It has changed. The day length has changed; the darkness is winning. It’s the fastest rate of daylight change. The air has changed, the leaves are changing. Autumn has arrived. Even the word “Autumn” is believed to come from the Etruscan word “autu”, meaning change of season. I used to think that I enjoyed all seasons equally; no favourites as a policy. I was wrong, this is it; a winner by a mile.
Now I feed and water the chickens with a head torch on and the air around the cottage has the faint smell of wood smoke. With the darkness the evening sky is now my seasonal clock as I walk down the lane. Cygnus, the swan, is beginning its annual migration across the night and, if its dark enough, marks the arc of the milky way. The swan reminds me to keep an eye out for the skeins of birds in the sky. I usually spot the during the commute to school. Sitting in the static traffic gives me a chance to look up.
It’s strange to have an autumn without bees. No syrup feed, no honey harvest. The hives were left empty in the hope that maybe a stray swarm might move in; no joy. To add insult to injury I found a wasp nest in one of the old spare hives.
Then there is the apples. The trees are older and the pruning, feeding and weeding is beginning to bear some fruit. James Grieves, McIntosh Red, Cox’s Orange Pippin, Katy, Russet and some other unknown varieties. Although the Russet is not really a Russet. We bought it five years ago and planted it as a thin sapling. Five years latter and we discover that it had been mislabelled. Should I have kept the receipt? This is the consequence of growing trees, proper slow food. The taste and textures of the apples are quite different and we eat apple and cheese sandwiches, baked apples, fried apples on toast (which is quite nice; thank you Nigel Slater), apple crumble and simply eat the apples. We have even filled a couple of boxes with apples individually wrapped in newspaper and hidden away in a cool dark place. Yet, a little while a go I went looking for apples to buy at the market. I wanted Russet apples as they add to the flavour of autumn for me. I intended to buy them for my A Level class to try and convince them to branch out (sorry) and try other varieties that the supermarket keep hidden from them. The market didn’t have any. Later that day there was a knock on my classroom door in the middle of my A Level lesson. It was a past pupil with a bag of twenty five russet apples. She works part-time in a fruit shop and when they arrived in, she knew I would like them; a thoughtful and wonderful gift. After they were distributed there was still one or two left to set on my desk. Although it is nowhere near as neat as the clichéd teacher’s desk.