Exploring November and Our Autumn Holidays
Sunday, November 5 – Today is Daylight Savings Time, and I hope you remembered to set your clock last night.
In each of the nation’s time zones, where daylight saving time is observed, the time changes at 2 a.m. local time. On the first Sunday of November, today, we turn our clocks back one hour. On the second Sunday of March, we will “spring forward,” turning our clocks ahead an hour. I much prefer the “fall back” of November for that extra hour of sleep!
This month we celebrate Veteran’s Day, always at 11 am on the 11th day of the 11th month. It is the exact time, day, and month that the Armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities went into effect, signaling the end of World War I. The Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, but Nov. 11 is generally regarded as the end of the war.
My father and all my six uncles each served in the armed forces during World War II, and I am of the mind that we should recognize and thank our nation’s veterans any opportunity we can. I’ve had the pleasure and honor of speaking at three of our regions Veteran’s Coffeehouses (Danielson, Windham, and Griswold). These local organizations are doing great work bringing the men and women who served in our armed forces together for a fun morning social gathering in addition to programs and resources regarding veteran benefits and services.
This year Thanksgiving is Nov. 23. When I was in school some of my classmates would call the holiday “Turkey Day” as if the traditional main protein served for the midday meal was the reason for the holiday. For me, Thanksgiving has little to do with turkey. It is a time to share a meal with friends and loved ones to give thanks for what we are grateful for. That being said, I do enjoy observing our region’s wild turkeys.
Wild turkeys are amazing birds, and last month I had an encounter with one that, at first, seemed comical but ended up being rather sad. Most of the summer I have seen a small flock of wild turkeys hanging around my grandparents’ property in New Hampshire. For some reason this year we didn’t have a flock of hens and poults (females and young) visiting the property, but only eight toms (adult males). Male turkeys are easily identified by their beard — a long featherlike appendage that hangs down from their chest — long tails, and their bright mottled plumage with bronze sheen. Two or three times a day they would emerge from the woods to glean any insects, seeds and insects in the fields and lawn surrounding the house and barn.
One early evening I heard a metallic tapping sound coming from the driveway and witnessed a solitary male pecking at the chrome fender of my truck. I have seen male turkeys pecking at their reflection on car doors and fenders before as if challenging a male intruder during the mating season. This was not mating season and the pecking was followed by the turkey bobbing his head up and down, looking at his own reflection in the shiny chrome as if seeing another turkey.
The solo male was also making a soft murmuring sound, almost as if pleading for company. They are flocking animals who rely on group dynamics for safety in numbers. Where were the other seven male companions who had been in this territory all summer? Had our resident coyotes and bobcats dined on his friends? Did this lonely male wander too far from the safety of the flock? All I could do was wish him well as he entered the darkening woods, continuing his soft mournful call for his friends.
A full “Beaver” Moon arrives Nov. 27. It gets its name since this is the month beavers complete repairing their dams and lodges for the winter. They’ll be snug and safe in their lodge, one the most elaborately constructed homes of our wild animals. Beavers are the largest rodent in North America, and this herbivore prey animal relies not on speed or camouflage to escape predators, but the safety of water and a lodge residence accessible only from underwater. Some lodges are built on pond edges, but usually they are assembled in a pond the beaver has constructed by damming up a small stream or river, creating a backwater pond into which they build their lodge. For readers interested in learning more about the amazing beavers residing in our region I recommend the recent book “Beaver Land: How One Weird Rodent Made America,” by Last Green Valley resident Leila Philip. Here is her description of a beaver lodge.
“Then I see it. Just behind the next stand of bushes, a huge mound of sticks and mud juts up from the surface of the water in that iconic pyramid, a beaver lodge. We walk up until the water grows too deep to wade further. We are about five feet from the lodge, which from this close up looks like a huge pile of pickup sticks. Saplings stripped of bark are crisscrossed and interwoven with branches, wider at the base and tapered at the top so that the lodge takes on an almost perfect teepee shape and rises up a good eight feet from the surface of the water.”
The harvest season is mostly over, with homegrown produce gathered from gardens, berry bushes and fruit trees. The final fall cleanup month of November is here, and it’s time to put gardens “to bed” before the frost and snows of winter. The colorful fall foliage of many deciduous trees has dropped, but I make sure to keep some of those leaves on the lawn and garden edges for the many insects (larva and hibernating adults) taking refuge within leaf litter for the winter. Our region’s birds will thank you come spring.
As one harvest season ends, a second harvest begins in earnest with shotgun and rifle deer hunting starting mid-November – the peak season of the rut. I know many folks who look to the next several weeks as the time of year to hunt deer, and hopefully put some fresh venison in their freezer. Deer hunting is a tradition that was not passed down to me by my father, though my grandfather was an avid deer hunter. As a non-hunter, I respect the passion for conservation many hunters have and the importance of a balanced eco-system. Too often I have seen the negative impact an unchecked herd of deer can have on our forest understory due to over browsing of young trees and saplings.
I’ll wait until the freezing weather of December to fill our bird feeder with nutritious seed for our winter birds. We have a black bear in our neighborhood. I know the best way to keep it from venturing too close to our house is to wait until our resident bruin is asleep in its den before putting those tasty sunflower morsels in the feeder and within easy reach. Besides, it’s during the cold of winter when our birds are in most need of the vital human provided sustenance in store-bought birdseed.
In his book “A Walk Through the Year,” Edwin Way Teale ends his essay for Nov. 5 with this thoughtful quote. “On our daily walks we observe the recurrence of an endless succession of little changes that signify the passing of time. Following in annual sequence, they combine to form for us the natural calendar of our outdoor year.” Teale reminds us to take time, each day to observe nature and reconnect to the land on which we live.
We live in a beautiful place called The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor. I hope you’ll join me each and every day to care for it, enjoy it, and pass it on.
Bill Reid is the Chief Ranger of The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 860-774-3300.
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