This is how late summer feels at the moment – liable to blow away at any time. We veer from warm sunny days to cold rainy days and back again. Shirt sleeves one day, raincoat and wellies the next.
Even the ducks and guinea fowl seem out of season. One duck has been sitting on a nest that she built higher every day (like the princess and the pea) and finally hatched out two ducklings, both of which perished within a day. The guinea hen disappeared and was eventually located sitting in a patch of thistles on a clutch of eggs that she’s since abandoned, maybe realising that it’s far too late in the year to rear any young or quite possibly just forgetting where she laid her eggs. Having watched her run backwards and forwards alongside a fence for at least five minutes before remembering that she could fly over it to get to the other side, I suspect the latter.
In the fields, the growing cycle continues. The wheat stubble has been cultivated and next year’s oilseed rape crop has been sown, seed heads abound in the margins around the fields and in forgotten corners, ready to burst open. The hedges brim with the autumn colours of hips and haws, unripe hazelnuts that haven’t yet been raided by the squirrels and almost ripe sloes. There are blackberries in every shade between bright unripe green and dull overripe inky purple and though a lot of the flowers haven’t set this year, there should be enough blackberries around the farm for Beth to pick for her Blackberry Gin.
We climbed the ladder to pick the last greengages from the topmost branches of the tree and then moved seamlessly into damson picking. Perhaps even more than the changing colours of the leaves, it’s the sight of the dusky, deep coloured damsons that signal the end of summer and the beginning of autumn. We stand at the tree and gorge on sweet, juicy greengages but the damsons are too tart for that and are best cooked. Damson crumble is the first thing I make, the fruit exuding a deep purple juice that oozes up around the buttery topping and then there’ll be compotes and fools, maybe ice-cream if we get an Indian summer. The weather forecast is looking as though we may get one. Fingers crossed.