Friday, September 16, 2011

Change of Seasons

The season of the year can be an important element in a story. A story set in fall or winter can have an entirely different feel to it than one set in early spring or summer.

Labor Day is past, the Autumnal Equinox is a week away, and here in southern Minnesota the temperature has dropped enough for frost in the early morning. Furnaces are beginning to be turned on for the evenings. Leaves on some trees are beginning to change color, but the lawn mowers are still in use for another few weeks before they're put away for rakes. School buses are shrouded in fog in the early morning while students shiver as they wait at street corners.

Other parts of the country experience fall differently. And in the Southern Hemisphere spring is beginning.

Does your character have rituals for the season? How long does the family have to wait (adding layers of sweaters or sweatshirts or quilts) before the furnace is turned on in the fall? When are the fall clothes and jackets and coats retrieved from the back closets and the light weight summer outfits put away for the season?

I have a black walnut tree in my back yard. At this time of year, this means I usually have to go through the yard and throw all the fallen black walnuts off to one side before mowing (otherwise it's very easy to trip over the things while trying to mow). I give the neighborhood squirrels a few weeks to work on the black walnuts, but there will come a time when I'll gather up the mounds of black walnuts and bring boxes of them over to the town's compost farm where the farm's goats and cattle are happy to have them. I've heard black walnuts are tasty, but I've never had the time or equipment to deal with them. I'll find little stashes of black walnuts around my deck, in corners in the front yard, on steps, etc., that the squirrels have 'hidden' away. (note to squirrels: putting a large black walnut into a small pot of flowers next to my back door isn't hiding it too well).

Are there specific chores related to the season that your character has? The next door neighbor's children love to create leaf piles. The bigger, the better. This means that they are actively trying to rake all the neighbor's front yards - unless they get distracted by a different game. Meanwhile the leaves keep falling. My parents had a summer cottage in Wisconsin, so my sisters and I had to help rake leaves there as well as help disassemble the pier and put the boats away each fall.

How are leaves disposed of? When I was young, we could burn our leaves in our yards. Where I live now, leaves cannot be burned in town. My young neighbors won't associate fall with the smell of burning leaves. I bring bags of leaves from the back yard to the compost farm and watch the goats there investigate what people bring. Leaves from the front yard (hackberry and maple trees) are taken by my neighbor to cover his garden for the winter.

There are other fall routines. The de-humidifier in the basement is turned off and the humidifers in the living room and bedroom are cleaned and turned on. Gardens or farms have their final harvests. Cars are checked and tuned-up for the winter. The outside water faucets are turned off and hoses draped around the yard to drain.

What are some of your fall routines? What is autumn like in your area?

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