New Hampshire Nature Notes
by Eric Orff
Seeping into fall a couple degrees at a time.
So, here it is mid-October and nary a frost here in town in Central NH. In fact, yesterday afternoon I took a road trip up into the White Mountain National Forest for a fall leaf color look. Yes, I'm a leaf peeper too. And how can you not be living here in NH. Any ways, I ended up driving around Squam Lake a bit. In fact, as I drove around the north end of the Squam Lake, I noticed tomato plants still growing. No frost there yet either. Hard to believe that far north from me and still no frost.
Maybe it's just me, but the colors just seemed more muted in this mid-October annual trip for me. I can usually see plenty of color without joining the throngs for a trip across the Kanc. There is color, and glorious no matter the year, just not what I can recall as spectacular most years in my mind. And down here in Central NH we do have some color. But I think it too is more muted this year. Something just seems to be different this year. The wetlands painted up early as did a few maples here and there. Yes, very early color this year, which means they also shed their leaves early. There was a lot of leafless trees around here a week ago. The oaks haven't even started to blush. And the maple trees surrounding my house are as green as can be. Maybe it was that late May hard frost that burnt off the first batch of leaves have left the trees wanting to hold on to their leaves a bit longer this year. If you ask me, I'd just say the forests seem out of sorts this year. We now know trees communicate a lot through their root systems. Wonder what the gossip is? Maybe I need to go and lay down on my lawn for a listen. If you see me laying there Sunday, would you mind stopping to help me up?
I had an errand to Concord this afternoon. On my way home I noticed a garter snake basking on the sun warmed tar well out into the road after I made the turn on to my road. So, I stopped to move it along. This is a typical thing in October here in NH. The snakes are moving into their winter dens right now, but a stop off on a nice warm road after undergoing our coldest night of the fall so far at only 36 degrees this morning. Just up the road from my house was, I believe, a winter den for the local garter snakes. It was a pit trench, where for a number of years, the homeowner filled it with the barn clean out from her horse. I think it was the perfect place for snakes to burrow in for the winter. Most years I would find several dead snakes in the road in front of it come fall. I haven't seen as much mortality in recent years. Still, I usually see several road killed garter snakes each fall in the half mile from my house to the corner. Please keep an eye out for our chilled snakes and if you can safely do so, encourage them off the road.
And it's not just snakes moving now either. We are into the peak of the moose mating season right now with the deer, so called rut, right on the heels of the moose well into early December for deer. Expected the unexpected while driving after dark for the next couple of months. Drivers beware.
farmer has not chopped his cow corn yet. What's up with that? Usually done by now. Fields may be too wet for the machinery, I wonder. As it is, the corn fields are filled with stunted corn less than half the normal height. Corn was planted a bit late because of the wet spring. Then the July deluge simply washed away the fertilizer that had been deposited with the corn seeds when planted. We've had plenty of stunted corn crops in five of the last eight years due to our droughts with 2022 being the worst in my memory. But it was not nearly as stunted as this year's corn. Seems like our local farmers are in for a tougher battle with an ever more erratic climate of late. Droughts and deluges from one year to the next. It's never been easy being a farmer and lately it just has been a lot more challenging.
Our rivers and streams have been in a steady flow since spring. And then some quite often. I look out at the Suncook River that flows within a hundred yards of my home as I set high overlooking it. We've had some pretty high floods and a couple what I call low floods since spring.
All in all, this has been a very different year in my book. I think maybe it was more than just the forests that were out of sorts this year. I don't think we are done yet.
A summer blast from a summer past after last summer's overcast.
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Summer Has Returned, oh wait, there was no summer.