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Learning to Embrace November

November is a time to get out and hike before the snow flies, which is exactly what these folks from the Trenton Woodlot Conference were doing at Presqu'ile Park, as Park Naturalist David Bree points out natural features in Jobes' Woods. Photo by Terry Sprague

In the last decade or so, I have learned to accept November and enjoy it for what it is. I have been scurrying around – as my father always used to say, “like a fart in a mitten”, spending as much time as I can outdoors. My snowblower is mounted on the tractor, the leaves are mulched, this year’s crop of branches has been put through the wood chipper, the flower beds have been put – well, to bed, and the Christmas lights are up and working. It was raining this morning as I put a couple wheelbarrows of last year’s rotted wood chips on the garden, but I happily worked in it anyway. I look at November as one last kick at the can, and I book in as many jobs as I can around the yard, embracing each new day and its temperatures, knowing that I managed to stay another step ahead of that first snowfall. Even then, I will likely be outside fiddling around with something. And I manage to work in the odd hike or two, as I did last week at Presqu’ile Park as part of the Trenton Woodlot Conference. I don’t get “SAD” – you know – that relatively new mindless ailment called Seasonal Affective Disorder. Don’t have time for it. I am too busy absorbing everything Nature and life has to offer. On the farm, we only got sad if we lost our best cow to chronic mastitis, or it came up a thunderstorm with horizontal rain as we were half way through loading up a hay wagon in the south forty.  What makes me sad at this time of the year is having to listen to newscasters and interviews on the street as they drone on monotonously about their thoughts on the approach of winter. I may feel differently when I get much older, like in my 80s, but then I have the option of moving south where there is no snow, if I choose to do so. Or, I will be in a nursing home somewhere, nodding off in front of a blaring television, and it won’t matter because I won’t know where I am anyway, or what day it is.  No, I like living in Prince Edward County where we have four seasons and each day offers different weather and varying temperatures.

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About the Author: Terry Sprague became interested in nature at an early age. "Growing up on the family farm at Big Island, 12 miles north of Picton, on the shore of the beautiful Bay of Quinte, I was always interested in the natural world around me. During my elementary school days at the small one-room school I attended on Big Island, I received considerable encouragement from the late Marie Foster, my teacher in Grades 6 through 8. Her home was a short distance from where I lived and through the years she was responsible for developing my interest in birds. The late Phil Dodds, a former editor with the Picton Gazette, also a great nature enthusiast, suggested I undertake a nature column - a column I have submitted weekly since 1965. The column has since expanded to the Napanee Beaver and the Tweed News. Life has been good, and through the years I have enjoyed working with such nature related agencies as Glenora Fisheries Research as a resource technician, Sandbanks Provincial Park as a park interpreter and Quinte Conservation as a naturalist and outdoor events coordinator. As a nature interpreter, currently working from my home office, I now create and lead numerous interpretive events in the area and offer indoor audio/visual presentations to interested groups. Could one who is interested in nature have enjoyed a more exhilarating period in the work force?" Terry's website is www.naturestuff.net

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  1. Lisa says:

    I enjoy your insightful writing and hikes! I’m going outside!

  2. Terry says:

    Thanks, Donald, for your support of November. I never used to feel that way when I was on the farm as I spent far too many days on a tractor seat sans heated cab finishing up the last of the fall plowing! Now I am enjoying a whole new perspective on this least appreciated month, running here and there getting photos and basking in all that it has to offer.

  3. Donald says:

    Excellent work Terry. My wife and I once spent a memorable November week in the company of Freeman Patterson Canada’s master outdoor photographer. Early
    in our session he emphasized that November was his favourite month — because
    the restrained light conditions brought out the depth and richness of the natural world. It always made us look forward to November as a special time of year.

    Regards

    Donald

  4. Louisa says:

    And this makes sense to me. Nature always knows best! Thanks, Terry.

  5. Terry says:

    Sounds a bit like a myth to me, Louisa. The flu virus, for example, spreads best in cold, dry weather. “Germs” for use in laboratories are often stored at temperatures far below anything in nature or a normal refrigerator. Once they warm up to their preferred temperature, they function normally. And insects? Don’t forget that Nature is far smarter than we are. Every insect has a role to play in the natural scheme of things. They overwinter in various stages of their development, depending on the species.

  6. Louisa says:

    As I was reading the comment by Doris, I happened to look outside and there are light flakes of snow coming down. The first for the season – at least here in Napanee. But we do need plenty of it to have a ‘normal, healthy’ winter to insulate the plants and such, and we also need the cold too, to ‘kill off’ (sounds awful) viruses and insects and such or we will get many more than we want to see come spring. (is this really a fact Terry, or was I misinformed on this point?).

  7. Doris says:

    Kudos to Terry for his wonderful outlook on life. We can all learn a lesson from him and I consider myself lucky to know him.
    Yes and I look forward to seeing the first snow flake–just as long as there are not too many of them.

  8. Gabrielle Holowacz says:

    You said it well, Terry. All months of the year have some beauty associated with them. We can’t spend all our time living for the future. You enjoy life much more if you live in the present tense.

  9. Terry says:

    So true, Louisa. Those of us with a zest for the outdoors and everything the 12 months of the year offer us, have no problem merging from one month into the next, and as your photos in your blog indicate, there is exceptional beauty in every month. Those with little or no interest in Nature will indeed experience the symptoms associated with SAD. Alergies to peanut butter, SAD, concerns about drinking unpasteurized milk, ad infinitum, are all things we never heard about while growing up, and I can’t help but wonder what has happened to us and our immune systems along the way.

  10. Louisa says:

    I think those with a natural and true interest in the natural world around them have an easier time of winter, and the easing into it that November provides. Certainly the darker days (especially when you can’t get outside during the work day and you go home in the dark) can bring down energy levels. We do need the sun for that, as all creatures and plants do. But being present each day, looking at it for what it is and what it brings, noticing the small changes present in each day of each season, one can see much to be interested in. And then each day, week, month then passes so quickly that you are suddenly being blown by a March wind and Springtime is with you!

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