Bonus days

Fall is dragging its feet getting into winter and although some people and plants I know are ready for it to be cold, it couldn’t be a sweeter treat for us gardeners. We’ve been braced for bitter winds and flurries ever since the first frost (which came with bitter winds and flurries) but have been able to leave our coats on hooks and mittens in pockets for weeks now. These last few days especially have been weirdly warm but so perfect for taking in the last of the fall color seemingly stuck in a holding pattern, and catching up on outside work. Gail and I spent most of today picking more veg for the food pantry (lettuce, carrots, spinach, kale and more!) and spent yesterday in the Display Garden tidying up fallen seed heads. We still can’t quite do the final cutback: some of the plants, like nicotiana and a few salvias, haven’t quit blooming yet; others like yarrow and calendula have started up all over again.

The bees are still out foraging and there are great clots of milkweed bugs on the crispy milkweed seedpods (can they still eat the dead tissue or are they just … busy?) and they’re even on nicotiana leaves. Every year we have to look these guys up to see if they’re good, bad or indifferent. They do eat milkweed pods – and maybe nicotiana leaves? – and because of that they themselves are as safe as Monarchs from predation. (Any bird silly enough to eat one will get the throw-ups.) But we only remember spotting them at the end of the season and they don’t seem to do a lot of damage. So we left them and their plants be. The bugs pictured are adults; as instars they are smaller, shiny bright orange-red and wingless. (As always, click the pic to enlarge.)

Despite the bonus of unfrozen days, some creatures don’t seem to be finding what they need to survive winter (if it ever gets here.) Have you noticed an absence of acorns this year? We know that oaks put out extra acorns now and again as a way of insuring that some of them survive to become trees, and Gail and I remember last year as a big acorn year. This year the trees rested apparently and the squirrels are frantic. Good thing we planted tulips… If anyone has a good squirrel pilfer prevention technique to share, please do!

Are you enjoying a few extra days of mild weather too – or do you just think it’s too weird and time for a change?