Thursday 30 September 2010

An Autumn Journey

(mixed media collage of
pressed autumn leaves,
paper, tissue and gold ink)

Autumn is my favourite time of year. When I was a child I did all the usual autumnal things such as hiking to the next village to find the best horse chestnut trees, returning home with my pockets stuffed full of conkers and then, selecting the biggest and best conkers for my arsenal, sometimes bartering or swapping the finest specimens with friends. Holes were pierced through the conkers with Mam's darning needle and then threaded with string, securely knotted underneath. Only then could I wrap the loose end of string around my fist, find a suitable opponent, take aim and fire! I don't remember being such a good shot but I remember too well, wincing at the pain of having my knuckles crushed in conker battle - ouch!

Another pastime was harvesting hazel nuts. Our local pit wood teemed with an assortment of trees, each having its own seasonal fascination. We knew where the hazel trees were hidden and we would snatch the nuts from branches and crack the shells with our teeth to find the sweet little kernels inside. Spinning jennies were fun to watch and acorns were collected to make into beaded necklaces. Windswept piles of autumn leaves just begged to be jumped into, kicking up a whirlwind of crisp and crunchy motion.

Dark autumn evenings were always best for fun games of hide and seek. With military precision we kids would hide behind hedges or walls, up trees and in any dark recess we could find. The old gas street lamps gave little exposure to our daring escapes back to home base, racing against the seeker in an attempt to thwart his call of 'BLOCK 1 2 3'. Thrilling squeals of delight, bravado, hoops and calls of encouragement added to our enjoyment. Its a rare occasion these days that I hear children playing joyfully in the street after dark but when I do it brings back happy memories. I think there is little to compare to the sound of childrens' joyous laughter.

These days, I love a gentle walk in mellow autumn sunshine, soaking up the peaceful serenity of drowsy nature, bathe in its rustic colours and selectively dwell in positive acceptance on the changes that life and seasons bring.

(pressed autumn leaves. grasses
and late daisies)

Wednesday 1 September 2010

Summer Passing

Some are saying it has been a poor summer but I think it has been pretty good, considering the awful winter we endured. But all good things come to an end and although I hate to see summer passing, it has to happen eventually and already I've noted those tell-tale signs!

Nature has grown in abundance until it can grow no more. It has reached its full potential and is looking for rest. The petunias in the hanging baskets are beginning to look tired and the Virginia Creeper, heavy now in leaf is showing signs of turning red. Its autumn colours gradually creeping in. I love to see the tumble of leafy tendril led vines reaching to the ground. It makes a lovely softening frame to what is otherwise quite a boring garage door.

Our back garden is so overgrown it could be termed 'wild'. We don't have the stamina anymore for heavy gardening so I'm hoping that a good fairy will come along and help us out before next summer. Nonetheless, 'him outdoors' has managed to grow salads, beans and tomatoes along with perennial strawberries, redcurrants, raspberries, plums, cherries and apples. This summer we treated ourselves to a blueberry shrub which should add to our fruit harvest next year.

Although varied, the harvest has not been more than we could eat except perhaps for the redcurrants. My sister managed to pick 5 lbs of them which she made
into jelly for fundraising. I in turn added raspberries and blueberries to flapjack mixture for grand kids. Celery and shallots, peas and beans were mixed in small quantities as casserole or stir fry mixes and frozen. Tomatoes were cooked with onion and peppers to make sauce for pasta or as a coating sauce for chicken, pork etc. Glass jars with button lids are ideal containers for storing sauces. Sterilised jars are filled with hot sauce mix and sealed. A vacuum forms inside the jars and the button depresses with a pop. So far I have found this method very reliable.

We had a good crop of cucumbers, which were delicious! Some of the surplus were given away or pickled along with onions and peppers. I have kept a few jars of mixed pickles back for Christmas and will use them as Christmas presents.

Heavens above! I've used the word Christmas and its still summer...just! I have enjoyed being creative with garden produce this year. Still to come are plums and apples. I will let 'him out doors' make cider with the apples or leave them for our Fieldfare visitor if it comes back this year. Meanwhile, I need to look for a good recipe using abundance.

A few years ago I created a pressed flower picture and called it 'Summer Passing'. The original is in Southampton but I have kept a framed print, which is now hanging on my wall.
Here it is.