Saturday, 22 September 2012

Preserving summer

It's hard to describe the smell of blackberries. I've often heard of other things, particularly wine, being described as smelling of blackberries but I've not heard it the other way round. There's an edge to the scent, slightly tart. And is there a hint of mustiness or perhaps earthiness?  Whatever it is, it is quite distinctive and always reminds me of summer.

When I was young (in the 1970s) I remember scouring the hedgerows with my Mum, Dad, brother and cousins together with my Auntie Jeanne and Uncle Bill. We would happily spend an afternoon in August trying to avoid stinging nettles and bramble scratches to collect our precious harvest. We popped as many into our mouths as we did into our stork margarine containers. The competition between us kids as to who could get the most meant we would often abandon caution to get just one more berry.

At the end of our search we'd hand over our bounty to Auntie Jeanne who would visit us a day or two later with a couple of jars of blackberry jam.

Almost 40 years later Elizabeth and I have a well-worn trail around our allotment site picking berries to make pies and jams with. Sometimes we go alone, sometimes with friends, sometimes other plotholders join us on our tour. But the routine is the same: we each take a plastic tub and walk along the hedgerows, Elizabeth picking the low fruit and me the high fruit until our tubs are full. We both end up with scratches and purple fingers and tongues. It is our routine for late summer evenings; one we both look forward to and one that I cherish, both for living in the moment and reliving the past.

My Auntie Jeanne is long gone so I make the jam myself these days, filling jars I've collected over the year. As I heat the berries the smell of summer is concentrated, captured and stored in jars to be shared with friends and family to savour during the long winter ahead.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Is it Autumn yet?

Every morning now, when getting dressed for school, Elizabeth runs to the back door and checks whether she's going to wear socks or tights, skirt or trousers. Whilst she's still wearing socks and a skirt on some days, I'll be digging out her vests by the end of the week.

And she's not alone. I've caught myself hovering in the doorway on my way to work in the mornings wondering whether I need to take my coat with me.

This can mean only one thing: the season is changing.

Gone are the long evenings at the allotment after work grazing on fruit whilst we water and weed, harvest and hoe. Tonight we made it there at sunset: 7pm. After a quick dash round the plot watering and picking tonight's dinner we left as the last of the sun's rays departed for the night; we arrived home at 7.30pm in darkness. Soon there will be no evening trips - the clock's will go back and allotmenting will be a weekend activity only.

And our minds have already started to turn to Harvest festival and Halloween, Bonfire night and Christmas. The talk in the car was of seasonal school plays and what role a year 2 child gets in the nativity play.

I've also started looking forward to my half term visit to my Hut in Scotland where I can sit in front of a log fire in the countryside, overlooking the Solway Firth.

I've also noticed my halloween and Autumn boards on Pinterest are showing signs of activity - with pumpkins and halloween decorations being repinned daily.

I think it must be Autumn.