Although the sun is shining as I write this, there is no doubt that the seasons have turned. The smells of autumn are in the air and the flower garden has a sense of waiting to be safely put to bed for the winter. The wildlife is also moving into autumn. I have never seen so many starlings gathered together as we keep finding on our roof and they are so noisy! The Calamity Cat watches fascinated from the patio table. Unlike her sister who would probably have been on the extension roof trying to work out how to get up on to the main roof to get to them, Calamity is no climber so she contents herself by telling us when she comes in again how she could have had them if she had really wanted to. After a little research, I discovered that the starlings aren’t gathering to fly south – they are more likely to be flocks which have arrived from further north to spend the winter in (hopefully) warmer Yorkshire. The bees are also starting to disappear – D disturbed two bumblebees in the potato bed when he dug up the Desires and Maris Pipers. They had buried themselves to prepare for hibernation we think. They took a bit of time to wake themselves up and flew off in search of a quieter home. I hope they found somewhere suitable.
I have bulbs to plant for the spring and seeds to sow for next year but I, too, am feeling that autumn call to cosy up indoors. We lit our first fire last week, Strictly Come Dancing and The Great British Bake Off are back on our TVs and there is nothing I would like more now than to follow the example of the bumblebees and snuggle down for the winter.
The kitchen garden, however, has other ideas. There is no time for cosying up in front of the fire. We have picked the last of the sweetcorn and frozen what we could not eat. We have picked and frozen plums and apples, the blackberries and raspberries are all eaten and the maincrop potatoes have been lifted and stored. And there is still so much to do both to harvest what we have and to start on next year’s crops.
The carrots will remain in the ground until we need them and we will need to take the plunge and pull and store the rest of the beetroot very soon. Because D lost a batch of seedlings early in the summer to the heat, we have fewer leeks and carrots this year to see us through the colder months although we are starting to enjoy what is there. It will soon be time to plant onion and garlic sets for next year too – we were so successful this year with the garlic, we want to try and replicate that success next year.
It has been a strange year for tomatoes. We have had more fruit than in previous years but a lot of it has not ripened, in spite of the hot summer. We are picking what is ripe regularly and I am making a single jar each time of tomato pasta sauce which will keep us well fed for the winter months. The bell and chilli peppers have done well in the greenhouse, so they are spicy sauces (they should be spicier but I am a coward about including the chilli seeds). If the rest of the tomatoes do not ripen very soon it will be too late, so we are thinking of adopting the traditional remedy of picking them green and then shutting them in a drawer with a ripe banana.
There is much more we would like to do, if space and time allowed. Having enjoyed our raspberries so much, we would love some autumn fruiting canes to prolong the season but have no idea where we can put them. We have never explored growing pulses or squashes, again mainly due to the space they require. I would love a lavender patch to delight the bees and to give me flowers to dry and turn into lavender bags for the online part of my business. And that is before we start thinking about purely decorative plants. From people who barely knew one end of a plant from another before moving here, we now look out on our garden with pride and love – and we’re just a teensy bit envious of people who have more space (and time) for growing. Maybe one day …