Goody. Autumn weather has arrived in all its splendor and glory. Much of the week was too warm as was Maryland where I had been the week before. No rain had fallen for days in the Baltimore area. The foot-tall Celosia (Cockscomb) growing by the mailbox, covered in burgundy feathery plumes and supposedly deer resistant, had not been touched for weeks and was regularly watered.

Goody. Autumn weather has arrived in all its splendor and glory. Much of the week was too warm as was Maryland where I had been the week before. No rain had fallen for days in the Baltimore area. The foot-tall Celosia (Cockscomb) growing by the mailbox, covered in burgundy feathery plumes and supposedly deer resistant, had not been touched for weeks and was regularly watered. Two days before I left, I noticed half the plant had disappeared. The outside camera showed at 2:30 am this deer loitering at the mailbox. The following morning only a few 3 inch stems remained. ‘Odocoileus’ is the genus name for the white-tailed deer which in Greek means hollow tooth (these deer have hollow teeth). Should be hollow leg.

Residents in the neighborhood of Countryside welcomed October in a natural way. Corn stalks sprouting dried ears of corn, durable plastic orange and red autumn foliage, hay bales and pumpkins began appearing all over the place. I watched as one lady across the street opened the back of her Suburban and loaded the entire section with tassel-topped corn stalks before driving away. Peering into the garage I saw one entire side stacked high with the contents of a dehydrated corn field. A giant box of plastic leaves sat to the side. Hay bales and pumpkins spilled out onto the front drive. When another person appeared, I hopped over to see what was happening. Ann and Lori said they were part of a group decorating Countryside for autumn. In December, out come the winter decorations for this small community of 1200 people.

Dried corn plants trussed together in triangular arrangements, tied into bundles, or used as a backdrop for scarecrows mean fall is here. Each light pole in Countryside will have corn stalks wrapped with vines of leaves and bound by a burlap ribbon tied into a bow. This tradition has been going on for three years. It certainly added some bling to the neighborhood.

Corn. The veggie of choice on the cob or popped. The yellow or multi-colored kernels we eat or feed to livestock or turn into ethanol or corn syrup or silage (fermented chopped corn plants fed to livestock usually in winter). North Americans, Australians, and New Zealanders call it corn, Latin name ‘Zea mays’. Outside the colonist countries, corn is called maize.

The Countryside corn plants came from the farmer who operated the produce stand nearby. Ahh, the next thing to investigate.

Tables were full of leafy greens, veggies and other fruits from local farmers who use sustainable practices. The Kabocha squash caught my eye. Very pumpkin-like, some were deep dark green and one was a brilliant red-orange. Kabocha is a Japanese variety of winter squash picked before full ripeness and stored many weeks to allow the flavor to peak. Odd thing is all squash originated in Central America. This squash first wound up in Cambodia before becoming popular in Japan. I went out on a limb and bought a fresh huge sweet potato. The seller assured me the tuber had been cured and was ready to bake. The fast way to cure a newly dug sweet potato can take only a week if the potato is exposed to 90 degrees in 85% humidity. That orange storage root was one of the sweetest and most flavorful sweet potatoes I have had.

The weekend of September 27-29th was the Wildlife Expo hosted by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. The event took place at the Lazy E Arena outside of Guthrie. Lazy E Ranch is all about horses and located on over 300 acres with 15 miles of PVC fencing!

Friday was school kid day with thousands of students of all ages. They gravitated to the binocular area to find turtles in the meandering stream. The Rogers County Conservation District had set up a butterfly garden, wildlife displays with hand-crafted wood boxes and the binocular site. The Oklahoma Master Naturalist table presented Bob the Bobcat (Bob’s pelt) who garnered endless petting and touching. The Horned Lizard display also attracted plenty of attention. One lizard escaped from the outdoor containment area and was found at the horse barn about 100 yards away. Going home. The reptile wound up not in the outside cage but had a time-out in the terrarium.

Bluebird house construction took place both Saturday and Sunday under a large open tent at the edge of the wildlife area. Ten sessions of 25 boxes were assembled throughout each day, one per family. Cavity nesters like bluebirds and chickadees prefer dead trees (snags) to build their nests, but many snags have been cut and cleared away by those unaware of their importance. The bluebird houses serve as a substitute to help increase the bluebird population. Boxes are put on a pole at least 8 feet away from trees to prevent the invasion of snakes and other wildlife. These boxes will be erected next spring. Bluebird nesting ended early August.

The Bow and Arrow Clinic was active all day long. Here the kids could learn to shoot real arrows and make a bow. Wonder if they used Osage Orange wood? 150 bows were raffled off during the weekend.

Inside the Lazy E Arena were 75 static displays and exhibits. The Museum of Osteology had touch tables with furs, bones and one 6 foot tall adult male grizzly bear skeleton you could stand beside and take your own picture with him. Now there’s a photo to send to your friends at Halloween. With an adjacent tent full of displays set up outdoors, wherever you went there was something to do. Weave baskets, shoot shotguns, fish, do some primitive cooking, paddle kayaks or tackle the climbing wall. The bison chili and fried catfish were quite good.

Over 20,000 reported on-line they had attended which meant thousands more had also come. Area schools represented on Friday were North Rock Creek, South Rock Creek and Dale but no Shawnee or Tecumseh unless they didn’t make it to the wildlife area. Their loss either way. The Wildlife Expo was a fun and educational experience.

Monarch migration stalled in southern Kansas and the Texas Panhandle earlier this week. Tuesday and Wednesday activities were cancelled (Oct 1-2) at Hackberry Flat in southwest Oklahoma. The Monarchs have taken a more westerly path. Hummingbirds are also migrating and have been seen on local flowers and feeders. The Rogers County conservationist keeps his feeders going until November to catch any stragglers. The cold fronts now surging through the state may encourage the migrants to get a move on (as I write this on Wednesday Oct 2nd).

Go guys go. Fly like the wind.

Becky Emerson Carlberg, graduate of Oklahoma State (Plant Pathology) is a teacher, artist, writer as well as certified Oklahoma Master Gardener and Master Naturalist. Contact her at Becscience@att.net.