Embracing impermanence: Welcome to autumn!

“Summer passes into autumn in some unimaginable point of time, like the turning of a leaf.”
– Henry David Thoreau

Fallen leaves are starting to litter the paths around our homestead

Welcome to autumn.

Signs of the changing season are everywhere here at Pokeberry Pines – from the tiniest insects to the towering trees, we are seeing and feeling the changes that mark the beginning of fall. The nighttime temperatures dropped into the low 40’s this week and stayed in the cool 60’s most days. It was a welcome change. Along with the cooler temperatures, we started to notice more yellow in the woods and yarden – leaves turning, fall flowers blooming, summer’s overbearing crabgrass crop dying (yay!).

Goldenrod blooming along our fenceline

Our moods also shifted…lifted by the promise of nightly campfires and open windows, less effort growing the gardens and more attention to winter preparations. As the trees shed their leaves, we are still watching the birds fill themselves with the remaining seeds from flowers long spent.

The sunflowers ragged appearance may look unappealing to us humans, but the goldfinches are still filling up on their plump energy-rich seeds.

The caterpillars that have so captivated us this summer are pupating, some emerging to migrate on to distant woods and fields.

Monarch butterfly chrysalis hangs from a spiderwort leaf
A monarch butterfly nearly ready to emerge from its chrysalis (we kept several in the butterfly cage to ensure their safety – monarch populations have plummeted in recent years)
And, the magic moment for this Monarch butterfly….

The black swallowtail caterpillars have appeared in abundance these past few weeks – on parsley and on Zizia (pictured here).

This week we noticed the Eastern bluestar leaves were looking ragged and odd. Turns out that hairstreak butterflies love to wrap themselves up in Eastern Bluestar leaves in late summer and early fall. Perhaps not as beautiful in their transformation as the monarchs, but important critters they are still.

Hairstreak caterpillars wrap themselves in leaves….

They turn out pretty spectacular looking later on…

Gray hairstreak butterfly on butterflyweed (this might have been the female that laid all those eggs on the blustar).

Many of our pollinator plants have gone to seed, making the garden feel even more alive with the promise of new plants appearing next spring!

The vegetable gardens are transitioning as well. We’ve removed the old, spent vines and plants, planted some cover crops (buckwheat and clovers), and prepared a fall garden bed full of greens for the winter!

Winter garden – kale, lettuce, tatsoi, spinach, rutabagas.

The last garden bed to be put to rest this fall is still full of sweet potatoes, which are still growing (and growing and growing and growing)… We’ll be harvesting them come the first week of October…

The great Sweet Potatoes take-over! Only half of the bed was planted with sweet potatoes…

One of the best parts of autumn is enjoying being outdoors more (less heat and humidity and fewer biting bugs) and being able to leave windows open day and night to hear all the critters around us. The birds and insects are always present, but every now and then we get a surprise, like the coyotes that howled right outside our deer gate one night and the barred owls that call at the most unexpected times. The campfire beckons, too, on these cool, crisp evenings, and brings us together with friends who are so dear and needed in these chaotic times.

An evening campfire at the homestead

As we move deeper into autumn and the daylight hours wane, we know it is time to slow down and take pause like the flowers do… Time to give thanks for summer’s bounty, fall’s beauty, changing cycles, and the ongoing gift of impermanence.

Swamp sunflowers blooming in late summer, early fall in our garden

Who knows what tomorrow will bring? It’s one of life’s great mysteries and gifts, this not knowing… And as hard as it is sometimes to embrace the moment, that is surely all we have. Not knowing can bring comfort if we let it. Being present and open to what comes can surprise us with gifts more precious than anything we might have imagined. When I went down our path to check on our trail camera this morning, I discovered this photo…

A gray fox trots along the path on our homestead…

When I checked the timestamp on the photo, I realized this fox had walked that path just 10 minutes before I arrived. Might still be around looking at me, wondering what I was up to… In fact, the video that followed this photo showed him stopping and looking up toward our house, as if he’d heard me come out the back door… and then he was gone.

Impermanence. Change. Seasons. Turning on some “unimaginable point in time”. Be present. Embrace the gift of this moment.

Sweet gum trees beginning to turn yellow at Pokeberry Pines

Peace, y’all!

Welcome to autumn!


  1. What a wonderful phrase: to give thanks for the “ongoing gift of impermanence.” Thanks for a wonderful post, Deb.

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