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Poor Will's Almanack: September 11 - 17, 2012

Flickr Creative Commons user KennethMoyle

Poor Will's Almanack for the first week of Early Fall.

The movement of the sun appears to accelerate as equinox approaches, changes in the landscape speeding toward autumn. Each change is the tip of other changes.

When asters bloom in the waysides and bur marigolds flower in the swamps, then farmers are cutting corn for silage.

When zigzag goldenrod blossoms in the woods, then the rose of Sharon shrubs will drop most of their flowers and the great decline of summer wildflowers begins in the fields.

When you see fallen leaves starting to accumulate in the backwaters and farm ponds, then the grapes on your grape arbor should be getting ripe.

When the first black walnut trees are almost bare, then bright patches of scarlet sumac and Virginia creeper mark the fencerows, and streaks of gold have appeared on the silver olive bushes. Kingbirds, finches, ruddy ducks, herring gulls and yellow-bellied sapsuckers move south. The last young grackles and hummingbirds leave their nests. Cedar waxwings fly south. Bobolinks and woodcocks follow.

When katydids refuse to chant and crickets songs are slow, then be ready to cover your tender flowers and vegetables: frost could be on the way that night.

When squirrels scatter buckeye hulls along the trails and locust pods fall beside them, then the first soybeans will be ready to harvest.

When doves stop calling in the mornings, then cobwebs are all over in the woods and butterflies multiply in the garden. That’s the time to plant your last lettuce and radishes of the year, complete the harvest of summer apples and start to pick the fall apples.

When you see red berries on the silver olives, orange berries on the American mountain ash, and purple berries on the pokeweed, then violet autumn crocuses blossom in town, and sandhill cranes have started their migration to the Gulf coast.

This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the second week of early fall. In the meantime, make your own list of what you see, put it together with something else you see.

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Bill Felker has been writing nature columns and almanacs for regional and national publications since 1984. His Poor Will’s Almanack has appeared as an annual publication since 2003. His organization of weather patterns and phenology (what happens when in nature) offers a unique structure for understanding the repeating rhythms of the year.