October Critters and Colors

October 20th, 2009

What a joy this week is with warmer days and sunshine.   As the sun came up this morning, the light on the yellowing oaks was neat to see. You can barely see the bee hives beneath the trees behind the barn.  I’ve covered them with dark insulation in preparation for the colder months. 


Because of the warm weather yesterday, we’ve had an enormous number of insects come out… maybe that last hurrah! of reproduction before winter sets in?   I’m not sure, but it was fun to see the different species.  Except for the dang ladybugs!  We have a huge population of them… and if you didn’t know already, they come from the Bover Kingdom.


I did come across a walking stick insect of some kind.  I’m not sure how many different species we have in Missouri, but this one had great legs!   It seemed intent on its journey, walking steadfast to some hiding spot perhaps.


Lots more color changes happening, so bear with me if they seem like the same pictures!  I never tire of seeing the changes each day, especially when the sun is bright and warm.  The yellowish leaves are from white oak trees, and the darker green and red are from a red oak tree.  Each year they’re a little different.


My little bonsai maple tree has been growing for nearly six years now.  Not really bonsai perhaps, because this one’s too large to really meet that criteria and I have it in a regular pot.  It’s a little over a foot tall, but still doing fine- and I just love to see how its leaves change color at this time of year.   I need to transplant it, cut the roots and branches a bit, etc.   In a few weeks I’ll bring it into the garage to overwinter so the roots don’t freeze.   It’s sitting at the base of a 20+ year old Redbud tree in this picture.


Have you found your woolly worm yet?   The fall season isn’t complete unless we find a few of these critters around.  This one was kind of neat- I’ve never seen one with so much brown and so little black.   Now which is it that predicts a cold, snowy winter?  Lots of black or lots of brown?!


A small persimmon tree is growing near the fence line, and has just a few persimmons on it this year.  The boy enjoys biting into the soft, juicy ripe ones… but he learned fast in previous years that you don’t bite into an unripe persimmon!  If there’s enough I’d like to make a persimmon pie or cobbler or something out of them…  any ideas?


It’s that time of year again, and the kids enjoyed painting pumpkins at a cub scout outing over the weekend. It took a few phone calls, but one of the local farms let us hand-pick these for a good price, and the boys had a great time with them.  Next year I’m going to try and grow them!


The garden is mostly finished for the year.  The beans are still growing, but there’s just not enough warm weather, flowers and pollination at this point.  We still have a few carrots in the ground, and I haven’t pulled up our beets yet.   I’m not sure if we should slice and freeze the beets, cook and can them, or just try to keep them whole in a cool, dry place in the basement?   We don’t have a root cellar, and I’d like to keep them whole for boiling and slicing later.   How do you keep your beets for longer storage?

Along the fence row I found some berry clusters from a Greenbriar vine (Smilax rotundifolia) hanging from the branches of an ash tree.  These almost looked good enough to eat, but after a little research they’re probably not edible.  Not toxic it seems, but not palatable either.  They are great for wildlilfe however.  Supposedly the roots of the greenbriar vine can be used to replace gelatin or make some type of thickener if you want to dig for an hour or two.  But the vine itself is very thorny, and I suspect I’ll try to remove it from the fence (and tree) before it becomes too large and difficult to manage.


In more productive news the wood pile is growing bigger!   Wouldn’t it be great if this warm weather could stick around for a while?   The colder weather is coming… 


One of our favorite things to do at this time of year is to catch leaves as they fall from the trees.   It’s especially fun with a little breeze, running around chasing the leaves around the yard.   This is a picture of a 100% genuine-never-touched-the-ground-leaf-caught-by-a-boy!   That was fun to watch…


12 Responses to “October Critters and Colors”

  1. the way i remember it, the wider the black band, the longer the winter.

    persimmon jelly?

  2. Ed

    I think I am 0 for 3 or how many questions you posed. I’m not sure about the caterpillar, the only persimmons I have been around grew in the only known grove in Iowa in our neighbor’s fence row and a few years ago he pushed them out. I’ve also never raised beets. I have raised pumpkins, around ten acres for about ten years as a business, but you didn’t ask any questions about them.

    Nice pictures as always.

  3. Great montage and seasonal post. I suppose I’ve caught a falling leaf in my life, but I think I should give it a try next chance I get.

  4. Chook! That’s good news for us then :) Persimmon jelly… good idea; not sure if I’ll have enough, but maybe I can mix it or something?
    Ed- Wow…well, okay then. How do I grow pumpkins?!?!? I’ve tried for a couple years, but didn’t amend the soil… most of them flower but don’t set, and the ones that do set barely grow through the season. ‘Course it might help if I watered more through the summer…
    Pablo- Yes, definitely try! It’s very nice, to lay back watching the leaves float down. Looks so easy, but it’s not!

  5. Ed

    It sounds like you have a pollination problem if they flowered but never produced fruit. Because I raised ten acres, I didn’t amend the soil at all. I planted them with a twelve row planter skipping two rows between every two rows planted. I also didn’t irrigate at all.

    I have better luck the later I plant them, generally around mid June when the soil is nice and warm. They don’t ripen as early and the fruits keep longer into the fall. This year, we planted just a few hills in my parents garden and probably didn’t get them in until later in June so we still had green leaves and a couple green pumpkins up until the killing frost a few couple weeks ago. We picked the ripe ones the day before. This year seemed to be a great one for pumpkins as out of three hills, we picked around 15 or so pumpkins 20 to 35 pounds each.

  6. Ed

    This year we planted the Howden variety of seeds. But back when I owned the business, we used to plant a hybrid from Henry Fields. I thought it was called Big Max but looking at their website, that variety averages around 100lbs. So either they have upped the sizes over the years or they had a similar variety that produced jack-o-lantern sized fruit with those nice big black stems characteristic of Big Max. Those stems were what gave me the edge over our competitors because they were strong and made it to the store. No kid wants a pumpkin with a broken stem.

  7. Ed- That’s amazing in terms of where and how you planted them. I may have started too early… I’ve also noted that the bumblebees seem to pollinate gourds and squash around here, but not the bees I have. I’ll try again next year… I’d love one good plant of the really big size, and others of the small variety. Great point about the stems- I wouldn’t have even thought about it, but the kids did love the nice stems on the smaller pumpkins!
    Thanks for the great info…

  8. I am with chook..black band is bad winter weather. I have seen tons of those things this year and several have been all black…yikes!

    We have a persimmon tree also. I have made jelly a few times…I am so-so on it but you should try it…

  9. Vincent

    Do you have Quince. These days no one knows what to do with that fruit either. Medlar is another.
    Anyhooos, the Quince is about as hard as one of your pro’ baseballs, so needs boiling for about a week.
    I’m fascinated though with the Squash, I’ve never been able to grow them. Zucchini or courgette no problem, but the heavier fruit rots in our damp climate. Is there a trick, short of building a roof over them to keep them from imploding.

  10. Warren- Hmmm… found two today with wide brown bands! We’ll have to compare weather!
    Vincent- No! We don’t have quince… I would love to grow some and try them. Medlar I have no idea about. Boiling for a week… that’s funny. The summer squash seems fairly easy here- a loamy hill would help, but they do love sun. I’ve heard of some folks putting foil around the plants to augment the light.

  11. Vincent

    Cydonia oblonga, I can see no reason why you cannot grow them. They are very lovely as they flower in winter, and used here for the flowers. Actually they need the cold and that is one of the reasons why they -the fruit- are like little rocks here.
    You will need to get them from the States as the US postal service nukes every letter and package. Even from Kayak land for some reason.

    Hmmm, extending the suntanning idea a bit, by lifting the fruit onto a sort of sun-lounger fully clear of the ground, like of of those boxes the tomatoes arrive to the shops in.

  12. Oh, persimmons! We had one solitary wild persimmon tree in our suburban DC neighborhood, and I looked forward to seeing it fruit every fall — until it got cut down to make room for a new house. The family that moved in eventually got to be some of our best friends, so it was an okay trade, but I still miss that tree. They were everywhere in central Missouri.

    I hear persimmon pudding is wonderful and have always wanted to make it with wild ones. Go to persimmonpudding.com — everything about persimmons you could possibly want, plus recipes.

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