Sunday, October 4, 2015

From Summer to Fall

A blog is like a garden, bearing weeds as well as flowers. One of the most persistent weeds is guilt: guilt for not posting as often as you think you ought, guilt for not visiting your bloggy friends, guilt for falling behind on a series, guilt for being too busy or tired or disorganised to keep up with it all.

Weeds must be pulled, or they'll take over the garden. So out of this plot, my blog, I pluck this weed, guilt. Then I throw it on the scrap heap, and turn my attention to the flowers.


What do you do when you're behind on posting? Do you play catch-up and try to cram in everything you've missed? Or do you skip to the present and let what's past fall into oblivion?

This blog being in part a sort of Wisconsin Cyclist's Country Diary, I think I'll play catch-up. During a transitional season like fall, two and a half weeks can bring a lot of change to the countryside.

Tuesday Evening Walk to the Park

A windy, golden evening in mid-September; the tail end of summer. The inner pond at our local park is surrounded by a wealth of wildflowers and ornamental wild grasses, including New England Aster (purple), Cardinal Flower (red), Cut-Leaved (or possibly Columnar) Coneflower (yellow), and Purple Coneflower (bright mauve), all seen below:

At the park exit, hammered-silver water stained orange by the setting sun:

A lovely walk.

Last Ride of Summer

Summer's heavy green mantle is beginning to look faded and torn; the woods and fields are raggedy-edged with the approach of autumn. But asters still shine palely from the roadside:

I pass a local campground and finally take a picture I've been meaning to take for months:

"Redneck Flamingo Farm"

Dee, these photos are for you. I think of you every time I pass this spot. :)

A few miles on, the road kisses these train tracks:

I linger here for several minutes, hoping for a train, but no luck.

A gravel drive leads across the tracks to a lovely barn. Beyond the curve is a house hidden by trees; whoever lives there gets to enjoy the thunder of the rails several times a day.

Up the road is a rather gorgeous marsh, with satin-rippled waters reflecting trees caught changing into their fall garb:

Tallulah sits patiently in her basket while I take pictures:

Back on the bike, we round a corner and head down a seldom-ridden road. A flock of geese flies low over the woods, calling goodbye to summer:

Aster grows in white drifts like snow along the fence to my right. I park the bike and climb through the ditch for a closer look:

This variety is called Heath Aster, and features thyme-like foliage and myriad tiny white blossoms.

While taking these photos, I hear a train whistle. It's only five minutes since I left the tracks. Sigh.

Miles later, in a field at the top of a high bank, we see three sweet-eyed ... donkeys? Mules? I'm not sure which. Then out from behind some trees come two others. They're all as interested in me as I am in them:

A sunny, still-warm ride; but fall is just a few days away.

First Ride of Autumn

A week goes by before I'm able to ride again. Autumn has officially arrived, but temps are still warm and I haven't yet put away my sandals. This Sunday is cloudy and breezy; the wind has gone round to the east, giving a hint of the chilly temperatures to come.

Hoping to see some milkweed, I turn down a short dead-end road just outside town (where I've seen milkweed growing in previous years). A few hundred yards later something blue catches my eye. From a distance it looks like bellflower, but it turns out to be Great Blue Lobelia, a flower I've never seen before (and, as it happens, a member of the bellflower family):

The blossoms are a deep, intense blue. They look both alpine and exotic to my eye, and are absolutely gorgeous. Another new flower for the list - I'm glad I turned down that road!

Not far away is the milkweed I was looking for - gone to seed, and with a surprise contingent of bugs packed into the pod:

Research reveals them to be Red Milkweed Beetles (duh!). That little bright-red guy on the right is a nypmh; when he grows up he'll have the handsome red-and-black pattern of the larger beetles on the left.

A few miles later we ride past a marsh edged with bright-red-berry-bearing trees:

Common Milkweed grows here too - the leaves turn lemon-coloured in fall, making the plant look like a large yellow flower:

Down the road I spy a small clump of white blossoms. They look a bit like Pearly Everlasting, but later I find they're called Cat's-foot (according to my favourite wildflower website, their Latin name is Gnaphalium obtusifolium - which sounds like a sneeze to me - but other sites classify them as Antennaria). Other common names for this flower are Fragrant Cudweed, Old-field-balsam, Old-field cudweed, and Rabbit-tobacco. :)

Just overhead is a leafless walnut tree, with quite a few nuts still hanging on:

Around a few corners, a cluster of orange leaves catches my eye:

More glimpses of orange, at the feet of my favourite larches:

The last shot of the ride is Iris, my faithful vintage Cannondale, leaning against a rusty bridge railing:

It's the last Sunday in September. The year has turned the corner; soon the cycling season will be over.

Chilly Sunday Walk

This week was one of crisp clear days and frost-edged nights. A bright blue day in early autumn is cheering and invigorating; a chilly grey one is not.

Today, the first Sunday of October, is chilly and grey and damp. My cycling self, which may be said to have two natures (the Higher and the Lower), whispers conflicting messages to me. From the Higher, "You really ought to ride today. It's October, after all - not many weeks left in the season. Gather ye miles while ye may." To which the Lower replies, "Hey, this is a low-pressure cycling year. You took plenty of cold grey rides in the Spring. Cut yourself some slack and take a walk instead. You never know what might be growing at the prairie restoration site...."

Lower wins the day and I opt for a walk. Hatted and fleece-vested, I wonder what happened to the carefree days of tees and sandals. Already they seem part of the dim and distant past. I console myself with the reflection that when summer comes again, the cold will be as distant a memory as the warmth is now.

A few summer flowers are still blooming along my way; red clover, white campion, soapwort, aster, chickweed, and this tiny specimen, called Quickweed, which I've never researched or photographed until today:

Trees are still mostly green, but vines and creeper are decking them with red:

Goldenrod, now but a pale fluffy shadow of its former yellow glory:

Patches of threadlike red grass, with miniscule waving seeds, grow across a field:

In the next field is a honking flock of Canada geese, knee-deep in alfalfa:

The path turns left to cross the fields, and passes a small-leaved shrub:

In the spring, I marvelled at its tiny leaf buds, no bigger than a bead in my hand. Now the leaves have lived their short life, and soon they will fall to the ground, to become part of the earth from which they grew. (A grey Autumn day brings thoughts like this.)

The path turns again, to pass under trees already looking bare:

Around a few corners is the prairie restoration project, a vast field of native wild grasses and flowers that are as beautiful in fall and winter as they are in spring and summer:

A bit of down, caught on a lichened twig, flutters in the wind:

Over my head, dark berries hang from bright red stems:

A contemplative walk on a cold autumn day.


In the last few weeks, I've seen plenty of apples on trees and berries on bushes. It's been a fruitful year for these growing things, but how fruitful has my year been? I'm not sure. There are so many things I'd have liked to do but didn't: so many patterns I wanted to post; so many poems that never got written; so many trips that couldn't be taken. (I'd like to add, so much laundry that never got folded - but eventually it all did. It just sat around for a long time. There's a pile of it in the bedroom right now, waiting patiently for me to stop frittering away my time on the computer.)

How about your year? Has it been as fruitful as you'd like?


P.S. Current wildflower count: 140!

P.P.S. There are two more installments to our series on Binding Off Knitted Projects with a Crochet Hook. They're running a little behind schedule, but they should be up in the next two weeks. :)

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