The year of fairly mild temperatures experienced in our little pocket of the British countryside is coming to an end. Suddenly temperatures dipped severely this week, as we were hit with the first frosts of the Winter season … but Autumn is not yet over and all the trees are still shedding their leaves, so it is easy to be confused.
We set our clocks back by an hour, a couple of weeks ago, and this is supposed to make us feel that there is more light each day. However, I do not think I shall ever get used to the brevity of the daylight hours, during half of the year in the northern hemisphere. The climate here is mild, compared to some other European and more northerly climes, but it is a shock to the system of one who moves with ease in the southern light. We have been fortunate this year, with more warmth than bitter chill, and I am counting my blessings. Some days can be so frustrating in the British climate – especially where we are – when ‘normal’ days can contain a range of seasons flinging in at us, one after the other, but there has been a fair amount of calm this year, which I am grateful for.
Autumn has been pretty so far, with gorgeous early morning skies welcoming new days and the most heavenly sunsets, deep in hue, taking the light down with them each evening. Driving up to Edinburgh to attend meetings this week, I was struck by the beauty of the Autumn colours, decked in swathes of tonal foliage, the trees still holding onto their golden leaves. Autumn’s crisp days of little moisture have made it easy to sweep up the piles of paper botany that build up around the walls of our home, and a mower is able to move across the grass to take care of those. All of our leaves are collected at The Glebe House ~ nothing goes to waste. We use the fallen leaves to either mulch flower or vegetable beds and areas under trees, where plants are allowed to free range, or they are collected up and bagged, set aside for a later time. Autumn leaves are beautifully transformed into friable ‘leafmould’ ~ a very precious, organic resource which is put to all sorts of uses for plants.
On a walk down to the vegetable garden earlier this week, I was shocked to see aliens in one of the raised beds … at least, what greeted me could hardly be described in more familiar terms. The two thriving courgette plants had been pummelled and mutated into the weirdest looking gross material, as if they had been chewed and spat out … shocking, to say the least. I had not expected such a whack of Wintry hand but, yes, the Frost is a hard master here. My treasured nasturtium plant, which had ‘magically’ reappeared over the Summer, covered in orange blooms last week ~ virtually a thing of the past now too. I had been patiently waiting to collect the nasturtium seeds, to pickle them and use later as pretend capers (a ‘secret’ recipe I thought of in Australia, many years ago, and have since discovered that others do the same), but there was not a single seed to be found. The entire nasturtium plant looks tragic, as though it has been chewed.
One thing that I have found intriguing on the most frosty of days, is that buddleia plants, still hanging onto their silvery leaves, are able to revive the moment the sun comes near them. This is such a beautiful analogy of how I feel in this climate … when the sky is blue and the sun shines, everything feels more possible, more positive, more enlightened and enlightening, more empowered and more of a thrill. Clearly the buddleia have learned to cope with the harshness of the cold, and to ‘smile’ again just as soon as they can muster the strength to do so. I know the feeling of that, and it has been learned in the Winters of life. We learn most in the Winters, I find.
At some point during the middle of the week, I decided to brave the icy temperatures and head out to attend to the making of compost. We collect all of our kitchen scraps and anything else that can become soil, so from time to time I make space in my life to make a journey to the compost bin zones (we have at least three such zones on the one acre) and I set to the task of alchemy. I find it quite magical, really, and when little robins come along to keep me company there seems little in the world that could ever be wrong. Nature has so many charms and so much to nurture us, if we take the time to notice the little things and how everything is linked. Just being outside, breathing in the country air, can do wonders for the soul and always gives me a boost. There is something incredibly grounding and, at the same time, uplifting about being close to the soil … even for one who loves to have the perfectly soft skin of elegantly cared for hands!
It is nearly half-way through November now and soon we shall start to prepare for the Christmas season. Right now, however, I am content to stop and take a while to appreciate Autumn, the season of gathering in stores for the colder months and a time of elegantly letting go.