When it comes to attracting birds to your backyard, it's hard to beat an ornamental crabapple tree. Not the kind that a youngster would pilfer sour-tasting fruit from, but tiny crabapples less than an inch or so across that turn a deep red as they wither in late fall, and which many birds feed on as eagerly as we'd dig into an apple pie.
Last weekend my wife and I and our Labrador retriever took a walk to enjoy what was predicted to be the warmer and sunnier of the weekend days, that being Saturday. We left the car in a boat launch parking lot at the end of a lake that's the site of the family cabin. Here the road is close to the lake, and you can walk its perimeter without trespassing. It's a lot quieter at this time of year, though there's a certain amount of traffic to and from a restaurant and pub just across from the boat landing.
I saw a picture of a proud deer hunter in a newspaper last weekend. Nothing unusual about that at this time of year, as the main firearms deer season was winding down and we were entering Minnesota's late muzzleloader deer hunt.
If you were to pick one month out of the twelve that seems more forbidding than the others — perhaps even dangerous — November would be a good choice. November ushers in a harsh changeover from a time that is warm, comfortable and benign, to a time increasingly inhospitable to creatures wild and tame, plant or animal. To cope with the climatic extremes that lie ahead, some life goes dormant. Some life exits via migration. Other life has somehow become adapted to tough it out through impending winter, in a place that could easily pass for America's Siberia.
When the deer season that has just begun concludes, it is widely expected to signal a return to better times and greater hunter success. Perhaps as high as 40 percent of the state's 500,000 deer hunters could be stocking their freezers with venison steaks, chops and sausage this year. One of the causes for high expectations is the several consecutive mild winters we've had. One of the effects of those mild winters is strong, healthy does, which — in a domino effect — has led to a crop of strong, vigorous fawns.
When I was growing up it was a common sight in the neighborhood to see "the wash" hung out to dry on a "clothesline" — a once-common backyard fixture that is all but an artifact today. It was only after I had moved away from home that mom got a clothes dryer, so that she didn't have to wait for a rain-free day or hang her clothes to dry in the basement.
On a recent drive over the network of county roads that leads to the family cabin, my wife and I watched a pair of tractors pulling large mowers, hugging the sloping ditch that borders the asphalt. In their wake was a fresh-cut carpet lying flat to the ditch contour, ahead of them standing greenery that reached almost to the hubs of the tractors' rear wheels.
The expression in the title above has almost certainly been overworked. I'm sure I've "worked it" myself more than once. But that's because it is so fitting, and so true. For some it's a complaint that at this season there are too many pressing chores; keeping up with falling leaves, last-minute painting while temperatures allow or putting gardens to bed. For others it's a lament that there are so many attractive choices — so many things we'd like to do — that it's impossible to do justice to them all.
Every autumn we're reminded of just how fleeting are the events unique to this season. Most obvious are the changes in vegetation, as maples turn from familiar green to a dazzling range of oranges and reds, birch and aspen to yellow-gold, while other trees and shrubs fill in the rest of the tones in Nature's palette of colors.
Every fall there are hunting-related incidents that make the news. Some are grim, like hunters being shot; as often as not the victim is also the shooter. Dropping a loaded firearm; forgetting to keep a rifle or shotgun's safety in the "on" position or falling out of a deer stand with a weapon, are among the more common scripts.