Monday was a wild and wooly day. The light mist and rain transitioned into tiny ice and snow pellets piercing the air like sharp darts. The wind gusts were reaching 60 mph. As I topped one small hill, the strong gales forced me to stop moving and bend low to the ground to keep my footing. A gale force wind is 32-63 mph; damaging winds are classified as those over 50 to 60 mph.

Monday was a wild and wooly day. The light mist and rain transitioned into tiny ice and snow pellets piercing the air like sharp darts. The wind gusts were reaching 60 mph. As I topped one small hill, the strong gales forced me to stop moving and bend low to the ground to keep my footing. A gale force wind is 32-63 mph; damaging winds are classified as those over 50 to 60 mph. The temperature continued to fall throughout the day. Early afternoon the electricity blinked off and on several times before the house became eerily dark and quiet. Quiet can be so soothing, but with an all-electric house and heating system, things began to cool quickly while the outdoor winds howled.

The landline phone would help me contact Canadian Valley Electric Coop (CVEC) to report the outage, except my new cordless landline had no electricity and refused to function. Such a great idea. The cordless phone would be my savior after I tangled up my feet in the cord of the old phone and came crashing down on my left knee. Didn’t think about the electronic transmission of power from the base unit to the receiver. My cell phone had inadvertently traveled to Midwest City in the car. Guided by the light of one candle, I decided to fire up the insert.

Has it been one or two years since a fire was built? Time to rekindle my fire building skills. Dry wood and fire starters had been stacked on the top of the gardening shed for some time. Naturally I was wearing a pair of white jogging pants, not anticipating the cool down. Later, after three matches and two trips with arms full of wood, a small fire was crackling inside the black box. The brick fireplace around the insert was cleaned. The cotton rag rug directly in front of the fire was replaced with the small wool carpet. If sparks flew, they tended to smolder in the wool. My pants and hands were covered in soot and wood splinters, but we had heat.

As the front room warmed, I pondered the fate of the plants in the greenhouses. Temps were dropping and the citrus trees were at 42 degrees. The old landline was resurrected and plugged into the telephone jack in the wall. CVEC was contacted. The substation transformer at Hazel-Dell had blown and crews were on the scene. Later in the afternoon the lights came on. Who hoo. The lemons were much happier.

Next morning the temperature dropped to 14 degrees. Both birdbaths were frozen solid. Humidity bottomed out as cold dry air sank into every nook and cranny. A fierce taste of winter.

The leaves are in a quandary. Hang on and change into beautiful colors or just fall off and swirl into mega piles of various shades of brown. The light-harvesting food factories are being shut down after a long season of growth. Abundant active green chlorophylls mask other pigments present in leaves. As greens break down, the oranges (carotenoids) and yellows (xanthophylls) appear. The purples and reds (anthocyanins) begin to be synthesized after half the chlorophyll has degraded.

Dogwoods, sweetgums, persimmons and sumac leaves turn reddish purple. Maples dazzle with oranges and brilliant reds. Yellows and oranges are characteristic of hardwoods such as hickories, cottonwoods, sycamores and ash trees. Oaks in good years may go golden orange before becoming the ubiquitous brown. Pecan trees after a freeze cut loose their compound curly leaves, leaving many nuts still attached soon to fall.

Sunlight, moisture and temperature all play a role in foliage color. Low temps above freezing help red and purple formation. Freezing temps often end color changes. Strong winds and rains whisk leaves away before they develop full color. Drought not only diminishes color but numbers of leaves.

Best conditions for fall foliage: a season of adequate moisture followed by a dry, cool autumn with sunny days and frostless nights. The autumn sky is actually bluer. You aren’t imagining things! Lower humidity, less clouds, lower sun and contrasting tree colors add richness and depth to the atmosphere. The early week days of intense bitter cold may have facilitated the leaf color change to lovely earth tones.

The leaves are going, Thanksgiving is coming and it is quite late this year. Thanksgiving had been celebrated on the last Thursday in November since Abe Lincoln’s time. In 1939 there were 5 Thursdays in the month. Franklin Roosevelt moved the holiday to the second-to-last Thursday and quipped it gave businesses more time to sell before Christmas. The origin of Black Friday stems from this time. Many folks were not in favor of changing the date. Roosevelt realized it was a mistake and signed a bill late 1941 making permanent the last Thursday of November being Thanksgiving Day.

Less than two weeks away, I dug out my Thanksgiving paraphernalia and created this fake landscape of turkeys, pilgrims, cattails and artificial autumn leaves. The centerpiece sits on the lazy Susan. The pilgrims were discovered years ago tucked away in an obscure store. Some may call it a bad paint job, but the pilgrim couple with turkey have a certain panache. They appear stunned or demented and seem to have imbibed way too much ale. The turkey is being held close by the male pilgrim as if it is a pet. Both pilgrims each have 3 fingers and a thumb. They’re perfect.

Two turkeys talking to one another. “What are you thankful for?” “Vegetarians.”

One forensic turkey in white lab coat talking to the detective turkey while both were staring at the cooked turkey on a tray. “We thought it was an accidental death, Mr. Gobbler, until this mysterious thermometer popped out!”

If you call a large turkey a gobbler, what do you call a small one? A goblet.

Tip: Don’t call your turkey Big Bird and expect your kids to eat it!

Tasteless turkey joke: “Shot my first turkey today. Scared the crap out of everyone in the frozen food section. It was awesome!!”

Or as Maxine says “As the Thanksgiving season approaches, remember: All it takes is one undercooked turkey, and you’ll be the ‘dinner rolls and soda’ person for life!”

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.