New Hampshire Nature Notes
by Eric Orff
First Frost in Epsom this fall.
And so it was that my deck roof was revealing a touch of frost last night. I was thinking it wouldn't get cold enough for frost as I drove home from Hampton last night around 8pm in a steady drizzle. By midnight, when I last let the dog out, there shinned a very bright moon as a few fleeting clouds danced northward over my head, It had cooled down quickly since I had arrived home four hour earlier. I still doubted a frost. But was wrong. Not a hard frost for sure, mind you. The Farmer's Almanac declares a "light frost" to be between 29 and 32 degrees. My thermometer read 31 degrees at 7am. I could see roofs along my two-mile route early to Cumby's were indeed a bit frosty. So, yes first frost here in town.
According to the Almanac the dates of the last frost in Concord NH, light frost, is May 15th and the first light frost on average if September 29th. I bet this may be a record for late frost here at my house. For a couple decades beginning in the early 1980's I went away the first week of September to a furbearer biologist annual meeting hosted by various states and eastern Canadian Provines along the East Coast. I always left a sheet to cover the cherry tomatoes planted along the south side of my house as back then most years there WAS a frost that first week of September. This year I was kind of betting we might make it into November for that first frost. Pretty close wasn't it. Still hard to believe, even with my own eyes, that I have witnessed our warming New Hampshire with first frost migrating from early September to nearly November in the 44 years I have lived here. I can't figure out how anyone, who has lived here any number of years and have witnessed these changes, can still doubt climate change. Yes, climate has always changed, but I can't believe this much in one human's lifetime. Yet I have seen and experienced it. In fact, just this morning.
Hound and I took another ride a couple days ago. I eased my Browning 20 gauge on to the seat between us as we headed north. Maybe we could at least go look at a couple covers we might have wandered through when we were both younger. She's either 15 going on 16, or 16 going on 17, in December. We both look a lot more than we used to.
Very interesting trip up I-93 and as we approached the mountains, and Franconia Notch. As we headed north, we slid under a cover of high clouds. Even though it was early afternoon the low hanging late October sun splashed some bright sunlight under the covers with us from the still clear southern sky. And didn't it color up the south side of the mountains with different hues of golden browns and yellows from the clumps of beeches and oaks savoring their summer crowns. But what amazed me the most, were the mountain shadows drawn out by the lower sun across the landscape. Very distinctive shadows despite the overcast. I seriously let off the gas pedal as I wanted to more slowly glide down into the river valley towards Lincoln, absorbing this unique panorama. That one view was worth the trip north, partridge or not.
And it still got my mind thinking about what else I was seeing as we dove into the Notch. And there it was. Old man 2023 was graying up as most of us do who are long in tooth. Yes, 2023 is graying up. There must have been some good winds that had stripped the canopy of beech trees that line either side of the highway as you plunge into the Notch. And there lay before me was a sea of gray as far as the eye could see. And soon, no doubt, a layer of snow, will lay bare as skeletons the now bald trees. I can relate to that.
By the time we crested Franconia Notch and slid down again I was surprised to see a dead cow moose roadside. I'm thinking in past years that moose would have hardly stopped skidding and would have been scooped up for table fare. The day had warmed considerably, so maybe that was the reason. It was still there an hour or so later after I completed my little north country loop.
And so, the loop. Hound and I cut through a section of the White Mountain National Forest on a one lane road that is gated for the winter. By now it was raining, and the hound and I thought better of a woodland walk. But my eyes swept the roadside landscape for a partridge that would have put us into the woods, rain or not, for a flush. No luck there.