By Bob Beyfuss
For Capital Region Independent Media
I just returned from a delightful 2,400 mile road trip to eastern Tennesssee, where I got to observe the fall foliage displays in New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee.
My usual route on these southern jaunts takes me first west to Binghamton via I88, and then south on I-81 for at least 300 miles. Traffic was light and the surrounding trees were putting on a spectacular show for almost the entire trip.
It is probably 100 miles or more longer to take this route, than to head down the New York State Thruway and eventually I-95, but I try to avoid any route that takes me through New Jersey, or anywhere else on the I-95 corridor. The traffic and urban congestion, particularly through Baltimore and Washington, is a nightmare and I would gladly drive an extra 100 to 200 miles to avoid it! So I do!
As I get older, I am acutely aware that time is fleeting and accelerating faster with each season that passes, so it is very important to make the most of getting from Point A to Point B, as pleasurably as possible! Life is really more about the journey than the final destination.
The fall colors ranged from spectacular to just great, for most of the trip, but I must say that overall, the fall season we have experienced in the Catskills and the Adirondacks, surpassed anything I saw along the way. We are fortunate to live in the great Northeast for many reasons and this is a major one!
Of course, our display is not quite over yet, as bare trees replace most of the colorful leaves we had a few weeks ago. There are still some species of deciduous trees that are just now beginning to peak, including some oaks, beech and hickories.
I took a few pictures of my backyard gingko and larch trees, which both feature golden leaves that will drop shortly, as we get some hard freezes. Larch is one of the very few deciduous, needle-bearing trees that sheds its current year’s foliage.
Dawn redwood is another such species, but the tiny one I planted this fall needs to get a bit larger before that happens. White pine, spruce and fir trees shed their inner, older needles, usually unnoticed, over a few weeks, but this fall, the local white pine shed last year’s needles quickly, providing even more beautiful yellow colors, contrasting with their current season’s green needles as that happened.
This is a great time for some window shopping at local garden centers and nurseries since it is a bit late to be planting. Many consumers seem to focus too much on spring flower displays after enduring a typical, miserable Northeast winter. Right now is the time of year when many trees and shrubs put on their best show!
You need not confine your window shopping to garden centers, however, as your car windows work just as well on roadside trees and shrubs, or your neighbor’s landscape. I marked some roadside hedge maples that I root pruned a couple of weeks ago to facilitate spring transplanting. Some of the prettiest, red fall foliage I have ever seen is found on a rather uncommon landscape tree called Sourwood. Sweetgum is another species that I formerly considered to not be really hardy in our area, along with Kentucky coffee tree, but with warmer temperatures, I would give either, or both, a try!
If you grew pumpkins, or are buying some for Halloween, remember that once they start to turn orange, even a tiny bit, they will continue to color up in the next weeks. I was pleasantly surprised to see that some hard, green tomatoes I put in a paper bag with a ripe apple have turned red and are really quite tasty still! The apple gives off ethylene gas as it ripens and this speeds up the tomato-ripening process remarkably. Some other tomatoes that I did not put in the bag, are still as green and as hard as they were two weeks ago! Of course, this technique works for green avocados as well, if you need to make some guacamole this weekend!
Winter squash of all types, including pumpkins, will store best if subject to warm temperatures (80 degrees or so) right after harvest for a couple of weeks. Eat acorn squash first, as they tend to have the shortest storage life. Spaghetti squash will store for most of the winter.
Ornamental gourds should be washed in soapy water with some household bleach added. Drill a small hole on either end of the gourd to facilitate the drying process. They can also be waxed or even painted once dry!