Notes from the Island
October 1992


Autumn has arrived. A cold wind is blowing down the river dislodging dry brown sycamore leaves and scattering them over the lawn. Morning sunlight burns off the mist which forms when the cool air sweeps over the warmer water.

Although the red cardinal flowers and the deep purple iron weed have died back, many late summer flowers are still blooming. You can find jimsonweed at the lower tip of the Island, smartweed by the ferry landing, purple asters near the workshop, and garden phlox and wild sunflowers close to the swimfloat. White snakeroot, goldenrod, ageratum and asiatic dayflower are scattered around the Island. Near the canoe shed a nice stand of pale jewelweed still blooms. At this time of year its ripe pods explode when handled, which explains its other name: touch-me-not.

To my surprise I discovered a patch of Virginia dayflowers upstream of the swimfloat. They are very similar to the Asiatic dayflowers, but they have three blue petals instead of two blue and one white.

Most of the birds are still here. Hundreds of rough-winged swallows sit on the ferry rope and cable and then flit around the slough hunting insects on the wing. An osprey soars against the bright blue sky while a great blue heron stands in the sunshine out of the wind at the lower tip of Rupperts, wading in the shallow water fishing for minnows. Through the foliage you can hear the loud dry rattle of the kingfisher and the deep bass hammering of the pileated woodpecker.

The beavers are starting to store up for winter. They have already chewed the bark off the base of a large elm upstream of the swimfloat. I haven't seen any pawpaws this year. I don't know if the squirrels have snatched them or if the trees just didn't produce any. On the other hand, the wild persimmon tree in the northern swamp is bursting with orange fruit. Don't eat them before the first frost or your mouth will pucker.

The air may be cooler but the river is still warm. Ann Kip swam yesterday and said she was shivering in the wind once she got out. George Malusky was down fishing and caught a few small bass. Clearly the season is coming to an end.

On the third Saturday session David Winer worked hard on repairing some of the Club canoes with metal epoxy. Let's hope it holds. The Supers, Renee Dunham and others cleared the trails at the upper end of the Island.

We have several projects for the October third Saturday work session and the November Workfest. Club Captain John Matthews is talking about pulling the ferry out of the water and repairing it. Carpentry supervisor Tove Elfstrom is getting lumber to replace rotten boards on picnic tables and deteriorating plywood on the floats. House Committee Chairperson Leah Hertz has plans for straightening out the locker rooms and numbering the lockers. And of course we have our usual tasks of raking leaves, chopping wood and fighting kudzu. Maybe we can end the Workfest with a giant bonfire by the river. Be sure to come.

-- Peter Jones, Sycamore Island Caretaker