September 24, 2012

Natural treasures found during fall

By JOLENE WALLACE, Cornell Cooperative Extension

---- — Now that it’s officially fall, our work in the garden shifts to harvesting, cleaning up and getting the flower and vegetable beds ready for winter and for next spring. 

For me, this is less labor intensive than spring and summer, and I find that I have more time to enjoy the season. One of the things I look forward to as we get into October is the noticeable change in how my surroundings look and feel.

I like summer, but not the heat. The falling temperatures suit me very nicely, and I like to see the geese stopping by on their annual migration. I have only seen a few so far; one wedge (a V-shaped formation of geese) and one skein (a straight line of geese), but hearing them and knowing that it won’t be long before they will be arriving in great numbers makes me happy. I live near the lake, and when they number in the hundreds, I can hear them all night even with the windows closed. It’s heavenly.

I don’t think there are any among us who don’t enjoy seeing the changing colors of the landscape. It’s as though nature gives us one last show before it rests for winter. I think of it as the grand finale at a fireworks display. We know it marks the end of the show, but we are dazzled. Even if we have to rake leaves every weekend, for the compost pile of course (you’re going to need those brown carbons to get you through to next year, so start stockpiling them), it is great to be outside. I spent the first seven years of my life in Illinois and still remember the fun of raking and jumping into piles of fall leaves. It’s a sweet memory.

I am distracted when walking about during the fall because I keep a keen eye open for the season’s treasures. 

In addition to the falling temperatures and falling leaves, some of nature’s treasures are falling from the trees or are ready to be plucked off bushes, weeds or plants. We are fortunate that we can take a hike or walk on a beautiful fall day and find an assortment of leaves, pinecones, seed heads, pods, twigs, nuts, grasses and even weeds that “big-city” folk would have to pay lots of money for. And many of us never have to leave our yards to do so. These gifts of nature make super fall and winter decor. They can be painted or left natural, used in a wreath or placed in a bowl for your Halloween or Thanksgiving table centerpiece, and then repurposed for the winter holidays and New Year’s.

What a great family outing you can have. The kids or grandkids would have a ball finding treasures they can use to design their own works of art, and the whole family can enjoy the time outdoors when nature is at its most beautiful.

I’ll be holding a wreath-making class early this winter, so collect enough goodies to decorate yours and watch for an announcement of day and time.

Jolene Wallace is the horticulture program assistant for Cornell Cooperative Extension in Clinton County. Contact her at 561-7450 or