Today is Michaelmas Day, which is one of the quarter days that feature on the calendar close to the equinox or solstice, the others being Lady Day on 25th March, Midsummer Day on 24th June and Christmas Day.
Historically, Michaelmas marked the end of harvest and the beginning of the new season. Nowadays, harvest is long finished and the ground already prepared for sowing. Indeed, some crops will already have been sown, though it’s so dry here that we’re waiting to drill our wheat. Instead, Bill and Jack have been planting Christmas trees this Michaelmas Day to replace the trees planted in the spring that didn’t survive the prolonged dry spell that we had this summer.
We still pay farm rents on Lady Day and Michaelmas Day, though thankfully electronic transfer is a lot easier than going cap in hand to the landlord’s agent with a bag full of money and I like the continuing traditions linked to these dates. Looking back at the Sale Particulars for the farm when it was sold in 1895, it’s interesting to see that the sale was to be completed on 29th September. Even more interesting, at the art exhibition in The Barley Barn at the weekend, I was introduced to a 99 year-old lady who lived in our house as a girl and it was her father who bought the farm back in 1895. I wonder if this day 121 years ago, he walked down the same track that I walk every day to survey his new farm.
A fortnight ago, it still felt like summer but now autumn seems to be creeping in. Conkers litter the ground under the horse chestnut trees, hawthorn berries make a splash of scarlet and the evenings are drawing in. Last night I dithered about whether to light the fire as it was much cooler but when it was pointed out that I was still in my shirt sleeves, I realised that I just needed to put on a sweater. I keep reading that we should be embracing Danish hygge and lighting candles around the fire, but I’m happy to keep hold of summer for as long as possible.
Somehow, that first lighting of the fire acknowledges that summer really has petered out and that every evening the shutters will be closed and the fire lit as the days get shorter and colder.