by Curt Kovener
Fall officially began across Hoosier land last Thursday with the Autumnal Equinox but the thermometer remained near 90°. While the calendar says it is officially fall, the wilderness has been giving signs of the changing seasons for several weeks.
Some black gum trees have shown tinges of red and sassafras show their hope to become yellow-orange before long.
Some maples and yellow poplars have foregone much color change and their leaves have flittered to the ground and the wilderness retreat’s back deck. It now requires nearly daily sweeping and blowing.
The oak tree that overhangs the roof will occasionally release an acorn, which makes a dull plunk on the roof, then rolls down before plunking again and bouncing on the previously clean rear deck.
Willow the cat will look at the ceiling and follow the rolling acorn on its path as if it might be some tasty rodent in the house. Emma the Great Pyrenees merely barks a protective bark. She does a lot of that at forest sounds.
The paw-paw crop was paltry this year with only enough found for a fresh fall fruit treat. Paw-paws are the earliest trees to bloom in the spring; their bronze bell shaped blooms open before bees and other pollinators come out of their winter slumber. The large numbers of flowers in the spring are not necessarily a harbinger of a plentiful harvest.
Persimmons, on the other hand, are in abundance; the trees’ limbs hanging heavy with yellow blush fruit. Over the next few weeks the now puckery fruit will ripen to a dark orange, lose their astringency and sweeten up before falling to the ground.
I’ve found late afternoon to be the best time for gathering persimmons as there will be the day’s droppings to gather before the night time woodland residents feast on the fruit.
And my favorite fall activity, gathering huge Hoosier hickory nuts will get into full swing in a few weeks with cooling temperatures and gusty winds to dislodge the nuts. An early venture to my hickory honey hole revealed a few good size nuts already on the ground and a good number more waiting on weather to dislodge them from the tree.
And fall also brings down the leaves—and believe me when I say we’ve got plenty of leaves— which get mulched and stacked into piles for decomposing into good tilthy garden soil.