Sunday, October 4, 2015

From Summer to Fall

A blog is like a garden, bearing weeds as well as flowers. One of the most persistent weeds is guilt: guilt for not posting as often as you think you ought, guilt for not visiting your bloggy friends, guilt for falling behind on a series, guilt for being too busy or tired or disorganised to keep up with it all.

Weeds must be pulled, or they'll take over the garden. So out of this plot, my blog, I pluck this weed, guilt. Then I throw it on the scrap heap, and turn my attention to the flowers.


What do you do when you're behind on posting? Do you play catch-up and try to cram in everything you've missed? Or do you skip to the present and let what's past fall into oblivion?

This blog being in part a sort of Wisconsin Cyclist's Country Diary, I think I'll play catch-up. During a transitional season like fall, two and a half weeks can bring a lot of change to the countryside.

Tuesday Evening Walk to the Park

A windy, golden evening in mid-September; the tail end of summer. The inner pond at our local park is surrounded by a wealth of wildflowers and ornamental wild grasses, including New England Aster (purple), Cardinal Flower (red), Cut-Leaved (or possibly Columnar) Coneflower (yellow), and Purple Coneflower (bright mauve), all seen below:

At the park exit, hammered-silver water stained orange by the setting sun:

A lovely walk.

Last Ride of Summer

Summer's heavy green mantle is beginning to look faded and torn; the woods and fields are raggedy-edged with the approach of autumn. But asters still shine palely from the roadside:

I pass a local campground and finally take a picture I've been meaning to take for months:

"Redneck Flamingo Farm"

Dee, these photos are for you. I think of you every time I pass this spot. :)

A few miles on, the road kisses these train tracks:

I linger here for several minutes, hoping for a train, but no luck.

A gravel drive leads across the tracks to a lovely barn. Beyond the curve is a house hidden by trees; whoever lives there gets to enjoy the thunder of the rails several times a day.

Up the road is a rather gorgeous marsh, with satin-rippled waters reflecting trees caught changing into their fall garb:

Tallulah sits patiently in her basket while I take pictures:

Back on the bike, we round a corner and head down a seldom-ridden road. A flock of geese flies low over the woods, calling goodbye to summer:

Aster grows in white drifts like snow along the fence to my right. I park the bike and climb through the ditch for a closer look:

This variety is called Heath Aster, and features thyme-like foliage and myriad tiny white blossoms.

While taking these photos, I hear a train whistle. It's only five minutes since I left the tracks. Sigh.

Miles later, in a field at the top of a high bank, we see three sweet-eyed ... donkeys? Mules? I'm not sure which. Then out from behind some trees come two others. They're all as interested in me as I am in them:

A sunny, still-warm ride; but fall is just a few days away.

First Ride of Autumn

A week goes by before I'm able to ride again. Autumn has officially arrived, but temps are still warm and I haven't yet put away my sandals. This Sunday is cloudy and breezy; the wind has gone round to the east, giving a hint of the chilly temperatures to come.

Hoping to see some milkweed, I turn down a short dead-end road just outside town (where I've seen milkweed growing in previous years). A few hundred yards later something blue catches my eye. From a distance it looks like bellflower, but it turns out to be Great Blue Lobelia, a flower I've never seen before (and, as it happens, a member of the bellflower family):

The blossoms are a deep, intense blue. They look both alpine and exotic to my eye, and are absolutely gorgeous. Another new flower for the list - I'm glad I turned down that road!

Not far away is the milkweed I was looking for - gone to seed, and with a surprise contingent of bugs packed into the pod:

Research reveals them to be Red Milkweed Beetles (duh!). That little bright-red guy on the right is a nypmh; when he grows up he'll have the handsome red-and-black pattern of the larger beetles on the left.

A few miles later we ride past a marsh edged with bright-red-berry-bearing trees:

Common Milkweed grows here too - the leaves turn lemon-coloured in fall, making the plant look like a large yellow flower:

Down the road I spy a small clump of white blossoms. They look a bit like Pearly Everlasting, but later I find they're called Cat's-foot (according to my favourite wildflower website, their Latin name is Gnaphalium obtusifolium - which sounds like a sneeze to me - but other sites classify them as Antennaria). Other common names for this flower are Fragrant Cudweed, Old-field-balsam, Old-field cudweed, and Rabbit-tobacco. :)

Just overhead is a leafless walnut tree, with quite a few nuts still hanging on:

Around a few corners, a cluster of orange leaves catches my eye:

More glimpses of orange, at the feet of my favourite larches:

The last shot of the ride is Iris, my faithful vintage Cannondale, leaning against a rusty bridge railing:

It's the last Sunday in September. The year has turned the corner; soon the cycling season will be over.

Chilly Sunday Walk

This week was one of crisp clear days and frost-edged nights. A bright blue day in early autumn is cheering and invigorating; a chilly grey one is not.

Today, the first Sunday of October, is chilly and grey and damp. My cycling self, which may be said to have two natures (the Higher and the Lower), whispers conflicting messages to me. From the Higher, "You really ought to ride today. It's October, after all - not many weeks left in the season. Gather ye miles while ye may." To which the Lower replies, "Hey, this is a low-pressure cycling year. You took plenty of cold grey rides in the Spring. Cut yourself some slack and take a walk instead. You never know what might be growing at the prairie restoration site...."

Lower wins the day and I opt for a walk. Hatted and fleece-vested, I wonder what happened to the carefree days of tees and sandals. Already they seem part of the dim and distant past. I console myself with the reflection that when summer comes again, the cold will be as distant a memory as the warmth is now.

A few summer flowers are still blooming along my way; red clover, white campion, soapwort, aster, chickweed, and this tiny specimen, called Quickweed, which I've never researched or photographed until today:

Trees are still mostly green, but vines and creeper are decking them with red:

Goldenrod, now but a pale fluffy shadow of its former yellow glory:

Patches of threadlike red grass, with miniscule waving seeds, grow across a field:

In the next field is a honking flock of Canada geese, knee-deep in alfalfa:

The path turns left to cross the fields, and passes a small-leaved shrub:

In the spring, I marvelled at its tiny leaf buds, no bigger than a bead in my hand. Now the leaves have lived their short life, and soon they will fall to the ground, to become part of the earth from which they grew. (A grey Autumn day brings thoughts like this.)

The path turns again, to pass under trees already looking bare:

Around a few corners is the prairie restoration project, a vast field of native wild grasses and flowers that are as beautiful in fall and winter as they are in spring and summer:

A bit of down, caught on a lichened twig, flutters in the wind:

Over my head, dark berries hang from bright red stems:

A contemplative walk on a cold autumn day.


In the last few weeks, I've seen plenty of apples on trees and berries on bushes. It's been a fruitful year for these growing things, but how fruitful has my year been? I'm not sure. There are so many things I'd have liked to do but didn't: so many patterns I wanted to post; so many poems that never got written; so many trips that couldn't be taken. (I'd like to add, so much laundry that never got folded - but eventually it all did. It just sat around for a long time. There's a pile of it in the bedroom right now, waiting patiently for me to stop frittering away my time on the computer.)

How about your year? Has it been as fruitful as you'd like?


P.S. Current wildflower count: 140!

P.P.S. There are two more installments to our series on Binding Off Knitted Projects with a Crochet Hook. They're running a little behind schedule, but they should be up in the next two weeks. :)

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  1. Your posts are incredible gifts to readers, Sue. We don't deserve your generosity. Please let go of your self imposed angst about your posting and commenting schedules. I am delighted whenever you post and comment. I admire your many talents. I have so many favorite photos in this post...the lupin and milkweed with bugs among them. Thank you for posting. Wishing you a Happy Week! xx

  2. Such nice shots of the changing of the season, Sue. I especially enjoyed the donkies, so sweet with their long, furry ears! I love all the autumn flowers and have a soft spot for those little asters!

  3. How I enjoyed exploring the Wisconsin countryside with you. I think I might like to join you on a bike ride one day. The laundry can wait if there is so much beauty to explore. I fold my laundry on the dining room table so I absolutely have to tidy it away before dinner :-) x

  4. What a lovely post, such beautiful pictures and very beautifully written too. No guilt please! I love that barn, and you've made me smile with the flamingoes, I always think of Dee when I see a flamingo as well. You have a gorgeous bike. You've reminded me that I haven't taken mine out for a while. Must do that soon. Wishing you a good week. CJ xx

  5. Thank you, thank you and a thousand more thank you's for sharing these lovely plants and places. I botany geeked my way through the photos on a particularly horrendous morning and found a small pot of peace at the end. You are a treasure. :-)

  6. Never feel guilty about your blog, life happens and it happens away from blog land and your computer. You post when you can, don't set rules. Enjoy your blog and the friendships and inspiration it brings but do not feel guilty. I enjoyed catching up with you Sue. You are a busy and active person, I am so impressed with that. And the photo with the beetles is truly amazing.

  7. Nice catch up, love the Redneck Flamingo Farm. I never get caught up, my imagination far exceeds my energy.

  8. Thanks for the Wisconsin ride Mrs. M! I always enjoy your photos. I'm not sure which pic I like the best, perhaps the snowdrift like aster. I also like the Cardinal Flower. Tallulah seems to handle the brisk temperatures quite well.

    Yes, my year was fruitful. However, I can't believe fall is here! Snowcatcher and I had a few flakes of snow on Cottonwood Pass yesterday. Moreover, one of my favorite ski areas (Copper Mountain) posted their start date of November 6th – one month away. Seasons be a chang'n.

  9. How I enjoy your flower filled postings! The blue flower is a striking shade of blue, isn't it wonderful?

  10. Did you have to show the bug infested milk weed? I have itchies now! Ugh.
    I loved all the other flowers and the pretty marsh.
    I have not put away my sandals either ! Indian Summer lies ahead!
    As for blog guilt: life's too short! I just pick up and go if I've been away awhile

  11. Dear, most lovely Sue,

    Seriously, it is bloomin' fabulous to catch up with you and I do declare that you are an excellent source of botanical knowledge. Thank you for broadening my willing mind in all matters of wildflowers, etc.

    Those flamingos? Héloïse came home from her first drama class of the year at the Conservatoire which is pretty famous for its' classical approach to acting, dance and music. All twenty students were given an animal persona and then proceeded to walk around the premises of the conservatoire transformed into that animal and each time they met somebody on their travels they had to remain in their role. Héloïse, incidentally, was a flamingo! I will show her this remarkable picture of yours when I see her later this week.

    Warmest wishes and happy Fall to you dear friend.

    Stephanie x

  12. I am so thankful you made this blog post and did not just let it go. Your photos and your writing always inspires me. I don't want you to ever feel guilt over not posting, because life sometimes takes over our crafty lives, but I do hope you always keep this blog going. I enjoy seeing the lovely landscapes and flowers and reading about your adventures. Thank you friend. Your blog is a true gift to the world. :)

  13. Er Mah Gerd!!!! All KINDS of flamingos. TOO COOL!

    Your photographs are awesome. I miss living up north this time of year. Looks like you have had BEAUTIFUL rides.

  14. I think there were 4 donkeys and a mule. I've always wanted a cute little donkey. I'm glad you got us all caught up! My advice on blogging and guilt is.. don't worry about anything! Have fun with it. We all have ebbs and flows in our blogs and our lives.. it all works out. We like you however you have time to give of yourself. Capiche? ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

  15. I loved this post, Sue! So many beautiful photos! So sorry that I've been absent from your blog ~ We've basically been traveling since Terry retired at the end of February. When I fall behind, it seems to be with visiting and replying to everyone! I often try to catch up on posts I've missed. I've been pretty consistent with publishing my northern posts on Friday, but other than that, sometimes even posting falls by the wayside! Happy autumn to you ~ Your post was a delight!

  16. No guilt allowed! Post when you can. Read when you can. That's the joy of blogging. I enjoyed catching up with you today. Gorgeous pictures as always.

  17. I think it's good to just start back where you are with blogging when you've been away, but it's okay to backtrack sometimes too. There are just some things you really want to share and that's a great thing. I really enjoyed seeing your latest bike rides. It's interesting to watch the seasons change with you as you ride around the countryside. I especially enjoyed in this post the Heath Aster and Quickweed, neither of which I've ever noticed before. My wildflower count is going up right along with yours! :)

  18. Beautiful photo's I always love your posts so full of colour and interesting facts I always learn something. You can't feel guilty it has no pace in the blogging world, life gets in the way no matter how you play it we are only human after all. I've had the guilty feelings too but really when you come to think of it why should we feel guilty? now I'm blogging when I can and when I'm in the mood and it's usually about what's going on in the present back tracking never works for me unless it's something that needs to be out there. Blogging is supposed to be fun, have a great week. :) xx

  19. I just loved this post..You must live in the wildflower capital of the world. Each photo had me ooohing and aaahhhing.
    I understand the guilt. I do the same thing and it is just nonsense, but so difficult to stop.
    Have a lovely rest of the week.

  20. You may put as much space as you want between posts when you keep coming up with such heavenly shots! I feel like I've just been and a ride and a walk with you!

    I love, love, love the blue lobelia! But those bugs taking shelter in the seed pod really got me chuckling!


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