Porch Swing photo

Red Squirrels, Maples, and the End of Summer

Per my usual habit after dinner, I went out to sit in the swing on the shed-roof front porch so I could try some new Toasted Cavendish tobacco in one of my favorite briarwood pipes. We forbid such activities indoors. No mind. I can always find entertainment from my reserved seat on the front porch – the porch swing.

When we built our log home on the banks of the Turtle Flambeau Flowage in Northern Wisconsin, we marked all the trees on our 1.5 acre lake lot so that the heavy machine operators, necessary to build a new home, would know not to remove or damage the trees. We’re tree-lovers.  This part of the State is covered with 98% hard and soft maple, 1% basswood, and 1% white birch trees. We allow a ring of trees of grow within 20 feet of the house on all sides. The rest of the lot is forested all the way to the lake’s edge. And I mean forested! You can count the maples of all sizes in the millions. They grow like weeds here. We have a tiny area of grass-covered yard. We always wanted to live in the woods and that is what we have accomplished. I’m sure our neighbors think that we are a bit eccentric. The neighbor on the south is from Chicago and the one on the north is from Alaska. Go figure.

The summer’s entertainment had consisted of watching the bats that hang out under our porch shed-roof and the huge, colorful  gypsy moths that are attracted to our porch lights. The bats put on quite a show as they swooped to and fro to consume as many mosquitoes as possible. The bats left suddenly for some reason. And after their departure, we also noticed that the pesky mosquitoes also disappeared. What bothered me about this was that the weather did not change. Rains remained consistent, thus providing breeding places for mosquitoes. The mosquito population did not change. Nothing changed. Both just left suddenly. Now I feel the need to find out why. I’m a sucker for research.

Back to the evening’s entertainment. As I sat on the porch swing enjoying the silent end to an August day and my pipe, I was distracted by the sound of debris, falling occasionally through the leaves of the trees directly in front of the porch. There was no wind or rain, although the sky was overcast and it had rained that day. I got out of the swing to get a look at the top of the trees beyond the shed-roof of the porch.

And there he was. A tiny red squirrel navigating from branch to branch and harvesting the seed pods of the maple trees. The seed pods of maple are often referred to as “helicopters” due to the whirling motion they make as they fall from the tree; a tiny seed with an over-sized, single helicopter blade attached. Two trees over, another red squirrel was also at work on those seed pods.

Now you might think that this is no big deal and that I should find more useful and interesting content for my posts. You would be correct. BUT, remember the adage, “Take time to stop and smell the roses along the path of life”?  I often remind myself to do just that, as should you.  So if you derive nothing else of value from this post, consider it a reminder to take a break from your chaotic life, find a comfortable chair, place it on your porch, and spend some time examining the content and substance of your environment that you pass by every day, but never notice.

You can learn a lot from the wildlife that share your living space. It is late August; the conclusion of the hottest Midwest summer on record.  The time and method at which the red squirrels harvest the maple seeds can have a lot to say about what we can expect for winter in the upper Midwest. I’ve heard from hunters that the whitetail deer coats are especially heavy this year. My oldest son, who lives 200 miles south of here, saw a flock of geese flying south two weeks ago. That’s much too early. Signs of an early or severe winter? The wildlife are always aware of impending weather changes long before the long-range weather forecasters can give us their best guess.

As I puffed on my pipe and watched the two red squirrels drop what they didn’t want from the tops of the maple trees, I wondered why the empty seed pods were not whirling down to the ground as they always do. Instead they fell quickly and landed with a thud. So I got out of my porch swing again and took up a position below one of the squirrels so that I could see what it was discarding. They ignored me, which is the response that I expected.

It wasn’t long before seed debris began landing all around me. I picked up several items that the squirrels had discarded. They were seed pods alright, but they were empty. Two pods joined together at the seed tip, each with one helicopter wing per pod projecting out the backside of the pod. Besides being empty, the pods were green. The type that we see helicoptering or spinning slowly to the ground in fall are larger, single pods and dryed out to a tan color. That explained why these pods did not whirl slowly to the ground. A glance up into the tree at the squirrels convinced me that they were holding the seeds from the pods in their cheeks and discarding the chaff. But some of the double-pods still held a seed which told me that either they planned to retrieve these from the ground later or they were in a hurry to gather their food stores and didn’t have time to perfect the process.

They were assembling a cache of food that they would later hide for use over the long winter. How they remember where they put all this stuff has always been a mystery to me.  But the fact that they were doing it in late August told me that the summer is truly over and it’s time for all mammals, including me, to make preparation for six months of Northern Wisconsin winter.

That thought was a rude awakening. Upon moving here I learned of two popular local axiom’s used to describe Northern Wisconsin weather. If you don’t like the weather here, just wait ten minutes. And the second axiom, Northern Wisconsin has two seasons – winter and July. So the end of summer is a big deal here. And that evening, those red squirrels were an early, painful, reminder that the “big deal” was about to happen.

28 Responses to Red Squirrels, Maples, and the End of Summer

  1. Ambro Sepritchett April 7, 2015 at 8:06 am #

    Howdy! Quick question that’s entirely off topic. Do you know
    how to make your site mobile friendly? My website
    looks weird when viewing from my iphone4.
    I’m trying to find a template or plugin that might
    be able to resolve this issue. If you have any suggestions,
    please share. Thanks!

    • Scott Alan Reed April 13, 2015 at 7:10 pm #

      Yes I do know how to make your website mobile compatible. Use a WordPress “responsive” theme. Most themes are responsive these days. That means that you can size pages on your mobile. My theme is not responsive. But I’m doing something about that soon.

  2. Hordyk February 17, 2015 at 11:46 am #

    I simply want to mention I’m beginner to blogging and site-building and certainly savored your page. Very likely I’m likely to bookmark your blog . You definitely come with very good writings. Bless you for sharing with us your web site.

  3. Andrew A. Sailer June 9, 2014 at 4:05 am #

    I just want to tell you that I am just very new to blogging and really enjoyed you’re web page. Very likely I’m going to bookmark your website . You certainly have beneficial posts. Thank you for sharing with us your blog site.

  4. Tyson F. Gautreaux June 7, 2014 at 7:39 pm #

    I simply want to mention I am newbie to blogging and site-building and absolutely liked you’re web site. Probably I’m likely to bookmark your blog . You definitely have exceptional well written articles. With thanks for revealing your web site.

  5. Freddy April 13, 2014 at 10:03 am #

    I would like to thank you for the efforts you have put in writing this web site. I’m hoping for the same high-grade web site post from you in the upcoming as well. In fact your creative writing skills have encouraged me to get my own web site now. Actually the blogging is spreading its wings rapidly. Your write up is a great example of it.

  6. Marilyn Hutchison February 11, 2014 at 3:18 am #

    I am extremely impressed together with your writing abilities as neatly as with the
    structure for your blog. Is that this a paid subject or did you
    customize it your self? Either way stay up the excellent high quality writing, it’s uncommon to look a nice
    weblog like this one nowadays..

  7. Garth January 5, 2014 at 8:34 pm #

    I was pretty pleased to uncover this web site. I need to to thank you for ones time for this wonderful read!! I definitely really liked every bit of it and I have you saved to fav to see new things on your blog.

  8. Patmore October 2, 2013 at 5:19 am #

    I absolutely love your blog.. Great colors & theme. Did you make this website yourself? Please reply back as I’m attempting to create my own personal site and want to find out where you got this from or exactly what the theme is called. Cheers!

    • Scott Alan Reed October 23, 2013 at 9:08 am #

      Take a look at the FAQ page. The whole story of the theme and colors is there.

  9. anonymous December 21, 2012 at 8:22 am #

    I much like the treasured info you offer you into your articles or blog posts.I’ll bookmark your blog site and investigate again the following repeatedly.I am pretty certainly I’ll learn quite a bit of latest things most suitable below! Fantastic luck to the future!

  10. Kevin December 21, 2012 at 4:06 am #

    I just like the worthwhile data you deliver in your own content pieces.I’ll bookmark your weblog and verify all over again here routinely.I am quite sure I will master considerably of new stuff perfect listed here! High-quality luck for the subsequent!

  11. Bob Hilscher November 24, 2012 at 9:52 am #

    Hi there. Great post regards American Red Squirrels, and I know all about their chatter out in the bush! I live in Toronto, Canada, and earlier this year, my wife, Jean, and I were in Ireland where we came upon the rarely seen Red Squirrel. To us, they actually look somewhat like our American Red squirrels, but boy, do they have long ears! We were shocked to learn that U.K. and Irish Red squirrels are contracting the pox virus from Grey squirrels, and dying. We feel very lucky to have seen two Red squirrels in Ireland, and have posted some of our pictures and videos for anyone interested at: http://frametoframe.ca/photo-essay-red-grey-squirrels-canada-ireland

  12. Nagy Robinson November 21, 2012 at 10:30 am #

    Many thanks for this terrific web site. I am trying to read through some more posts but I cant get your site to display properly in my Opera Browser. Thanks yet again.

  13. anonymous November 8, 2012 at 3:09 am #

    This is a great post. Thanks so much for sharing, like always. this my website http://www.hotguccioutlet.com/

  14. Andgn Baqlka November 8, 2012 at 2:02 am #

    JUST AWESOME!!!!!!

  15. anonymous November 5, 2012 at 4:36 pm #

    Thank you very much. This really helped me with my work. I appreciate your help. Thanks a lot.

  16. anonymous October 25, 2012 at 5:35 pm #

    Thanks for such a great post and the review, I am totally impressed!You need to know.

  17. Strazisar October 23, 2012 at 12:09 am #

    Hi there! I know this is somewhat off topic but I was wondering which blog platform are you using for this website? I’m getting sick and tired of WordPress because I’ve had issues with hackers and I’m looking at options for another platform. I would be great if you could point me in the direction of a good platform.

    • Scott Reed October 27, 2012 at 11:32 am #

      WordPress. It’s the Internet standard blogging platform. Never had problems with hackers. But if I did, I would look for a solution at WordPress.org. Look at either the Codex or the Forum. There are solutions available. If that doesn’t work, Google “WordPress hacking solution” and see what you can find out. Thks!

  18. J.T. Mewzr October 19, 2012 at 7:39 am #

    Thanks for such a great post and the review, I am totally impressed!

  19. Caul Nock October 10, 2012 at 9:10 pm #

    Hi there, just become aware of your blog through Google, and found that it is truly informative. I’m gonna be careful for brussels. I will appreciate for those who proceed this in future. Lots of people will likely be benefited from your writing. Cheers!

  20. Shakita Bordges October 4, 2012 at 11:19 am #

    Very interesting post!

  21. Geils September 15, 2012 at 1:04 am #

    This is what I have already been in search of all day long, unique when i couldn’t find that it’s elsewhere. In spite, thanks for your time on the bottom part associated with the cardiovascular in the information you could have given these. Just simply considered I might have you an excellent comment as a manifestation of very good hope, because you’re the only web site I could truthfully know that addresses that specific issue. This blog is actually a time saver if you ask me, We have totally all kinds of things I’d been trying to find at this point. Just the thing it is remaining to do in my opinion is always to disappear and also promote the following, I’ve truly undoubtedly added this page to make certain I can also think it just as before.

  22. Zurcher Ducker September 10, 2012 at 11:11 am #

    I’ve been exploring for a bit for any high quality articles or blog posts in this kind of space . Exploring in Yahoo I ultimately stumbled upon this site. Studying this information So i’m satisfied to convey that I have a very good uncanny feeling I found out just what I needed. I so much indisputably will make sure to do not disregard this website and give it a glance regularly.

  23. Pounder Pulcher August 28, 2012 at 4:43 pm #

    Hello there, just became alert to your weblog via Google, and located that it is truly informative. I’m gonna watch out for brussels. I will appreciate when you proceed this in future. Lots of other folks will be benefited out of your writing. Cheers!

  24. Niswender April 11, 2012 at 4:36 am #

    I absolutely love this weblog! The content is priceless. Thank you so much for all the articles and making my evening. Thank you, Hi and thanks

  25. Mirbaha April 11, 2012 at 1:58 am #

    I want to say, Red Squirrels, Maples, and the End of Summer | This IS the Northwoods is a certainly good site. I’d like to offer you my thanks a bunch. Thanks, Very good

Leave a Reply