The Frost is Not on the Punkin

They’s something kindo’ harty-like about the atmusfere
When the heat of summer’s over and the coolin’ fall is here—
Of course we miss the flowers, and the blossums on the trees,
And the mumble of the hummin’-birds and buzzin’ of the bees;
But the air’s so appetizin’; and the landscape through the haze
Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days
Is a pictur’ that no painter has the colorin’ to mock—
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.
-James Whitcomb Riley

Everything Riley writes in “When the Frost is on the Punkin” is true these days at Tuscarora, except for the fact that there is no frost and there also aren’t any pumpkins. Also, I was stung by a wasp while planting tulip bulbs on Saturday and the begonias beside the outfitting steps are still going gangbusters, so I guess we’re in a strange, not quite summer, not quite autumn season at the moment.

That’s right, it’s October 3rd and we’ve yet to freeze on the Gunflint Trail. And what we’re lacking in pumpkins, we’re making up for in butternut squash. The squash plant must have received the perfect amount of rain and neglect this summer, because there are two beautiful large squashes hanging from the vines sprawled out on the lawn. (Mother Nature with her plentiful rainfall this summer sure helped out these inattentive gardeners.) We’ll wait until there’s a real threat of frost forming on their surfaces before we pick those squash and any of the other garden treasures.

Butternut Squash northern Minnesota gardening

In general, we usually figure the tomatoes have until September 20th to ripen. By the time we’re in the final third of September, we know a heavy frost will descend on the Gunflint Trail. On the evening of that frost, just as the sun is sinking on the western horizon, Andy and I will fill grocery bags with green tomatoes to ripen inside – our breath coming in misty clouds, our fingers growing increasingly numb as we pick.

But not this year. Our low temperatures this September were in the 40s and we didn’t even worry about a frost. Instead, Andy dutifully picked the tomatoes just as they started to turn red to keep the chipmunks from taking their customary single bite out of each reddish tomato and we made loads of BLTs and pico de gallo. When I was making supper, I’d say, “Hey Andy, can you get me a green pepper,” and instead of going to the fridge, he’d just go out the porch door and pick a green pepper from the large plant growing beside the tomatoes.

It’s weird.

It feels like we’ve won something. Or like we’re getting away with something. We’ve been slowly shutting down the seasonal buildings without even once worrying about pipes freezing. Everyone’s a little giddy about it all. To top things off, the fall colors are brilliant this year and they’re lingering.

Round Lake fall colors

How lucky are we? I mean, 70 degrees on October 1st? Yes please!

Round Lake Boundary Waters entry point October

To quote Laura Ingalls Wilder, there’s a deep sense that “now is now.”
Tuscarora Lodge flowers

Now is the time to take long rambles through the woods after work each day. Now is the time to eat garden produce fresh from the vine. Now is the time to just stop for a moment and soak in autumn sights and smells. After all, we might be just days, if not hours, from the first killing frost and the leaves tumbling to the forest floor.

Tuscarora Lodge in the autumn season

There’s no time for delayed gratification. Now. The time to revel in autumn is now! Now, before the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.