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Poor Will's Almanack: October 25 - 31, 2016

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I went out into the woods and fields this morning: Small cups of gossamer were shining with dew, hanging to the tips of the dry wingstem. In the mist, the grass was yellowing, and the woods appeared like it does in April, bright leaves like new flowers.

Seeds were sprouting in rotten tree stumps, the sweet smell of autumn ground all around me. The low sun rested in the treetops. The silver winding river, the fallen logs invisible in summer, lay below me.

I saw a small flock of robins at the riverbank, and then further upstream, the trees were full of robins. Fat green Osage fruits lay all over the ground. In one dark patch of ironweed stalks, a few blue tall bellflowers were blooming; off to the side, parsnips were flowering, and some red clover and small white asters. In the bottomland, poison hemlock was growing back, with chickweed and sedum. A peppercress plant was blossoming as though spring were going to arrive in a few weeks.

In one corner of the pasture, wild lettuce plants, leaves shriveled, displayed dozens of prominent white seed heads, each maybe an inch and a half in diameter. When I touched the heads, they dissolved between my fingers.

Blackbirds and starlings passed over the woods heading southwest. One monarch butterfly came by early in the afternoon, sailed over my head, the sun shining through its wings. A few loud, slow katydids sang tonight, maybe their last songs of the year.

This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the Fifth Week of Middle Fall. In the meantime, listen for the last katydids.

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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.