Stark Yet Subtle Signs of Changing Seasons Abound

Submitted by Art and Barb Straub

With unusually cold nights, most Indy readers are putting gardens to bed, inventorying their harvest, planting spring bulbs, or in the case of the agricultural community, scrambling like bunnies in an attempt to bring closure to a most trying growing season. Many tillers of the garden soil have expressed frustration with amount and quality of garden produce. Wet soils and weak sunrays beset many of our kind from April through October.

To pile cruelty upon disappointment, the first seed catalogs arrived October 15th! On one hand, never before have we resented their entrance into the home through the mailbox; on the other trowel, perhaps their appearance gives one hope, hope for a spring of 2020 with adequate moisture, plentiful bright rays of sunlight, and new birth. As we inventoried our sparse garden loot, we acknowledged that the fruit cellar will have empty jars and shelves, one can already see the bottom of the freezer, yet there’ll be plenty on the table.

Our account: Ten hills of pumpkins produced one and a half pumpkins. Betty and son Kevin Mager’s garden on a fenced sunny slope in LeSueur saved our dignity on the Pumpkin Hill Road with five fine Halloween pumpkins, while Pete and Sylvia Straubs,’ Mary and Steve Nesgodas,’ and Allison and Shayne’s giant pumpkins light up the entire Pumpkin Hill Roadway. Deer helped themselves to our beans, carrots and beets, even though the fruits of the earth were surrounded by a fine expensive fence. Okra didn’t bother showing its pods. Tomatoes? Oh, well, the boss said, “Don’t plant so many tomatoes this year,” thus we limited ourselves to 40 plants, which, produced 40 tomatoes…blight and lack of sunshine pruned those skinny bushes. Squash, both winter and summer varieties, need pollinating insects. But monarch butterflies do not pollinate cucumber and squash plants. The potatoes, poor things, were two months late in finding a home in the rain-beaten earth. Anyone for spud golf balls au gratin?

On the other hand, the flowers, oh, the flowers! For once they received an adequate water supply and overdid themselves with beauty. Gladiolas, petunias, marigolds, impatiens, dahlias, and especially a prize species of salvia donated by Judy and Jerry Johnson kept the hummingbirds happily hopping all summer through. How a wee three-inch plant can become a yard-tall beauty boggles the mind!

Many folks took the few sunny days in mid-October to head for the countryside to admire the colors of the leaves. If one traveled Pumpkin Hill, one would have observed the humble green maidenhair fern beds on the north-facing slopes of that steep meandering hill. This lush ground cover, a foot tall at most, is a perennial which produces no flowers, prefers deep shade and lots of water. That spot on yon hill has both. How then does it reproduce? Through spores of course. The Irish-green gems with wiry stems are easy to identify and their unique quality of shedding rainfall makes. them a standout…yes, water runs right off! By this writing, their fronds will have been frozen, but life springs anew in April with little fiddleheads betraying the ferns’ existence.

Are you observing closely the unobtrusive entrance of junco species on the scene? On country roads sheltered by trees, little charcoal white-bellied snowbirds are gathering, so quiet and furtive as to be missed. With the first coating of snow, (brrr,) they’ll gather about your feeders and provide entertainment through the short winter days.

Yes, Coachlght swans are alive and well as of Sunday, October 27th, but they’ve kept onlookers guessing. Their first major flight was to the former LeSueur wastewater ponds, one could not miss the two elegant long-necked parents and four gray-necked cygnets. On sunny October 25th, they entertained the workers laboring aboard the bridge over the railroad track on Highway #19 east of Henderson, the river backwater known locally as Indian Slough. Saturday evening, October 26th, they were nowhere to be seen, until Frances the fabulous sharp-eyed Ford Focus, discovered them back at their birthplace, Pond #3, the hidden pond on the Coachlight waters. Once more, their newfound freedom has not proven their downfall, unlike a wounded Canada goose awaiting the inevitable on Bucks’ Lake. One lonely day at a time!