Autumn and Wistful …

A couple of days after our moreorless traditional bonfires, the weather is mild.

But, yesterday, at three thirty in the afternoon the sky was a wet, grey slab; huge spots of driven rain falling from it to batter the lawn. But the grey ness drew full attention to the amazing crop of shining orange berries on the two rowan trees at the back of our house: one in our garden, one over the wall. The branches are literally bending under the weight of the brightly-coloured masses of berries. I try and imagine the maths needed to approximate the number of berries (average number in a bunch X bunches on a branch X number of branches) but, never enjoying maths am happy to quantify it as “a lot more than last year.”

This year trees have fruited exceptionally. We have the edible fruit, apples, pears, plums and damsons and the wilder fruit: acorns, conkers, ash keys and the berries.

Blackbirds, seemingly forsaking all territorial claims have been hopping into and around the branches and I have been trying, in a cod-science fashion, been trying to estimate the capacity of their bellies. The most I have seen one take – and swallow wholesale as they must do – is six. Thrushes, magpies, starlings, collared doves and woodpigeons have also helped themselves.

I am waiting to catch sight of incoming redwings and fieldfares in the branches; though usually these pay more attention to the holly berries. Autumn is in full swing now, the clocks have been turned back and night falls quickly. On the way to the allotment this morning I wondered whether the time in all the glorious carnival of natural fall colours of New England had autumnised me too soon.

After the rain and wind that my grandmother often said was the result of fireworks and rockets exploding in the skies, I was on my way to pull up the two rows of runner beans, empty one of the compost bays (to dig in to the ground where we will plant potatoes next season, and to turn the other pile over. And, in the air, the unmistakable tang of what I imagine is spent gunpowder an, just maybe the residues of any other chemicals used in the pyrotechnics (would love to understand how they get those marvellous effects in one way, but in another am happy to consider it some kind of arcane magickery)… and every now and then the carcasses and bones of dead fireworks around the paths and gardens. I am intrigued to find that some of the thick cardboard tubes (which must be able to resist extremely high temperatures!) have some kind of cement/clay  base.

The basket of leaves is added to regularly now. A couple of years ago I started to separate the leaves out, when before I had been in the habit of adding them to the compost heaps.

Overhead the high sky was wide and pale blue. Late raspberries to gather and a few apples to pick. Otherwise, there is ground enough dug for a second row of broad beans ( were using Aquedulce this year) and the overwintering onions.

Managed to have a word with The Jag Driver, who was awarded one of the two  “Recycling Champion” certificates at the October A.G.M. First time this one has been awarded, being different to the routine First, Second, Third and Novice Plot we have had to date. The idea was to highlight the role plot holders can play in the Re-Use, Recycle, Re-Purpose world. To me allotments have always been places where things have been given another life: our current compost bays (three side-by-side) were once a shed, which was no longer sturdy enough to stand, but, cut-down and turned around has been serving this purpose for four years so far. On site we have “greenhouses made from double glazed units, water butts made from industrial carriage containers, bird-scarers made from pop bottles and rainwater collection systems made from re-used lengths of cast-out guttering and down-pipes, not to mention the hundred and one ways to hold netting off crops such as cabbages and onions.

Oh, the second went to an ingenious plot holder who has an aero-generator and solar panels on his shed roof.

Others up on the site are digging furiously now, hoping to get ground cleared and, in some cases, green manures planted, before the real cold gets here; Weather forecasters are already starting to get their alarm-signals flying – and, somewhere on the internet, there’s an announcement of snow in Durham.

Watch this space …

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