We saw it coming. Fall, that is. And although it won’t be officially here when this issue of The Dirt arrives, it’s clearly coming. There were hints of it toward the end of our summer camp season, delicate clues that have now turned into real evidence that summer is giving way to autumn.
Towards the end of our Farm and Garden Days program campers started to see quite a few black and orange Monarch butterflies. Now when you see them they will most likely be heading south in the annual Monarch migration to Mexico.
Flocks of birds overhead also give an indication of migration preparation. Climbing up Hook Mountain in Nyack, New York, gives an interested birder the perfect perch to watch hawks, eagles, and sometimes Monarchs soaring on the updrafts created by the ridge’s steep slopes.
Other signs that point us toward autumn: tupelo trees sending down early and brilliantly red leaves. Wooly bear caterpillars crawling about looking, perhaps, for an ideal spot in which to hibernate for the winter. Sunset today (Friday, September 14th) is at 7:07pm, and it seems like just a few weeks ago we were able to stay out until 8pm or later in the heat and lingering light of a summer evening. You might see a praying mantis scrutinizing particular plant stems, keeping an eye out for one that might support, in the case of females, their egg cases (but praying mantises always look as if they are ‘scrutinizing’). The aster flowers are blooming and goldenrod flowers are flaunting their yellow alongside many roadways.
This time between the seasons can sometimes feel extra special. Summer’s going, fall arriving, and this transition can produce shimmering days of perfect weather that dwell in our minds all year long. The migrating monarchs and birds, the eager yellow jackets (made frantic with some internal signal pointing them towards mortality), and the earliest red tupelo leaf can serve as anchors in this ephemeral edge between summer and fall.