Tag Archives: Ozark fall

Wild Harvest Season

An almost glugging sound comes from the hills and pastures lately. The wild turkeys are enjoying wild harvest season.

Some walk around in the pastures reaping grass seed for hours. Grass seed is very small and it takes thousands of seeds to fill up a turkey. Our oats and wheat were once small until ancient farmers selected for bigger and bigger seeds.

Here and there clumps of trees drop another wild harvest. The persimmons are ripe.

persimmons are a sweet wild harvest
I have one goat who comes in not for the oats, but for the persimmons. The tree in the front yard obligingly drops several a day now and the goats love them. The goats must compete with the grey foxes, the opossums, the raccoons, the deer and other wild creatures who also love persimmons.

Wild lore says that persimmons aren’t ripe until after frost. That seems true most years, but not this year. The persimmons are ripe and falling even though there has been no frost, not even a light one this fall.

Lots of animals love persimmons, raccoons among them. Growing fruit requires protecting it from these crafty and determined fruit eaters.

Not persimmons. Even a raccoon won’t eat a green persimmon. It puckers the mouth filling it with a sharp taste that persists for hours. Ripe persimmons are soft, sweet as candy delights.

Up on the hills the squirrels, turkeys and deer are enjoying another wild harvest: acorns. This is a great year for them. The ground is covered with the various kinds.

acorns valuable wild harvest
These are chinkapin oak acorns, I think. Different kinds of oaks have acorns that look very different both in shape of the nut and the shape and size of the cap. The one in the center has a tiny hole in it where a weevil larva burrowed its way out after eating the nut.

White oak acorns are the preferred ones as they have the least tannic acid giving them a milder taste. The acorn consumers don’t stop there and eat any of them they find.

Lean times are coming. Winter will drop the leaves to the ground and stop the grass from growing. Here in the Ozarks food will be scarce for three to four months. Even the animals that don’t hibernate want a thick layer of fat to help keep them warm and to draw nutrition from.

The goats agree. They charge out of the pasture gate each morning and head to favorite spots. The first is a group of persimmon trees across the creek.

N is for Nubians who love acorns
From “For Love of Goats” this entry for N is Nubians, of course, who love the wild harvest of acorns.

Next is the hillside nearby for the acorns. This leads to another hill with a great wild harvest spot just over the crest.

Late in the afternoon the goats come down along a wet weather creek to the line of persimmon trees there. And they are getting fat from gorging on the wild harvest.

Essays about events happening in the different seasons are in “Exploring the Ozark Hills.”

Leaves Change Into Fall Colors

Leaves have a color for every season of the year. With the coming of killing frost the leaves change into fall colors.

Spring brings a delicate light green. The green darkens over the summer. About mid August yellow creeps into the green.

green hills

Fall has limped along with many warm days. The trees stayed green, waiting.

Over the week after killing frost, especially if there is another one or two frosts, that yellow spreads. Reds begin to appear. Length of day may trigger the changes, but frost makes the leaves change into fall colors.

One interesting experiment in my science classes was the chromatography of leaf pigments. It isn’t hard to do.

Take an eight inch or more long strip about 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide from a filter. A finer grained one is best and some coffee filters are like that.

leaves change into fall colors

A week after killing frost the change is dramatic. The green hill is now shades of orange.

Have a tall jar so the strip barely touches the bottom and folds a little over the top. Tape the fold onto a pencil so the strip will dangle down from the pencil into the jar.

Draw a line in pencil (it must be pencil) across the strip 1 1/2 inches above the end.

Gather a couple of leaves. These can’t be dried out These can be spring, summer or fall leaves.

Place the leaf over the line and rub it with the side of a penny. You may have to move the leaf and repeat the rubbing to get a dark spot on or barely over the line.

Pour isopropyl or rubbing alcohol in the jar an inch deep. Hang the strip into the jar and wait. You will see the alcohol move up the strip. When the alcohol reaches the top of the strip, take it out and look what happened to the leaf spot.

The alcohol pulls the spot up the strip with it. But not all of the spot moves the same. There should be darker spots of slightly to very different colors in a line over the spot. These spots will fade as the strip dries so look quickly.

leaves change into fall colors

Approaching sunset turns the oranges into fire. The color will peak in about another week, but lose depth as many leaves begin to fall. Soon the hills will be bare for winter.

Using acetone or ethanol works too and can give slightly different spot arrangements. Each likes different parts of the leaf pigments better than others and carries them farther.

The striking thing for many students was that green leaves could have more than one green and colors other than green in them. The colors weren’t always the colors they saw. In class we discussed what the different chlorophylls and anthocyanins were and did.

Now I stand and watch as the leaves change into fall colors.

My Fall Garden Survives

Winter walked through my garden leaving a white coating that turned to black in the morning sun. The summer garden ended. The fall garden remains – for now.

Killing frost is rarely a surprise. Average dates are given for my Ozark area about October 17. The days are warm. The nights cool to cold.

fall garden garlic

Garlic planted in the fall will be ready to pull in late spring. In the Ozarks garlic does the best when planted in the fall. I put down a good four inches of mulch, burrow holes through to put in the cloves and watch it grow. It stays green most of the winter.

Already the peppers are harvested. These summer plants like hot days and warm nights. Fall temperatures leave the peppers hanging on slowly ripening. They will ripen as fast in the pantry.

Tomatoes are another summer crop loving hot days and warm nights. Green tomatoes will hang on the vines waiting for the temperatures to go up. In the pantry they will turn red. The flavor isn’t as good as summer sun ripened ones, but not bad.

fall garden cabbage

Cabbage will take a hard frost. It slows down, hunkers down, but keeps growing. The good thing is that the cabbage worms don’t survive.

Squash plants too are summer crops. By fall the squash bugs are killing the vines starting with the summer varieties and moving to the winter varieties. The winter squashes are putting on their thick rinds.

My pantry was filled with sacks of peppers, tomatoes and squash.

Frost can form pretty patterns and edgings on plants. It freezes the water inside the summer plants destroying their cells and killing them.

The morning after killing frost is so depressing. The tomatoes were towering over my head with vines heavy with fruit. Now the vines are limp and dark.

fall garden turnips

Turnips like cool weather. They don’t mind a good frost. I never seem to plant them thin enough, but the extras make good greens. A good mulch along the rows keeps them growing better.

In the beds nearby the fall garden is still green. Cabbage, broccoli, turnips and garlic hang their leaves in the frost.

Once the frost melts, the leaves stand up still fresh and green. All but the garlic will slowly produce their crops in the warm days of Indian summer.

Another fall garden crop is chickweed. This sprouts in the fall growing green and lush with the cool temperatures and moisture. It like the garlic will overwinter.

By November most of the fall crops will succumb to winter’s cold blasts. Until then, they are a welcome bit of green in the garden.