We’re In The Yard, ignoring the slowly gathering overcast
Just Kitty & the Zinnias & the cactus fruit & me . . .
On the edges, two or three patches of Oxalis, one of my abiding favorites, is showing off. But they also know how to fold up & keep low when the weather comes. . . .
An increasing number of late roses are opening up, a I like the japonica as a frame — it’s a hardy bush which shows vivid green & yellow year-round.
The morning glories are still a phenom. with three colors of blossoms on one vine. They’re still celebrating having overwhelmed everything else in this corner; but their days are numbered. And no matter what, neighbor Ms. Hazel’s flag is still flying, as always.
Hmmmm. My sense is the flowers & bushes are ready for a storm, in their way. But will the bottle tree make it through a tough weekend?
Last night, returning from an initial autumn shopping foray with the Fair Wendy, it was dark when she parked her white Bolt in the driveway.
I got out, and opened the back seat door for a bag. When it shut— Voilá!There before me was a new art form.
At least, new to me: EVcar door painting, by streetlamp
Longtime readers will recall I have often captured “sun paintings,” on the blank wall of the living room, mainly of silhouetted shrubs projected by sunlight thru the windows, images that last only a few minutes.
The Bolt now offers a new “canvas”.
The shrubs are on the edge of our free-range front yard; I don’t know their names.
Hmmm. My house is barely a mile from Duke University’s big Nasher Art Museum. Over there they pride themselves on keeping up with the newest and latest. Maybe they’ll soon come knocking at the door.
But if they haven’t caught up with the EV Car Door Streetlamp schoolyet, I also have many pictures of our cat.
[NOTE — Different Strokes: If I were rich, I don’t think my lifestyle would change much during most of the year. But about now, in mid-September, I’d go wild. Or I would have, in the good old days.
First, a plane ticket to Montreal, or maybe Quebec City. Then a rental car (I’d need a driver now, but no worries, in this fantasy I can afford to hire one).
Then a leisurely meander, generally south, over several weeks, with one over-arching, and one secondary sybaritic goal:
First, find the best peak fall foliage, and follow that peak as it makes its brilliant, stately way south, over the border into New England and maybe even down as far as the Shenandoah Valley. And
Two: Up until the sad morning when I have to pull out the passport and submit to re-entry into these Un-United States, I embarrass all my cultured Canadian friends with a relentless quest for the best local versions of one of that storied land’s most underappreciated gifts to the world, namely:
Yes! Poutine! Fries & cheese buds & gravy Oh my! — the food of the northern gods. I’m reliably advised that it now comes in at least 57 varieties, and I yearn to sample them all.
Of course, others’ mileage may vary; yet Canada is vast, it can contain multitudes (as it may soon need to when our impending civil war sends hordes of Blue state refugees fleeing for Niagara Falls). But politics aside, a still more depressing prospect looms this autumn: even if I had won the billion dollar Powerball jackpot, all that boodle would avail me little for indulging my orgiastic leaf-peeping proclivity — if there are no colorful leafs to peep.
And this is the underlying message of the Associated Press dispatch below. It advises that one of the latest self-inflicted costs of our climate change debacle, besides wildfires and dead lakes out west, is a color-killing drought in the far northeast. The technical foliage-ological term for this development, as you will see, is “spotty.” (I think that’s what they also say when a mixup at the Crayola factory fills the big 64-crayon box bought for a favored child’s birthday with 50 shades of grey and brown.) The local patois likewise includes “patchy,” and “muted” among its bad news euphemisms. If you see all three terms in a report, you might as well stay home.
I’ve seen something like this before. Couple decades back, I had a free week, and impulsively drove to Canada, intent on savoring at least a long weekend of the seasonal beauty.
Except that when I arrived at the main Montreal tourist center, I had to elbow my way in, because the place was packed with and besieged by other USA-ans, most of us doing our spot-on impression of Indignant Yankee Jackass: after Paying Good Money for a long trip, all were now demanding to know, “Where are the goddam leaves??”
It wasn’t global warming then, or not quite. Much less apocalyptic seasonal hiccups could dull a season’s color palette. I spent that weekend in a vain search for the fabled fantastic fall kaleidoscope, I did find some decent poutine, though. C’est la vie. But the dream does not die.
This summer’s drought is expected to cause a patchy array of fall color starting earlier in the leaf–peeping haven of New England while the autumn colors are likely to be muted and not last as long in the drought– and heat–stricken areas of the south.
In New England, experts anticipate the season, which typically peaks in October, to be more spread out with some trees changing earlier or even browning and dropping leaves because of the drought. Other places, like Texas, could see colors emerging later in the fall due to warm temperatures.
“We will still have brilliant colors in New England because of the fact that we have so many different kinds of trees and they’re growing on kind of ridges, and kind of slopes and wetlands,” said Richard Primack, a professor of plant ecology at Boston University. “You know we will have good color but the color will probably be more spotty than usual.”
Leaf peeping is big business in places like New England, where millions of visitors from around the country and world bring in billions of dollars.
Everyone from inns to diners often count on this business to get them through the rest of the year. But predicting when those colors will peak is not an exact science; requiring experts to consider everything from temperature, the length of the day and stresses like pests and drought.
In Vermont, the 18–room Mad River Barn, an inn in Fayston, typically sells out for about three weeks in a row starting in late September, said inn manager Jess Kotch. But those leaf–peepers don’t make reservations far in advance.
“Typically we get so many inquiries for last–minute stays through that period that I don’t even really start thinking about it until this week and next week,” she said.
This year, drought is one of the big concerns in many parts of the country.
Severe and even extreme drought set in this summer in southern New England and remains in some areas, while up north parts of Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine are in a moderate drought or are abnormally dry. In those northern New England states, the color will depend on the health of the individual trees and is expected to be good to variable.
“Where you have those real dry sandy soils or you know, trees that have had health issues accumulating over time you may see some effect on fall foliage on those trees,” Wendy Scribner, a forestry field specialist with the University of New Hampshire extension service, said. “But I think we just have so many of them that we still will see some coloration.”
In Oklahoma, where much of the state is in severe or extreme drought, the trees are expected to change earlier than usual and it will be quicker. Some oak trees started browning and dropping leaves this summer, said Alex Schwartz, district silviculturist for the Oklahoma Ranger Districts of the Ouachita National Forest.
“When the trees experience moderate to severe drought stress like we’ve had, what they’re going to do is they’re going to probably stop that production — what little they’ve had over the summer —– stop that production a lot quicker, and they’re not going to produce a lot of those other pigments like the carotenoids that bring out those other fall colors,” he said.
The same thing is happening on some ridgetops in Connecticut where oak trees in thin dry soils are browning and dropping leaves early, meaning they’re shutting down. And many southern New England beech trees, whose leaves typically turn yellow and orange in the fall, have been hit by beech leaf disease, causing them to drop their leaves, said Robert Marra, a forest pathologist at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station.
“It’s going to have a very serious impact on fall colors in the sense that most of the beeches, many of them throughout southern New England, were hit so badly by beech leaf disease this year that they’re just dropping, they don’t have leaves on them to change color,” he said.
In Texas, the colors are likely to be muted and warm temperatures could push back the change, said Mac Martin, partnership coordinator for Texas A&M Forest Service.
“We’re going to probably get a shorter window of the fall colors that we get here in general as well as probably less kind of brilliant colors,” he said.
Visitors to the White Mountain Hotel and Resort in North Conway, New Hampshire, are not holding off in making reservations, said Carol Sullivan, director of sales and marketing.
“The last two years for us have been very strong, and that is the same prediction for us this year, that we will have an equally strong, if not even stronger, fall foliage season, regardless of what the weather does,” she said.
It happens every year, about this time: the Morning Glories (aka MGs) show all their colors. There are at least four combinations:
Deep cobalt blue
A soft yet vivid pink;
Light blue with white spokes and touches of gray; and
A very light pink.
I used to be entranced & mystified by them. Since we never planted them, we don‘t know what variety they are or how they got here, but we’re pretty sure they’re all the same kind — DNA-wise, like “Heavenly Blue,” and “Pearly Gates” (white).
Those were the the two types that were said, in a Playboy Magazine issue I read in 1963, to contain a kind of LSD. (Really, I only looked in it it for the hallucinogenic recipes; and for the interview with famed LSD-maven, Timothy Leary. His conversation with Playboy is here, full text.)
I chewed a few packets of them in 1964, to see if that was true, and if they would, you know, let me talk to God.
It was true: At least the hallucinogenic trip part; I tripped for several hours, til I barfed up their remains. But God didn’t drop by to chat, and the seed store ignored my request for a partial refund. Nowadays the seeds are treated as being poisonous for humans to eat, and I can see why.
I haven’t chewed on any of the ones here In The Yard, though. Partly it’s age. But mainly because my working assumption is that these plants were dropped from a UFO , aiming to hunt down the secret army bases in the region, and paralyze them in an impenetrable mass of tangled tendrils and creepy creepers. (They would have done it, too, except that kudzu got there first; so they took cover next to my place and are awaiting further orders.)
Somewhere I read that the fact of various colors of blooms on a single plant is a biochemical things rather than genetic;
I suppose that explains it, but it’s still weird.
They stick round til it gets good and cold. Then we rip up as much of it as we can. But they’ll be back.
The calendar may say it’s a holiday, but all around the house, In The Yard, there’s “work going on” today: steadily, indifferently, variously, in dead earnest.
The summer is drying out: hot, very little rain, parched. Yet there must be underground currents here, because we don’t water much, still most stuff remains green.
To the east, halfway through hurricane season, the Atlantic is spookily quiet; two storms are on the map — Earl and Danielle, but they are swirling far out, aimless and unlikely to bother any land mass. Then to the west, we have large forests, and something like 60 wildfires are burning, but the nearest of those is more than half a continent away.
in the meantime, there have been some very good regional peaches and not-so regional (Washington state) cherries.
Given this deceptively normal-looking larger backdrop, the annual struggle In The Yard, between the Morning Glories and everything else is about as much drama as we can claim.
It used to be more exciting In The Yard. For several years the city’s yard cops tacked citations on our door, telling us our yard was way too unruly, not sufficiently square or trim or bourgeois for local regulations. But the Fair Wendy went to bat for us, arguing (backed up by a thick notebook/photo album, with lots of Latin names), that one person’s weeds were another person’s cherished free-range “home meadow.” They held off on imposing fines, but there was more to come. A true “grass roots” movement is underway, with people ditching the pre-astroturf for lots of bushes and flowers and stuff bees and other critters like. Last spring we spent a few hours driving around the ‘hood and we soon discovered at least a dozen “wild yards,” recognizable but all different, within a mile or so radius of our small house.
So, what was The Man gonna do? Confiscate our garden gloves and lock us all up? Really, your excellencies, compared to the folks who swagger in the streets waving their bare nekkid AR-15s around in front of Gawd and everybody, we’re much less a danger to civilization. All we want to groom is our postage stamp gardens. And when “We say ‘Gay,'” we might also be talking about mums or peonies, fer pity sake.
But anyway, the heat seems to have backed off; summer’s just about over and there have been no more citations, and the only serious clashes seem to be silent struggles between the Morning Glories and everything else they try to strangle.
But I just noticed today that there are some areas In The Yard where there are no MGs.
Yet why not? What or which (or whom?) is holding the MGs back? Some difference in the soil? Another rootweb system pushing back without showing above ground? Some anonymous bug? (As to insects, which I don’t much follow, their disappearance is their most visible feature this summer.)
This will soon be the second autumn with no sign of the black & yellow spiders who colonized the southern wall of the house. They always looked vigorous enough, and we didn’t use any insecticides.
But they’re gone, along with the honeybees and others, including most of the mosquitoes, whom I do not miss.
Even on this comparatively tiny scale, I continue to get hints at how much in this most familiar quarter acre is completely unknown to me. Meantime, I continue to fall for their obvious late season propaganda of flowers, which by tradition will be followed by turning leaves and all that, to distract us while the cold sneaks back.