Thursday, October 30, 2014

Waiting for Halloween and juncos

I’m calling today’s photo my Halloween picture.  The colors are Halloween-ish, and the trees that are bare are like gnarled hands reaching towards the sky.  The weather is appropriately like Halloween, too. Clouds of all colors between white and gray race across the sky, accompanied by a blustery wind. It’s the kind of weather that brings the Rough-legged Hawks and Golden Eagles south.

Oddly, though, I have yet to see a junco.  For a while I blamed this on a busy schedule, the late dawn and early sunset. I don’t think that’s the entire story. I’ve been as diligent as I ever am in awaiting the arrival of these northern snowbirds, and I haven’t seen any yet.  I am hoping the ever-dropping temperature that’s a result of the latest cold front will bring them.  I don’t think I’ve ever gone into November without finding them. 

A few times, I thought perhaps I had seen one, with their familiar white outer tail feathers, but when I got closer or got a better look, either the birds had vanished or it had turned out to be a trick of the light.  So I remain junco-less here on the mountain for today.  I still have one more day to find them before Halloween arrives and October ends.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Morning dramas

First, let me report that I did not enhance the color of today’s photo in any way.  Nor did I adjust the brightness, increase the contrast or any of those other things.  This is exactly the way I saw it, and the camera captured it. 
For the most part, the brilliant colors of fall are gone.  The pretty colors either blew away earlier this week or are turning brown, well past the bright yellows and reds of just a week ago.  But this morning the sun rose through a thin grey veil of fog and doused the mountain with shades so intense it hurt to look.  That’s the sun’s glory you are seeing, not the season’s colors.
Dawn comes late these last days before the fall time change, and my ability to take photos is suffering for it.  It’s dark enough that I still hear the great horned owls calling as I leave the cabin.  The only day birds up are the crows, though this morning, shortly after I took this photo, a gang of them found a hawk to mob.  It had taken refuge in a small tangled tree, but the mob was having none of it, gathering as in the Alfred Hitchcock movie and calling for reinforcements from all corners.
This morning had an unusual amount drama.  Days pass with little new to see, then all of a sudden the crows are out and the dawn turns the entire mountain as bright than a new penny.  Today I was just lucky enough to see both.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Autumn chill

The autumn colors have already faded, victims of the unrelenting breeze these last few days. The leaves that are left are more brown than colorful. As fall goes, the color this year wasn’t bad, but it sure didn’t last long. Often, the colors remain vibrant and firmly attached to their trees for a week. This year, the color was especially nice on Sunday and went downhill every day past that.
I cannot yet see Nell’s Hill, the mountain to the west of my cabin, but I can see one edge of Flat Hill, the one to my northwest. The view of the sky is now much more open than it was, and that late summer claustrophobic feeling I sometimes get has gone away, too.
The mornings are chilly, and once or twice I used my fireplace for an hour or so. Today, the temperature is no warmer than before, but the wind was calm this morning, so the cabin felt warm enough even without the fire. At least to me—the cats are taking up a lot more room on my bed than they were a month ago. Suddenly, I am their best friend again. Funny how that works.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Colors amid the gray

The fall color show is coming along nicely, whenever I get a break from the rain and clouds long enough to take a look at them.  That’s October here on Roundtop—gorgeous weather surrounded by rain, fog and big dark clouds racing across the sky.  The weather is very changeable, too.  Don’t wait to go outside when the weather is gorgeous, because in an hour or less it will be different.
A nor’easter just glanced my way, though this morning it is slow to clear out.  The rain has stopped but the clouds remain. Today’s photo is one I took two days ago, in a brief moment before the view was hidden.  This October I worry that the leaves will fall before I a chance to see the peak of the colors.  So though this view just past sunrise is not yet at the color peak, it may be the best I get to see. 
A fair number of the leaves already swirl around my feet.  The distance I can see into the forest is at least double what it was in midsummer.  That’s still not enough to see this mountain from the back of my cabin yet, though that won’t be but a few days or a week from now.
I see deer and wild turkey every day now.  The deer seem ever tamer, though neither me nor my neighbors feed them or do anything to encourage them. Likely, they were simply in the same spots all summer when the underbrush was too thick for us to see them. Now that the underbrush is going or gone, perhaps they still think they are hidden. They even ignore the dogs, though calm Sparrow is better tolerated than my wild Skye, who is never still a moment. I would almost not be surprised one day to find Sparrow and the old doe touching noses. So far not yet.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Last one?

Autumn is not yet in its full glory, but there’s glory enough in the autumn of today to know that summer is gone but winter is still miles away. The season is well and truly here, no half measures at the cusp between two seasons.
The late summer flowers, and indeed nearly all flowers, are gone. The lone exception that I found on my walk yesterday was a single chicory flower covered with drops of rain.  Even the fall asters have faded to brown, and other flowers on this stalk had already gone to seed.  Only this one late bloomer was in evidence.

I am soon ready for winter, if not quite there yet. I need to clean my gutters, a job I will probably have to repeat before the snow falls.  And I need to move the chicken pen to its winter quarters, though that isn’t something that needs done just yet.  So far, I have resisted closing my bedroom window for the season. It is ajar but with the nights approaching the first frost of the season, I probably won’t be able to leave it that way much longer. I like hearing the sounds of the forest outside my cabin, but once I close the windows, much of that will be lost until it is warm enough to open them again in the spring.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Gray day

unamed lane near Beaver Creek, Monaghan Township, York County PA
The fall color is coming along nicely at Roundtop, though unfortunately I have yet to see it at its best. Since Sunday, the days have been foggy, raining or gray, diluting the color of the leaves.  It’s not the interesting or bright kind of fog either.  It’s the dull, gray and dark kind of fog.  We’ve all seen at least a few photos of a gorgeous fall tree shrouded in a lovely fog. 
My gray and foggy days are not like those. Mine are the kind where the chickens go to roost at 4:30 because they think it’s getting dark.  It’s the kind where I hear the first great horned owl at 5 p.m., and it’s the kind that washes out the color on the trees. So, you (and I) will have to wait for sunny weather or at least that bright kind of fog to see any intense fall colors. Maybe tomorrow. Or the next day. I only hope the leaves don’t fall before that happens.

I have thus far been able to avoid turning on the heat or my fireplace.  However, my goal of making it to November 1 without doing so appears to be in doubt. It’s one thing to ignore cool weather for a day or so, but I will shortly be heading into a spate of days with temperatures near freezing at night and days bumbling around the mid-50’s.  I might not make it past the second or third day of that without giving in.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Watching and Waiting

October on Roundtop is usually marked by gorgeous sunny days surrounded by rain and fog.  Sunday I had the gorgeous weather; today I have the rain and fog.  I am awaiting the first juncos of the season, which can be expected at any moment, though perhaps not in this weather.  I have also yet to see many flocks of migrating waterfowl.  They are not late, at least not yet, though I might have expected to see more of them by now. I did have a lone pied-billed grebe last week, but one of anything is hardly full-scale migration.
The shortening hours of daylight make looking for birds on any but a weekend day more difficult now.  The chickens go to roost by before 6:30 p.m. now and likely will go earlier today in this gray weather.  Evening birdwatching is no longer possible for me.  By the time I get home, run the dogs and grab a bite to eat, only the crows are still out. I’m still getting used to that again. I can always forego dinner but the time I get home and the dogs need to go out can’t be changed.
For roughly the past week the improvement in my view (otherwise known as leaf drop) hasn’t changed much.  A few afternoons were breezy, and if those leaves had the slightest inclination to fall to the ground, they would have.  I am therefore stymied in my desire to see the western mountains reappear through the thick forest canopy.  I know it won’t be long before the view opens up, so I need to be patient about it. This is a bit like “a watched pot never boils” but with leaves.  “A watched tree never drops its leaves” doesn’t have quite the same ring but seems just as true. Maybe next week.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Apple Harvest Festival

The National Apple Harvest Festival in Arendtsville PA is my favorite fall festival, favored even over my own town’s Farmer’s Fair, if not by much.  I like that the fairground is at the foot of the South Mountains, the grounds are nestled against the mountain.  No macadam or blacktop is seen anywhere, and tall mature pine trees cover much of the site.
Even when the fair is crowded, as it always is, walking among the pines feels peaceful.  The buildings at the fairgrounds are old, too, so I feel as though I am entering another time when I’m there.  They are wooden, some clapboard, most from the 40’s and 50’s, the most recent from the 1960’s. 

And of course the fair itself boasts that great fair food, with everything from soft pretzels to apple bread to the ubiquitous chicken barbeque and pit beef, cooked outside and with the smell of wood smoke and cooking meat all around. 
For me, the fair is usually my first attempt at Christmas shopping for the season.  I always find something for someone or several someones.  This year was no exception.
After a rainy Saturday, Sunday dawned perfectly clear.  The early morning was in the 30’s, but the temperature warmed up quickly, bringing with it hordes of fairgoers from several states.  I make it a habit to go early and do my wandering and shopping. Then I eat an early lunch and leave before the crowd worsens.  This year, the crowd on Sunday was even greater than usual because many people, myself included, waited out the rainy weather of the day before.  Crowds or no, I try to attend this festival every year.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Bringing in the hay

Mt. Airy Rd., Monaghan Township, York County, Pennsylvania
On a grey and chill morning, some 12 hours before a day-long rain, a local farmer readies a load of hay to get it to the barn ahead of the storm. I hope I won’t have to light my fireplace this weekend, but I won’t be surprised if I succumb to the dampness and do it anyway. Early October is rather soon in this area to be thinking about using heat. 

In winter, I keep the cabin cool by most people’s standards. I am happy if I wake in the morning and the temperature isn’t below 60.  Partly I just don’t like the expense associated with heating in the winter, but almost as important, I am not comfortable with huge temperature changes going from the inside to the outside or vice versa.  I don’t cool the cabin very much in the summer for the same reasons.  But the dampness can get to me, just as humidity can in the summer.
So, while I will resist if possible, I may also give in—even if the leaves are still on the trees, and many of them are still green.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

This and that

Granted, this morning’s moon does not have the drama of an eclipse or a blood moon, but I still thought it was pretty neat to see the jet contrail right across the setting full moon.
Back at the cabin, I am enjoying watching the leaves thin out in the forest canopy.  That means my view of the sky is a little larger each day.  I still haven’t “found” the mountain to my west yet, but I know it’s there.
This morning three of the local deer grazed just a few feet from me as I fed the chickens. I tried hard not to look directly at the deer as I knew that would scare them.  It was a doe and at least one summer fawn—the third deer remained hidden. 
My fall bird feeder is operational again, if not yet fully arranged to my liking.  Several of the more obvious local birds have found it now that my chickens have shown them where it is. I’ve seen chickadees, titmice and nuthatches.  I still have sunflower seed to buy and the suet feeder to set up.  At this point in the year, I can still see a few birds at the feeders when I get home from work, though few are in evidence in the mornings.  It won’t be long before my only view of the feeders will be on the weekends.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014


Did you see the “blood moon” this morning?  I hope so, because it was beautiful. I don’t have a tripod, so taking night photos is difficult at best.  I did manage a photo when the moon wasn’t yet in full eclipse, just before it dipped behind the trees.
For once, I wasn’t battling rain or clouds or even antsy dogs who can’t stand still. Just before dawn four or five deer joined me near the snowmaking pond.  They were interested in getting an early morning drink and were content to ignore me, even as I ignored them while the eclipse was taking place. I can’t remember the last time I got to see a full eclipse, though I know it’s been quite a while.  Several have occurred during cloudy weather and others simply weren’t visible here. This time, though, none of those things occurred, and the sight was one to remember.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Nell's Hill, early fall

Nell's Hill with the start of fall color
Fall color in the forest is advancing nicely.  A few days ago I thought the leaves were mostly unchanged, but after a few nights of cool temperatures, that has changed. Now, the fall color is noticeable, though most trees are still green.   Some of the trees that have turned color are very far advanced and are even dropping their leaves already.
Although I can’t yet see this mountain from my cabin, at sunset I can now see where the bright sky ends.  As that is where the outline of the mountain begins, I know the mountain will reappear at my western windows soon. Slowly, ever so slowly, the holes in the forest’s leafy canopy grow larger, and my view of the sky overhead of my abode is opening, a little bit at a time.
This weekend brought a small taste of the cold weather ahead. I didn’t have a frost but it was close, and I suspect the lower-lying areas at the foot of the mountain might have had one. Higher up on the mountain, where I live, temperatures are more moderate than down lower.  The average date of the first frost here is October 13, so that’s not far off. 
It’s cold enough now that I’ve added more straw to the chicken pen, and I find that several cats suddenly want to sleep with me.  I didn’t turn my heat on this weekend when the outside temperature dropped, though it was chilly enough that I was tempted to. I decided to wait it out, knowing that this early cool snap would moderate in a few days. 

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Reddish dawn

Dense fog covered the mountain early this morning, though began to rise at dawn.  The result created a very pretty and unusual sunrise. I had to stop and watch it for a while, nearly making myself late for work, but what is work against a sunrise like this one?
This was not the "red sky at morning" kind of dawn that heralds a storm.  This was simply the sun rising through a layer of ground fog, but the timing of the mist rising with the sun making its first appearance was perfect.
I've lived more than 60 years now and have never seen a sunrise quite like this one.  It's true that each is different, but some, like this one, are unique.
Delicate reddish mist rising over the eastern mountains, alternating with dawn’s red sky and purple clouds nearly matching the color of the morning mountains.  It’s a rare sunrise indeed and not to be missed because of work.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Auction day!

Now that my family’s auction is over and I am largely recovered, I will share a few photos from the event.  I intended to take a lot of photos, but the day was too busy to be pointing a camera too much.  I took most of my photos before the action became fast and furious.
My siblings and I have been working towards this sale for the better part of a year.  Neither my grandparents nor my parents ever had sale when the previous generation passed, so that task fell to the three of us.  Worse, my parents, children of the Great Depression and World War II, never threw anything away.  And I do mean anything.  We found receipts from 1970 and check stubs from long-ended jobs of 40 years ago.  Naturally, good things were mixed in with the junk, so we had to go through everything very carefully and couldn’t just toss it first.

But finally, we were as done as we were going to be, and it was time for auction.  We sold old things and new, farm implements you’d have to be a bodybuilder to lift, household items—all manner of things. We had family and antique dealers, friends and strangers attend. The day was gorgeous, and we had a decent turnout, if not quite the standing room only crowd we might have hoped for. With 50 other sales in a 30-mile radius, buyers were spread a tad thin.
One of the things we sold was the old buckboard wagon, which I loved to sit in as a small child.  The man who bought it plans to restore it, though he expects that's a 4-5 year project.  He will enlist some Amishmen to replace the wood around the iron wheels.  He tells me that alone takes 3 months per wheel.  I'd like to see it again whenever it's done.
Still, the event was a nice success for the family, and the house and old barn are now a lot, if not entirely, empty.  There’s still more work to be done, though no deadline looms over our heads to accomplish that. Now, we can go through the mountains of photos we want to digitize and identify as many ancestors as we can.  We also have a lot of old documents that we need to examine and figure out what to do with, since starting a family library the way former presidents do is probably not going to happen.