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.
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.
Anticipating Saint John’s Eve, Mrs T and I welcomed NAIB2 and Harry to al fresco lunch under the vine. John may have died because of a drunken promise at a debauched feast; this was a more decorous affair. We did eat lamb in his honour, marinaded in our home-made wild garlic pesto from the Lake District, (see the post, ‘First Forage) with garden herbs, mustard and more (cultivated) garlic, all wrapped in vine leaves to keep it tender.
As evening finally fell, I splashed the bath water onto the plants in pots and thin soil round the house and garden. A warning chuck from a blackbird suggests they are nesting, or at least roosting, in the ivy again. On the way up Abbot’s Hill to Church this morning we had found a greenfinches’ nest fallen from a pine tree, with a blind, half-fledged chick still crawling back into it. The nest was a beautifully crafted bowl of mosses and feathers; the baby doomed; a black cat was watching from the garden wall, an ants’ nest active nearby. Had puss killed the woodmouse a few yards away that the ants were already swarming over?
But just now the pipistrelles were flitting around, snapping up the moths around the lamppost at the corner of the garden. There were plenty of insects at ground level, too, ants, little beetles and bugs, and the spiders were getting active. The snails and slugs were wise not to be out, as Mrs T is at odds with them for eating her new thyme plant. Perhaps she dug it in too close to the hosta, which they’d reduced to a tatter overnight last week. They would be wise to fast for a week or two and lull Mrs T into a false sense of security.
A few weeks ago it was primroses all the way along the line from Dover to Canterbury; today the predominant flower is that pilgrims’ joy, the Canterbury Bell, that sings out from the walls of the cuttings. And so, my journey home is a pilgrimage – as it indeed ought to be, every time.
At the shrine of the common table Mrs Turnstone has prepared a feast of home grown salad, with a handful of sungold tomatoes and pizza from Enzo’s Bakery at the Goods Shed.