After that heat wave last week, these cooler temperatures have made it feel a lot more like fall.

I was out walking our dog last Wednesday and every breeze felt like I had opened the door to a wood stove. The colorful leaves coming down at the same time made the whole experience a bit surreal as well.

It couldn’t have been 97-degrees on the second day of October, could it? I took a photo of my car’s dashboard to have a record just in case anyone doesn’t believe me.

My kids though are certainly happy about the change in the weather. For them, cooler temperatures mean jumping into leaf piles, hot cocoa with marshmallows and the smell of sausage frying on a Saturday morning.

Did I tell you that we bought a hog at the St. Mary’s County Fair 4-H Livestock Auction? We just picked up our meat from the butcher and of course had to make a batch of breakfast sausage. Let’s just say “Wilbur” will play an important role in our fall and winter plans this year.

It’s time to get out the slippers for chilly mornings. Scarves and hats are not only stylish accessories, but necessary clothing when you are heading out before dawn.

I look forward to taking walks in the woods with leaves crunching underfoot, while the squirrels scamper about collecting acorns for their larders. Without that dreaded humidity, the air will feel fresh, crisp, and some days will have just a hint of a smoky aroma from my neighbor’s woodstove. This season abounds with simple pleasures.

The next few weekends will be busy ones, indeed, as there’s much to do this season in Southern Maryland.

We’ll be visiting our favorite corn maze, taking a hay ride or two, building homemade scarecrows and carving pumpkins. It’s a real joy to spend time with my kids, both big and little, as we partake in all of October’s festivities. They’ve spent a good chunk of time planning out costumes and decorating the house, getting ready for trick-or-treating on Halloween.

As the weather turns cooler, our appetites change a bit as well.

You might’ve noticed that roadside produce stands are laden with bushels of apples and sweet potatoes. I always spend a few days simmering my own homemade applesauce on the stove to put up for winter. Having a new hog’s worth of sausage in my freezer feels great. And nothing goes with a plate of morning sausage like a mason jar full of homemade applesauce, with just the right amount of sugar and spice.

October is for oysters, butternut squash soup and chili with cornbread. After carving pumpkins, it’s a family tradition to roast the seeds. The buttery snack only lasts a day or two in our house before it’s all gobbled up.

Soon the local countryside will be awash with all the colors of the crayon box soon. Leaves are beginning to change, and the views will be spectacular with red, orange, yellow and purple foliage to delight the eyes.

Jack Frost, he’s such a busy fellow. I understand he’s pretty good with a paintbrush although later in the season I’ll be wishing he was equally good wielding a rake.

For now though, the thing to do is get outside and enjoy the cooler, less humid days. This is your chance before it actually gets cold.

Risky times for possible wildfires

Wildfires tend to happen whenever temperatures are unusually high and rainfall is low.

The recent weather patterns in Southern Maryland fit that description to a T. That’s why I didn’t mention something that’s usually ubiquitous in the fall in my ode to the season — the smell of burning leaves.

Open-air burning is the leading cause of wildfires in Maryland, and the lack of rain makes it too risky right now. Instead, why not mow up your leaves and make mulch or dispose of them in the woods?

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources hasn’t put any restrictions on open-air burning just yet, but they ask homeowners to refrain from outdoor burning until we get significant steady rainfall of one inch or more. Looking at the forecast, that’s probably still a way’s off.

Use caution with bonfires

Fall is certainly the season to enjoy bonfires.

Some of my fondest memories were made around a fire with friends and family and good conversation. Who doesn’t love roasting hotdogs and s’mores under a starry night sky?

If you do have a campfire, take extra caution to put your fire out completely before leaving the site.

Good advice is “If it’s too hot to touch, it’s too hot to leave.”

Let all the wood burn completely to ash. Then, use lots of water to completely extinguish the fire, pouring until all hissing sounds stop.

If water is not available, stir dirt or sand into the embers to bury the fire. Stir until the embers are cool and nothing is smoldering.