Whoever ordered this cold snap, please retract; I still have daffies to plant and this is not accommodating weather to say the least. Last week Rob and I hung a very cool new bird feeder I bought on a recent trip to Doylestown. Just an aside: they have a wonderful, independent bookstore–Doylestown Bookshop– where I could lose myself for hours. Maybe days. We left when I couldn’t carry anything else. But they had a very nice assortment of “non-book” items, the bird feeder being one of them. This feeder amounted to an aluminum piece that would screw on to an empty 2-litre soda bottle. We don’t even drink soda but I didn’t think that far ahead; I figured I would scrounge one up somewhere on recycle day. Which was why I bought the feeder to begin with–something rather unique to use with repurpose in mind. The first few days watching were great–a fine collection of titmouse, chickadees, cardinals, doves and juncos.

Then came the squirrels.

First they hung upside down to feed, turning back right when they got a head-rush (I suppose) or that reflux won out temporarily; then we added a wire to make the feeder hang lower near a small branch I didn’t think would hold the squirrel. Wrong again. Squirrel sat with his hind feet clutching the small branch, bobbing up and down like he was on a bumpy hayride but that seemed to delight him even more. Then I cut off that small branch. I’ve fixed him now! Wrong still. He then took a leap Superman-style from the big branch directly onto the feeder itself, clutching the plastic bottle in a spread-eagle fashion while simultaneously eating.

The feeder came down, awaiting the arrival of the baffler lid I ordered today. Because he still wants to taunt me, he sat in the tree, Rob reported, and flicked pointy finger at the wind chime to get our attention.

This newsletter was not intended to be about squirrels. Or Downy Woodpeckers either, but we had those last week as well: they hammered two circles with mathematical precision in each of the cedar porch beams. Since my friend Bob said the woodpeckers are not nesting now, we are not sure why they are drilling, so to prevent additional damage Rob hung two pie tins from the cross beam. This has worked just fine except my nervous dog thinks the boogey man is at the door with the clanging and banging and won’t go out without me. If you knew Katie, you would understand; everything spooks her.

State of nature: Jeannie’s house.

“Autumn…the year’s last, loveliest smile,” wrote William Cullen Bryant, American Romantic poet and longtime editor of the New York Post, and a nice line to introduce the topic of this newsletter, at last, which is also about the last of it. The last of the garden, the brilliant last gasp of color. Brilliant isn’t even a good enough word, really, for the color we get to enjoy in autumn. I can’t imagine celebrating this time of year without it. Clients ask me, “Can I just leave the leaves?” Answer: it depends. Of course in nature, no one is coming by the woodland with a team of guys sporting gas-powered blowers–the leaves just get left on the forest floor to do their thing–rot and become part of the rest. But your turf grass lawn is not the forest floor. Leaves must be removed from turf grass or there will be no grass come spring. It is ok for leaves to remain in the plant beds. I have heard some people say that some diseases and pests can over- winter underneath leaves. I have not had that experience.

In a perennial bed, a light layer of leaves is fine; shrubs can take a bigger blanket. If you have room, compost the rest to add to your garden in the spring. We had an enormous maple tree in the front yard of my childhood home.

It was fun to rake leaves into a big pile and jump in. Leaves, I think, have a fragrance like no others, somehow a mix of all of the outdoors; I just love it. And now? Kate and I enjoy our walks more than ever. She is on a doggy high, smelling all that is there to enjoy. Me too.

And in short order, autumn’s tiara, the golden, jewel-colored leaves, will be kept in days ahead beneath the ice of a frozen puddle.

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