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The sounds of fall

The sounds of fall at our house are striking — literally. Our bedrooms are situated under two giant oak trees, and the squirrels have been busy scampering around in the canopy and up and down, shaking loads of acorns onto our roof. They are busy early each morning, often before the birds start their choruses. The falling acorns are timed just right: first a crack, then a pause just long enough for me to start to fall back to sleep — and crack! the next round begins. When I finally get up, I’m greeted by a pile of acorns on our deck, along with some scattered leaves and twigs.

It is the time of year for squirrels to cache their acorns for the winter, and the way they move is both frantic and silly. My daughters and I like to imitate them as we play a game: we collect pine cones or acorns and hide them in little piles; then we try to find one another’s stores. We also count all the squirrels we can find in the yard, their fluffy tails and noisy movements often giving them away. When we wondered about eating acorns, we did a little reading about how the Wabanaki of Maine ground them into flour. It’s no small undertaking: making acorn flour involves boiling, drying, and grinding. We haven’t attempted it yet.

One of our favorite books to read at this time of year is The Secret Life of Squirrels by Nancy Rose. Author-photographer Rose became fascinated by the resident squirrels in her yard and created miniature scenes for them. Her photographs show main character Mr. Peanuts and his visitor, Cousin Squirrel, in such settings as an ice cream parlor and playing chess. For nonfiction, we’ve been enjoying April Pulley Sayre’s Squirrels Leap, Squirrels Sleep. This is another of her collaborations with illustrator Steve Jenkins whose lively collages are full of movement and energy. Sayre’s rhyming text follows the squirrels and acorns through the season from fall storage through spring sprouting.

While I might be a bit sleep-deprived due to the squirrels’ industriousness, I applaud their efforts and love to watch as they, like us, prepare for the change in season.

Books mentioned

The Secret Life of Squirrels, written and photographed by Nancy Rose (Little, 2014)

Squirrels Leap, Squirrels Sleep, written by April Pulley Sayre; illus. by Steve Jenkins (Holt, 2016)

Ed. note: See also: “Revenge of the Free Little Libraries.”

Susan Olcott About Susan Olcott

Susan Olcott lives in Maine with her husband and six-year old twin girls. She's played on lobster boats while getting her M.S. in Marine Science, designed and led snorkeling and kayaking tours in San Diego for the Scripps Institute of Oceanography and Birch Aquarium, taken kids on bike tours in Europe and the U.S., and taught biology to military personnel in Sardinia, Italy.

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