Picturing fall colors before the leaves blow away

"In my recollection, most years just when the colors are at their peek — mostly yellow in my neighborhood — strong winds hurl the leaves from the trees, swirling them onto roads, field edges and across yards."

Trees with yellow, green and red leaves are on either side of a gravel road.
The evening sun illuminates cottonwood and dogwood leaves along the road leading to the Gregoire-Bailey farmstead. Photo taken Oct. 4, 2022.
Ann Bailey / Agweek
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Although the autumn season sometimes extends well into November on the North Dakota prairie where I live, fall foliage often is fleeting.

In my recollection, most years just when the colors are at their peek — mostly yellow in my neighborhood — strong winds hurl the leaves from the trees, swirling them onto roads, field edges and across yards.

That results in what is probably one of the six most common words said by prairie dwellers: “If it weren’t for the wind…” In this instance, the sentence ends with a variation of “we could have enjoyed the leaves longer.”

A red bush, brown cattails trees with yellow leaves.
The mouth of the Hazen Brook, one-quarter mile from the farm where Ann Bailey grew up, is a picturesque scene in fall. Photo taken Oct. 5, 2022.
Ann Bailey / Agweek

At other times, " would be a beautiful day,” completes the “If it weren’t for the wind…” sentence, which I guess would also apply to the lament about the leaves.

At the top of my bucket list is to travel to the East Coast and go on a fall leaf tour one of these autumns, so I can spend time walking in the woods and admiring the colors, which also include brilliant reds.


In the meantime, though, this year, I prepared for the powerful leaves-removing winds by taking pictures the day before they hit. I captured photographs on my cameras of some of my favorite farmyard and neighborhood views.

Besides the yellow leaves, I found some red ones in the form of Virginia Creeper, which was climbing up some of the trees in our farmstead groves. I know some people consider the vine an invasive weed — though in North Dakota it's not on the noxious or troublesome weed list — and I pull it up when it wraps around trees near our house. However, I leave it be when it’s at the outer edge of our farmyard.

A red vine climbs a gray tree trunk that is surrounded by trees with yellow and green leaves.
Virginia Creeper decorates the broken trunk of a cottonwood tree on Ann Bailey's farmstead. Photo taken Oct. 4, 2022.
Ann Bailey / Agweek

There also are some red leaves on bushes that grow near the banks of the Hazen Brook which begins down the road on the farm where I grew up. The brook also has cattails and fall flowers which make it a picturesque place.

Besides the natural bright colors of fall, this year I also enjoyed the flower gardens we planted with hardy orange and yellow marigolds and a rainbow of zinnia colors. The flowers maintained their beauty until Oct. 6 when the temperature dipped into the low 20s. I picked a bouquet of the flowers to prolong my enjoyment of them, but I didn’t cover the ones outside because I figured it’s time to let nature take its course.

 Red, yellow, orange, pink and purple zinnias in a vase.
A bouquet of a rainbow of zinnias, picked before freezing temperatures zapped the plants, brightens up the indoors. Photo take Oct. 7, 2022.
Ann Bailey / Agweek

I’ll leave the flowers over the winter so birds and bunnies can eat the seeds, if they wish. If they don't, I'm hopeful some of the flower seeds will drop and the plants will reseed themselves, which will mean less work in the spring.

I always kind of dread the day when the leaves fall and the flowers are history, but I know time marches and, as Ecclesiastes 3 says, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted.”

Instead of mourning the loss of what I don’t have over the coming winter, I’ll enjoy looking at the pictures captured this fall, celebrate the 63 years I’ve been privileged to watch the leaves turn colors, and look forward to as many more as I’ll be given.

A tree with yellow leaves falling from it next to a tree with green leaves.
A blanket of leaves under an ash tree adds to the beauty of fall. Photo taken Oct. 5, 2022.
Ann Bailey / Agweek

Ann Bailey lives on a farmstead near Larimore, N.D., that has been in her family since 1911. You can reach her at 218-779-8093 or

Related Topics: RURAL LIFE
Opinion by Ann Bailey
Ann is a journalism veteran with nearly 40 years of reporting and editing experiences on a variety of topics including agriculture and business. Story ideas or questions can be sent to Ann by email at: or phone at: 218-779-8093.
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