So that’s it then.
I’ve slung the flip-flops to the back of the wardrobe, put away the sun-loungers and washed the last pair of shorts.
I love this time of year.
The leaves are still green on the trees, there’s a fresh, succulent growth of grass, some roses are having a last-minute flush and the Michaelmas daisies cheerfully clash with the last of the rudbeckia. It’s the “bel arrière-saison” – the beautiful back-end of summer, to put it less elegantly in English!
It’s harvest time and this year’s torrential spring and late summer have given us bumper butternut squashes, apples, pears and raspberries, but grapes have been dismal and 2013’s Vin de Cahors may not be a classic vintage.
The figs never fail us, white and red, and we have so many of them we can’t keep up with the harvest. Picking them becomes a dodge-the-hornet exercise and so many drop to the ground and quickly ferment that the lingering, vinegary smell of over-ripe fig hangs in the air.
The horses benefit willingly from this bounty. They get very little “hard”, pelleted or grain feed, just enough to carry their biotin and linseed supplements, but their buckets are fairly liberally topped up with apples and carrots and, in season, stoned plums, peaches, pears and figs as and when our trees produce.
Don’t worry, we’ve been doing this (in moderation) for many years with no ill-effect and until you’ve seen the expression of ecstasy on the face of a horse enjoying slices of juicy pear, or a ripe fig you have not seen a happier horse. (I must do a post about treats – or “positive reinforcement”; a controversial subject, but I think you can guess my approach …!)
The downside – of course there is always a downside! – is that now the hunting season has kicked in, the populations of deer and wild boar, abundant in these parts, are frequently on the move and take not a blind bit of notice of our mains-fed, reinforced electric fencing.
Yesterday I was out inspecting the grazing to see where to move the horses next, when I saw that the “sanglier” had turned over many more patches of grazing than were obvious from the fence.
To one side of the house is my favourite paddock, we euphemistically call it the “orchard”. It used to have quite a few old fruit trees, but now only half a dozen are left
Most of these, left to their own devices, shed a hail of small, juicy, bite-sized apples which attract the piggies in particular
You can just about make out the light green windfalls in the grass – I can’t keep up with collecting them! So whilst the wild boar help themselves, they also go worm and insect hunting and turn over huge divots of turf in their search.
I was trudging round treading in the worst of the damage when I came across a few wild mushrooms, chanterelles, almost hidden in the moss at the bottom end of the field. As soon as I kneel to pick a mushroom, I usually find I spot the next clump, and so I found more …. and more ….. so many more I had to fetch a knife and more containers
They were so caught up in moss, grass and leaves, it’s taken about three times as long to clean as to pick them. Still, I’m delighted with the haul. Once cooked down to take off the excess liquid they freeze well and go wonderfully in all sorts of dishes. I know cèpes are more prized, but unless you pick them very, very fresh they are usually full of creepy- crawly inhabitants who have already worked a series of galleries in the stems and spores.
However, plenty of people love the things and, when conditions are right, there will usually be a couple of cars parked in the woods. Sometimes we get a bit fed up when we see the same cars, day after day for hours. We pay high local taxes to be surrounded by our 25 acres of land, most of which is woodland, and while we don’t begrudge locals picking enough to eat and store themselves – share and share alike – seeing people depart with a boot-full to sell feels a bit like taking advantage.
While I was outdoors with the camera I wanted to capture some of the last displays in the garden and this combination of a deep indigo salvia with a pink gaura, a chocolate-leaved eupatorium in flower, purple sage and some barely visible echinacea caught my eye
………… just before I noticed that the box hedging had developed box blight in patches.
Urggh, I had hoped that wouldn’t happen, as that part of the garden is open and sunny but some of the patches which have been shaded by other vegetation or get less sun seem to have succumbed to the fungal infection. Now I’ve spotted it in the early stages let’s hope it can be kept in check!
Last job of the day was to haul lots of choking weed out of the pebble pond …. well I suppose there are some things in the garden I prefer not to be green!
Hope you are enjoying the fruits of early autumn in your garden … or in the shops!