Autumn Colours

Aren’t the autumn colours beautiful? The skies might be overcast and grey; but the brightness of the leaves make up for it! The leaves of the cornus or dog wood were some of the first to change, fading to dusky pink, and hanging on red stems, while most trees around were still green. Then was the turn of the maple in all its different varieties. Now the furry sumac branches are aflame with red and orange, and all the lower leaves are gone. The hornbeam leaves turned bright yellow, but most have already fallen, and next doors old Oak, who always holds on the longest, is at last sprinkling its crisp yellow-brown leaves thickly across the grass.

 

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Of squirrels and acorns

As summer turns to autumn, the squirrels are becoming very active in my garden. More often than not, they have acorns in their mouths, ready to ‘plant’ them into my pots and tubs, or anywhere the rain dampened soil has become soft enough. I realise the squirrels are only following instinctive patterns to hoard food for the barren winter months, but in hiding their cache of acorns, they usually manage to dig up and destroy my carefully planted flowers. Even if they don’t disturb the plants, the squirrels inevitably forget where they’ve planted the acorns, and next spring little oak trees will shoot up in my tubs and in my flower beds. As soon as I notice them I have to pull them out before they begin to take over.
After sending the dog out to chase yet another acorn-wielding squirrel off the patio, I got to thinking. And I wondered how often other people dig into our lives, and leave behind them seeds such as anger and resentment or discontent, that begin to grow and take over our thoughts and attitudes without us actually realising they are there. I kept thinking, and I began to wonder what seeds I plant into other people’s lives. Do I plant negative, hurtful things, or do I plant encouraging and affirming things, such as love and acceptance. I know which I would rather have planted and nurtured in my life, and I know I would also prefer to plant good things in the lives of others.

Fungi

Fungi 1

It’s been quite wet recently, so I’m seeing a lot of fungi when I walk my dog. Some are quite dramatic, some tiny and insignificant, others so well camouflaged amongst the autumn leaves that they’re difficult to spot. And this year there are even some I don’t remember seeing before. This one was quite large, bigger than the span of my hand, probably about nine or ten inches across. It looked to me like a mushroom, but I don’t think I’ll be trying it just in case I’m wrong!

Fungi 2This group of toadstools, are on waste ground under some silver birch trees. They were almost the same colour as the autumn leaves, and quite low down to the ground. Had they not been shining and glistening in the sunlight, I think I would have missed them completely.

 

A couple of years ago just round the corner from my house, I spotted a fairy ring under some trees. (See my post from 25th November 2012). I kept looking in the same place last year, but there were only a couple of toadstools, and definitely not in a ring. This year there are a few more toadstools growing in arc shapes, but they’re nowhere near being joined in a complete ring yet. I’m no expert, but the toadstools do look a bit different from last time, but maybe they are just in a different part of their life-cycle.


This typShaggy Ink cape of fungi is new to me. I saw three of them a couple of days ago, standing about five or six inches above the grass, but by the time I’d returned with my camera, someone had stamped on every one of them! This morning I had my camera with me, just in case, and this little one was just poking his head above the grass. It was also the only fungus  that I was able to identify with any certainty (with thanks to http://www.first-nature.com) as Coprinus Comatus, or Shaggy Ink Cap. Not the best photo by any means, but it was the fungi that inspired this post!

 

Sweeping the leaves

I swept the leaves in my garden yesterday. I’ve had to sweep them again today, and no doubt I’ll sweep them many more times before autumn is over and the winter is truly upon us. I live in a tree preservation area, and there are mature trees all around, oak, horse-chestnut, ash and hornbeam to name but a few. Don’t get me wrong, I love the trees, but it does get to be a bit of a chore in the autumn! The trouble is, if I just leave the leaves (!), the grass suffers, and big muddy brown patches develop. And I have a dog, so if I don’t clear up the leaves, I am likely to put my foot in it – literally!

Autumn oak leaves

While I was sweeping the leaves, I got to thinking, as I often do. I thought about how life seems to drop things on us, quite softly, and almost imperceptibly, a bit like autumn leaves falling on us. Things like disappointment, resentment, being over-looked or undervalued, advertising lies designed to make us feel inadequate or greedy for what we haven’t got; injustice, sickness, bereavement – and so the list goes on. Often they can be little insignificant things, but even small things build up. If we’re not careful all this rubbish that is drifting down on us can block out the light, and begin to stifle the life out of us. Then we need to get out our metaphorical rakes and brooms, and sweep them away. Or sometimes if we’re fortunate, and if we ask Him to, the Holy Spirit will blow them away for us.

Hornbeam

This morning started out grey and windy, with heavy showers. Now the rain has gone, and we are left with candy-floss clouds and very blustery, autumnal winds. Floppy, brown horse-chestnut leaves are blowing from the trees, covering the pavements and paths with a slippery, soggy mess; and tiny helicopters are cascading from the hornbeam trees. Unlike ash and sycamore keys which have two wings, hornbeam keys have three wings, and although they don’t look at all aerodynamic, they certainly spin quickly as they fall. The hornbeam is a deciduous broadleaf tree commonly found in the oak woodlands of Southern England. Growing to about 30 metres, these trees can live in excess of 300 years. The name ‘hornbeam’ comes from ‘horn’ due to the hardness of the wood, and ‘beam’ meaning tree in Old English. Hornbeam timber is creamy white, extremely hard and strong, and is mainly used for furniture and flooring. Traditionally it was used for ox-yokes, butchers blocks and cogs for windmills and watermills. The fruit is a small nut about 3-6mm long, held in a leafy tri-lobed bract. The bract is asymmetrical, and it is this unbalanced nature that helps it spin as it falls.

A few days ago the squirrels were scurrying through the hornbeam trees in my garden, tearing at the keys as they searched out the tiny nuts. Cracking sounds as sharp teeth bit into the nut shells, and shredded leaves fluttering to the ground, betrayed their presence. But now the acorns are ripe, so the squirrels have abandoned my hornbeam, for larger treasure in the garden next door.

Squirrel in hornbeam

Autumn Trees

It’s very wet and grey outside at the moment, a typical rainy autumn day. I was going to start putting some of the more delicate plants into my mini greenhouse today, to protect them from the inevitable approach of colder weather, but I think I’ll wait for a brighter, drier day! So instead, I’m sitting snug and warm on my bed, and glancing out of the window as I decide what to write.
I live in a tree preservation area, and next door there is a huge old oak tree, one of the few remaining trees from the ancient Sussex oak forests, and despite being well into autumn, it is still well endowed with leaves. I love trees; there is a stability and permanence about them, and this one is particularly gnarled and beautiful. I love hearing the wind in the trees, watching the seasonal changes, and seeing the wildlife within the branches. This next door oak tree is so big that I reckon it would take 3 or 4 men, or maybe more, with arms outstretched, to reach all the way around its trunk! The mustard coloured leaves on the hornbeam trees in my garden are thinning rapidly, and the horse-chestnut tree beyond is already bare, but although the oak leaves are beginning to turn yellow, it is always one of the last trees to lose all its leaves in autumn.
When I look closely at the old oak tree, I can see a myriad of tiny blue-tits darting in and out, protected from the rain under the thick canopy of leaves, pecking at the insects. Every so often I see blackbirds, and ah, there’s a magpie swooping down with its tail fanning out as it lands on an open branch. Earlier, during a break in the rain, there was a squirrel, foraging for acorns, and then swinging across from the oak tree to my hornbeam.
Now there is no wind, and the leaves move only with the falling rain. It’s just lunchtime, but already the sky is as grey as though dusk were falling. The all-pervading sound is of rain cascading from the gutter onto the lower roof, and I have a profound feeling of gratefulness for the protection of strong walls and a warm, dry house.

oak 004

First conkers

This afternoon I found my first conkers of the autumn. Still snug in their prickly armour, they were nestled in the grass where they had fallen. One had a faint line of chestnut-brown where it was beginning to push its way out into the world; so I stamped on it to help it on its way!

Another was completely enclosed, so with a little more effort I stamped on that too, and inside was a completely white conker, not yet exposed to the air. Over the next couple of hours it gradually coloured to mottled brown; and I’m sure that by tomorrow morning it will be as glossy a chestnut-brown as its mates.