Hubbard Fellowship Blog – Olivia Loves November

This post was written by Olivia Schouten, one of our Hubbard Fellows.  She sent me the text and photos the other day and told me the post needed to go up before the end of the month.  I made it…  barely.  Please keep sending in your limericks – I’ll share my favorites next week. – CH

So autumn is officially here on the Platte Prairies in Nebraska. I know that for many this change in season isn’t the most welcome. All of the green leaves the world, birds and other animals disappear, and we know that winter isn’t far behind. October is enjoyed by many, with the arrival of pumpkin spiced flavoring, colorful foliage, Halloween, and the remaining possibility of warm days. But then November arrives and those warm autumnal feelings are gone, leaving only the bare skeletons of trees and cold winds. There isn’t even snow (usually) to lend something different and interesting to the landscape, or the excitement and buzz of the coming holiday season of December and early January to break the monotony.

The thing is… November is my favorite month. I look forward to it arriving every year, and breathe a deep sigh of relief when it does. This is when I find the temperatures most enjoyable, the landscape the most beautiful, and the wind most refreshing. I feel energized and cozy during November, and savor every day that I can. Part of this probably stems from my enjoyment of Thanksgiving (I resist the encroachment of Christmas for as long as I can), but honestly, I just think it’s a beautiful time of year.

To me, there’s nothing better than a mid-40 degree day in the middle of November, some sunshine, a brisk wind, all of the leaves knocked off the trees, and every plant in the prairie dried up and senesced for the winter. Oh, except a cloudy day might be even better (if only because those are the perfect days to wear really cozy clothes and make a big mug of hot chocolate).

Seem a little crazy? Well, hear me out. I’ve found that mid-40s is the perfect temperature for working outdoors. It’s not freezing, but it’s cold enough that you can drive t-posts or cut down trees all day without sweating constantly or tiring out. It’s also the perfect temperature for long walks out on the prairie or in the woods. The air smells delicious, clear of all that humidity from summer and scented with earthy, dried prairie grasses. The sun is lower in the sky, so it’s less harsh on the eyes and flattering for the landscape. And the colors!

Browns and golds and rusted oranges and warm grays…everything about the landscape in November is just perfect. Trees are exposed so you can see the intricate ways their branches grow, and the subtle patterns in their bark. Tree lines become fuzzy gray-brown conglomerates, accented here and there by the deep rust of oaks reluctant to let their leaves go. The trees break up the line between clear blue skies and the golden ground beneath. Whether they are harvested corn fields or dormant prairies, nothing beats that shimmering color of the landscape in November. And the land literally shimmers in November. Walk west through a prairie at sunset and I think you’ll see why I love this time of year.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized by Chris Helzer. Bookmark the permalink.

About Chris Helzer

Chris Helzer is the Director of Science for The Nature Conservancy in Nebraska. His main role is to evaluate and capture lessons from the Conservancy’s land management and restoration work and then share those lessons with other landowners – both private and public. In addition, Chris works to raise awareness about the importance of prairies and their conservation through his writing, photography, and presentations to various groups. Chris is also the author of "The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States", published by the University of Iowa Press. He lives in Aurora, Nebraska with his wife Kim and their children.

9 thoughts on “Hubbard Fellowship Blog – Olivia Loves November

  1. I do remember this – a walk in the ‘hills’ and in spite of it being autumn the earth seems to hum with life. One can actually hear it and feel it — am I homesick? Yes

  2. Well we have the Barrens up here in Northwestern Wisconsin, but in many ways are like the prairies. The gold and orange colors are there especially when the sun is fading later in the day, the ‘tassels’ of the tall grasses flash their ‘lights’ at that time, and since the leaves on the low brush plants are gone you get to see farther into the horizon. Add some frost crystals in the morning lights and Wow!
    Yes, Fall is a different time to see nature and it is indeed beautiful.
    Thanks for the great photos

  3. Couldn’t agree more. When the November weather here in Saint Louis cooperates (varies greatly year to year) it is the best time of year to get a lot of outdoor tasks done and be surrounded by such beautiful, warm fall colors.

  4. Thank you for these stunning photos. I moved to northern Nebraska from Minnesota, and at first I missed the rich reds and oranges of the autumn trees up there. But then I began to see the rich reds and oranges of the grasses and plants in the prairies (even the rust-colored fetid marigolds stand out), and I fell in love with this part of the world.

  5. I agree- there is nothing like the autumn sun on the grasses- all variations of browns and golds and russet reds- the textures are amazing. So delicate. And I love the tree skeletons – so linear and expressive – the nests now revealed in their patterned branches. And the seed heads! 40 to 50 degrees with a warm sun on your face walking through texture and color gathering seeds. A perfect day.

  6. For celebrating November, you picked a really bad year for those living near Chicago. First off, the humidity has been so high little if any prescribed burning has gotten done. That humidity has come with rain. Rain during the weekends has prevented volunteer work on brush removal. We then had a blizzard and got about 10 inches of snow. I had to break shoveling into two parts just to get my driveway and sidewalks cleared. Of course the blizzard happened before I put on my snow tires which did not get done because of all the rain. After this November, I’m looking forward to December. Hopefully December will have less snow!


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.