A long, hot summer has come to an end in the Tehachapi Mountains, as evidenced by cooler temperatures and days that are gradually getting shorter. The gentler season of autumn is upon us. . .

According to the astronomical calendar, fall officially starts on Sept. 22, the day of the Autumnal Equinox. This is the date when the length of night and day are the same, as the sun makes its apparent migration to the south and heads toward the Winter Solstice, the shortest day and longest night of the year.

By the meteorological calendar, however, autumn started on Sept. 1. Under this simplified system, each season is three months long and begins on the first of a month: autumn on Sept. 1, winter on Dec. 1, spring on March 1 and summer on June 1.

The first inhabitants of the Tehachapi Mountains were the Nuwä (Kawaiisu or Southern Paiute) people, and their word for summer is taza, which is likely derived from the word for sun: tavi. Because thunderstorms tend to happen in the summer, the Nuwä word for thunderstorm is tazano'or, incorporating the word for summer.

This summer was the warmest on record, demonstrated by all the days that have been 90 degrees Fahrenheit or more. In past years, Tehachapi typically had a total of only about three weeks of 90-degree weather. Our usual summertime weather has been daily highs in the upper 80s, and nighttime lows in the low 60s.

This summer there were many times when I looked at the 10-day forecast for Tehachapi and it showed every day being 90 degrees or more. That's definitely hotter than the Tehachapi summer weather I grew up with.

It wasn't an overly dramatic difference, but it was certainly warmer. When you compare Tehachapi temperatures with those in the areas that surround us, like the San Joaquin Valley and the Antelope Valley, though, we are still an oasis of cooler weather in a warming land.

As someone who loves our natural world and observing the animal and plant kingdoms, I'm always a little wistful to see summer end, despite the welcome cooler weather. The ending of summer means that creatures like butterflies, dragonflies, lizards, crickets and other wildlife will become scarcer and eventually vanish for winter. Most flowering plants will also start shutting down, and the blossoms that have sustained pollinators all summer long will fade.

But it turned out that this year has been a good year for summer gardening, and many vegetables are still growing. Our growing season keeps getting longer, with killing frost arriving later and later in the year — we used to have killing frosts, meaning temperatures of 28 degrees for two hours or more, in October and occasionally as early as late September. Last year, however, our first killing frost didn't occur until December. Rock on, tomatoes, you might as well keep producing — you have months more to grow.

So goodbye, summer of 2021, you were a little hotter than necessary, but you brought us flowers, butterflies, warm nights, fruits and vegetables and blue skies. Thank you.

Have a good week.

Jon Hammond has written for Tehachapi News for more than 30 years. Send email to tehachapimtnlover@gmail.com.