If it’s time to revive the Harvest Festival, it’s time to revive the Harvest Loaf, just like Granddad used to bake! it’s traditional to add some wildlife, Mrs Tittlemouse, a spider, a beetle.
Yesterday’s storm sent me darting outside to check that the roof was draining properly with no blocked gutters. At the back of the house I found a cascade where the downpipe and gutters were full to capacity and more; thankfully it did not last long, and the weather turned around; today as Dylan wrote
the blue altered sky Stream(s) again a wonder of summer.
Yes, the year is turning round: these are the last strawberries, said the greengrocer at the Goods Shed, and so, remembering next week’s Harvest Festival, I came home to harvest the more presentable grapes that have not gone to feed the starlings and blackbirds.
I was reminded, in this month of the centenary of his birth, of Dylan’s Poem in Autumn, sharing with us his walk through the little town, the weather turning, his mind and heart turning to celebration and prayer, out on the hill.
Let us be grateful for the last strawberries, for the grapes and all the harvest and for the birds who bring us pleasure even as we pretend to be cross with their depredations. We’ll be feeding them through the winter!
And there could I marvel my birthday Away but the weather turned around. And the true Joy of the long dead child sang burning In the sun. It was my thirtieth Year to heaven stood there then in the summer noon Though the town below lay leaved with October blood. O may my heart's truth Still be sung On this high hill in a year's turning.
One of Mrs Turnstone’s necessities in a garden is a pond; ours is small but limpid, though since the fish were evicted by Mrs T it is choked in weed. Perhaps we can remove a few pailfuls over the winter and let it start afresh in February and March.
Last week, as we sat in the pondside sunshine, a green dragonfly hovered between us for a few seconds: a memorable close encounter to be grateful for. But will her babies eat the tadpoles?
Today, 1st October, it was warm enough for a smart, grownup frog to be sitting on top of the mass of weed, golden eyes shining. He could not force his way under the weed to avoid my attention. We certainly will have to remove those pailfuls of weed!
The last couple,of weeks have given us other local sightings: the foxes were very vocal for a few nights, but then their minds and hearts were occupied with thoughts of love. I remembered the first time I saw wild foxes, when newly arrived from Birmingham at school in the Borders. A walk up the Eildons with three or four other young lads was brought to a halt by bloodcurdling screams and yelps from a thicket. Suddenly the racket ceased and two magnificent foxes emerged to delight us townies and explain the unknown cries.
Last week Mrs T was pleased, even overjoyed, at the news that a woodmouse had been sighted at the front of the house; the first one seen since the Spring, but the camera on my phone would not have captured her, even if I had been alert to the chance of such a meeting. Indeed, a few nights earlier I had failed miserably to produce anything recognisable as a hedgehog when one posed for me by the pillar box on the corner. Another one for the memory bank, not the pc picture folder.
It’s hard to be sure, but I think the leafcutter bees may have left their nursery. The flap of rose leaf at the entrance looks as though it may have been pushed aside slightly.
And finally, we saw what was probably our last bat of 2014, flittering about the back gardens and street light. A pipistrelle, Carolyn Billingsley tells us. She’s our consultant on such matters.
Enjoy a blessed Autumn!
Mrs Turnstone has decreed that Autumn is near. Very few leaves have come off the trees, though many are looking ready to drop, once the weather gets that little bit colder. Nonetheless, she has declared that Sunday will see us sitting around the fire. It will be the feast of St Wenceslas, he who carried pine logs to the poor man by St Agnes’ Fountain. I don’t see any pine logs, but she has laid a good bed of pine cones, our favourite fire-lighters. Oh to be in England, now that Autumn’s here!
It will never catch on, not when the traders rule the town, or will it?
We were blessed to spend Car Free Sunday in Bruges, after meeting family and friends for a
birthday celebration. Bruges is as commercial as anywhere in Europe, but most of the shops seemed to stay shut, there was dancing in the streets, a singer covering Elvis’s greatest hits, flea market stalls appeared wherever there was room to erect them, and people quite obviously enjoyed the streets on foot or else on an assortment of weird, wonderful or wildly impractical bicycles. No buses even in the Markt, just people. And free entry to St Johns’ Hospital gallery.
And in the background, as always – the bells. The carillon was playing two songs from the Great War, ‘Tipperary’ preceded by ‘Roses are flowering in Picardy'; sentimental perhaps, but we know all too well that, ‘the roses will die with the summertime, and our roads may be far apart’. How many who went out to fight in Picardy died far apart from loved ones?
It was good to hear the bells, and worth reflecting that even on Westminster Bridge, one cannot always hear Big Ben and his quarter chimes. Worth reflecting, too, that battles are raging across the world, drowning the joyful bells even deeper than traffic does.
Here is a link to the belfry’s web page in Flemish, which tells about the carillon movement and also a little about the tunes played at each quarter. http://www.carillon-brugge.be/WWW/de%20beiaard.htm
I think George could hear it over Skype – the click as the vacuum pulled down the security button on each jar of Mrs Turnstone’s bramble and elder jam. Before long we will be looking for more clean empty jars as we clear the cupboard under the stairs of all we’ve accumulated over the year.
My 5lb of wild plums must wait to be cooked till I’ve raided the sugar aisle in the supermarket. They came from Ash Lane Crossing. All along our stretch of the old South Eastern Railway the company seems to have planted plum trees in the crossing keepers’ gardens. They survive even when the cottage is long gone, as it is here or at Hamford, where the plums are big and sweet and purple, asking to be pickled. An expedition for another day.
The summer and autumn jams and preserves are already being passed around, extending the common table to family, such as Mrs Turnstone Senior, and friends, like the group we met up with in Wensleydale. One family, one feast, one table, at the root of it all.
Mrs Turnstone’s friends had gathered in Wensleydale so we accepted their invitation to join them. Yorkshire has a different palette of green to Kent, and hills that rise higher and steeper than the gentle Downs. Though we do have the White Cliffs and the Devil’s Punchbowl… but this is about Yorkshire!
As we were walking around Kettlewell, a shepherd and his dog roared by on a quad bike, the collie braced to keep his balance behind his master, but clearly enjoying his high speed ride. The next day we saw them from a distance, out on the hill, hard at work rounding up this flock. The black and white collie is running along the wall, centre right of the picture and once again giving every impression of enjoying himself.
These black and white dogs were in every farmyard and on almost every street corner in the small towns in the Dale. We met another in York who appeared to be quite overwhelmed by all the different people going through the market place, as well as the many new smells; he did not know where to look or smell first and had that ‘mad collie’ look about his eyes that means his humans will have their work cut out keeping up with him. Perhaps he would have been happier out on the hill, rounding up sheep, but if he’d been let off the lead in town he would have been herding all the humans towards the Yorkshire Sausage Shop in The Shambles nearby. Wild boar pie, Shep? Yes, please!