Saturday, November 19, 2011

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History - Fall

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History by Amy Coffin is a series of weekly blogging prompts (one for each week of 2011) that invite genealogists and others to record memories and insights about their own lives for future descendants. You do not have to be a blogger to participate. If you do not have a genealogy blog, write down your memories on your computer, or simply record them on paper and keep them with your files.
  • Week 47. Fall. What was fall like where and when you grew up? Describe not only the climate, but how the season influenced your activities, food choices, etc.

Fall.  As this comes around, it's late fall here in Minnesota, and in fact I've been watching the first serious snowfall of the season all day.  So on a day that feels more like Winter, what can I say about Fall?

I've been Minnesotan virtually all of my life, so Fall as most people know it starts in early September with the days starting to get noticeably shorter, the leaves begin to change colors, and the temperatures get cooler.  One can start to smell wood smoke in the air as people use fireplaces in the evening.  The big yellow school buses start roaming the streets, and the kids who walk to and from school clog the sidewalks for brief periods in the morning and afternoon.

We don't usually get a hard frost until late September or early October.  That's about the time people bring in the last of the garden produce, and prep the flower beds for winter.  People begin raking leaves, as they are usually falling in earnest by this time.  One of the best things to do on a sunny fall weekend is to go somewhere and view the fall colors, which peak over several weeks in different parts of the state.  Usually late September to early October is peak color up north along the north shore of Lake Superior, with many miles of excellent hiking trails and state parks to visit.  By the end of October, the colors have all faded to browns and a few dull yellows, and most of the leaves have dropped off.

Halloween has always been one of my favorite times.  My wife and I even met while working in a haunted house many years back!  Late October is a bit dicey with regards to weather in Minnesota, though.  It rains for Halloween fairly often, and in 1991 there was even a major blizzard that made national news.  I was in the Navy at that time, and missed it.  People get used to trying to make costumes fit over snowmobile suits or heavy coats if there's a sudden cold snap.

Fall usually brings in the holidays, family gatherings and the traditional meals of turkey and stuffing, cranberry sauce, and so on are anticipated by everyone.  Deer hunters go out hoping to fill the larder with venison of all sorts for the winter.  Duck, goose and pheasant are also prized.  

Fall this year has been rather extended.  It's mid-November and we're just getting our first serious snowfall, which usually comes earlier in the month, and sometimes in October, though it doesn't always stick around if it comes that early.  At this point, though, any snow we get is usually with us until spring.  Minnesota is noted for its winters, and people here know what to expect, so any extension we get to nice fall weather is appreciated by everyone except people who sell snow gear.  People use the extra time to do home maintenance projects, more yard work, or whatever they can that lets them enjoy the outdoors just a bit longer.  They know that soon enough, it'll be winter for months!

As I looked at what I've written, it occurred to me that the title of the blog is Indiana Dillmans, and I've only talked about my experience in Minnesota.  What was Fall like for my Indiana ancestors?  Indiana is further south, and situated on the other side of the Great Lakes which moderates their climate somewhat, so they don't get the massive snowfalls and extended deep freeze that Minnesota takes as a matter of course.  Still, it can get very cold, and their houses were not built the way our modern ones are, being far less-well insulated, and heated by wood stoves instead of oil or natural gas.  A big part of their annual work must have been cutting wood to prepare for the coming cold season, alongside the farming that most of my ancestors did.  Hard, heavy work.  Shorter days, meaning less hours of daylight in which to get the work done, let alone any hobbies or pleasurable activities.  How did they cope?

This and all other articles on this blog are © copyright 2011 by Daniel G. Dillman