Unusual Storm Clouds
The August storm looked like an ordinary thunderstorm approaching. Dark clouds gathered to the west as we sat on our porch. What happened minutes later was far from normal.
The roaring wind hit like a prize fighter’s fist, bending our small oaks and maples parallel to the ground. Before it struck, we had 53 mature, healthy trees on our two acres. Forty minutes later only six still stood somewhat unravaged. As we watched in dismay and horror our oaks, hackberries, cherries, pines, and Douglas Firs either uprooted or snapped off. At least our beloved black walnut still stood on the edge of the woods.
Then a massive gust later reported to be 140 miles an hour by the National Weather Service, stripped off the walnut’s branches. Soon, the wind calmed, allowing us to see tree carnage and home damage. It was shocking and started three months of clean up and reconstruction. We fixed the house but it’s not possible to replace century-old trees.
A Banner Day
In contrast to the August 10, 2020 derecho, Thursday, November 19 was a banner day.
Arbor Day in November
We had just received a box of trees from the National Arbor Day Foundation. After we tucked the oaks, maples, pines, and aspens into the ground we ringed them with a thick layer of wood chips and gave them a good drink of water. The chips came from massive fallen trees the City of Cedar Rapids ground up after the storm. Then we circled each tree with wire mesh to protect it from hungry deer. By afternoon we were tired but elated. We won’t live long enough to see our new trees as giants, but we gave them a good start.
Arbor Day Quality Trees
The baby trees looked great. It was our most recent purchase from the Arbor Day Foundation. Although inexpensive, they looked healthy and eager to grow. Even the bur and white oaks, which have robust and long taproots looked great.
In most places, Arbor Day is celebrated in late April. We’ll plant some more trees then, but we sat on our back deck on a warm November evening and enjoyed seeing our trees in their new homes. For us and our new trees, it was Arbor Day in November.
Lied Lodge and Arbor Day Foundation – Destination
We have visited the Arbor Day Foundation in Nebraska City, Nebraska, several times. It’s where Arbor Day was created. We’ve overnighted at Lied Lodge on the property and enjoyed walking trails on Arbor Day Farm.
So, if you need to buy trees check out arborday.org. Want a pleasant place to visit? The Farm and Lodge are less than an hour’s drive south of Omaha. Although we’ve been there several times, we look forward to returning.
What a year this has been! Coronavirus altered the lives of nearly everyone. Many of us now work from home and spend the day staring at a computer screen and attending zoom meetings.
A delight of working from home is entertainment right outside the window. Sometimes we take our eyes off the screen, glance outside, and grin as we watch chipmunk antics.
No Need To Feed
We don’t really feed our chipmunks. They’re opportunists. When chickadees, nuthatches and other birds drop seeds from hanging feeders the chippies are right there filling their cheeks with sunflower seeds and dashing off to store them in their underground burrows.
Manly people detest these small, beautiful mammals and cite the damage they do to retaining walls and lawns. Our retaining wall is crafted of huge glacial boulders. Its many nooks and crannies are perfect for chipmunks but are so sturdy chipmunks can’t damage it. They give us cheer in a perplexing year.
Many species of chipmunks live in the United States but the one most common in suburban areas between the Atlantic and the Great Plains is the Eastern Chipmunk. Almost everyone can identify this animal that only tips the scale at two to three ounces. Counting its tail, a big one might stretch a foot long.
Where Do Chipmunks Live?
Chipmunks love what biologists call “structure”. A pile of firewood or old lumber, a brush pile, a rarely used shed, or a retention wall is structure that makes a dandy home for chipmunks. They typically create an extensive subterranean home under structures that is an extensive tunnel system with several entrances to the surface.
What’s In a Name?
Chipmunks were named by the Ojibwe Tribe with the words that mean, “one who descends trees headfirst.” Climb they can! Chipmunks scamper up and down trees and bushes and easily reach our bird feeding platform. They prefer sunflower seeds and stuff their cheek pouches until they seem ready to burst. Then they scoot off to store seeds down in their tunnels. We wonder how big that pile of seeds might be! Chippies also eat wild seeds, acorns, and even an occasional insect.
During the coldest weather chippies stay underground and sleep in a kind of torpor. They don’t hibernate and probably enjoy snacking on the sunflower seeds they cashed months before. Last winter one tunneled under the snow and emerged under our bird feeder for fresh seeds.
We love watching our chipmunks chase one another up, down and around the feeder and retaining wall. Suburban chipmunks are fortunate. Snakes and raptors love snacking on them but people keep long, skinny reptiles out of yards and not many hawks venture near homes. Since chipmunks are day shift animals our barred owls don’t get a crack at them because they work the night shift.
So, in exchange for a safe place to eat, a scoop of seeds daily, and a cozy retaining wall to burrow in, our chipmunks give us a humorous and interesting break from working at home chores. CBS recently aired a short on a food editor who, during Coronavirus time has catered to a chipmunk outside her home. Sweet and tender show!
Foraging for seeds.
Having excavated, the chipmunk now enters the tunnel to get the corn.
The chipmunk figured how to tunnel under the live trap, gather up the corn and emerged with pouches full.
Chipmunks forage under the bird feeding platform.
Guest Bloggers Share Their Memories of Past Autumns
We invited readers to share their fall traditions and memories with Winding Pathways to help us through the 2020 Autumn and Holiday/Holy Days season.
Flowers For Fall
Chrysanthemums bring joy.
JH- “Every year I tend lovingly to a patch of chrysanthemums that I planted many moons ago in my vegetable garden. It has a place of importance along with my four lilies in this particular raised bed. This plant sprouts in spring and gradually makes
its way skyward until the September coolness brings teeny tiny buds which become a single petaled soft orange sherbert color. I always leave the seed stalks during the winter because I know that birds love the seeds. A sense of peace and joy washes over me as this patch sallies forth in the fall. The bees and butterflies love it as well.
Soon the cold of winter will send it into its deep sleep to wait for another year of gorgeous blossoms.”
SF- “Many T-givings we spent at Grammy’s. Everyone sat around the table, Gram at one end, Grandpa at the other. Gram served up the potatoes and veggies, she then passed the plates along down the line to Grampa who put the meat on then it was passed down the other side. Each of us, uncles and aunts, got our meals. Gram always loaded our plates which was always too much for us kids. One year Gram said something to us that she was tired of us not eating all our food and she was tired of throwing away good food. Mum stood up and told her we served ourselves at home and we’re expected to eat what we were given. At subsequent T-givings Gram would ask us how much we wanted and then ate what she gave us. After Grammy passed away usually Aunt Bunny and Uncle Joe came for T-giving at our house on Tibbetts Hill. Uncle Joe was always fun.” Editor’s note: The family later hosted extended family Thanksgivings at their New Hampshire homestead.
Loving the Amanas
Special time with Pops.
KT – “I miss going to the Amana’s with my father. He has passed and while he hated the changing of the seasons to cold weather, he loved eating and visiting the Amanas with his grandchildren. We always started with breakfast at the Colony Inn. For the best thin pancakes and sorghum, along with fresh fried potatoes, eggs, and English muffin toast with homemade strawberry jam. Then we had to head to the General Store for candy purchases usually Swedish fish, Rock Candy, and Red Licorice. If we had visitors with us we would tour the Woolen Mills and the Furniture Store and of course the Christmas Store with the most beautiful decorations.
“The Amanas is the closest thing we have to a fun Oktoberfest setting and environment. Such a great little historic village with many family memories for me!” Editor’s note: The girls are grown now. One lives in Nashville and the other attends Luther College.
The Mississippi River stretches from Minnesota to the Gulf Coast.
S&MN – “Each fall, we would invite a couple of language teaching assistants, recently arrived in Minnesota from France to a ride down the Mississippi River to view the changing colors of the leaves. Conversation on the ride to Wisconsin gave us a chance to learn more about each of them and their first impressions of their stay in the US. We would follow the Mississippi River down the Wisconsin side to Stockholm, Wisconsin, where we would lunch at a small cafe, visit the Amish quilt shop, gift shops, and antique stores. This included touring a small museum of the original post office.
We would stop at the scenic Maiden Rock overlook and Lake Pepin. Did you know that Water Skis were invented there? We’d take in the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Pepin, Wisconsin, and visit the replica of the Little House in the Big Woods. We shared stories and explained about the Little House book and movie series as we could. We loved making connections to life in France during the same time period of the 1870s and learning which facts were most interesting to the young interns who had read the book series in France. Thirty years ago, the language assistants would have been fans of the TV series by the same name La Petite Maison Sur La Prairie. It was a popular series on television in France. In recent years, the students would have been given details learned on the show by their mothers who had loved the show as children.
Conversations on the way back to the Twin Cities would be filled with questions that were often spurred by what we saw and that most usually unanswered. These conversations provided us with opportunities for conversation topics in the months that followed as many were inspired to read the series in English during their stay after the visit.”
Saint Paul Intercultural Institute
New Adventures for a New Englander
– “The first autumn after we moved to Wisconsin from New Hampshire I had a wonderful introduction to the fall bird and waterfowl migration. I had never experienced anything like it. Horicon Marsh
is huge! Part of it is federal lands and part is state lands. I was not sure what to expect when it was suggested that we join my husband’s parents for a Sunday outing. I was totally amazed and awed at the sheer numbers of birds that were flying, landing, and swimming in the water. A busy main state highway that runs across the top area of the marsh. Lots and lots of cars were parked on the edges of the road with families, watching out for traffic. People were wandering about taking in the sights.
When our daughters were young, we made sure that they also had the opportunity to see this mighty spectacle. I still enjoy going across that state highway and exploring the area. A recent addition is a park-like area with a paved one-way auto road with pull-outs and informational signage. Trails to hike and a boardwalk that has a gazebo with scopes get visitors out into the marsh for better viewing. There are also various dykes and dirt roads to boat landings to explore. After the autumn rush of migration, it is still a fun place to visit, and so far no matter when we visit, I have never been disappointed. It seems like we are always able to find some wildlife and sometimes get great photos of birds we don’t see on a regular basis.”
SBF – “When I bought a house in FL her son told me that the lady who had lived there before had loved her house and property very much. After I moved in with my friend, Jinx, on several nights I awoke to the TV sounds in the family room so I would go turn it off. This went on for 3-4 nights. Finally, on the fifth night I turned it off once more, but I stood by it and spoke to the previous owner. I told her I loved the house and lovely plants around it, a ginger bush, a beautiful poinsettia bush, and a pretty plant on the backyard fence. Then I promised I would try to care for them as best as I could. “But please,” I asked, “could you not turn on the TV after we go to bed at night as I had to get up to go to work 5 days a week.”
The TV never went on at night after that!”
Thanks for sharing autumn stories!
Joye Winey, Guest Blogger
I was working in my yard one day when a car pulled into my driveway. The driver rolled down her window and said “You’re that lady who walks !!”
And, I have always been. Walking has been my go-to exercise and meditation since I can remember. Today as an Octogenarian with asthma, an iffy knee, and bone issues, I walk daily, for one hour. It is a very rare day that I miss. I plan my day around my walk. I walk any time of the day that works for me, early morning or early evening when I have other obligations. I need light and fresh air so I walk outside — in the rain, the snow, below zero and 90 degrees. I walk inside when there is ice.
I dress for the weather. My full-length raspberry down coat stands out against the snow. I love having my nose and cheeks cold and on hot days, I take the best shower after. I hang on to my straw hat in the wind.
I am fortunate to live where traffic is light, near a small manmade lake. I walk in the same area but take different routes.
I note the trees flowering in the spring, different ones turning autumn orange; the farmers planting or harvesting; turtles sunning on the rocks, and eagles flying over. I delight in the blue heron on the bank; a mink or muskrat swimming by; geese honking or ducklings trying to keep up with Mom. Rushing water over the spillway after heavy rain and sunrises and sunsets elicit a” Wow!” each time I experience them. Clouds or brilliant blue skies and lately, roofers doing their acrobatic dance in silhouette on someone’s new roof at dusk capture my attention.
These are some of the things that catch my eyes and ears as I walk. I have found coins sometimes. Once a tiny dinosaur for my grandson. And lately, a collection of roofing nails that I pick up so my neighbors’ tires won’t. Each day brings new surprises. I always return home refreshed and energized for the next task. I sleep well and have managed to keep mostly positive during this unsettling year. When deep ice comes, I no longer walk outside. In past years I have done that walking at a local medical facility. I don’t know if they will allow me to do that this year. If not, I will find somewhere else.
But walk I will. And lastly, I walk because, blessedly, I can.
Light refracting off clouds.
I take a different route each day.
I pause to watch the herons.
Thick smoke obscures the sun.
Sunsets always elicit at “Wow!” from Joye.
Amazing Autumn Across America
You can still catch the color this fall as these amazing days stretch on. Even in the derecho band of destruction from Eastern Nebraska through Illinois, some trees offer eye candy in November to lift our spirits. Outside the narrow tunnel of downed trees, the world is quite stunning.
A recent Iowa outing found us motoring north on IA 150 and US 52 past fields of ripening corn and bean of various hues – green-yellow and earth-brown to russet – undulating over the rolling landscape. The descent into the Volga, Turkey, and Upper Iowa River valleys offered pleasing, pastoral scenes of church spires, roadside stands replete with pumpkins and apples, trails busy with bicyclists, and rivers dotted with bright kayaks.
Asters of all varieties brighten the ditches.
The roadsides and hillsides are most interesting where patches of prairie have been planted, and milk cows and horses graze. New England, many-flowered, and heath asters contrast purple, pink, and white against the tawny hues of big and little bluestem waving in the wind.
Country tree color is more subdued. Walnut, hackberry, locust, and catalpa tend to turn dull yellow and drop their leaves early. Shrubs like flowering, red twig and grey dogwoods, and ninebark do form pleasing borders of various reds and tans. You can always spot the brilliant sugar maples often the only remnants of a long-gone farmstead. All contrast with the varied greens of pines, spruces, cedars and even, verdant cover crops.
Color is most vibrant in towns, parks, cemeteries, and on golf courses. Overflowing flower baskets and bright banners line the main streets of towns like Independence and Calmar. Ashes and maples brighten residential streets. The streets radiate yellow of green ashes and deep plum of white ashes. These contrast with the maple coloration which ranges from fiery orange/yellow to brick red to wine.
Around toward the Mississippi River, the vistas could not be more pleasing. In autumn, a light mist rises over The River. The sun slants through brightly colored leaves spotlighting golden Cottonwoods dancing in the breeze.
To get a sense of the close-up beauty of fall, pull into any of the several state or county parks, preserves, or recreation areas and step onto the trails. One of our favorites is Effigy Mounds National Monument. The short climb up the bluff offers a spectacular view of the Mississippi. Along the way, we noted yellow-green grape leaves framed by merlot-infused Virginia Waterleaf.
Around Cedar Rapids, as trails open up, look closely at the goldenrod and Maximillian sunflower where pollinators still busily work. Late migrating Monarchs rest and snack waiting for the next north wind to head south.
Go South for Color
It seems that as the winds knock early changing leaves like maples off, the oaks come into their own and linger into the fall. All the oaks, especially our state tree, the bur oak, sport handsome ginger, tawny, sepia and, rufous shades. Pin oaks with their downward slanting lower branches often hold their leaves through winter.
A short drive south offers even more opportunities to catch the oak colors. A great source to decide your route is the scenic byways of Iowa. Not surprisingly, most routes follow The Mississippi or other Eastern Iowa rivers. The pdf includes pictures, text and routes to follow.
A scarlet maple.
White, Pin, Red Oaks all turn different colors in the fall.
Travel early or late in the day to catch the most vibrant colors.
Enjoy the eye candy of Iowa’s fall colors.
No matter where you live in the Northern Hemisphere, early November holds color in surprising places. Go early in the morning or later in the afternoons to catch the sun’s lowest angles highlighting trees and landscapes. America’s Byways is a state-by-state resource of interesting trails to follow. And, any country road is sure to bring delightful surprises.