Where has September gone?
It occurred to me, a couple of days ago now, that I had yet to venture out with my big camera this month. So out it came, and on a mission I went, to capture September in full.
Only it doesn’t work too well when a month is a long time in the life of a garden. Since the start of the month, the colchicums had bloomed and then been rain-beaten to the ground, the heleniums had peaked and subsequently dropped most of their petals and the twins were all of a sudden almost indistinguishable from Mum.
If ever there was a lesson in slowing down and not letting life pass you by.
In stark contrast, spring and summer this year seemed to crawl along at a snail’s pace. The frantic human world had stopped and nature’s steady progression came into full focus. Even more apparent for me as nature, in the form of a certain virus, had physically stopped me from operating at my normal full pelt.
But by September, we were pretty much off again. Paul and I had a lovely break in the Yorkshire Dales and I was distracted by renovations we were carrying out. I forgot to enjoy living in the moment and had fallen back into busy busyness. I’ll be kind to myself this time – I had significant catching up to do – but please give me a firm telling off if you see me doing it once again.
When I eventually got behind the camera, life stopped and I took in all that was around me. I was surprised to find that the first things that jumped out were the smells.
Normally, I’m such a visual person, but the muted, tired tones of September took a back seat and it was the fruity warmth of the ripening quince that became centre stage.
Once I’d tuned into those, I noticed the fresh scent of dewy grass, then the earthy air rising from last year’s mound of damp leaf litter. As I walked further into the orchard, a vaguely cidery smell hit me – fallen apples were starting to ferment. Curiously, I was reading the garden with my nose for the very first time.
This time of year becomes quite hard graft for us in the garden. It is a succession of picking up fallen walnuts, apples and sweet chestnuts followed by pine needles and fallen twigs before the entire garden turns into a giant soft play area knee-deep in leaves. Leaves which turn the grass yellow and then threadbare if left untouched.
I read a beautiful poem last year written by a fellow gardener, which I’ve sadly not since been able to locate. It spoke of the quietness of winter in the life of this gardener, followed by the intensity of excitement as spring progressed. By summer, the gardener surveyed his riches and felt nothing less than a king looking out over all, but by autumn he was firmly back in his place, calmly and good-naturedly accepting that in fact he was simply a servant to the garden’s needs. If anyone can find these beautiful words, I’d love to read them again!
Whilst I haven’t done very well at stopping and taking things in, I have done my bit of servantship this month.
You’ll remember my big plan I described in August? Well, I’ve taken some big steps towards this since then.
The washing line bed has been deepened along its full length: some 25 metres in total. The washing line is no more – it had to be sacrificed in the name of generous planting depths and wide, sweeping curves, but perhaps we’ll find another spot for one elsewhere.
I’m wondering whether to rename it the rabbit bed, as a brutal reminder when I’m tempted to put culinarily delectable plants there, instead of inside the protected orchard.
But I’m a traditionalist at heart – I don’t like to lose the old and the historic and the stories of the garden’s life. The ‘washing line bed’, with no washing line in sight, seems far more charming and brings back to me Mrs M’s amusing story of the naughty fox who stole her bed linen.
I’ve also put a temporary fence up along (supposedly) the last line of attack into the orchard. Whilst all was quiet during the day, having realised – with the help of our trail camera – quite how many animals were sneaking past the house in the dead of night, a fence by the back door became high up on the to do list.
Rabbits are a whole other story – for now, we’re not going to do too much battle with them but we were a little surprised to see the twinnies smiling up at the camera from decidedly the ‘wrong’ side of the fence one morning. New, taller canes went up at the suspected weak point and the camera is now reset and ready to dish the dirt.
As I type by the fire, we’re definitely entering the period of preparation for winter. We have an enormous pile of kindling ready to go and Paul’s working his way through the larger bits of firewood that need to be chopped.
I’ve ordered nearly 200 plants (don’t tell Paul) that will need to go into the ground in the next fortnight or so and then be mulched with year-old leaf litter, in advance of this year’s avalanche.
Despite the fact that we curse the time we spend dealing with fallen twigs and branches and the enormous task of leaf clearing, we still feel compelled to keep planting more trees each and every year. It feels a responsible part of garden stewardship: to ensure steady regeneration and longevity of the garden beyond our precious shared years.
But despite the somewhat servitude of autumn, we shouldn’t wish it away too soon. It feels wonderful to be out in a coat and wellies – there’s something extremely invigorating about working away in the cooler temperatures we now enjoy.
And the autumn light is something else. It seems to shimmer through the fading foliage and seed heads, bouncing patterns across every surface it can find.
And the most exciting thing of all this autumn? Our sheepies are finally coming home. Grass seed has been drilled across the field of harvested barley that our garden merges on to and a haze of green is deepening with each day.
The electric fence will soon be up and I’ll be able to look out from the kitchen, past the blue tits at the window, across the newly planted garden to see our favourite friends at the back, in all their funny sheepie ways.
Please grass, hurry up and grow. Snail’s pace is all very well, but not when it comes to important things, like sheepies moving home!