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Signs of the season: Spirits, orange needles and clocks falling back

Another sign of the season is this stand of American larch on County Route 155 in the Town of Bethel, with needles turning orange before falling to the ground as winter approaches.
TRR photos by Fritz Mayer

By Fritz Mayer
October 30, 2013

UPPER DELAWARE VALLEY — With the gales of November straining at the region from the north, there is change in the air. The memory of August tomatoes dims and thoughts of winter coats and snow shovels push their way into consciousness.

The end of the harvest season is marked by Halloween, which many believe sprouted from a mix of Christianity and Celtic pagan rituals. The initial goal, at least in part, was to placate the spirits in hopes of insuring that the livestock and family survived the coming winter.

Halloween scenes have sprouted throughout the region, and for more about one celebration, turn to Jonathan Fox’s column on page 24.

Another sign of the season is the change of color in the American larch trees, also known as tamarack. The needles of this pine tree turn orange or yellow at this time of year before they fall from the branches.

The tree is one of the few deciduous (meaning they lose their leaves in winter) conifers (meaning they bear cones) in North America, and is native to New York and Pennsylvania. A very hardy tree, its range includes Northern Canada and Alaska.

The tree is also reportedly very adaptable, and as such is a favorite species for those who raise bonsai plants. According to the website bonsaibark.com, “They are easy to grow, flexible, take to pruning and root pruning, have small bright green needles and excellent fall color, the wood is easy to carve and the resulting deadwood is attractive; they develop real character with age.”

A third sign of the season is the coming end of Daylight Saving Time for 2013. It will end for most Americans in the Northeast when clocks “fall back” to Eastern Standard Time on Sunday, November 3, at 2 a.m.

That begins the stretch of time when many workers in the Upper Delaware Valley leave work well after sunset, braving the dark country roads, dodging dear and wild turkey on the way home.

For some, the shortening days bring a sense of gloom, or a sense of resignation. But those souls may take heart that the winter solstice, which occurs on December 21, is only about 51 days away, and after that the days start getting longer again.