As crispy, cool air moves in for October nights, a shuffling sound creeps over yards, squeezing through fences and ending in our backyard. Nighttime activities begin for a family of skunks.
They move about, aerating and cultivating the soil, hunting for grubs and other tasty morsels of underground creatures. Miraculously their odor does not fill our space; the chilling air keeps it down. Apparently either they are quite sure they can fend off anything bent on bothering them or they feel safe in a yard with no dog or cat odors to alert them to other residents.
There is an abundance of subterranean proteins as the land is pretty much free of herbicides and pesticides. Harvesting efforts of the skunks go on for hours. In the morning we will find yards of turf scratched up in piles. Nothing to do but rake it up and hope the neighboring grasses fill in during winter months. Spring should see a whole new green thanks to the skunks. At least, that’s what we tell ourselves.
There is another much more pleasant experience going on from dusk into early morning hours in the yard. Large plantings of four-o-clocks come into their best in the nighttime cool, damp air. Oh, they have flowers from July onward but the lush bouquets of primary reds, yellows, pinks, lavenders, and multicolored blooms brighten in the early morning hours just before dawn. Then, as sunlight touches their dew-laden flowers, they open wide, emitting that wonderful perfume that only evening bloomers seem to have.
Just after dusk and again at dawn, tree lines all around us bounce up and down. Leaves shaking and turning every which way, movement is from one side of a tree to the other, up and down the entire height. Suddenly the turmoil moves to the next tree over. And in a few minutes, the next tree over shakes and bounces. One would think a windy, late summer storm was moving through. But, no, it is three young gray squirrels bent on playing before bed and again upon waking up. Chasing each other, their tiny bodies together exert great force on tree limbs. Perhaps they’re getting ready for their winter marathon. Snowy days will find them in competing sprints to see who can get to the bird feeders first, snagging choice tidbits dropped by the foraging feathered crowds.
Not to be left out of the after-dusk life is a muffled symphony of cricket chirping. We fall asleep to the tiny peeps or scratches of a few crickets and wake to full yard chorus. We have both field and house crickets in the yard. Both are here to find their way into the house or garage if possible, seeking shelter and warmth from the cold air of October. Their song is a series of triple chirps produced by males. An area of modified veins on their wings which ironically is known as the harp, allows them to produce a song. Brown is the house variety, black are the field cousins.
Diligent efforts to keep all cracks and crevices in the foundation and walls filled have been successful in keeping these creatures outside. If they do make their way in we could always eat them. Ugh! While the thought of consuming these little noisemakers makes us shutter, there are countries which farm them for human consumption. Recipes abound on the worldwide web for deep-fried crickets, dried, boiled, sautéed, stir-fried, roasted and pan-fried versions of these bundles of protein. Not to be overlooked are the chocolate covered, candied and barbequed dishes. For us, not even the thought of chocolate chip cookies with roasted crickets chopped up and standing in for nuts can make this creature tempting.
Crispy, cool, October nights have their own special sights and sounds. We welcome autumn creatures to share the yard. We enjoy their antics. We wish them well out there.
Inside, we’ll enjoy a cup of coffee, a couple of cookies loaded with chocolate chips and toasted pecans, windows open to the night air and song. After all, it’s just after dusk and the night is young.