Rural Water - Quarter 4, 2018 - 41
UP THE CREEK
Smells of the Season
BY KEN M. BLOMBERG
In a technical sense,
autumn's equinox arrives in late
September when the Sun crosses the equator and the duration
of day and night stands equal. But in reality, fall blows in with a
vengeance in October when cold fronts and blustery winds sweep
down from Canada. When average temperatures drop more than
20 degrees and suddenly, autumn unfolds before our very eyes.
Fall is right around the corner, and now's the time to taste the
sounds, sights and smells of the season.
Northern geese will pass through in noisy gaggles. Cranes
will trumpet from nearby harvested fields and secluded marshes.
Wood ducks will cry as they patrol backwater sloughs and river
bottoms. On rare occasions, male ruffed grouse may drum, rooster
pheasants crow and tom turkeys gobble. Buck deer will soon
grunt for mates and from hedgerow thickets, migrating songbirds
will warble. Autumn music will be with us until the season's final
In autumn, the brilliant shades of yellow, orange and red
overrule the green pigments in leaves that thrive only in warm
weather. As temperatures drop and daylight hours diminish,
autumn pigments kick in and leaves transform like magic,
sometimes overnight. This is the moment to explore the
countryside to view its full glory. Time is of essence as the winds
of the season will eventually send the foliage to the
forest floor. These are, as my cousin from
Sweden would say, "stop the clock"
moments. If only the full spectrum of
fall's colors and weather could last
for months, not just a few shortlived weeks. A yearly calendar
containing 12 months of
Octobers, would truly be a
dream come true.
Who among us can
gaze across the landscape
at this moment in time
without wonder? What
science of it all-creates
the brilliant shades of
yellow, orange and red?
We know the green pigment
in leaves is chlorophyll and
thrives only in warm weather.
As temperatures drop and
daylight hours diminish, carotene and
anthocyanin pigments persist and cause leaves to appear yellow
and red respectively. Picture postcard beauty beyond description
lies in view and can soften even the hardest of souls. I dare to
ponder-who really controls the paintbrush?
For hunters, October means following the course of migrant
game birds. For birders, it's time to keep an eye on the sky and in
the bush. Throngs of juncos, warblers, fox sparrows and robins
will invade northern states soon. Waterfowl and cranes will stage
in large numbers throughout our state. Geese chase their flyways
and woodcock slip in quietly-without fanfare and in the dark
of night-their initial rides on the wave of northwesterly winds.
Dogwood thickets and alder bottoms become transitory homes
for woodcock-their secluded whereabouts only uncovered by
investigating bird dogs and hunters.
Step outside, take a deep breath and smell the season. Fallen
leaves, pine needles and brown grasses soaking in the morning
dew arouse our senses like nothing else. Exhale and see your
breath for perhaps the first time since last winter. Enjoy the tang of
frosty mornings and crisp moonlit nights. Until next spring, you'll
smell nothing more refreshing.
October will light the first fire of the season in the woodstove-
another milestone of the year. Outside our back door is a
growing pile of oak firewood thanks to relatives and
friends-as well as assorted elm, maple
and popple-thanks to the woods that
envelops our creek. Together, in
October, we greet the chill that
accompanies the season. ●
Ken M. Blomberg is the
past executive director
of the Wisconsin Rural
Water Association. Ken
has written two books
since his retirement.
Autographed copies of
his first book, Up the
Creek, are now available
for $15.62, postage paid. A
portion of the sale proceeds
will be donated to NRWA's
scholarship program. Send
checks payable to Ken M.
Blomberg, 2099 Mayflower Road,
Junction City, WI 54443.