The light on the horizon has changed significantly this past week, casting long, broad shadows across the hills. The sky is filled with an eclectic mixture of brooding, grey clouds adorned with cotton-candy-like puffs of white accentuated with splashes of blue. Crisp leaves are beginning to carpet the ground and collect in corners of the garden and in all our drains. An annual autumn project of clearing leaves has now appeared on our to-do list. The most notable announcement of the season’s change is the formation of the bright flame-red berries dangling from the Rowan trees.
Where did the summer go? It seems just yesterday we were filling the long days with visitors and projects. We were busy tending to the vegetable garden and our on-going repair of stone walls. Daily we pulled weeds, maintained the garden, and filled potholes. We spent hours gathering and consuming the abundance of our vegetable beds, building a new fence — which resulted in an unfortunate concussion for Roger — juggling family demands and embracing the arrival of the thoroughly modern Millie!
In the summer months, we carry on with all our activities until our bones and muscles ache, taking breaks to walk Sam and Millie or have a cup of coffee. By the end of the day, covered with dirt, we put away our tools, clean ourselves up, and prepare dinner. Afterwards, we take a glass of wine and make our way back outside to soak in the hot tub. We make plans for the next day while the night shift of wildlife clocks-in. On a clear night, one by one, the stars appear in the sky and the bats flash past to feeding on new insect life. Foxes and badgers make their plans for the evening’s hunt and forage, and the tawny owl in the stand of pines across the valley sings a musical riff.
Now, as I walk the dogs in the early morning, I feel a chill in the air and can see our breath in the dawn air. This first walk of the day is one of two stories: Sam sniffing all the news of the day to come and slowly awaking his achy bones as he lumbers down the track; while Millie darts from one moment to the next, chasing her toy and racing past me and Sam to exercise her job as the Ambassador of Joy! I certainly have my pre-coffee challenge with the two dogs moving at different speeds and entertaining their different interests, but our pack of three sync up with the pleasure of the crisp morning air.
As we turn the corner on our walk, down in the valley the fog hangs along the river as if a dragon flew past in the night and left a breath trail. Exposed by the morning dew are the webs of the thousands of spiders who make their homes in the gorse bushes. With the arrival of cooler temperatures, many of these spiders now seem to be making their homes inside our house and not a day goes by when I don’t discover yet another large arachnid awaiting rescue from the kitchen sink.
It’s not just spiders who have made their way into the house, we’ve had a few bats too. Recently, I was spending the afternoon stacking our winter wood supply in the barn when I noticed something flapping about in jerky flight. Too late to be a swallow or a house martin, they’ve left for warmer climates and won’t be back again until the spring. When I stopped to investigate, I spied a bat hanging upside down in the rafters. I’ve not seen it there before or since, so I suspect this is simply a temporary rest stop as it was too early to be out and about hunting insects. Sure enough, later that day Roger and I spent the better part of the evening trying to isolate the Horseshoe bat, which had found its way from the barn into the house.
The greater horseshoe bat is one of the larger British bats with a wingspan of about 35-39 cm, and also one of the rarest. We are in one of the few areas in the country where these bats are still breeding, so it is a treat to see one. After Roger photographed and confirmed its identification, we managed to get it into a room where we could close the doors, turn out the lights, and open the windows so it would head out into the night to commence its hunting before returning to its roost in parts unknown to us.
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. But we aren’t there yet. Soon, we will spend more of our time inside by the fire and less outside. As the nights draw in and our wood burner provides daily comfort, we will turn our attentions to projects inside. We have a water tank which needs replacing, pipes which need relocating, and we’re making some changes to the hot water system as a result. Roll on Autumn….