Category: Autumn

7 Uses For Fallen Leaves

By the time autumn hits full swing, many trees will have shed their leaves for the season, and the last vestiges of red, yellow and orange magic will have faded to brown. Raking, blowing and collecting leaves becomes the primary chores of lawn and yard maintenance, and presents most homeowners with large piles of gathered leaves to tend to. It is impossible to count just how many leaves fall to the ground each year, or just how many pounds of leaves get collected curbside, but the numbers are substantial. Cleaning up leaves is considerable work, but not all of those leaves need to be carted away. In fact, there are several different uses of leaves that can be beneficial.

1. Spread leaves as a protective mulch to cover tender perennials or root crops/bulbs in the ground. The leaves will form a natural insulating cover that keeps the soil and the plants within a bit warmer over winter.

2. Create a pile of leaves that will break down and form a crumbly, compost-like material called leaf mold. Even though leaf mold may sound like a blight, it’s actually a good amendment to garden soil, improving its structure and ability to hold water. Leaf mold also attracts beneficial organisms that are vital in healthy soil.

3. Brown leaves can be added to green materials in compost piles to improve the health of the compost being formed. According to the healthy living resource Care2, the ideal ratio is 75 percent brown to 25 percent green materials in compost. Turn compost piles regularly to aerate them.

4. Store dried, mulched leaves in a dry spot so they can be used in the spring as a weed barrier for spring plantings. They will keep weeds at bay and help retain soil moisture to ensure small sprouts have the resources to grow.

5. Use shredded leaves as a lawn supplement. Pass a lawn mower over leaves left on the lawn to break them down into pieces too small to rake. This will help keep the lawn healthy throughout the winter without blocking out needed sunlight.

6. Bag dried leaves and pack them tightly together in cold areas of the home, such as basements or garages. They can act as added insulation. Bags of leaves also can be placed around planting containers to protect them from frost.

7. Gather a few of the best-looking leaves and preserve them. Use an iron on a low setting and press leaves between two pieces of waxed paper until the waxed paper seals together. Or use clear contact paper to achieve the same effect. Fallen leaves can be used in many different ways throughout the year.

Autumn is a Prime Time to Tend Lawns and Gardens

Autumn is gardening season. That statement may not seem right to those who think of the spring as the peak time to care for lawns and gardens. However, autumn is an ideal time to get into the garden and ensure that flowers, trees and garden beds will over-winter successfully.

A number of things make autumn a prime gardening season. The cooler days of fall enable gardeners to spend ample time outdoors without the threat of blazing heat. In addition, soil harbors a lot of residual warmth in autumn. Also, the colder temperatures haven’t yet arrived in autumn, nor have the leaves completely fallen, making fall a prime time to assess what’s already in the landscape, what needs pruning back and where to address planting for next year.

Gardening enthusiasts can focus their attention on these areas this fall.

• Pamper perennials. As annuals and perennials start to fall back, mark the spots where perennials are located so they can be easily identified later on. This way, when planning spots for spring bulbs or other spring layouts for next year, perennials won’t be overlooked or covered over.

• Prune shrubs. Look at shrubs and trees and cut out dead or diseased wood.

• Clean up borders. Weed and tidy up borders and lawn edging.

• Install pavers or rock wall. Embrace the cooler temperatures to work on labor-intensive projects, such as putting in a garden bed, retaining wall or walkway.

• Remove spent summer veggies. Take out vegetable garden plants that have already bloomed and borne fruit. Tidy up vegetable gardens and start to sow cooler weather plants, such as onions, garlic, beans, and sweet peas.

• Rake and compost. Rake the leaves and gather grass clippings to add to the compost pile.

• Plant spring bulbs. Get tulips and other spring bulbs ready for planting so they’ll burst with color next year.

• Dig up herbs. Relocate herbs like parsley or basil to indoor gardens. Otherwise, strip all leaves and freeze for storage during winter.

• Consider mums. Chrysanthemum plants are perennials. While they look beautiful in pots, if planted, maintained and winterized, they can bloom every fall.

• Fertilize the lawn. Fertilizing in autumn helps ensure grass will stay healthy throughout the winter.

• Add mulch and compost to the garden. Replenish spent soil with mulch and compost so garden beds will be revitalized for spring planting.

• Prune hedges. Tidy up hedges, as they won’t be growing much more this year.

• Clean and store equipment. Clean, sharpen and oil all equipment, storing lawn and garden tools properly so they are ready for spring and not lying out all winter.

Autumn may not seem like gardening season, but there are plenty of lawn and garden tasks to tend to during this time of year.

Various Ways You Can Put Pumpkins to Use

Few items signal the fall harvest season more than the bright, orange pumpkins that dot fields and liven up displays outside of homes and businesses. Come fall, many pumpkins are turned into grinning jack-o-lanterns just in time for Halloween. But there are many other uses for pumpkins as well.

Pumpkins are believed to have originated in North America. Early Native Americans relied on pumpkins as a source of food that helped them survive long winters. Pumpkins could be roasted, baked, boiled, and dried, and they were eaten and used as medicine. Pumpkin blossoms were added to stews. The shells of the pumpkins could be dried and used as eating and storage vessels.

While pumpkins may now be symbolic of Halloween, the following are a handful of additional ways this versatile fruit can be put to use.

Beauty regimen

Pumpkins contain a number of essential vitamins and minerals that can help replenish the skin. Pumpkin purée can be mixed with honey, aloe vera gel, olive oil, and a bit of cornmeal to create an exfoliating mask for the face or body. Pumpkin also can be used to rejuvenate dry or tired skin from cold weather.

Honey, pumpkin and yogurt can be mixed together and used to condition hair. Let the mixture sit for 15 to 20 minutes, and then wash it out and shampoo.

Foods and beverages

Pumpkin purée is the basis for many tasty, pumpkin-infused treats. Purée can be used in pies, cakes, muffins, breads, and many additional foods. Pumpkin purée also may be found in certain beverages, such as smoothies and shakes. A bit of spiced purée may appear as flavoring in teas and coffees.

Roasted pumpkin seeds make a healthy treat. Foodies suggest using the seeds from “sugar pumpkins” or the ones best for making pies. Boil the seeds for a few minutes before draining. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray and put the seeds in a single layer. Bake at 400 F for 20 minutes. Allow to cool and serve.

Pumpkin wines and beers are popular as well. There are many recipes for developing sweet, fermented beverages, which tend to be especially popular in the fall.

The “guts” of the pumpkin can be simmered along with aromatics and other vegetables to create a vegetable stock perfect for soups and broths.

Decorations

Pumpkins can also add to one’s home décor during the fall. Pumpkins can be carved for Halloween displays, hollowed-out to hold tealights or simply left on tables and used as centerpieces. Larger pumpkins may be used as natural flower pots for mums or other seasonal floral displays. As the Native Americans once did, pumpkins can be hollowed-out and used as bowls to serve favorite soups and dips.

Use a hollowed, small pumpkin as a natural aromatic candle holder. Cut holes in the sides to vent the exhaust. Rub aromatic spices, such as cloves, nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, and vanilla bean, on the inside of the pumpkin. Insert a beeswax candle in the bottom of the pumpkin and let it send inviting aromas into the air.

Pumpkins are a versatile fruit that can serve many purposes beyond just jack-o-lanterns and pies.

Halloween Pumpkin-Carving Pointers

Transforming pumpkins into cleverly carved creations is a Halloween tradition. Each October, glowing pumpkins take up residence near doorsteps and porches, adding to the magical ambiance of the season. Young and old spend time designing their themes and then taking knife to pumpkin to achieve the desired effects.

Carving pumpkins into jack-o’-lanterns can be traced back centuries to Ireland and a story about “Stingy Jack.” The tale involves Jack outwitting the Devil twice, the second time freeing the Devil from a prank in exchange for the promise that he would not claim Jack’s soul should Jack die. When Jack did die, God did not want the unsavory character in heaven, but the Devil could not claim Jack for hell. Therefore, Jack was relegated to roam the planet indefinitely with only a burning coal to light his way. Jack put that coal into a carved-out turnip. His ghostly figure was referred to as “Jack of the Lantern.” Later on it was shortened to “Jack O’Lantern.” When Irish immigrants arrived in North America, turnips weren’t plentiful, so jack-o’-lanterns were instead carved into pumpkins.

Today, many people carve jack-o’-lanterns, with some featuring just smiling or grimacing faces while others are far more artistic creations. These tips can help anyone carve a pumpkin.

· Begin with a fresh pumpkin. Look for a pumpkin with a green stem. If the pumpkin has been sitting around for too long or has been handled too much, the stem can get brittle and/or fall off. A thick, fresh pumpkin is best for carving.

· Plan your ideas. Draw a plan for your pumpkin before you make your first cut. Then transfer that design to the pumpkin with pen or a thin marker. Pumpkin-carving kits come with designs that can be “traced” by poking small holes to create the outline of the design.

· Don’t cut all the way through. Many professional pumpkin artists do not actually cut clear through the flesh of the pumpkin. They carve and shave off layers of the outer rind until it becomes more translucent. The level of transparency can be adjusted based on how much skin is removed and as a way to add texture and shadowing. The more air that is allowed to penetrate the pumpkin, the faster it will start to degrade.

· Delay carving until the last minute. Wait until the day before Halloween to begin carving. Pumpkins are a perishable item, and they’ll begin to rot as soon as you begin carving. Spritzing them with water can help them stay fresh, but there’s no turning back the clock once the first cut is made.

· Cut a hole in the back. According to Brooklyn-based Maniac Pumpkin Carvers, cutting off the top of the pumpkin can affect its structural integrity and cause it to rot faster. Instead, cut a hole in the back of the pumpkin and use an electric light to illuminate it. LEDs are advisable because they don’t generate much heat, which can cook and rot the pumpkin from the inside out.

With some creativity and a little know-how, anyone can create an eye-catching jack-o’-lantern.
 
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Plan Your Fall Foliage Excursion

Autumn means different things to many people. Students may embrace the dawn of a new school year, while others might embrace the crisp weather after a season of heat. One of the more widely enjoyed aspects of autumn is the chance to take in the brilliant foliage.

Although New England may be renowned for its bright, orange, red and yellow panoramas, dazzling displays of foliage can be witnessed anywhere temperatures descend enough for deciduous trees to shed their leaves.

The first step to a successful fall foliage excursion is to find the right spot. The Catskill and Adirondack Mountains of New York, Amish Country in Pennsylvania, the Great Lakes from Michigan to Ohio, and many other areas can be great places to witness nature at its most colorful. To make the most of fall foliage road trips, drivers can keep the following suggestions in mind.

· Get off the highway. To see great fall vistas, take a detour from major thoroughfares and visit small towns and mountain passes. Invest in some maps, as cellular networks may be inaccessible in remote locales.

· Avoid tourist-heavy areas. Drivers may prefer less crowded roadways to accompany the great scenery. Such drivers should visit areas that are not tourist meccas. Any area that plays home to forests and sprawling landscapes will do.

· Go on foot. To get the best photos, head out at sunrise or sunset. Soft, golden light dappled by leaves will bring out the golden tones in photos. Going on foot will help you discover the nuances of the season and slow down for a change.

· Don’t overlook overcast days. Traveling in the rain may not be fun, but overcast days might be ideal. On such days, the sun won’t be too warm and drown out the colors.

· Bring along binoculars. Wildlife is often mobile and abundant in the fall, as animals scurry to feed and gather supplies before the winter. As a result, autumn is a great time to spot wildlife that’s normally hiding in thickets and woodland areas.

· Plan for stops along the way. Don’t forget to bring some spending money in the form of cash so that you can enjoy the small farm stands and shops that often dot rural landscapes. Pick up farm-fresh produce or choose a plump pumpkin. Yard sales also are abundant this time of year. Small shops may not take credit cards, so if you plan to buy, cash is king.

Trees begin shedding their leaves as early as the beginning of September in Canada and the northern United States. As the days press on, the fall finery will gradually shift southward. For those who can afford to take a weekday off, do so, as weekends might be overcome with fellow nature enthusiasts.

Enjoy An Eco-Friendly Autumn

Autumn arrives with cool breezes, awe-inspiring foliage and the hint of holidays on the horizon. Fall is a favorite time of year for many people because the crisp weather motivates people of all ages to enjoy the great outdoors.

Individuals conscious of their carbon footprints can use fall as a time to take inventory of their behaviors and make changes where necessary. The following are some steps to take right now that fit perfectly with the harvest season.

· Shop at a local farm stand. Take advantage of the many roadside stands that crop up this time of year where you can find bushels of apples, pumpkins, gourds, and late-summer vegetables. After a day of sightseeing, visit a farm stand for warm cider and freshly baked doughnuts. Buying local produce reduces reliance on foreign-shipped foods and other products, while also cutting back on the fuel consumed to get foods from the farm to the table.

· Use nature to decorate. Skip plastic, mass-produced decorations and rely on nature to dress up your home. Fill vases with leaves and berries. Place small pumpkins on mantles, and enrich the landscape of your home with vibrantly hued mums and other cool-weather plants. Corn husks and stalks can add harvest flair to front porches. Twigs nestled and tied together can make interesting table centerpieces.

· Create a composting pile. Outdoor chores are easier in cool weather than they are when the mercury rises. Set aside a place in the yard for composting. A healthy compost pile should have roughly two-thirds carbon (brown) materials and one-third nitrogen (green) materials, says EarthEasy.com. Use those lawn clippings and raked leaves to make compost for spring plantings.

· Visit a corn maze. After corn has been harvested, farm owners often use their land for supplemental income. Corn mazes can be simple or complex depending on visitors’ ages. Engage in family bonding outside and turn off electronics in the process.

· Bake your own pie. After a fun-filled day picking apples at a nearby orchard, head home and use those locally sourced apples to whip up a delicious pie.

· Recycle old clothes to dress your scarecrow. Clothing that is not worthy of donation can be transformed into a festive scarecrow just in time for Halloween hijinks. Fill out the body of the scarecrow with newspaper and then add some pieces of straw around the neck, hands and feet.

· Host a football party. Watch the game on television or have a pickup game in the yard. Serve finger foods to cut down on the need for plastic or paper plates and flatware. Purchase a keg of beer from a local brewery to eliminate individual beer cans and bottles. Set out a nonalcoholic punch bowl so the kids can enjoy refreshments, too.

Autumn can be a great time of year to embrace some eco-friendly practices.

12 Fun Facts About Autumn

The cool, crisp days of autumn have arrived. As fall foliage creates a colorful display and kids frolic in leaf piles on the lawn, you may want to pay some mind to a few lesser known facts about this beloved time of year. Autumn may call to mind Halloween and the return of school, but there are other factors that make this season unique.

1. The first day of autumn is known as the autumnal equinox. On this day, the number of hours of daylight and darkness are equal. This is because the sun is aligned with the center of the Earth between the north and south of the planet. The other equinox occurs in the spring, which arrives in the third week of March in the Northern hemisphere.

2. In Greek mythology, autumn was a time when Persephone, the daughter of Demeter, was abducted by Hades, the god-king of the underworld. During this time, Demeter, the goddess of the harvest, was distraught and the ground grew sparse and cold. When Persephone returned in the springtime, plants and life bloomed anew because of Demeter’s happiness.

3. Those who live closest to the equator, which is the center of the planet, never experience the season of autumn. Around the equator, the temperature remains consistently warm.

4. Yellow, orange and variations thereof always reside in the pigmentation of tree leaves, but they are just overpowered by the abundance of green from the chlorophyll in the leaves. Come autumn, however, when the sun weakens and days grow shorter, the amount of chlorophyll in leaves diminishes, allowing the other pigments in the leaves to show through.

5. Red and purple leaves are actually caused by the presence of sugars from sap that is trapped inside of the leaves.

6. Fall is a peak migration time for many species of birds. During autumn, birds will fly to other areas as they seek more hospitable climates. The Arctic tern journeys about 11,000 miles each way for its annual migration. That is like going all the way across the United States about three and a half times

7. Contrary to popular belief, squirrels who have spent the entire autumn collecting acorns and other foods do not hibernate for the winter. Rather, they spend the majority of their time in nests they built to shelter them from harsh weather. When squirrels do come out in winter, they are usually tunneling under the snow to find the food they buried during the fall.

8. Several cultures have ancient traditions that coincide with autumn. For example, the Chinese celebrate the Moon Festival to give thanks for a successful summer harvest.

9. Halloween is a large part of autumn. The concept of wearing masks and costumes hails from ancient Celtic tradition. The Celts believed ghosts roamed on Halloween, and people wore disguises to hide from the spirits.

10. You’re bound to see pumpkins as part of autumn decor. The pumpkin was first named by the Greeks. They called this edible orange item “pepon,” which means “large melon.”

11. Evergreen trees will not lose their leaves like deciduous trees. Their leaves, also called needles, are covered with a thick wax. This wax protects the inner components of the needles, preventing them from freezing.

12. Autumn also signals another colorful spectacle apart from the tree leaves.

The aurora borealis, also known as the Northern Lights, tends to be visible this time of year. This is because geomagnetic storms are about twice as likely to occur during the fall thanks to cool evening weather.

Preserve Carved Pumpkins in Various Ways

Jack-o’-lanterns and other carved pumpkin designs are frequently the centerpieces of Halloween festivities. The twinkling lights and orange glow of jack-o’-lanterns can add ambiance to any autumn event. The trouble with carving pumpkins is that most people want to do it right away, only to discover their pumpkins wilt and decay long before Halloween.

Nothing ruins Halloween more than visiting a home to trick-or-treat and not getting candy. Equally disappointing is a sad pumpkin display withering away on a front porch. Even though all pumpkins will eventually rot, certain tips can keep carvings from collapsing too soon.

· Choose a sturdy pumpkin. Inspect the pumpkin of your choosing carefully, looking for gouges, spots and holes. Even a small blemish can quickly expand into a mushy mess. Select pumpkins with even color and firm flesh, and make sure that the pumpkin doesn’t feel tender when you push on the skin.

· Visit local pumpkin stands. Pumpkins that have been shipped miles and miles in hot cargo trucks may be overly ripened or battered. Pumpkins that were grown nearby may be fresher. Plus, buying pumpkins locally supports local farmers.

· Scrape the insides of the pumpkin thoroughly. Any moist bits inside the pumpkin will mold quickly. The pumpkin carving experts at Pumpkin Masters recommend scraping as much of the “guts” out as possible, leaving about a one-inch thickness of the wall of the pumpkin.

· Coat the pumpkin. Preservation methods may aim to keep the pumpkin hydrated and inhibit mold and other microbial growth. Commercially sold pumpkin preservation products, such as Pumpkin Fresh®, hold up well. Soaking and spraying carved pumpkins with a bleach-and-water solution also seems to preserve designs.

· Keep it out of the elements. Store carved pumpkins in a cool, dry place. This will help slow down the rotting process for pumpkins exposed to outdoor fungi, other microbes and warm sunlight.

· Use an artificial light source. Reduce the heat inside of the pumpkin and encourage hydration by selecting a battery-powered light instead of a lit candle to illuminate the carving.

· Skip the carving. Once pumpkin skin is compromised, microbes can enter. In lieu of carving, paint or decorate pumpkins in other ways if you want them to stay fresh for a long time. Glow in the dark paint can help pumpkins stand out at night.

Carved pumpkins may last a week or two, while uncut pumpkins can last for a month or more. Keeping pumpkins hydrated and mold-free will prolong your designs.

Plan A Day To Shop Local Fairs, Shops And Stands 

Autumn is tailor-made for getting out of the house to enjoy the great outdoors. With crisp temperatures perfect for strolls or sightseeing and breathtaking scenery awash in bright autumnal hues, autumn landscapes make for the ideal backdrop for weekend plans, including shopping excursions. Fall is a great season to enjoy festivals, farmer’s markets and craft fairs, as merchants look to liquidate inventory before they prepare for the rush of the upcoming holiday season. Cities, towns, hamlets, and everything in between will host their share of open markets and more with great deals to be had, and fall is an ideal time to visit local shops and stands.

Fall Farm Produce

Fresh produce Farms big and small are bursting with produce come the fall. You can find the last vestiges of summer crops mingling with the first fruits of autumn. Grab the last of tomatoes and start thinking ahead to apples, squashes, lettuces, and grapes. You can even get an early start on pumpkin season — both for cooking and carving.

Seasonal Foods

Stock the car with reusable tote bags and scour the farmer’s markets for seasonal finds. Chances are you also might pick up some extra treats, such as fresh honey or canned jams. Food finds As plants are harvested, many items are turned into delicious treats. No autumn shopping excursion is complete until you smell a fresh-baked apple pie or some apple cider doughnuts. Corn breads and fritters, cranberry snacks and wines from nearby wineries also are easy to find in autumn. These items make welcome additions to your own pantry, or bring a freshly made treat to a friend or family member’s home when paying a visit. Also, don’t miss the food-related festivals that pop up on community calendars in the fall.

Fall Goods

From garlic to potatoes to pumpkins to cheeses, many seasonal items are on display. You also can sample these foods in interesting applications and make a day of gathering recipes and supplies to enjoy later. Crafts, jewelry and décor Include a trip to a craft fair, where local vendors come together to display and sell their wares, on your weekend schedule.

Autumn Crafts

Handcrafted items make thoughtful and unique gifts, which can be tucked away for giving later in the year. Booths at these types of events tend to be diverse. Spend the day strolling town squares or closed-off city centers, and you may find some hand-fashioned jewelry or home-crafted artisanal soaps. Those eager to enhance their homes’ décor may find unique items like painted signs, knit afghans and much more.

Shopping local shops, farms and fairs is a great way to enjoy the fresh autumn air while supporting local businesses.