Autumnal Anticipations

It’s a cool, damp and dark day yet again in south central Alaska along with being the Autumnal Equinox; I’m taking a break from working a plethora of spreadsheets to look out the window.  Uncharacteristically, there’s a fair amount of wind even down close to the ground and combined with the cool drizzle – it is 43.8° F/6.6° C – the yellow and gold birch leaves are rapidly falling to the ground denuding their homes of the last four plus months.  Said leaves are forming a yellow carpet which while pretty can be rather slippery when coated with rain.  The second floor view from my office window looks south into a portion of the boreal forest which makes up part of my yard and is often home to moose as there are a number of dwarf willows intermingled with the other ground based fauna.  Sadly, most of the color change is now just a memory as the weather is feeling more and more like fall.  We have seen a morning temperature below freezing just once to this point which probably explains why these conditions seem to be about a week to a week and a half later than I remember.

a-view-from-my-office

The view from my office window on the Autumnal Equinox, 2016

Even with the windows closed I can hear the dulcet tones of my wind chimes; it occurs to me I haven’t heard much from them this year but then the thick boreal forest which I live within and stretches for tens of miles in every direction does an excellent job of stopping the wind.  It is not uncommon for me to see the tops of birches and spruce – around 35 to 40 feet (10.7 to 12.2 meters) – swaying many feet off center while there is almost no air moving at ground level and even smoke from the burn barrel rises only slightly off vertical.  The sky continues its multiple day run of ragged overcast birthing drizzle along with the occasional rain shower.  Indeed, we’ve seen 0.96” (2.44 cm) of rain across the last 48 hours.  September is this area’s second wettest month of the year averaging 4.2” (10.67 cm) but this September we’ve already seen 4.78” (12.14 cm) of rain which is 113.8% of normal.  We still have eight days left in September and we’re forecast to see rain across most of them so it is very likely we could well see 150% of ‘typical’ monthly rainfall.

I, along with most of the locals, am wishing for a ‘real’ Alaskan winter across 2016 – 2017.  The previous three winters have set records for the warmest and driest on record.  I long to see 5 feet (1.52 meters) of snow pack and taste the raw cold of a -35° F (-37.2° C) morning; while these might seem extreme in a ‘typical’ winter in south central Alaska they are almost ‘normal’.  Heck, I’d even deal with a daylong electrical outage if it were caused by a snowstorm dropping 20” (50.8 cm) of fluffy Talkeetna snow.  But, as we all know, Mother Nature will do as she will and we’re just along for the ride.

With the advent of autumn I’ve begun my ‘winterization’ routines; this being the fourth such repetition I’m beginning to get the routine down.  If the snow holds off for another seven to eight weeks I hope to get a number of blown down trees cut up, sized and stacked for seasoning.  My buddy, Sarge, will be visiting for a couple of weeks in mid-October and we have a number of large projects scheduled like building a wood shed and creating my long time longed for ‘aurorium’ from which I can view the aurora borealis in comfort.  There a myriad of other smaller projects as well but by the time we’re done I hope to be at a point whereby I’m done with ‘home improvement’ efforts for a while and can instead concentrate on ‘home maintenance’ work.

There’s a comfortable rhythm in this lifestyle; one tied so closely to Nature.  My Chickadees, Red-Breasted Nuthatches and similar are now at the feeders continually and I’d guess 85% of the black oilers they select are going into cracks in tree bark and similar as stored food for the upcoming winter.  They are also much more vocal when the feeders are empty; while the Nuthatches will dive bomb me chattering away I swear if I held out my hand a few of the Chickadees would alight and scold me vociferously.  I was seeing lots of moose a few weeks back but now that hunting season is open they are nowhere to be found.  I suspect the bears will soon begin to head up to higher elevations seeking dens in which to sleep away yet another winter.  And the days are really becoming shorter now; within a week or so I will remove the last of my light barriers in the master bedroom in anticipation of clear evenings enhanced by the aurora.  This flow just seems so natural and peaceful.

Alaska is an amazing place and one which is so closely tied to Nature; I love living up here as do my canine companions Anana and Qanuk.  I so enjoy watching Anana come back into the house after her morning ‘constitutional’ to take care of business when the temp first drops below freezing; she has a spring in her step and a glint in her eyes.  Qanuk just goes with the flow; as long as he gets outside to run once a day he’s happy.  I am blessed to have both of them with me up here and they are a huge part of my life in semi-rural Alaska.  And they continually remind me of the importance of living in the ‘now’; no need to worry about the past or the future – just enjoy ‘now’.

Sadly, I have to get back to my spreadsheeting but I also have a warm and peaceful feeling as I hear my Toyo Monitor furnace grumbling as it comes to life.  It has run just twice last week; prior to that it was late April when it last fired up.  I know I’ll be hearing a lot more of it in the coming weeks and I’ll be supplementing it with some now seasoned firewood in the wood burning stove Sarge and I installed last October.  The wind continues to blow the yellow and gold birch leaves around under a dark, ragged cloud cover.  Mmmm, this I just another wonderful Alaskan day..!

fall-color-092016

A view of the unmaintained portion of East Barge Drive perhaps 0.6 miles east of my place; I took this image a couple days back when walking ‘the kidz’

9 thoughts on “Autumnal Anticipations

  1. Mum uses electricity almost exclusively (if I was home more, she’d use the woodstove-it needs work and she needs assistance, but she has done this for decades). I love watching the golden coins fall onto the lake and carpet the ground. Fall in Alaska is short, but I love it all the more because of the brevity! Thanks for sharing your thoughts today~ They were much appreciated!

    • Fall was my favorite season during the 59 years I lived in the lower 48 but I’d have to give a slight edge to winter up here. Most of this is based upon what you noted; fall is just plain short in Alaska! While the crisp fall weather and riotous fall colors might last for two to three weeks in the Midwest we’re lucky to see a full week of color before the cold rains and wind strip the birches. But winter in this area is a magical time assuming we get cold and snow! I love walking ‘the kidz’ on a clear December day when everything is wearing 16+ inches of fine, powdery Talkeetna snow and the air temp is well below zero. The scenery is dead quiet as the snow cover on the trees and ground absorbs even small sounds; all I hear is my own breathing, the crunch of my boots and maybe some noise from my canine companions. The whole late summer into winter progression is one I just adore especially as it encompasses my two favorite seasons. Thanks for following my blog and especially for commenting!

      • I will never forget my first fall in Portland, Or. I was giddy!! It lasted forever, the trees on campus had GIANT leaves, and it was just plain amazing. I still love fall in the states, it seems so strange..even now after almost 30 years. However, I am glad I am home this month. I’ll be leaving mid October and the best part? I get TWO fall seasons!

        • I agree wholeheartedly, Kris, fall in the lower 48 is a much more satisfying experience given its duration and the fact that lower latitudes mean more hardwoods which translates to those gorgeous reds, oranges and purples we just do not see up here. I also loved being able to walk through thick carpets of fallen leaves and hear my feet crunching while smelling that ‘earthy’ odor. The birch leaves up here are much more like – to borrow your metaphor – ‘coins’ in size. In addition, they generally fall across a very short time and most often it’s the rain that knocks them from their trees. While one can see a ‘golden carpet’ briefly said carpet would struggle to be even half an inch thick whereas in SE Michigan I remember wandering through forests wherein the fall carpet was at least ankle deep. Without question life is all about making choices and then living with the consequences; in my case I decided I’d prefer living in ‘The Great Land’ even though I’ve given up long and colorful falls, severe thunderstorms and dark summer nights. To this point I remain sanguine with my decision and I love our long winters along with all the large mammals which share the land. I love your solution to the fall issue; spend Alaska’s fall in the Kenai but then travel to the lower 48 and catch at least the last half of their fall!

          • Am smiling.

            • Good morning for a smile as we’ll finally see the sun in a few hours; I can tell it is clear without even looking out the windows as the air temp is 29.6° F and continuing to fall. Only two things could produce this effect: an approaching cold front or clear skies. Given there is no cold front in the area it must be clear skies!

            • hooray for northerns!

  2. I have always thought fall was the most beautiful time of the year for Alaskan scenery, in places it was like looking at an ‘intensely’ colorful painting by one of the great masters of art.

    • Hey Buddy – I guess I spent too much time in the lower 48 as I prefer winter over fall up here although it was the other way around for the 59 years I lived in the lower 48. Our ‘fall weekend’ is just too short and while the yellows and golds are pretty I would love to see oranges, reds, purples and pinks mixed into Nature’s palette. And, of course, I’d love to have our fall last at least another two weeks if not longer. However, I also knew what I was giving up when I relocated; here’s hoping we see a ‘real’ Alaskan winter!

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