‘Tis the Last Rose of Summer, Left Blooming Alone

Submitted by Art and Barb Straub,

To declare that autumn of 2021 had strange natural occurrences is an understatement. Birds, animals, plants and insects have marched to a different tune. Some of those melodies have been pleasant, some sent us wondering. For instance, years ago we planted a rose bush in a glade of forest along with other experimental ornamentals. We soon found that animals other than ourselves appreciated the red color and aroma. Among other delicacies, deer attack roses voraciously. Thus, we surrounded the rose with wire. As soon as a bud lifted its head through the wire, the rose was nibbled off. Fencing, Irish Spring Soap, deer repellent chemicals, the roses all met the same fate. We accepted the fact, as we were in deer territory, not they in ours. Petunias in pots suffered the same lot, but placing the basket planters high above deer reach and surrounding the same with fencing, saved those beauties. Tulips became deer salad; however, daffodils/jonquils and allium repulsed the four-legged urchins! Those bloomers are members of the onion/garlic family. Evidently deer don’t live a healthy lifestyle as humans do, garlic does not appeal to their palates.

In addition to the rose, a single clematis still clung to the vine on 1 November. Geraniums placed close to warm foundations survived when covered. Usually both would have turned up their flowrets by now leaving shriveled blossoms to be disposed of. The final surviving bumblebee alighted on Mexican sunflower (tithonia) holdovers until November first. Killing frost spelled the end. Other flowers that escaped included some of the sages, assorted salvia and rosemary. Best of all, ripe tomatoes continued to be harvested right up to month’s end. After that, lots of green tomato pie, green tomato upside-down cake, and best of all, fried green tomatoes!

The last week in October found hundreds if not thousands of American robins feeding on dried leftover fox grapes dangling high in trees on bare vines from Blakeley through St. Peter. The precipitation of the last week in October found hundreds of robins churning up puddles of water on gravel roads, drinking greedily as the mist surrounded them. Taking a bath in the rain? Odd sight. Robin migration continues into November. Juncos which were abundant in mid-October, made themselves scarce the first days of November. Surely they will return to the bird feeding stations come snowfall.

Speaking of which for us elders, Halloween will always be remembered for that three feet of snowfall thirty years ago. There we were, shoveling snow for the ‘trick and treaters.’ Area towns were almost shut down for twenty-four wind-swept hours. Sleds took the place of sports shoes. November 2021? What predictions do “Indy” readers prognosticate? Not a flake of white precipitation thus far. Chipmunks remain above the earth gathering and storing last acorns and bird feed to survive the winter. And the winter, will that be as strange as summer and autumn?

Red Cedar and flowering crab apple trees currently abound with berries. The apples must be frozen again and again before robins cherish them, and as for the red cedar trees? Many green boughs are fairly sagging with wee cones or berries, but those trees serve as motels and hotels all winter long for juncos, cedar waxwings and others. Closely leaved cedar branches provide food and protection for the icy blasts to arrive sooner or later.

Summer mysteries continue to puzzle us. We totally missed pelican migration; three great blue herons were all that were sighted between LeSueur and Blakeley; two dusty leopard frogs crossed our paths on a sunny mid-October day, but to our knowledge, no annual froggy night-march toward lakes and ponds occurred. American bluebirds didn’t arrive in most boxes to nest all summer. Add your mysteries to the list, please.

The death of Henderson’s Vic Lueders in late October left many roles to be filled in the community. A man of faith, love of family, highly regarded by friends and a dedicated Army veteran entered into eternal rest. Vic will be greatly missed. A standing-room-only crowd gathered for his final farewell. Music fairly burst the beams of the Zion United Church in LeSueur, with a closing hymn, “I’ll Fly Away.” Upon departing the church, spectators were awed by a pair of bald eagles soaring leisurely above the church. Vic is part of all nature’s energy now. Goodbye, but not forgotten, Victor!