late summer in the garden
Things have been rather busy here recently, and today it has all caught up with me. With the old head and neck pain bothering me quite a lot again (from an accident back in April), I have been having a much-needed lazy day today to recharge. In that spirit, I’d like to share some quiet moments with you, just taking pleasure in observing the changing of the season.
In the garden, the roses of high summer are long past and the Michaelmas daisies have just begun to come in to flower. Alliums are providing a feast for bees and butterflies.
This year we grew sweet peas up the side of the fruit cage: they ‘do’ very well here and usually flower well into October.
Whenever I come into the garden to pick some fruit or vegetables, I seem to come back with a bunch of sweet peas too. I can’t resist their watercolour shades and heavenly smell. A basket full of sweet peas and raspberries represents, to me, the best of the summer garden.
For a novice gardener, it is always interesting to see how the yield of fruit and vegetables varies so much from year to year. Last year was wonderful for soft fruit and also for the orchard fruits: I made jars and jars of raspberry jam and greengage jam. Oh, pants, I am trying so hard to sound nonchalant, but I just can’t keep it up…I confess, this was the first time I’d attempted anything other than easy raspberry jam and I did have a panic about the greengage jam not setting. I even emailed the mumsnet community from the side of the Aga. However, it did set in the end (as mumsnet promised it would, if I just held my nerve) and was really rather good, if I do say so myself as shouldn’t.
This summer, by contrast, we have barely a dozen of the deliciously sweet greengage plums, so we are savouring them fresh. (They remind me of that famous poem by William Carlos Williams – which I used to love until a friend pointed out how predatory and unrepentant the poem sounded to her. It has never been quite the same since.) All the currants have been laden with fruit this year, though, to the extent that I have struggled to keep up with the processing and cooking. Any hapless house guest has been volunteered into stripping currants from their stalks: one obliging victim from Germany spent at least two afternoons of his precious Scottish holiday stripping whitecurrants.
Whitecurrants always pose a bit of a challenge to me, as they are not very appetising on their own and the boys simply will not eat them at all. Having simmered pounds of them with black and redcurrants to make into summer puddings, I then stumbled across the most acceptable use: raspberry and whitecurrant jam. I mixed the fruits in about equal quantities and it has made a fresh-tasting jam with a wonderful jewel-like colour, which is proving a hit with the family. Just as well, as I made seventeen jars’ worth. I could have made more, but I ran out of jam jars! (See how nonchalant a jam-maker I am now.)
Anyway, the currants are over now and the apples and pears are not yet ripe, so I can relax a bit. There are plenty of courgettes still to be dealt with, busy turning into giant marrows as fast as they can. They are easy to cook though, and even easier to prepare, so I can allow myself a little time to wander round the garden just enjoying it, rather than feverishly harvesting. Early evening is my favourite time to be outside, as the light lowers in the west. A couple of months ago, this would have meant wandering out after the boys were tucked up in bed, in the golden sunshine of about half past eight. Now it is sunset by then: early evening means around seven, before the boys go upstairs for bathtime. Just ten minutes is enough to nip out and pick some flowers for the kitchen table,
and to enjoy watching creatures small and smaller blissing out in the last of the sun’s warmth.
We must make the most of it: as the Michaelmas daisies remind us, summer is drawing towards its close.