After an extended and beautiful summer, autumn has arrived. Crisp leaves now carpet the ground. A damp air freshens and awakens. And a lower angle of light on the horizon casts longer shadows. On early dawn walks with Sam, I spy spider webs glistening on the gorse bushes and glimpse my exhaled breath as we walk down the track. If there is a mist – and now there is almost always a morning mist – and if the sun is just right, the bushes on the hillside glisten and sparkle. With the end of October near we will soon enter the winter months, making staying indoors much more tempting, especially if it is as wet and windy as last year.
This season brings the arrival of chillier weather, and with it, more of the critters from outside join us inside: spiders who spin intricate webs in a moment; the long eared bat; moths and a few late season butterflies; and our chickens. These are a curious clutch of hens and if the door is left open a jar, they march in single filed to see what might be on offer.
With its cooler air and changing colours, autumn always fills me with memories of apple bobbing, raking leaves, pumpkin carving and, of course, Halloween adventures. Halloween is a once a year opportunity to get dressed in scary clothing, hang up paper bats and skeleton decorations and cover the front door with fake spider webs, carve pumpkins and eat vast quantities of mini-chocolate bars. Who doesn’t enjoy that?
It is disappointing to accept, but once again I do not think we will get any trick or treaters up our long track. All the same, I’ve purchased candy, as I will not be caught short-handed should the bell ring. And imagine if our doorbell did ring! How would that brave soul — or, boooooooh undead being — behave if we didn’t have a bowl full of mini chocolate bars to offer as treats? Halloween is not just about trick or treaters, it is the very night when lost souls roam and haunt! What if a coven of witches on their way to celebrate the night of the dead at one of the ancient stone circles on the moors knocked on our door in hopes of receiving a bite size Snickers Bar? Well, I for one refuse to disappoint!
Autumn is also a time of finishing up all those outdoor chores before winter arrives. As the plants die back to conserve their energy for a spring bloom, so too, Roger and I have turned our attentions to readying for winter. Most recently, Roger has been repairing the shelves under the kitchen counter – a truly awful project – whilst I’ve stacked more firewood, cleaned the greenhouse, raked the fallen leaves, cleared the drains, given the lawn one last mow, turned and bagged compost, weeded, laid mulch, and straightened the barn. “It’s preposterous, I’m cutting shapes which have never been invented before!” said Roger as he walked past carrying a new shelf to replace the rotten ones under the counters. And watching him contort himself underneath the kitchen counter, home to spiders and decades of accumulated dust, to solve the puzzle of these shelves has me realizing how easy my chores have been.
Except for one. I’ve just finished planting over 350 bulbs. How is it that bulbs seem so few when you buy them and oh-so-many when bent over planting them? I can only hope when spring arrives I appreciate the number and avoid my usual mistake of thinking, “Hey, we need more bulbs for next year!” Across from our barn is a collection of mature trees – Ash, Rowan, Oak, Sycamore, Beech, and Laburnum — under which there are now more clumps of bulbs. These snowdrops, bluebells and daffodils with their delicate yet proud stalks holding flowers will declare, in the fullness of time, spring is on its way. They will be our hopeful signs that winter is not forever.
But we aren’t there yet. Soon, we will spend more time by the fire and less outside. As the nights draw in and our wood burner provides daily comfort, we will turn our attentions back to finishing the downstairs. We got stalled. The summer was just so nice. No, it was glorious! That, and the demands on our time were extensive. Work, travel, and the real test to any relationship, selecting plumbing taps, had us running to play catch up. Yet, we’ve endured. The fixtures are all here and the plumber arrives this week. We’ve framed and wired the new bathroom and with that, we can hopefully complete the downstairs before the year’s end.
This week, however, we will carve our pumpkin, enjoy the visit from our friends, and wait for the knock on the door from those lost souls!