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Signs of Fall

Two distinctive signs of fall are evident now. The pumpkins are ripe and are over-flowing the local fields. They symbolize the richness of the end of harvest season and the celebration of Halloween. Few of us ask how the pumpkin assumed this role but it appears to have been a result of a number of Irish traditions having to do with use of a Jack O Lanterns to frighten away evil spirits and to welcome the souls of the departed. A more benevolent interpretation could be that the pumpkin is simply a beautiful symbol of the harvest season and delicious in pies to boot.

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Another natural fall occurrence is the maturation and migration of monarch butterflies which are heading to Mexico for the winter, where they spend a quiet period at high altitudes. They do not individually make the entire journey but produce a number of generations which collectively travel the distance. We notice this time of year that monarch adults are flying more or less in a southerly direction, and stopping to drink nectar from fall-blooming flowers such as the various asters which are characteristically in bloom this time of year. But if you are examine the numerous milkweed plants in fields, you will find some last stage monarch caterpillars that are nearing their time of pupation and subsequent emergence as beautiful butterflies. So farmers may be less than happy about all those milkweed plants which are poisonous to livestock, but milkweeds are the only source of food for the caterpillar of America's favorite butterfly.

Bill Dunson