Autumn leaves ready to take the stage

Mother Nature has already dismantled her art gallery and set the stage for her annual striptease. The performance is usually accompanied by wind music, sometimes as in the rattle of dry leaves — veils? — flung wantonly into the sky, sometimes without fanfare when raindrops keep the dancers grounded.

Some veils lie in mosaic skirts beneath the carefree performers, most of which by now are bare-limbed, others disrobe slowly with modesty, while still others hold on tightly until the last minute before letting go.

Curtain closes

That is when the music will be almost silent until the finale and it will be accompanied by the whisper of falling snow. The dancers retire. The striptease is over for another year.

Too fanciful? I think not, at least to those of us who apologize to our trees if we mow closely and reassure them they will be just fine. We praise the towering sycamore and tell it how beautiful it is and we pat the 50-year-old birch as we pass by.

The mower has been moved from the garage to the barn where, come spring, it will be easier to take out for its regular tune up. I have learned over the years that there have been springs when the snow was too deep outside the garage door to get it open. And if I need to mow another time or two, no problem.

As autumn advances — still no frost here as of Oct. 18 — the wild creatures are stoking up and I can’t keep up with the birds or the chipmunks. This week there was a very small chipmunk with only half its tail. Perhaps it had had a lucky escape from a hawk or cat (not my cat, who is never outside) but he didn’t seem to be bothered and on the window feeder he actually chased the birds away.

Cheeky chipmunk

That was a mistake. He had to be evicted. He was quickly trapped and I took him a mile down the road to the place where all the others had been released. I hoped he would find his relatives and a cozy new den.

The following day, the birds had the feeder all to themselves and I enjoyed a chipmunk-free morning. Bingo wasn’t happy — she loved to pretend she was going to catch him, even through the window, and I had spoiled her game.

Not for long! Lo and behold, there on the feeder was Half Tail, or his twin. But how likely would there be two chipmunks with only half a tail? Or did this tiny creature have a homing instinct, even from a mile away? The trap will not be reset as I don’t have the heart to evict him again since he was brave enough to find his way home.

Question

Do you know what a pomologist is? Neither did I until my longtime good friend, naturalist Randy Jones, loaned me his book The Best Apples to Buy and Grow, published by the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. Therefore, a pomologist is one who studies the science of fruit growing.

Did you know that in the 19th century, there were around 14,000 varieties of apples grown in America, while today there are only about 90. Favorites are Red Delicious, Golden Delicious and Granny Smith, while Fuji is the third most popular in the U.S. Our local orchardists grow many other varieties and everyone has a favorite.

This area was fortunate to have Johnny Appleseed — John Chapman — pass through on his journeys in the 1830s, and his contributions to our pomology is celebrated every autumn in Lisbon. When he died in 1845, he owned 1200 acres of land and left his mark wherever he went.

Runner

Be sure to ask Dr. Doug Wiley about the Oct. 15 Columbus marathon in which Caitlin — Doug’s and Beth’s daughter — was among 17,000 runners. Caitlin is a third-year student in The Ohio State University Veterinary School and has loved to run since high school.

In Columbus she was in a 26-mile race, which she ran in three hours and 22 minutes and placed 470th, qualifying for the Boston Marathon, but she told her parents she would like to finish school first.

About the Author

A lifelong resident of the Mahoning Valley, Janie Jenkins retired in 1987 as a feature writer and columnist at the Youngstown Vindicator. In June of that same year, she started writing her column, "On My Mind" for Farm and Dairy. She loves all animals and is an accomplished equestrienne. Local history is also one of her loves, and her home, the former Southern Park Stables, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. More Stories by Janie Jenkins

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