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Poor Will's Almanack: October 20 - 26, 2020

fall hickory leaves against a blue sky
Flickr Creative Commons

Poor Will’s Almanack for the third week of middle fall, the first full week of the Corn and Soybean Harvest Moon. It is the first week of the Sun in Scorpio.

The sun’s passage from Libra to Scorpio on October 23 bends the hinge of Middle Autumn and initiates the most dramatic period of leaf fall.

The locust and hickory trees reach their finest color. Then they shed suddenly in the cold waves that sweep more violently across the country. When those leaves come down, high mapleturn moves along the 40th Parallel, producing some of the most brilliant oranges and scarlets of the season.

Decorative pear trees are still green, prolonging an illusion of September. Winter wheat sprouts and brightens the fields.

Silver maples seem to be untouched by the radical shift in the season; they hold until the nights go into the teens.

But now the low trills of the field crickets become slow then rare, then fade away . Goldenrod flowers darken and turn to downy tufts. Pokeweed berries shrivel and fall. Knotweed withers. Dahlias blacken.

The last raspberry bushes and apple trees give up their fruit. The last autumn violets and dandelions become dormant. The last witch hazel blossoms curl in hard frost.

Milkweed and white snakeroot seeds scatter. Cattails break apart. Bittersweet opens. Asian lady beetles take shelter in bark and siding, forecasting the cold ahead.

This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the fourth week of middle fall. In the meantime, consider tracking the leaf fall on just one shrub or tree, shrinking the tremendous changes and violence of Scorpio’s season to a single, manageable focus.

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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.