Fall sometimes ends abruptly even here in our spot on the North Carolina coast.
The signs go well beyond the advancing cold weather that might get us below freezing around the middle of November 2014.
One of the biggest differences is our daylight hours are rapidly decreasing as we head towards the shortest day of the year. By the middle of November it is very hard to burn the candle at both ends as many of us try to do here on the coast. I can no longer go for a daylight boat ride before breakfast and still make it to work on time. It is also impossible to go kayaking after dinner since it is dark well before we eat.
Beyond shortened daylight hours to enjoy the area's many outdoor treats, all of our vegetation is starting to look like winter. Our centipede yards are becoming dormant and turning their traditional winter red. I last mowed our yard sometime early in October. That is far different than in some bluegrass parts of the South where it is not unusual to mow your yard in December. Our marsh grasses have adopted their winter hues and the temperature of the water that surrounds us is sure to take a serious dip below 60F by mid November.
With all of this, most of us shift to a different mode. We start thinking about the holidays, family visits, friends, our many blessings and eventually the start of a new year. While I do not give up my kayaking, hiking, or boating, it is hard to do it as much as I do the rest of the year.
We also prepare for the winter in our own way. We lose our fall crops one by one as the really cold weather descends upon us, but while that is happening, we also try to protect some late winter crops like lettuce that we sometimes enjoy during January and February.
As hard as it is to believe, my wife picked beans and tomatoes from our garden this week. We could have beans for another couple of weeks if they survive the upcoming freeze. We have enjoyed ripe tomatoes that we picked after the middle of December.
As what is growing in the garden changes, so does the cast of wildlife that we get to enjoy in the marshes. Sometimes there is a surprise around every corner. I always mark the beginning of the really cold weather with the arrival of our first brown pelican. They rarely visit during the summer and fall, but they are regular visitors during the cold weather. We also get more great egrets and great blue herons than we typically see during the warmer months. We have already seen some ducks and if we are lucky more will visit.
We can always hope for a visit from my favorite egret, Frank 29X. It is the time of year that we sometimes see him. My beach walks have already gotten more sporadic but I will put in more and more miles walking along the marsh. There I am protected from cold winds and I usually find some wildlife to entertain me.
Sometimes things get very entertaining in winter as the river otters show up. While the boat rides get shorter and I end up wearing more clothes, I still enjoy zooming down the White Oak in our skiff.
I will miss the long stretch of wonderful fall weather, but that feeling of loss is tempered by the knowledge that we will likely enjoy some warm days in December and there will be some magic beach days even in January.
The end of fall brings changes but not to my attitude as I roll out of bed each morning. I always look forward to the wonderful surprises that delight me each morning here on the Crystal Coast.