Berry Picking in PJs Under Blue September Skies.

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Wow, the sky was blue this morning. Jay feather blue. Borage blue.

FullSizeRenderThe mist was both rising and falling, caught in thermals that rolled off the valley. It gathered high up in the trees, with the swallows and house martins, and the sun rose between. Everything, for a moment, became apricot, then vanilla and then a slow, cerulean blue. Within the ten minutes it took for me to throw a jumper over my pjs, grab my wellies, dog and camera, the mist had retreated, burned away to swirl in the valley bottom. The spiderwebs were silver; the long grass was golden; the birds were deafening and my legs were dew-sodden. It was sooo blue.

IMG_2422Blue.

IMG_2434It was too lovely to head back to the house so thought I Nelly and I might pick berries instead: hawberries, sloes, blackberries, but we came back with an empty basket, a jay feather, purple fingers and a body full of bright autumn air. Ahhh, I love these seasonal cusps. I love the slow change from one thing to another. Right before my eyes. Right where I can feel it.

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Lovely Nelly.

I am always surprised when a person expresses regret at the coming of autumn. Yes, I know, summer in England is a fickle thing and something to be clung to, but autumn, for me, feels like another beginning: the start of preserving and freezing; stockpiling wood and kindling; beginning once more the ritual of saying good morning to the sunrise as I drink my first cup of tea, and remembering again that specific translucence of the air as I check the chickens at night fall.

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Colin the cockerel and his troop of ladies.

I know within a week or two I’ll be out in the nut orchard checking all is well and glance back at the house to see woodsmoke rising from the chimney in a thin, straight line. There will be pale stars against a lavender sky and clouds on my breath, and time will fold back on itself to become every September twilight I have ever seen. I will sit out and watch it darken.

IMG_2449I suppose I am so fixed to the wheel of the year because I grow my own food, and every task between selecting seed and harvesting the crop is both cyclical and time sensitive. Calendars and spreadsheets can only take you so far – getting out, getting wet, getting windblown and getting it wrong a few times is far more useful. Every time I collect the morning’s eggs, watch for the Elder to blossom, count down to the first strawberries or bring in that first basket of vegetables, I become, by default, part of the cycle.

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Sweetcorn, phacelia, artichokes, calendula and drying beans.

It’s not all bucolic, of course. For every bright, blue morning there is a cold, cloudy January day full of muck shifting and mud splatters. For every golden afternoon there is a spring day riddled with waves of slug induced rage as the little bastards clear your seedlings (despite the beer traps and diatomaceous earth; despite the huge population of birds in the veggie garden; despite my daily slug patrol…)

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The indefatigable Katy Apple.

These difficulties are themselves cyclical and I’ve grown accustomed to them. If slugs disappeared from the garden my joy would be short lived, and I’d be reminded, as I was with the total lack of bees this spring and the subsequent failure of the plum and damson crop, that the impact of humans growing food for humans is done at the expense of other living things.

IMG_2427So now, even though my vegetable garden is still a place of death and destruction for my slimy arch enemies, I do allow the slugs to live unmolested in my flower gardens. I plant only the tough and slug proof, and tra-la-la my way through the flowers letting nature take her course – which at this time of year means all the song thrushes and blackbirds gorging on slugs and snails under very blue skies…

Nature is a beautiful thing.IMG_1423

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