October, the Turning Time

Autumn in the New York Finger Lakes is tinged with orange, red, and yellow. Monarchs, maple leaves, and Red Efts. Burning Bush, raspberries and tomatoes, and autumn Zinnias. Finger Lakes grapes and red wine.  Pumpkins, winter squash, and orange sunsets. As temperatures cool, song birds head south and Nature celebrates with hot colors.










Late September and the first days of October were 85 F hot—hotter than July and August. I had six Monarch chrysalises outside in the nursery and wondered if they would be ready to head south for their big migration. Monarchs can’t fly unless their muscles are warmed to 55 degrees F, and they’re sensitive to weather changes. They emerged from their chrysalises two days before the temperature dropped 30 degrees in one day. They flew south the last warm day, gliding out of here before temperatures hovered around 50 degrees in cold rain. My heart filled with wonder and gratitude when my last Monarchs of 2023 took off just in time.









What is autumn like where you are? I’ll miss the colors of summer and autumn, but oaks are beginning to turn here, so we’re not done yet.


For other posts about my land, see The Sky Above, the Earth Below. For a post about the first time I protected and released Monarch butterflies in 2017, see Mother Monarchs, Mothering My Soul.

  1. What a wonderful autumnal palette you gift us, thank you so much dear Elaine! I’m so in love with all those colourful pumpkins, as we mainly see only orange ones in the UK, well from my neck of the woods! Early to mid autumn has been worryingly warm here too. Last weekend temperatures reached 76 F on the coast so we were able to sit outside for meals (we like to do this as long as possible), I’ve never known an October like it! Myself, I’m hoping for a slow-turning autumn, so I can savour the season (and song) of Samhain. Love and light, Deborah.

    • These are another kind of winter squash in the same family as pumpkins. Exotic winter squash varieties are common in the farm stands around here as we get close to Samhain. I love the colors and always stock up to have a good supply for the first half of winter since they keep well in my cellar for a few months. They’re easy to bake with cinnamon and so nutritious. Temperatures are cool here now and I’m relieved the Monarchs had time to head south because they wouldn’t be able to fly in these cool temperatures. Sending love and peace to you and Lin. (I’m overwhelmed by grief as we send more weapons for endless war.)

  2. What beautiful colours Elaine a testament to Autumn. I’m in Greece right now, Paros, and had a swim in the crystal clear Aegean waters yesterday. It was heavenly. Today the wind is howling and it is chilly! I hear that the weather at home in Plettenberg Bay has been wet and cold, windy, overcast. I guess with seasonal changes, all is a bit unpredictable. As evidenced by worldwide events. Good news re your Monarchs – safe home return journey to them

    • Thank you, Susan, and thanks to the Native Americans who introduced us to winter squash and pumpkins. I’m glad you’re in a beautiful place where there are no fires–and I’m sorry it turned cold. Here, we’re either unusually hot or cool this year, so maybe that’s what we’ll have to get used to. I’m glad the Monarchs headed south while the weather was warm and now they can catch a ride on the north winds to Mexico. Blessings and peace to you.

  3. Here, it is almost the same as we still have a late warm Summer weather until now, but it will surely change.
    Honestly, only the colours bring me happiness when the Autumn is in marching! Yes, my dear Elaine, I am a Spring and summer worm and will just try to bear the other seasons while enjoying the colours and the clean-white snow. However, here in this small town where I live, from November to March, we only have wet, cold weather and nothing else.

    • I’m so stunned by what’s happening in Gaza and Israel, that I could only write something short about the beauty I see in the farm stands here and in the fields. I don’t love the snowy days, but I’m used to them and have warm clothing and boots. Some days I love the stark beauty and light of winter and enjoy building a wood fire. Be well, my friend. I know you have many concerns for the Middle East.

  4. You have hot colors and we down south will soon notice an influx of northern songbirds. Thanks for sharing the glory of autumn in the Finger Lakes; your photos are gorgeous!

    Tomorrow we fly to Virginia for my 60-year college class reunion. Surely the Shenandoah Valley will shimmer with fall foliage.

    Enjoy your day, Elaine! 😀

    • My song birds went south and the winter birds love the long autumn, but I don’t see many at my feeder. They prefer finding wild seeds in the fields and at the edge of the forest. I imagine you’ll see beautiful colors in the Shenandoah Valley, plus you can say or sing the beautiful name. When I drove to North Carolina a few times a year before I became so deaf, I always stopped by the Shenandoah River to pay respects. Msy the Shanandoah Valley dazzle you with color and peace.

  5. Thank you, Elaine! ((( )))

  6. Thanks for your lovely reminder of what fall can feel and look like in cooler climes. Florida only has two seasons: 7 months of hot and 5 months of cooler and occasional cold. Fall barely makes a dent. Most leaves stay green, although I do see a very few reds and yellows in the cypress swamp behind our house. The leaves from the cypress trees will fall when temperatures get into the 40’s. But for now, it’s still in the 80’s F every day. Happy, greedy birds visit the feeder: cardinals, juncos, titmice, blue jays, grackles. We’ll soon head for the mountains for a few weeks of cool and color and hope to make a few birds happy there too!

    • I love your descriptions of where you are and the seasons. Have a wonderful time in the NC mountains. (Look at the photo I posted today on Facebook and you’ll see who came to visit me in the NY country. It was the first time I’d smiled in a few days.) I’m flying to North Carolina to visit my son in early November. I’m glad it will be warmer than here.

  7. There’s so much beautiful, rich colour in your photographs and your autumn world already Elaine, thank goodness your monarchs made that window of warmth before the temperatures dropped! I hope they make it to Mexico safely.

    We’re still hovering around 68F here today but we’re expecting 50F like you this weekend. I don’t mind the cold as long as I’m well layered with clothes to go walking and see the autumn colours spread across the woodlands…in fact I have been known to brave high winds and snow storms in the past for a photograph, not to mention hanging over cliff edges, which didn’t go down too well with Debbie! Now I just love the excuse of the rain, wind and cold for staying in and hibernating until Imbolc!

    • Thank you, Lin. There are years when the forest is vibrant with saturated deep orange and red, but it’s been a wet cool autumn without the sunshine needed to produce enough anthocyanin in maple leaves for full out red. Leaves are beautiful in a more muted way this year, but I have photos from the past to remind me that those reds weren’t only in my imagination. The oaks are just beginning, but the sun will need to shine for the best color. We shall see in time.

      I don’t mind cold with my full winter gear and go out in all weather, but ice can be challenging. Hanging over cliff edges? I’m trying to get an image of that and I’m probably on Deborah’s side. It’s raining today and I already went for a morning walk with my dog and with my friend’s dog. Everyone had a lovely time and I was glad to return home to a warm fire in the woodstove. Blessed Imbolc to you. The world struggles, but the sun continues guiding us through the seasons.

  8. Dear Elaine,
    These beautiful autumn colors and images bring solace. And what joy that your 2023 Monarchs took wing just in time.

    This has been one of our warmest, driest, and most colorful autumns ever. And because we get over 100 inches of rain per year, the variety of mushrooms is astounding.

    Nature, indeed, knows how to celebrate!
    Sending love and light as the days continue to shorten,

    • We had dull colors earlier in autumn, but they came on a little stronger when the oaks began turning. It’s a gold and rusty-orange autumn. I can only imagine your mushroom extravaganza. Thanks for the “weather” report from your world and may you have love and light and joyful grandchildren in silly costumes. With love, Elaine

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