in the 20s or 30s are most likely to occur on the mornings of the 19th and 20th, with the latter date carrying the highest chances for a freeze or even snow from Denver to New York so far this season.

Next week on Poor Will’s Almanack: notes for the Third Week of Middle Fall. In the meantime, watch for woolly bear caterpillars rushing across the road, on the way to winter shelter.

Poor Will’s Almanack for 2012, fourteen months and 300 pages of seasonal essays, notes on farming and gardening, weather, phenology, astronomical information, puzzles with cash prizes, and reader stories is now available. More information can be found at www.poorwillsalmanack.com