Archive for hibernation

Autumn Gifts from Mother Nature

DSCN1095Fall is definitely a beautiful time of year in the mid-south.  I love the webs of orb weavers, like the huge Black and  Yellow Argiope (garden spider) who tends to stay in the middle of her web.  Males build smaller webs around hers until they see a chance to mate. Then there is the araneus, a smaller orb weaver whose webs are often attached to telephone poles and wires, tree limbs and weeds. Unlike the Argiope, she tends to hide near the edge of her web until prey lands within her trap, then she goes in for the kill, wrapping them in her silk for later eating.  Both of these spiders  are mature females waiting for a mate and then for making their paper-bag brown egg casings, often attached to one of the tall, stiff weed stems where they have made their web all summer.

Mushrooms are just amazing in autumn.  The colors and varieties are enormous!  My daughter spotted some mid-sized yellow mushrooms with brown marks on to the other day.  I didn’t look them up or take a photo, but I remember what they looked like, and will definitely check my book!  last year, I spotted some beautiful mushrooms sprouting from the ssump of a rotting tree.  They would start out with a bulb at the top, and as they matured, they opened up, sporting a detached cap.  Their tan color made them blend in with the tree trunk, I did take photos of them. I had trouble finding an exact match in my book, but will try to do some up-dating on mushrooms soon and add the name into the article.

I love the variety of autumn asters.  The tiny white ones are often pulled up as weeds, but I let them grown, ungainly and tall until to burst into bloom in late September and bloom until frost.  Honey bees and butterflies find the late blooming asters to be one of their few sources of nectar this time of year, I wish people would be aware of how important honey bees are to crops!  Diseases and decreasing habitat have greatly reduced the number of honey bees in the Southern Appalachians, please nature lovers, leave the wild asters, both the small gangly white variety as well as the more attractive and larger purple asters so that the bees and butterflies that are still around in autumn will have food!

I cannot forget the beautiful red berries that appear on dogwood trees. They become aparent only as the leaves start to fall near the time of the first frost. Wild roses also sport red seed buds in fall. Both provide food for the creatures who stay for the winter in the Southern Appalachians,-anywhere from birds like the cardinal and gray squirrels.

Wild muscedine grapes seem to flow from the branches of trees at the edge of forest and yards where they can get plenty of sun. They are dark purple, and smaller than grapes that we grow, but were often used by early settlers for jellies, juice and jams. The leaves are dark green and fluted, just as a “tame” grape.  The grapes hang in bunches similar to tame graoes, as well.

Nature doesn’t leave us empty handed in the fall of the year, it just shows the products of summers growth and becomes food for the animals who stay with us during fall and winter.

I will end with a favorite poem that I learned in fifth grade. I appologize for not remembering the author.


A road like brown ribbon, a sky that is blue,

A forest of green with that sky peeping through,

Asters, deep purple, a grasshoppers call,

Today, it is summer, tomorrow, it’s fall.


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She Sliters Away

It had been a fine summer for Sylvia. No floods, plenty of insects, the birth of a new group of live young. But now, it was time for Sylvia to find a place to spend the cold, Appalachian winter.

She slithered quietly through an overgrown garden, eating a few snacks on the way. Her tongue waved as she became aware of the scent of water and rotting wood. Perfect! A fallen maple presented itself not far from a tiny mountain stream.

Sylvia continued on up the low hill from the garden and explored the space underneath the log. It had fallen several years before and had created small spaces in the damp soil which she could work on in order to make her winter home.

She took one last breath of cooling fall air before she began carving her winter home in what appeared to have been home to a worm at one time. Gently, she curled up inside the hole, her fertilized eggs ready to grow inside her as she settled down for a long winter’s nap.

Sylvia had seen other snakes like her-garter snakes with a print of different colors of brown and she knew she was both beautiful and harmless. Smart human neighbors left her alone to eat the insects that consumed their gardens or simply admired her grace, perhaps hoping to see one of her babies as it slithered away from her as it hatched, alive and ready into a new world.

Her life had not always been easy. Once, a human ran over her mother with a lawnmower and a human mom who happened to study amphibians happened upon her. Her mother had died, but the kind lady saved two babies who were only slightly injured and let them go in he garden when they had healed in about a week. Thus, she and her brother had survived.

Sylvia often spent warm spring mornings in the lady’s garden and the lady would come by and speak to her, never touching her, only whispering greetings. How Sylvia wished that she could say, “Thank you.”, but, alas, it was no to be.

One day next summer, Sylvia would find a quiet place and give birth to her young. She would not give them any maternal care, only wish them a good life and watch them crawl away. Such is the life of a garter snake. The lady who saved her would always remember her, always hope she saw Sylvia in her garden. Their lives were separate, but forever bound.

Hopefully, one day, the lady’s children would tell stories about the baby snakes and teach others to appreciate them and share their yards and woodlands with them. Such is the way with nature. We share the same world, but in separate realities. I wish you well, Sylvia, and hope I see you or your young next year!

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