Termination Dust

I noticed it almost two weeks ago–the day of my last post, actually!  Fall.  It was here.  There were perfectly yellow birch leaves littering the walkway to the yurt.  I felt like wearing a vest.  It was sunny and crisp, and the hint of a breeze made the aspen quake.  There was that unmistakable smell of autumn on the barely distinguishable wind.  A fluff of fireweed seed lingered just out of reach.

Fireweed takes on some new fall hues.

Fireweed takes on some new fall hues.

First day of fall--vests on our chests and leaves on the ground.

First day of fall–vests on our chests and leaves on the ground.

And then, it really happened!  That night (it was only August!), we had our first frost.  It wasn’t very hard, but it was enough to leave some frost on the westerly facing roofs and to damage the majority of the leaves on the squash plants.  It seemed to come without warning!  Bam. Fall.  The next night was cold, but not freezing, and then we had two more nights of harder frosts.  Good bye squash!  Good bye beans! Good bye peas (good riddance to the peas, I say as a pea harvester)…

Leila creates some gourmet master pieces out of the spaghetti squash that didn't ripen enough before the big freeze.  The pigs will LOVE it.

Leila creates some gourmet masterpieces out of the spaghetti squash that didn’t ripen enough before the big freeze. The pigs will LOVE it.

On Saturday, I couldn’t bring myself to clean produce in 32.1 degree water, so I ran a hose from inside the house. After some hose hunting, wrangling and dragging, it was actually quite lovely to scrub carrots, radishes and beets in the cool-but-not-freezing water.  This might become a regular habit.

Pumpkin success!

Pumpkin success!

Our Sunday farm stand harvest that week (the morning after the first hard frost) was the first of our true fall harvests.  Most things were a bit frozen or frosty.  The hoses worked, but threatened not to.  The peas had a translucent tinge.  The squash had all been harvested after the first frost and were ready to go; their vines were sad and dead. The cutting greens and spinach needed some time to warm up and get their juices flowing again, and the broccoli and cauliflower all felt a bit solid…Luckily, the things in the high tunnel green houses were just a bit chilly, but NOT frozen.  A cold, fresh, sweet tomato for breakfast dessert? Yes please!

Mama's little spinach picking helper.

Mama’s little spinach picking helper. Can you see some snow on the mountains in the background?

We woke up the days after those frosts to termination dust on the mountains.  Termination dust is the first sign of snow on the mountains surrounding the valley.  It indicates the “termination” of summer.  It has come early this year! I remember my first year in Alaska it didn’t show up until a few weeks into September.  The last couple of years the tops of mountains have taken on the white hue of an aging head of hair consistently during the second week of September. This year, after the first frost (in August!) there was just the smallest shade of white on Pioneer Peak, the tallest mountain bordering the valley.  By the next frost, it had moved considerably down the mountain and had crept to other, lower mountains, as well.  The snow usually doesn’t stick around all day, but it is a friendly morning reminder to bundle up.

Matanuska peak, yesterday morning.  Can you see the dust?!

Matanuska peak, yesterday morning. Can you see the dust?!

Close-up, can you see it now?

Close-up, can you see it now?

We left for Colorado the Monday after this weekend of freezing temperatures.  Denver is hot.  it was almost ninety five degrees one day! Whoa…that’s the hottest we’ve felt in a very long time.  The heat combined with the altitude was a bit shocking, to say the least.  It was an excellent day to go to a museum.  Heading up into the mountains for the second part of our trip was a welcome reprieve from the heat; and we got to attend the beautiful, simple, picturesque wedding of two of our dearest friends.  The intense love that radiated from all things in that celebration was decoration enough!

Flight delayed SEA-->DEN, our plane has arrived!

Flight delayed SEA–>DEN, our plane has arrived!

Checking out dinosaurs at the Colorado Museum of Nature and Science.  What big teeth they have!

Checking out dinosaurs at the Colorado Museum of Nature and Science. What big teeth they have!

Weddings bring good friends together!  This is the Waterfall Hike at Snow Mountain Ranch in Granby, CO.

Weddings bring good friends together! This is the Waterfall Hike at Snow Mountain Ranch in Granby, CO.

Luckily, there have been no more frozen temperatures since we left and returned!  It has just been “warm and wet.”  Warm is a relative term…It pretty much just means that it hasn’t frozen.  The lows have been in the high thirties and low forties.  Daytime temps have been in the upper fifties and low sixties.  Pretty nice–especially when the rain stops!  Autumn is such a wet time in Alaska, it is much different than the dry autumns of the midwest that I grew up with.  Any way it goes, I love the fall!  The cooler temperatures, the changing colors, the late season veggies (I can’t wait for my first brussels sprout…mmmm).  Bring on the termination dust!!

One of my favorite trails.  It is so fun to see the seasons change on this walk.

One of my favorite trails. It is so fun to see the seasons change on this walk.

Any signs of fall where you are?  Hope all is well wherever this finds you!

Sending peace and love from Alaska,

Until Next Time,

Alex, the Rural Farmgirl

  1. Barb P says:

    I love your posts – and all the Farmgirl posts! They truly are a pleasant and much-anticipated interlude when checking my emails!

  2. Jennifer says:

    Hi Alex,
    I’m new to your blog and I LOVE your writing. I was captivated. Fall is beginning to peak through where I live. Even though it’s in Arizona, Flagstaff is in the mountains at 7,000 feet. Our mountain in town is at 11,000 feet, so it should have dust on it soon. Our growing season is 103 days long and should end in about 2 weeks, but it looks like (according to weather.com) we may get a few extra days before hitting freezing temps at night. Many trees in town are turning yellow, the sun is at a different angle and there’s a crispness to the air in the mornings. I will miss summer when we’re buried in snow, but I do love the change of season! 🙂

  3. Bambi Miller says:

    I love the term “termination dust” ! I live in Ellensburg, Washington. Located in the high desert central portion of the state. Moving here from the wet, warm side of western Washington, I quickly discovered the early frosts and what we can successfully farm outside and what needs to be grown inside a greenhouse! I always dreamed of a big pumpkin patch for fun fall activities. But have learned that is just not possible here. We have had temperatures below 30 degrees on many, many Labor Day weekends. We have beautiful sage covered hills that surround our valley, and we have learned that when the first dusting of snow comes, winter is right around the corner, and that in the early spring, we wait for planting of crops when the snow on the “ridge” is gone. I enjoy reading your blog! thank you for sharing your experiences of life up in the “wilds” of Alaska. Bambi

  4. Susabelle says:

    I live 40 miles northeast of Denver, in a small city (Longmont). I have seen a dusting of snow on the highest peaks a couple of times, but it has been HOT here, hot and awful, not normal at all. No frost yet, but we are starting to see nights in the low fifties and even upper forties, even though the days hit 90. Today it will hit 90 again. Tomorrow in the 70’s, then back to 90+ on the weekend. We are still getting fall, though. The cottonwoods and aspen area already turning. The water is getting cold (our water comes from the mountains). I notice the water getting cold when I take showers – I have to turn on more hot water than I did just a few weeks ago. I am ready for fall, ready for the harvest season to be over. I’m tired. Fall/winter is my rest time!

  5. Hi Alex,

    I’ve never heard the term Termination Dust used before and I like that! 🙂 It’s hard to believe how quickly summer goes for me – but being in Alaska would really be fast. I also say at least you have the long days of sunlight so that things actually have time to grow! But those long sunlight days can be very deceiving too huh? I know the times I’ve been there in the summer, I come back home utterly exhausted because we never went to bed! 🙂

    I’m going to be in Denver, Colorado Springs and Estes Park in October. I was hoping for some Fall colors, but I have a feeling it will all be past by then. But regardless, seeing the mountains will be wonderful.



  6. Barbara says:

    Hi Alex. Totally enjoy your expressive writing and the pics are lovely. Only subtle signs of Autumn on the way here in Indiana. The Gold Finches and hummingbirds are in a feeding frenzy. The finches because molt will be upon them soon and the hummers are getting their little ones prepared and plumped up for the long migration south. The trees have begun to shed their dried leaves and my perennial garden flowers are now down to sedum, dill, forget-me-nots and a few straggler cone flowers. All the others have gone to ground to rest up over the winter. I am surrounded by corn and soybean fields which are drying but not yet ready to harvest. The nesting red tails have given some freedom to their single chick this summer and he/she is hunting on its own now. I’m ready for the fiery colors and earthy fragrances of Fall. Happy Autumn and blessings to you and your family.

  7. Nancy says:

    Your pumpkins are beautiful. I have decided to give up any future attempts at growing them. My plants are huge, as are my perfect yellow flowers, yet not a single pumpkin! I must have had about 10+ plants and even went so far as to pollinate the flowers myself but still no luck. What is your secret?

  8. Lynn Lind says:

    So different here — 30 miles north of Mexico on the High Desert of Southwest New Mexico! After years of faithful work, the pump on my evaporative cooler went out. I’m replacing it today because… 1) there are more 90 – 100 degree days left in our weather and 2) If I replace it now, I won’t have to do it next year! This will be my second successful (hopefully — fingers crossed — it is a pretty easy job!) repair job since my husband passed six years ago!!! I did start my lawn mower myself … without having to pay $60 to get it going again! So I’m basking in DIY Glory! Wonder what’s next?

    • Alexandra Wilson says:

      Way to go, Lynn! That’s true Farmgirl spirit. It’s been freezing here, literally. Hope the heat doesn’t get too overwhelming!

  9. Lynn Lind says:

    P.S. — Regarding the “dust,” we live in dust all the time! And very rarely snows here. When it does, it usually melts by noon, or at least the next day, sometimes longer during a cold spell (by longer, I mean, a couple of days…). Are you “moving to the Big City”? or was that a reference to your travel to Denver for a wedding? I enjoy reading your tales of life in Alaska, but I think I’d like to read about your tales of life anywhere…. Thanks, lynn

    • Alexandra Wilson says:

      We are moving the the “Big City” of Anchorage, I think you somehow got directed to my last post? I have a new one up about leaving the yurt.

  10. Linda says:

    It has been hot here in Denver. Glad your visit here was fun.
    I love the pictures. The scenery is beautiful.
    I have noticed the light is different in the afternoon. Fall is here even if the weather doesn’t say so.

  11. Susan says:

    Looks like feathers strewn on the path…beautiful photo .

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