Have I ever told you how much I love October?


October is my favorite month. Air temperatures begin to drop into a comfortable range but the water is still warm. Usually in October here in eastern North Carolina I can go the whole month without using the heat or air conditioning. That’s a money saving experience I can really embrace.

I love cool nights and not having to mow the lawn as much. Daylight savings time runs through October, so there’s still daylight in the evening to spend outdoors. Even when the time does change and we fall back we still get an extra hour of sleep in the morning. That’s nice.

When I was younger, October always meant the start of hunting season. Sneaking around in the woods on a cool morning was always a pleasure even if game was scarce. Archery hunting was especially satisfying as it was always challenging. It was especially challenging for me as I was a penny pincher and hunted with a cheap Bear Whitetail bow and no release.

I like to watch and listen to all the migrating waterfowl invade our wetlands this time of year. Blue and green wing teal are usually already here by this time. Wood ducks stay here year-round, and many other species begin to show their presence now.  Black ducks, mallards, northern pintails, American widgeon and gadwall are making themselves at home.

Fall harvest season really cranks up in October. It gives me a warm feeling to see the machinery gleaning the fields and watching full grain carts heading for the silos, peanuts dug and drying in the sun and cotton harvesters getting the white fiber ready for the gin. In a good season it’s especially satisfying.

October is State Fair month. My daughter and many of my students showed livestock since they were small children. I’ve always enjoyed watching the kids and trying to guess the judges’ placings. Also, what’s a walk around the fairground without an ear of roasted corn and a smoked turkey leg? I always look forward to guessing how much the biggest pumpkin weighs and I enjoy perusing the honey displays.

In my younger days October was a great month for me to harvest some wild honey. Bees aren’t especially active in cold weather and several pounds of honeycomb could be pilfered from a bee tree before the bees could do me any harm.

Cool fall weather really brings out the forager in me. Black walnuts and pecans find their way into five-gallon buckets in my garage. Cool humid nights make perfect growing conditions for many edible mushroom species to proliferate. It’s quite a reward for me to stumble upon a thick stand of meadow mushrooms or a dead tree covered with Pleurotus.

October ends with Halloween. I always enjoy seeing the young kids in their costumes. It’s been several years since I walked around with my own kids, but recently Roberta and I were blessed with our first grandchild. I can’t wait to see Halloween pictures of him even if I can’t be there.

 

 

Ted Manzer teaches agriculture at Northeastern High School.

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About tedmanzer

I grew up in Old Town Maine and got a B.S. at the University of Maine in Plant Sciences/ minor in Botany. From there I moved to West Virginia and earned a M.S. in Agronomy at WVU. I also met my wife there. She grew up in rural WV as the daughter of tenant farmers who raised cattle and hogs. Their lifestyle at times was one of subsistence and I learned a lot from them. I've always been a foraging buff, but combining my formal botanical knowledge with their practical 'Foxfire-type' background opened up my eyes a little more. I now teach agriculture to high school students at Northeastern High School in Elizabeth City, NC. My wife teaches with me and we make a great team. I also write a weekly nature/foraging column for the local paper (dailyadvance.com) and frequently publish articles in several other newspapers in northeastern North Carolina. I also have written several Christian nature/adventure novels that I plan to publish eventually. One is a five book family saga I call the 'Forgotten Virtues' series. In the first book, Never Alone, a young boy comes of age after his father dies in a plane crash, and he has to make it alone. Never Alone is now available in paperback, Kindle and Nook. The second book, Strange Courage, takes Carl from his High School graduation to his recovery from a nasty divorce. The third book, Second Chances, takes Carl from his ex-wife's death and the custody of his son to his heroic death at age 59. The fourth book, Promises Kept, depicts how his grandchildren react and adjust to his death. In the final book, Grandfather's Way, his youngest and most timid granddaughter emerges from the shadow of her overachieving family and accomplishes more in four months than most do in a lifetime. I use many foraging references with a lot of the plants I profile in these articles in those books.
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