Wednesday, October 31, 2012

After Sandy

Hurricane Sandy was a pretty nasty visitor here at my cabin on Roundtop Mtn. Fortunately, she’s gone now. The hurricane left me with more work than actual damage. Still, I hope I never have to hear wind like that again anytime soon. The wind didn’t howl, it roared.
I also think I was in the eye of the hurricane, which might have been a cool thing to see if it had been daylight. Here’s what happened: The wind was roaring, trees were bending like blades of grass, the torrential rain was whipped horizontal. This was going on for at least several hours from just before dusk through evening, all the time the wind building and gusting. Then around 10 p.m. (perhaps a bit later) on Monday night the wind died. I waited for a few minutes, hardly believing my luck, and then decided to run the dogs outside—who’d been inside for hours—while I had a respite.
Outside, the wind was indeed nonexistent, and the rain reduced to a sprinkle, almost a mist. It was quiet and still. The dogs taken care of, I headed back inside. Perhaps 10 minutes later the rain started increasing again. This time the rain came from a more southerly direction. In perhaps another 10 minutes the winds began again, too, but throughout the night they never reached the fury of the earlier hours of the evening. I still had some substantial gusts, but they were fewer and the sustained winds probably a good 10 mph less than earlier. I’m pretty sure the winds were southerly, too, but I wasn’t outside to determine that. So was that the eye of the hurricane? When I look at the hurricane’s path it seems that it might have been.
Yesterday was a clean-up day for me. You’d never guess that I’d just spent hours on Sunday and Monday cleaning gutters and sweeping the decks free of leaves. Today it looks as though I’ve never done either. Virtually all the leaves are down now, and it feels like a raw mid-November day, still with some rain.
In my photo today, if you look past the downy woodpecker and the squirrel, you’ll see that the mountains to my west are visible again after disappearing into the leaf canopy for the past nearly 7 months. The table under the bird feeders is leaf-covered and messy. That wasn’t the case on Sunday—everything was cleared and arranged or put away. And my lovely, new yellow-topped finch feeder is empty of the pine siskins that seem to be filling the feeders everywhere but at my cabin.
I’m just glad I’m safe and the storm is gone. That was a doozy.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Then and now

What a difference one weekend will make! I took this photo last weekend up at Michaux State Forest. This weekend I will be deep into getting ready for Hurricane Sandy, a gal I’m already not liking very much. I’ve heard too much about her already and she’s still almost four days from appearing on my doorstep.

For me, the wind will be likely be the biggest worry. Anyone who lives in a forest worries about that. Doing without power is no fun but that’s nothing compared to a downed tree on the cabin. Water in the basement is no fun either, but that’s why I have pumps, both electric and battery-powered (though the battery-powered one might not be up to handling the water from this kind of storm).

Whatever plans I thought I might have for this weekend will be put on hold, both because of getting ready for the storm and paying attention to where the storm is going to go and when. The animals are blissfully unaware of anything other than getting their dinner. I sort of wish I could be, too.

So, if blogging ceases for a bit, it’s because I’m out of power and/or internet. I hope to still be online for Monday, but I’m taking no bets for after that.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Trying to ignore Sandy

Along Mountain Creek in Michaux State Forest
I’ve been trying to ignore the Hurricane Sandy information for the past two days, hoping that the storm won’t, after all, turn into a Major Event here on Roundtop. But as time passes, the storm looms pretty large as a probable Major Event to arrive sometime early Monday morning.
As a result, I am in full hurricane-preparedness mode at the cabin. For me this means everything from battening down the hatches on the chickens, to making sure I have plenty of water available, not to mention food that doesn’t need to be cooked or cooled. Electrical outages here are common during minor events, let alone during Major Events.

So that work has begun for me. At least I have several days notice before Sandy arrives, so I should have time to prepare, at least as much as anyone can for these things. Maybe I’ll get done with everything in time to do a little “hurricane birding.”

Hurricanes often bring birds that normally live along the coast inland, to shelter away from the storm. The most common species I see during these times are Caspian terns, but those come with summer hurricanes. The terns have already headed to Florida for the winter. With a pending hurricane this late in the year, I don’t know what might appear.

For now, it’s too soon to think about birding when I have so much else to take care of first. It’s time to get busy and get ready for some rough weather.

Rhododendron at Mountain Creek

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The waiting game

Pine needles underfoot at Michaux State Forest
I fear that the display of fall colors is already past its not-so-wonderful prime here on Roundtop this year. For a day or so I was hoping it was only a respite, a lull, before the last burst of color. But this year is not like a fireworks display, and there will be no grand finale. With rain in the forecast both sooner and later, I suspect the leaves will soon be down around my ankles or my shins. As long as it’s only leaves and not rain around my ankles and my shins, I’ll be happy.

Reflections in Mountain Creek

I seem to be in a holding pattern, weather- and season-wise this week. The temperature has warmed up a few degrees, which is pleasant. It’s not so warm as to feel unseasonable, just warm enough to feel like early October instead of after the middle of the month.

Except for nightly raids by a foraging raccoon, I haven’t seen many indications of the colder weather to come. I have no juncos to report as yet, though in some years I would have seen them already. I have no huge flocks of Canada geese, sprinkled with loons, honking across a chilly and overcast sky to report either. By now I’m thinking the geese flew on a different path this year or were perhaps simply too high under a clear sky for me to even hear them.

And so I wait for something new or different to catch my eye, for the leaves to fall and reveal the open sky and the mountain to the west, for the juncos to arrive or the pine siskin to pay a visit. For now none of that is happening. It’s just me, waiting.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Walking where I've never walked before

Sunday was one of those perfect fall days that draws people outdoors like bears to honey. No excuses or explanations are needed. The weather is simply too wonderful to spend indoors, and it doesn’t matter how much housework or yard work you are leaving undone. Out you go. I was no exception.
This time I wanted to do something a little different. I have been stomping through Michaux State Forest in Adams and Cumberland counties for all my life and seriously stomping there for the past 40 years or so. And there are still places I haven’t trod, and this time I was determined to find one of them.

My plan was to follow a section of Mountain Creek south of Tumbling Run Game Preserve. I’ve hiked to the falls at Tumbling Run more times than I can count, dozens certainly. It never fails to thrill, but I knew on this weekend and in this weather it would be filled with lots of other hikers. I was hoping for something a little more solitary and quiet.
So I headed to Woodrow Rd. and found a spot to pull over and started my ramble along the creek. Michaux is much a forest of hemlocks, rhododendrons and mountain laurel, so the fall colors of deciduous trees are not as predominant here as they are at Roundtop. But the scent of the pines and the bubbling creek makes up for that.

I was surprised to find the ferns here already fading to brown. At Roundtop, all except the few maidenhair ferns are still green. The pine needles muffled my footfall, and except for the stream, the woods were very quiet. Only a few jays screamed in the distance. One red-breasted nuthatch scolded and then flew. I saw few other birds. That was fine with me—a quiet walk through a beautiful forest needs no enhancement.

I don’t know how far I walked. I seem to be incapable of walking 100 yards without taking a photo, so my pace and forward progress was slow. That was fine, too. Enjoying the woods shouldn’t be a hurried experience and whatever slows your progress is worthwhile.

I spent much of this gorgeous day here in Michaux forest, and though I walked in one section of the forest where I hadn’t walked before, I found at least 6-7 other spots where I hadn’t yet walked either. I’ve added those to my list for the next time. Oh, and you’ll be seeing a lot more of my photos here this week, too.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Fall colors

View to the west behind my cabin, with Nell's Hill in the distance
As best as I can tell at the moment, the fall color change peaked this weekend here in southern Pennsylvania. As autumn colors go, this is not the best year I’ve ever seen. However, there’s no such thing as an ugly fall, so less-than-spectacular does not equal awful or even not-great. The forest is still quite pretty, though the colors seem a bit muted or at least not as bright as when they are at their best.
There is no arguing with the weather this weekend. Sunny and clear brought out the leaf lookers in droves. The temperature is not what I would call crisp, except perhaps in the early morning. It’s a bit too much on the warm side for that, but the temperature is perfectly pleasant, and there’s certainly no harm in that.

I am blaming the less than perfect fall color on the extreme July heat and dryness. Many of the leaves are curled and brown on the edges, with fall color only in the center of the individual leaves. The leaves that have fallen are as dry as old paper, crackling underfoot when I step on them. Deer hunters had better hope for a little rain or stalking deer or even walking quietly to a deer stand won’t be possible.
I have yet to hear or see any on those huge flocks of waterfowl, usually Canada geese, that can fill the skies during October. The main flight path isn’t always over Roundtop, so it’s possible this year falls into that category. Or, perhaps I haven’t been able to see them because the sky is clear and the birds are migrating at such a height that they aren’t visible or audible. Or perhaps the weather just hasn’t been bad enough to get them moving. Any of those choices are possible, and it could well be another 3-4 weeks before I know what the reason is.
Suddenly, ticks have made an unwelcome reappearance. I’ve pulled them off both me and the dogs this weekend. The stinkbugs are still around, too, unfortunately. I’ll be happy to see them disappear sooner rather than later.

Friday, October 19, 2012


Yesterday evening I tried to get some autumn photos of the color change here at Roundtop. This is not a great year for fall leaves. Too many are turning brown, shriveling and falling without ever turning yellow or orange or gold. Adding to the lack of pretty leaves has been the lack of good light. Instead, the light has been flat, the sky overcast (but not in a good way), the views hazy with fog that never quite dissipates. It’s discouraging. Fall doesn’t last nearly long enough in a good year, and every day with poor visibility and bad lighting makes the season feel even shorter.

So last evening I took a few shots but found myself unhappy with all of them. Daylight was fading fast, and the fog and the light gave no indication either would improve in the few moments before sunset. I started back up the trail, deciding instead to focus on a few individual leaves instead of trying for a long landscape shot.

And then suddenly the sun broke through the clouds and lit up the trees around me. It was too late to go back for the long view (and the fog wasn’t likely to disappear, anyway). For a few seconds, and only for a few, the sun turned even the brown leaves to magical shades of orange and yellow. A few clicks of the shutter and then it was gone. The evening was sweet but oh, so short.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Sounds and sights of fall

If a day has gone by this week without seeing at least 10-12 deer, I must not be looking—deer along the roads, deer in the roads, deer standing by the edge of a trail and staring at me. Deer are everywhere this week. The dogs are thrilled. They think like predators and are sure they can catch one.

This morning one doe stood not 20 feet from Baby Dog and me and stared at us. Baby Dog didn’t see it at first. I’m taller than she is and had the benefit of a headlamp to catch the reflection of her eyes. When she saw the deer, Baby Dog stopped and stood for a few seconds and then bounced on both her front feet, trying to get a reaction. The doe didn’t move right away. I think she thought we couldn’t see her in the darkness. Then Baby Dog gave a quick bark, and the doe trotted off into the brush.

These early morning and early evening encounters are commonplace. The deer are starting their rutting season, and the muzzleloader hunters are probably pushing them around a bit, too. I’ve heard two shots this week, both late in the day. Those long rifles make a big sound, echoing throughout the mountain and the valley. I can’t tell where the shots originate, though I haven’t seen a hunter or a vehicle parked nearby. The shots are loud enough to make me think the hunter is right behind the cabin, but I know that’s not the case.

Last night I also heard the sound of a lost, lone Canada goose. I didn’t hear or see a big migrating flock, but I know the particular sound of a goose that’s been separated from a flock, and this was one of those. They call and call, hoping they will hear the flock respond, and those answers will help them rejoin their group. This one wasn’t having much luck. No calls answered it that I could hear. But the sound made me think that waterfowl are on the move to the south. The time is right for that.

I hope I get to see or hear one of those big flocks this year. There’s little else that says “fall” to me like the sound of a flock of 300 or 500 Canada geese. Often several flocks are overhead at the same time, and the sound of their honking goes on for an hour or more, a new flock sounding from the north before the sounds of the old one disappears to the south. That’s what fall sounds like, hundreds or thousands or geese honking high overheard, moving south away from the approaching winter.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Hey, mom, what is this thing?

Hey, mom, what is this thing?
It's a puffball, Baby Dog.
A ball?  Toss it, please!  Pretty please!  I wanna play with the ball!
No, Baby Dog. It's not that kind of ball.
No?  Since when can't we play ball?  Was I bad?
No, you aren't bad.  It's a ball that won't bounce and won't roll.
What the heck kind of a ball is that? 
It's a fungus.
Doesn't seem like a lot of fun to me if I can't play with it.  And who's Gus?
There is no Gus.
How come Gus is having all the fun?
There is no Gus.
You're getting me a brother, aren't you? I don't like brothers.  Wait!  Does Gus bring the fun?  Can I play with the ball when Gus comes?
There is no Gus. You are not getting a brother.
You're going to let me play with the ball after I pose for this photo, aren't you?
It's not that kind of ball. (sigh)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

It's raining leaves

It’s raining leaves today. Leaves are falling wherever I look, like big raindrops. With each leaf that falls, my cabin gains a bit of sunlight, a bit of open sky. At night another few stars are visible. In daylight, I see blue sky and clouds again, if not yet enough of either to gauge the weather without going to the end of the lane.

Driving is dangerous again; the deer are in rut. I see them standing by the sides of the roads and bouncing across the roads. I hear gunshots again as the sounds of hunters echo across the mountain. It’s muzzleloader season this week, and those guns are loud. They always sound as though they are close enough to be in my neighbor’s back yard, but they aren’t. So far Maude and Mergatroyd are still here.

Resistance is futile as I attempt to keep leaves off my front and back decks. By the time I broom them off the deck, the just-broomed area is already coated with them again. At this point, my brooming is simply to keep them from becoming shin-deep. A deck actually cleared of them will still be weeks away, and by then I might be attempting to keep snow off the decks. If snow falls before the decks are cleared of leaves, the decks become skating rinks.

Raccoons are foraging again, attacking my bird feeders in the middle of the night. Actually, I could easily put up with raccoons in the bird feeders and would happily sleep through their emptying of them. But Baby Dog can’t let it go. She howls with indignation and fury, until I am forced to get up, stumble to the door and chase off the intruders. Tonight, I must remember to bring the bird feeders inside before bed, a routine I haven’t had to perform for half a year. I am relearning how to do autumn, again. Apparently, this is knowledge that disappears sometime over the course of 365 days. Every year I remember again, but too late to avoid being awakened at least once by her frantic barking.

No longer is fall merely a hint among the last days of summer. It is here now, in full force, with all the sights, smells and sounds of the season. It’s time to sweep the decks again.

Monday, October 15, 2012

I hope I'm wrong

Sunset on a perfectly clear evening
Fall didn’t seem to progress very much here at Roundtop this weekend. Despite frost on Friday night, the leaf color just doesn’t look like much yet. And I’m starting to think it won’t be much this fall. Many leaves are down already, and the leaves that remain look as though they are just curling up, turning brown and falling.

The view to the north from my cabin is now about 50% open. I can see the sky and at night I can see stars through the canopy. In summer, my view of the sky is nothing more than pinpricks of light between a very few holes in the leaves. To the south, the direction that is most closed in during summer, the view of the open sky is less than to the north, though I can already see the curve of the top of Nell’s Hill. So the leaves are falling already and in pretty good numbers.

The leaves that are left don’t show much sign of color and when they do that color is mostly brown or a sick-looking, dull green. I’ve been trying to remember if I’ve noticed similar drying and leaf drop in other autumns before the leaves turned color, and my best answer is that I haven’t.

Summer, as anyone who lives in the east coast of the U.S. will remember, was very hot and dry, but then by mid-August the temperature moderated and the weather often turned rainy and overcast. When that happened the trees and the forest started looking more normal again, and some of the plants that started to wither in the July heat regained a more robust shade of green. The water table was replenished, and I thought the effects of the heat wave were over. I guess not.

With the number of leaves that are already down and the sad appearance of the ones that remain, I’m not expecting much from the fall color change here on Roundtop. I hope I’m wrong.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Not much longer

Daisy fleabane
This little patch of daisy fleabane likely won’t last much longer. Neither will the four brown-eyed susans I saw this morning, nor the very last of the evening primrose. Tonight will come the first freeze of the fall season. Not merely a frost, either, which would be more common this time of October, but an actual freeze.

I am hopeful the freeze will also spell the end for stinkbugs, mosquitoes and ticks, though I’m probably overly hopeful about that. The freeze should also move the color change along a bit faster. To my eye, the forest looks more dry than colorful at the moment.

In fall, the trees “bloom” with nature’s color, like giant flowers. Spring’s colors are beautiful, too, but on a much tinier scale. Tiny rue anemone or wild geranium dot the forest floor with small spots of color like well-hidden Easter eggs. In fall, the color is all encompassing. That part just hasn’t happened here yet.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

One step

The yo-yo season of warm and cool temperatures is underway at Roundtop. A day of warm weather is followed by one or two of chilly temperatures. The warm and cool cycle can all occur on the same day, too, which makes figuring out what to wear even more difficult than usual. And I’m not just talking about first thing in the morning, either.

It can be comfortable in the morning and jacket-needing in the afternoon. It can be cool in the afternoon and warm and moist in the evening. If I’ve been inside for a few hours, I have to step outside to check the feel of the day to know if I’ll need a jacket or not. Looking outside or even looking at the thermometer doesn’t tell the whole story.

This time of year the only way to know is to experience the day and its vagaries of weather. In fact, much of living in the woods is like that. I lament the day when I have to close the windows until the spring, because it means I won’t be able to hear what’s going on outside anymore. Even now, when my windows are barely cracked, the sounds I can hear are much diminished. Often, it’s only when I do step outside that I can hear the geese fussing over on the big pond or the sound of someone’s tires on the dirt road at the bottom of my lane. When my windows are fully open I can feel I am in the forest when I am inside the cabin.

The rest of the year I’m only a step away from the forest, but the cabin is still a cabin and not part of the forest. Being inside the cabin feels different than being outside. Temperature, humidity, sound and smells are all different. One step, to the inside or the outside, makes a huge difference. In other words, even though I live in the forest, I need to get out into it to experience it. It’s just easier for me to do that than for most people. For me, the forest is only one step away.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A bit of fall color

Laurel Lake in Pine Grove Furnace State Park, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania
Even though the inside of the cabin dropped to 53 degrees for a while yesterday morning, I just couldn’t bring myself to either turn on the heat or the fireplace. The second week of October is too early for that, particularly when the forecast was for temperatures to go back up into the mid-60’s by today. I was tempted to light the fireplace, but I resisted. Cool weather is why women invented sweaters.
I don’t like turning the heat on and off multiple times. I like to turn it on in the fall and then turn it off again in the spring, with none of this constant on/off routine. Another two to three weeks into the year is plenty soon enough for the heat. Today, the cabin is back up to 55-57 degrees and that feels entirely comfortable. Funny how just a few degrees makes such a big difference to me. I still had four cats on the bed last night, though.
The birds are starting to return to my feeders after their summer hiatus. Although I’ve heard reports of pine siskins all over the place, none of them have found my feeders yet. It’s getting to the point in the year when I’m not at home during prime hours of daylight. The mornings are not fully light by the time I leave the cabin, and I have little more than an hour of full daylight after I get home. The pretty little siskins might be visiting when I’m not at home, but if they are, they sure aren’t eating much out of the niger seed feeder. I suspect they aren’t around my feeders, though why they yet haven’t found mine is something of a disappointment. They don’t come south every year, anyway, and I look forward to seeing them when they do. 

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Checking on the color change

Last night was a “four cat night” on my bed, so the speed of fall’s color change is likely to speed up. Right now, I’d describe the state of the leaf color as variable. In some places it’s quite nice, if not yet perfect. Drive 200 yards and there’s no color at all. Drive another 200 yards and it’s nice again.

Although the peak of the color is likely two weeks away, this weekend will probably show some reasonably nice leaf change. And if nothing else, leaf lookers will probably have two weekends of enjoying the fall colors before it’s over.

This past weekend I found some decent, if yet unspectacular, examples of local color change. As you can tell from the shots, the lighting and the weather wasn’t particularly cooperative. The weather was gray and a bit hazy. I’m hoping for better or at least acceptable weather for this weekend when I will try for more autumn photos. I have a route of walking and driving already planned out. Weather permitting, of course.

If you’re not traveling to New England or northern Pennsylvania for the color change, I highly recommend driving on Rt. 233 from just south of Mt. Holly Springs all the way to Caledonia. The drive is about 18 miles long and passes Fuller and Laurel lakes. The trip is entirely forested, with nothing but mountains, the state parks at the lakes and some cabins along the way.

The views of the mountains and forests are lovely. Roll down your windows to smell the pine trees along the way. You may need to turn on your car heater to stay comfortable while doing this. As a kid, we called this “playing Valley Forge.” There are plenty of places along the way where you can park the car and walk in along snow machine or hiking trails to see even more.

So far, I haven’t yet seen or heard the big flocks of waterfowl moving south. Today feels like the kind of day when that could happen. I wish I could spend the day home at the cabin to see if I’m right about today being that day. The timing is right, too. The few times I’ve added loons to my “yard” list of birds ranged between October 9-12. I count birds for my Roundtop list if I see them when they fly over the mountain.

Monday, October 08, 2012

National Apple Harvest Festival

This weekend was gray, gloomy and verging on cold, but that didn’t dampen the crowd at the National Apple Harvest Festival just outside of Arendstville PA. Hooded sweatshirts, with the hoods pulled up, were the clothing item of the day, and likely more than a few people wished they'd had gloves.  After two days of warm, fall weather a 20 degree temperature change made the day feel more like November than early October.

Apple Harvest is my favorite festival, and much of that has to do with the fairground. Nothing about the grounds is modern, and festival-goers walk around the pines to visit the vendors and food stands, which are abundant.  You can watch cider and apple butter being made the old-fashioned way, with steam engines ranging in size from this little one to those the size of locomotives.

If there’s anything made with apples that isn’t sold here, I don’t know what it would be. Apple sausage, apple butter, apple sauce, apple jelly, apple pancakes are just a few. You name it. If apples are in it, someone’s probably selling it at the festival. Held the first two weekends of October, the festival has been in existence most of my life, though it hasn’t been the National Apple Harvest Festival all that time. Adams County PA, where the festival is held, has long been known for its apple orchards, and it was a few of those growers who got together and started the festival about 50 years ago.

The festival has grown so much since the early days that now more than 300 vendors take part, and the shuttle bus system that brings people up the narrow mountain road to the fairgrounds is the best organized I’ve ever seen. I like to go early on Sunday mornings, as I think that’s when the festival is less crowded. People come from all over the mid-Atlantic states to visit.

This year I got a few Christmas gifts at the craft vendors and ate some really good festival food, which in my mind always tastes better for being cooked outside under the pine trees anyway. The difficult part is deciding what I'm going to buy because I wouldn't even have room just to sample it all. 

Friday, October 05, 2012

Flights of Fancy

What is that brilliant fiery orb gracing the eastern sky this October morning?

Look quickly. It will be gone by tomorrow. Enjoy its glory for the moment that is today. Revel in its brightness and heat. Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.

Tomorrow the rains will return and autumn will take off its lightweight jacket and settle in with some real fall weather, the kind that means a fire needs lit, the hot chocolate needs brewed and that old, comfortable sweater needs dusted off for another year’s duty.

This morning migrating birds are on the move, small finches move in small flocks, trying to get further south before the coming storm. Birds that aren’t migrating are busy foraging with the first real urgency of the season. The short break in the weather has all the forest in action again, after days of inactivity.

Even the monarch butterfly migration is picking up again this morning, the frail, little bits of orange somehow managing to withstand the dangers of travel to migrate long distances. Their trip to Mexico takes about two months. The ones that survive will winter there and head back in the spring, but those oldsters will only make it back about halfway before the next generation completes the spring journey.

On their travels monarchs like to roost overnight in the same spot, replicating in temporary miniature the swarms of them that winter at the same few trees in Mexico. This year, reports are that in the East large numbers of monarchs are migrating, but not many have been seen in the drought-plagued Midwest. That’s already prompted some researchers to wonder just how many will make it to Mexico, as the eastern butterflies have a longer trip, and it’s thought fewer of them survive the hazards of migration. Last week monarchs arrived at the first three overnight roosts in Texas, where numbers were reported to be fewer than 50 at each roost.

This link takes you to a great website where monarch migration is tracked week by week so you can see where they are on maps and learn how many are showing up in the southern roost sites. The weekly news is updated every Thursday until the monarchs arrive in Mexico.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Looking ahead

It’s not just me who is lamenting the fog that still grips Roundtop and much of the east coast. Yesterday, I was emailed a photo of a lonely hawkwatcher sitting all by himself up on his fog-shrouded perch at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary. The only way that man would see any hawks (assuming one was desperate enough to be flying) was if one perched on his head. Another hawk counter from up in Connecticut told me he was holding a “fog watch” this year instead of a hawkwatch. It’s all funny, if not terribly amusing.

The forecast is still promising clearing up for a day or two before rain moves in again. That same forecast is promising some much cooler weather starting on Saturday. I’m already planning to bring the last of the summering houseplants back into the cabin, including my 10-ft tall ficus tree. The whole planned operation got me to thinking about dependent we are on weather forecasts in a way that was impossible just a generation ago.

Before WWII and the advent of radar, I would have little idea that the temperature would drop a good 20 degrees in another day or so. I might have been able to look at the sky and predict rain or another storm, but I never heard anyone report they could predict a 20 degree temperature drop. Back then I probably would have brought my houseplants inside based on a day of the calendar—perhaps Columbus Day. And if I’d relied on that day this year, I’d be at least two days too late for my houseplants. As it is I am scheduling my evening around bringing in the houseplants and getting them situated for the upcoming winter.

My now year-old kittens will have forgotten about the tree, or if they haven’t, they will remember just how much fun it was to climb up to the second floor of the cabin via the tree instead of the stairs. Of course, they are much larger now, fully grown, and the tree will not support three cats still operating on kitten brains. I am not looking forward to dealing with a tree toppled in my living room until they learn this lesson. But learn they must, and deal with it I must. I hope they learn quickly.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Too foggy

Fog and drizzle is starting to be a broken record here on Roundtop Mtn., though the forecast promises an end by the weekend. I’m starting to find the lack of visibility annoying. The gloom of the fog only serves to make the shortened hours of daylight feel even shorter.
Bird activity is depressed. I’m not sure if it’s just that I can’t see them or if they simply aren’t out and about. I suspect it’s the latter. Even the Carolina chickadees and Tufted titmice that visit my feeders are fewer in number and nearly silent when they do appear. Instead of their near-constant chatter, they arrive quietly, grab a seed or two and disappear back into the fog.
This morning Baby Dog and I nearly stumbled over one of the deer that frequents the tiny patch of grass at the bottom of the lane that runs up the mountain. I stopped, the doe stopped and looked, and Baby Dog couldn’t see the deer at all, though it was only the width of the lane away from us. It wasn’t until the doe bobbed her head, probably trying to figure out what we were, that Baby Dog noticed. Her single bark was more than enough to put the deer into a run and disappear.
Are the colors changing on the trees? I can’t tell.
Are avian migrants on the move? I can’t tell.
Are enough leaves down that I might see the curve of the mountain to the west again? I can’t tell.
For all I know the ski resort might have disappeared in the past week. It’s simply too foggy to see much of anything, and the woods aren’t talking.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012


Rainy autumn days always make me wish:
I could sleep longer.

I didn’t have to go to work.

The dogs wouldn’t start to fuss until I was well and truly awake.

A hot cup of tea or coffee (depending on my mood) would be ready for me whenever I stumbled out of bed.

A good book was waiting for me and that I could spend hours immersed in it. Or not.

Mostly, that I could sleep longer.

Monday, October 01, 2012

October song

Any day now, the big flocks of Canada geese will fill the air over Roundtop. Last night for a few minutes I thought I heard the first group of them heading south. I changed my mind after I listened for a few minutes. It was only the local geese fussing or feeling antsy. Soon, they all took flight and moved to a different pond on the mountain, circling all around a time or two before they set down. The local geese don’t migrate, but the urge to move is still there in fall and they fly with little provocation. It’s as though October sings in their wings, even when there’s no place to go.
October started off on a very foggy note this morning. I couldn’t see the mountains. I could barely see to drive. Oddly, the only spot that was less foggy was the lowest point on my morning travels, down by the old stone bridge at the foot of Roundtop Mtn. After I took this photo I also noticed that the trees down here seemed a lot more green than up where I live.

Up on the mountain most trees are showing at least a few leaves that are displaying the colors of fall, though the trees with the most color are still no more than half-changed. Most show color on about 10-20% of the tree. Breezes have already forced more leaves off the trees and onto the forest floor than I would expect. That makes me wonder if the leaf change won’t look like much this year.

The forest is most beautiful when the trees all show their colors at about the same time. If a few leaves show color now, fall during the first breeze and then that cycle repeats, the leaves that remain on the trees are always the ones that are greenest. The leaves that are on the trees will grow ever fewer, but the dramatic colors of an all yellow and red forest never quite happens. I hope that’s not the case this year but if it is, it wouldn’t be the first time. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see what happens.