Can’t Miss the Signs of November
A couple of weeks ago I did the one act signifying I am finally resigned to the change of seasons. I did the unthinkable for mid-October and turned on the heat in the house. Any self-respecting Yankee knows Nov. 1 is the start of heating season. The warm start to October and no foreseeble sign of frost had me dreaming of more tomatoes from the garden and possibly one more swim in the lake. All it took was one chilly 30-degree morning and the furnace was switched on – which is how it will probably remain until April.
The signs of November are everywhere. I am not referring to the colorful red and blue roadside placards of those seeking public office that sprout like mushrooms overnight. I am referring to the signs of seasonal and monthly turns of time — visible in hillside tree colors, the arrival of winter birds at feeders, the earlier sunsets and later sunrises. If your clocks have not done it themselves, or you haven’t manually changed the clocks, don’t forget that at 2 a.m. this morning Daylight Savings Time ended. We may have “gained” an hour, but I dread “fall back,” as it brings darkness during evening barn chores.
This week my favorite winter bird, the little charcoal and white dark-eyed junco, made its first appearance under our bird feeder. They are the reverse of our springtime harbingers, wood thrush, oriole and bluebirds, for the junco heralds the cold season. They summer and breed in Canada and visit our warmer Southern New England climes during the winter. They are ground feeders and can be seen foraging around bird feeders, grateful for the messy dining habits of blue jays who seem to drop more seeds than they eat.
Last weekend’s Noreaster, with rain and gusty winds, blew many of the colorful leaves off the sugar maple trees surrounding my house. The shag-bark-hickory and some of the maples are still performing in blazing yellow and orange. Despite the brisk winds of last weekend, a walk or drive through The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor still shows many trees center stage with beautiful fall foliage. By November’s end the scenery and cast changes as the oaks take center stage. Costumed in rich brown and deep red coats, they’ll hold our attention past the final curtain call of autumn, clinging to frozen branches well into the opening acts of winter.
We live in an antique house, and last November brought a most unwelcome house guest and seemingly many of its family, friends and neighbors. White-footed mice can squeeze between the smallest opening in an old house foundation, and our bright-eyed guests seemed bent on taking up residence for the winter months and bent on raising a family — or two.
Last year the mice invasion was unlike any we had experienced. Clearly an abundance of food and/or lack of predation caused the great “mouse bloom” of November 2017. Our two cats were useless in the one job we had hoped and expected they would perform. With total disregard they nonchalantly watched as mouse after mouse would scurry from underneath the hutch, to behind the chair, and back again, to the accompaniment of my wife’s exclamation “there it is.”
The new-fangled traps purchased at the hardware store and baited with peanut butter did the trick. I stopped counting at 20 caught and disposed of. By the holidays we were mouse-free, but I don’t hold out any hope for this November. We still have the traps ready for use in the event the unwelcome visitors return.
There are two holidays in November. Next week is Veteran’s Day when we honor all of our veterans, and soon Thanksgiving will be here with family gatherings of feasting and football. The day after Thanksgiving is Black Friday, the official start of the holiday shopping season when retailers attract shoppers with extended hours, special deals, promotions and discounts. This year I am “opting outside” the day after Thanksgiving and plan on a woods ramble instead of being “mauled” at the shopping mall.
Then we have the wonderful regional parades – the Holiday Dazzle Light Parade in Putnam and the Norwich Parade of Lights after Thanksgiving. Thousands of holiday lights adorn vehicles and floats making both parades visually appealing and fun for the entire family. Most importantly, these parades bring out the community spirit of the season of giving.
November is upon us. Time to turn the clocks back an hour and get to the annual chore of raking fallen leaves. All around us the outdoor scenery changes by the day. The winter season will be here before we know it.
Bill Reid is the chief ranger of The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor and has lived in the region for more than 35 years. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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