Signs of autumn here

There was a hint of fall in the air this morning as I walked to work. My thermal coffee cup felt warming to the touch.
The cool Sunday night air had made sleeping finally comfortable in our second storey bedroom.
For the month of August, the attic and ceiling across the second floor of our home had radiated heat all night long.
August has been particularly dry and nowhere is that clearer than my lawn. Sections are as hard as stone and as brown as shoe leather.
It will take considerable watering to persuade the roots of grass to begin sending shoots up again.
At the lake, in the past week the leaves of the white birch have turned sun yellow with flecks of black. They are already falling to the ground. The birch trees are stressed out.
The white pines this year are loaded with cones and the red squirrels can’t be happier.
If the work of the squirrels is any indication, we are probably in for an early and long winter. With the first light of the morning, they were all at the tops of white pines, dropping pinecones to the forest floor.
On Saturday, we were startled awake by a series of loud thumps on the cabin roof.
Around our lake property, several white pines hang over the cabin and the continuous beat of green pine cone bombs dropping on the metal cabin roofs could be heard across the lake.
I think that the squirrels are a little upset when the cones come to rest on the roof, because that means that they have to carry them down to the forest floor. Gravity is their great ally. Every once in a while, one of the red squirrels will sit on its haunches and strip the cone bare of all the seeds. It’s their energy break.
Hundreds of green cones now litter the brown pine needle floor. They are still dropping the cones from the trees and I don’t suspect that they will be hauling away their stash for a while.
I wonder how sticky their teeth get from all the pine gum that surrounds those cones. Hopefully they will miss a few cones on the tops of the trees that will disperse their seeds in the wind later this fall. A few of the white pines hang over water and any dropping of those cones will be a waste of effort by the squirrels.
I sat on the deck and watched a squirrel take the cones off the roof.
It would grab a cone and race to the edge where the tree came closest to the roof, then stop and, holding the cone with its front paws, would whittle one end of the cone down to a stem, then put the stem in its mouth, jump to the tree, race down with the cone pointed straight in front of itself and then scoot under the deck.
Within minutes, the red squirrel would race back up the tree, screech at us as it reached the roof line and then race across the roof to grab another cone. It must have spent an hour retrieving those cones off the roof and then stashing them.
As the sun began setting, the squirrel’s activity simmered down. No longer were they bragging about ownership of trees and the quantity of cones they were putting away. At darkness they were quiet.
Sunday morning they resumed their attack.

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