Despite their name

Despite their name

From Loon Lake Road: Visitors of all kinds are starting to leave

Some birds have already left or are getting ready to depart, while the squirrels are storing up food for winter.

Fall comes in on the wind

The calendar says there are still several weeks of summer left; but the sounds in nature say that fall is fast approaching. The crickets are singing in the trees, and the Clark’s nutcrackers are making much noise as they check out the year’s supply of pine cones. They amuse me as they sway and balance on the tip of a branch, working at extracting seeds from the cones. On the hillsides that define the Loon Lake valley the breeze in the trees sounds like a fall breeze. It’s difficult to describe the exact difference, but after years of experience I just know the sound has changed to a fall sound.

Not a fan of the heat

Summer has been most enjoyable for me. I tend to thrive better in weather that is cooler, and do not like temperatures over about 28 C. I cringe when I hear the reporter on the radio refer to a forecast for temperatures of 32 C. and sunny as a “nice day”. No, it is not; a nice day is mixed sun and clouds and 22 to 26 degrees, thank you very much. I know that tomatoes, pumpkins, and basil (among other plants) like the heat to produce well, and growing them here has always been an iffy kind of undertaking. NO pumpkins set on the vines this year. I usually grow tomatoes bred for colder climates, like sub-Arctic maxi and Manitoba, and they are doing okay; however, it is now a question of whether they will ripen on the vine before the first frost. The tender herbs like basil and marjoram have been shivering these last few nights, probably longing for a nice warm blanket.

Squirrelling away food

The urge to store away foodstuffs for the winter has sent the squirrels up the trees, felling cones and running in all directions to build up their stockpiles, even though they have lots lying around from last year. I, too, have been affected by the urge to put away food for the winter, and now have stockpiles of tomatoes in various forms, including sauce, dried tomatoes, and frozen tomatoes. I have also stashed away jars of canned peaches, plums, apples and applesauce, bags of frozen peas, beans, cauliflower, broccolini, and frozen small zucchini. Every year I plant one zucchini bush in my last year’s compost, and they usually do well. This year I choose to plant one with yellow zucchinis rather than the green, and determined to ensure that every one was noticed and picked before they got too big and tasteless.

So far it has worked, but it is getting more difficult to find another variation on zucchini for dinner. I like them sliced and basted with olive oil and garlic, then lightly grilled. Use a vegetable peeler to make ribbons of zucchini, which can be put into salads and stir fries. Zucchini sticks are a good base for getting dip out of the bowl. They are also good just dipped in egg and flour and fried, and make up good zucchini and feta cheese pancakes. Chopped zucchini goes in soups and sauces, and after all that there are still three more waiting to be used. What next? I find that freezing the small zucchini whole (about the diameter of a loonie) works well. During the winter when I need a zucchini I take one out and let it sit on the cutting board for about 10 minutes; then it is easy to chop up to add to soups and so forth.

Birds begin to take wing

Most of the hummingbirds have now migrated, and I miss the entertainment they have provided over the summer. Four baby squirrels have come down from their nest and are supplying some alternative entertainment as they scurry after each other around the fir trees, but they do not interact with people in the way the hummingbirds do.

All summer I have been under the watchful eye of a flock of turkey vultures. While that may sound ominous, it is not. They are actually good neighbours, and don’t make all the noise that eagles do; in fact, they are mostly silent. Unlike eagles, they are no threat to any pets or living creatures; they just clean up dead carcasses. I am not sure what they live on here, but they seem to do okay.

They roost in the tops of the older fir trees nearby, and then in the early morning they spread their wings out in the sunshine. Those wings are huge, with spans of 170 to 180 cm. There is some die-back on the trees they prefer to roost in, as they are so heavy they break off the tender growing shoots, adding character to the tree. They seem to spend most of their day sailing and soaring on thermal drafts and winds. Soon they, too, will migrate south with the other summer birds of Loon Lake Road, both the feathered and the human variety.