This Saturday will mark the autumnal equinox, the calendar change from summer to fall, and though the changes are distinctly muted here in the deep south there are a few signals I look to as clear indicators that the change of the season is near: deer rubs on my trees, the smell of brush burning and a sock drawer bursting with daffodil bulbs.
My relationship with the deer is complicated to say the least. They are magnificent, beautiful creatures, and out in the suburbs they visit infrequently enough to make deer sightings still special, but the destruction they leave in their wake can bring even a certain passive person to start looking for some firepower. You see my yard has more than enough going on to handle the occasional “browsing”, and I’m even somewhat flattered that they feel comfortable enough to bed down for the night amongst my plantings (with cute baby too), but when they start bringing their boyfriends to spend the night my hospitality has reached it’s limit. The problem is that at this time of year these bucks will rub trees to get the velvet off their antlers and to mark their territory in preparation for mating. This year some young romeo decided my cherry tree (fruit bearing) was suitable for the task and he girdled the poor thing to about 6” from the ground. Not cool. But hope springs eternal and I took a chance on the last tree a deer did this to and thing turned out ok. I cut it below the rub, moved it to an out of the way location, and what was a dogwood tree has now turned into a dogwood shrub. My fingers are crossed that the cherry tree is as resilient.
So what do you do with a freshly killed cherry tree? Well if you want to attract overwintering birds and beneficial insects you find a remote area of your yard, start a brush pile and heap it on. Seriously. The problem with the modern landscape is it’s completely sterile. Typically it’s almost entirely chemically treated lawn, dotted with a few ornamental shrubs and trees here and there for effect, and somewhere a bed of hybrid flowers offers a stunning array of colors but very little in the way of feed for the wildlife. There’s really nothing there for all the critters to live off of or live in. The brush pile is a nearly effortless way to meet one of these needs, not to mention keeping useable yard waste out of the landfill. Just be sure to locate it carefully enough so that even your wife’s sharp eyes won’t figure out it is there. Don’t do this and at best your neighbors will grumble, at worst your better half will send you out to burn your critter village to the ground. I recommend marshmallows and a cold beer to numb the pain.
And as for those daffodil bulbs, they’re one of my favorite fall activities. My daughter throws them, I plant them where they land and come spring we get a naturalistic display of beautiful flowers. They live in my sock drawer because it’s cool and dry, and because my other drawer is full of flower seeds for next year.
Here’s to fall!
Image sourced at www.insidegatlinburg.com