Whether it is expected or not, the first night below freezing takes something of an attitude adjustment. When I went to bed last evening the temperature had already dipped into the upper 30's and there was little doubt that we'd have frost by morning. It was also likely that we'd dip below freezing.
As the sun broke the horizon, just before 8 a.m., I saw that the yard had a white cast and I knew that we had a heavy frost. In fact, I recorded a low of 28.8°.
My "proof" of frost is our burn barrel, a 55 gallon oil drum at the edge of our garden. I can walk out with the days kitchen scraps, toss them into the compost hole and look for frost all at the same time. But today there was no doubt. The garden itself was white.
These sunflowers, whose season has passed, lie on the soil where I dropped them some weeks ago. I take the heavy stalks and carry them to the meadow to decay; they are too tough for compost. But I leave the tender tops - and the flowers heads themselves to re-seed next year's crop - atop the soil. This morning they were fringed with white.
This cap on the burn barrel seems to have grown hoary ears as the moisture in the air has attached itself to the frigid metal surface. Frost cannot hide from me here. When I have trouble distinguishing it in the long grass, I know the metal barrel will turn traitor and reveal the hiding frost. But this morning the ground was starkly white ... beyond white ... even frozen.
And yet as the sun rose, the eastern sky took on a rosy glow and the whole atmosphere seemed to suddenly warm. I walked around the house to the maple and saw the first rays of sunshine play upon the autumn leaves. By moving my own position and placing the sun behind a hanging birdhouse, I could photograph a hanging branch of fiery maple leaves without the harsh sun spoiling the view. The leaves seem to shine under their own power. In truth, the tree is almost bare. Next weekend I will clean the rain gutters and will not have to be bothered with them filling up again.
So the 2011 growing season comes to a close. There is no doubt about when the grass crunches beneath the foot and the still-tender greenery hangs limp.