ERROL CASTENS: Transitioning to fall

By Errol Castens/Daily Journal Oxford Bureau

Set your alarm so you don’t miss celebrating the arrival of autumn at 9:49 a.m. CDT tomorrow.
Although the peak of our fall leaf color is still six weeks or more away, some seasonal changes are already showing up around Northeast Mississippi:
• Obviously, it’s cooler this week. Wednesday morning saw the temperature’s first dip into the 40s since April.
• On a cool, damp, still morning such as Monday’s was between rains, earthy smells – barnyard, garden, woods and pond – are noticeably more, well, noticeable.
• Early this week, migrating hummingbirds were still battling for the upper hand (or wing) around the feeders. By Thursday, they were gone.
• The haunting caw of crows has replaced much of the music of songbirds.
• Goldenrod, perennial sunflowers and a common pale-blue wildflower whose name I disremember are blooming in great abundance. So is ragweed.
• When Jesus said, “Consider the lilies …” I generally think of spider lilies. They appear suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, bloom in September for a few days of riotous color and odd, eye-catching shape, and then they’re gone.
• Beautyberries are one fruit I’m willing to give over completely to local wildlife. Their lavender clusters delight the eye, but the palate gives much the same reaction to beautyberries as to cardboard. Now, if the wild turkeys would just develop a taste for them instead of my still-immature late peas. (Sigh.)
• Blueberry bushes, dogwoods, poison ivy vines, sassafras trees and a few maples have started showing a nice hint of the color they’ll offer in quantity a bit later.
• Privet, darn its soul, is starting to ripen its berries, which will spread the horrible hort yet farther in many a bird’s gut.
• Coffee smells even better on a cool morning.
• Terry Norwood has harvested, squeezed and cooked his first batch of sorghum molasses already.
• Tomatoes are like people: If the temperature isn’t just right, they complain. If it’s too hot, they drop their blooms and don’t set fruit. If it’s cooler than they like, such as this week’s almost-cold mornings, the acids diminish and their fruits aren’t as tasty.
• On the other hand, the cooler weather means broccoli, cabbage, mustard, collard and other cool-weather vegetables are looking very happy.
• Bonus info, not observed data: Tupelo’s earliest first freeze on record is Oct. 3 and its latest Dec. 2. Average first freeze is Nov. 4. If you’re a gardener, you probably already had a good idea of those dates.
• And bow season starts Oct. 1. If you’re a hunter, you probably already know the exact time of sunrise that day.
Contact Daily Journal Oxford Bureau reporter Errol Castens at errol.castens@journalinc.com.