Thursday, 18 August 2011


Summer is well and truly on its way out. The kids are back at school, the trees are hanging heavy with fruit, and the brambles are all but finished flowering and getting ready to ripen.

We've managed one whole ripened blueberry so far:

But once the rest start to ripen it looks like we'll be getting a bumper crop this year. In spite of the single, solitary ripe berry, I decided it was time to celebrate Lùnastal anyway; there's a chill in the morning air now, the days are drawing in, and the kids have gone back to school/nursery. From now on I think that will be a marker of autumn starting for us, because it ties in nicely with the summer ending and the new season beginning, and it tends to coincide with the kids needing new clothes and school uniforms, and having to think about the cooler or colder days ahead of us. It's a nice way to finish off the summer holidays and we still have time to fit most of the things I want to do in (in theory) without having to juggle it around school and homework and making sure the kids aren't too tired from a long day, and that they get to bed early enough etc.

So on Monday we celebrated, ahead of school starting on Wednesday. There wasn't much in the way of fruits to harvest, but I did manage to start harvesting some of the veg in the garden, so it was very much a start of the harvest season for us. The brilliant sunshine of the summer has turned to rain for the last few weeks or so, which has done wonders for the carrots and I realised they were looking about ready for pulling up. Whether it was because of the late start to the Spring season, or the fact that the soil was a little exhausted, or both, the veg has been slow to take off this year. I sowed the carrots back in May and I've read they should be about ready in 70 days or so, but they've only really just taken off.

Last year, I managed to harvest some gloriously mutoid looking Cthulu carrots:

This time round, I made sure I sowed the seeds a bit deeper, thinned the seedlings out properly if it was necessary, and had a go at making sure the soil was nice and loose. And this is what I ended up with:

There are still some growing - I tried a batch of purple carrots as well and they seem to be struggling to do much, along with a few more of these (I think they're a basic Nantes variety, but it just says 'organic carrot seeds' on the pack), but these ones came out spectacularly well. I pulled them up with a harvesting prayer (which I made up on the spot but with this sort of form in mind) - twisting each one out of the ground sunwise, and I managed to pull up a leek that had already matured as well (I think it grew from a leftover, broken off bit of leek I pulled up in the early Springtime, so it had a head start on the rest of the leeks I've sown, which languished for a long while in pots before I had the wherewithall to put them into the containers. They'll come later).

The onions aren't yet ready, but the carrots and the leeks meant I had the perfect opportunity for a good stew. The kids (and husband) clamored for a raw carrot each, and the rest went into to stew with the leek, some potatoes, onion, mushrooms, peas, and cabbage on the side. For afters I made cranachan and a choice of shortbread or oat crumblies to go with it, along with fresh raspberries; a good traditional harvest pudding. I had a go at some raspberry coulis as well. Once again the raspberry bushes in the garden haven't done much this year - no fruit, but at least they've grown well. Or one of them has. Hopefully that will help it survive the next winter a bit better, and give it a chance to fruit next year. The rowan has had a modest first fruiting, though:

Next year I might try picking some to dry and use for charms and such, like I did for my first year after moving here, but this year, these berries are for the spirits, I think.

So. We had dinner with our homegrown leek and carrots, followed by the cranachan (the crumblies were delicious, and follow a bannock sort of recipe so I counted them as that. It was a last minute decision and the first time I've tried them; I was going to try a struan bread to go with the stew but aside from a lack of funds to splurge on all of the ingredients at the moment, I'm a bit beyond being able to knead dough right now - still). Then, after dinner had settled a bit, the kids and I went outside to do some races - bike racing, scooter races, followed by a more sedate bubble blowing and catching competition at the kids' insistence. Tom decided he wanted to try riding his bike with the stabilisers off, so there was some wobbly and cautious attempts at that, too. We finished with a game of snap so I could join in as well, and the kids could calm down a bit before bed. Tom won at the scooting, while Rosie won at the cards so I declared them both champions; I declared that the bubbles couldn't have a winner after Rosie decided to use an umbrella to even out her slight height disadvantage against her older brother, but it was all in good fun and good spirits. For once Rosie didn't throw a strop at losing something, so the spirit of peace was kept.

After the kids went to bed I did my ritual stuff as usual - devotions, offerings, singing of praises, saining, protective charms, and so on. It was a still, quiet night and the clouds had dispersed enough for some stars to twinkle in the sky and the full(ish) moon was bright enough to cast moonlight shadows. I didn't catch any last bits of the meteor shower, though, but there was a gentle breeze that played with my hair as I meditated and talked into the night. The stillness and then the odd breeze now and then made it feel like I was being listened to, like the calm night air was swallowing my words and thoughts and taking its fill.

Once I'd done my devotions and the saining, most of the evening was spent making rowan charms - I tried a few different styles, and tried using beads and additional charms as well to make them a bit more decorative. After all that, sleep was most welcome.

In the morning there wasn't much time for anything because the kids and I had to get the train to meet my mother-in-law - she was very kindly splurging on Tom and Rosie's winter wardrobes and it was a last minute arrangement. I'd planned to make butter and cheese that day (our last day of freedom) - maybe some bread if I was up to it - and take the kids for a picnic down to the beach (there have been some sightings of sharks so we were going to go and see if we could spot them), but those plans have had to be put on hold. By the time we got home from shopping we were all pretty knackered, so there was just about enough energy for putting up our autumn decorations:

We did these a week or two ago. I promised Tom that we'd do some 'stained glass' pictures after he did them at school, and by the time we got around to it I figured we should take the opprtunity to resume our tradition of making seasonal decorations for the house. On one of our walks around the village - taking the dogs to the woods - we'd spotted a squirrel climbing up the pebble dashing of the school and at one point it clung on upside down and then flopped onto the guttering for a wee rest. The kids thought it was hilarious and we talked about how the squirrel would be stocking up on nuts for winter, and the conkers would be ripe soon, and so on, so that gave me the idea for our theme. I Googled for stained glass patterns and found this one, which I copied free hand onto card and then cut one out for each of us (I'd credit the source but I can't find it now...); Rosie needed a little help with hers, but this one is all Tom's own work (aside from me tidying up the edges). I think it came out well.

Along with sticking up our artwork, there was the experimenting with skeachan recipes too. That was about it, aside from more offerings to round off a sedate finish to the celebrations. For now. We'll probably try and do our picnic and dairy stuff at the weekend, if the weather improves.