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The sights, sounds, smells and flavors of fall

Well, it’s happening — summer is fading into fall.

The signs were undeniable this week. As I drove to and from the office and other destinations, I began to see small changes on Tuesday.

At first, it was just a few trees. Scattered about the rolling hillsides, a select few bunches of leaves started to transition from brilliant green to a paler shade that was almost yellow.

By Friday evening, though, autumn had made a good bit of progress. All across the region, shades of yellow, orange and red were beginning to highlight the large swaths of green that cover our hills, lines our streets and fill our valleys.

There was more. In several spots, I noticed splotchy, dark stains on the roads where black walnuts had fallen from their trees. Passing vehicles had smashed their green hulls off of their shells. The deep brown juice they released made marks all over the ground.

In our cities and villages, leaves had fallen and were beginning to pile up along streets and alleyways and around the bases of the trees themselves. Just looking at them from the driver’s seat of my car, I could imagine the crunching sound they would make underfoot and the dry, musty, almost smoky odor they would emit.

Autumn in Eastern Ohio can be truly beautiful — if it doesn’t rain all the time.

I don’t dislike the fall, but one thing I do hate about it is the tendency for late October and November to be dreary and damp. Often, hen Halloween rolls around, the days are dark and the ground is muddy, making it difficult to enjoy the holiday since it involves outdoor activities such as costume parades and trick-or-treating.

Before that happens, however, we get to enjoy a spectacular show. Soon, the vast majority of summer’s green leaves will transition to their autumn colors, making the landscape look as if it is covered in jewels.

People’s sleeves are getting longer now, and a few folks are sporting occasional jackets or sweaters. While the days are still warm or even hot with temperatures reaching up into the 80s, evenings and early mornings can be quite chilly. There is more dew on the grass after the sun goes down, and it is likely that fog will be draped over the region early in the morning.

Homeowners can now wait a little longer between lawn mowing sessions. But leaf raking will soon become necessary. Gardeners are preparing to give their hedges and trees a final trim of the season, and many are ready to start planting spring-blooming bulbs soon.

There are plenty of chores to do as the weather cools. Delicate plants will need mulch at their bases. Gardens will need to be plowed under. Weeds and spent flowers can be pulled one last time.

But there is more to fall than a new list of tasks to complete. There are plenty of traditional activities that many families enjoy at this time of year.

Cookouts and gatherings around campfires are popular at this time of year. Roasting hot dogs and marshmallows on sticks over an open flame can be a lot of fun. Smashing those marshmallows into smores is one of my favorite things to do.

Sharing stories or songs fireside is a lovely way to spend a cool evening. A good-sized fire can take the chill off for any number of people who gather around.

This is also the right time of year for hayrides, hikes through the woods and leisurely drives across the countryside. Plenty of haunted trails and corn mazes can be found locally and in the surrounding region.

Festivals focused on the harvest abound. They often feature the colorful crafts of local artisans that many people use to decorate their homes. Along with those items, folks tend to deck out their properties with mums, pumpkins bales of straw or hay and cornstalks as well as rustic items.

And speaking of straw, plenty of people make scarecrows at this time of year. That’s a good way to make use of an old flannel shirt and to have some fun with the kids.

The flavors of fall have arrived as well. The rich autumn harvest provides plenty of products that can be used in warm and soothing dishes and drinks that taste just perfect at this time of year.

Fruits such as apples, pears and pumpkins are perfect for pies. Apple cider, served hot or cold, is delightful, as are apples wrapped in caramel or candy coating.

Pumpkin is a versatile food that can be used in breads, muffins, soups, pastas and even hot drinks and coffees.

Sweet potatoes and squash are other seasonal favorites that can be prepared in myriad ways. All of these dishes can be acented with fresh nuts that are in season and can be found in stores or even along local country roads.

Soups, stews, casseroles, baked goods and warm cups of flavorful liquids make us feel cozy despite the chill in the air.

I do hate to see the summer go, but I know we are fortunate to live in an area that has distinct seasons.

I try to approach each of those with a positive attitude and appreciate all that they have to offer.

So, happy fall, y’all!

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