“Hmmm…..Winter’s definitely on its’ way.”
Tony anxiously scanned the sun-bathed hillside, basking beneath the fragile blue of a crisply clear autumnal sky. Every day now, the hues of woodland green are ever-increasingly gilded with subtle hints of burnished bronze, copper & gold; the occasional vibrant splash of gaudy orange & yellow or the fragile fading of tired, muddy browns as the trees reluctantly relinquish their foliage in one last splendid show of beauty.
Tomorrow is Mabon, the Autumnal Equinox; a pagan feast of thanksgiving for the fruits of the earth & where in ancient times the blessings of the Goddess & God were sought as security for the coming winter months. Also called the Ingathering or Harvest Home, to us on this day it seems almost ironic that our crop still languishes in the field; although at least it has been cut & we are awaiting sufficient warm, sunny weather to complete the drying process so it can be baled & gathered in.
But whilst today was sunny, it was far from warm; at first light the air was chill indeed, with a heavy dew soaking the fields & sending wraiths of mist snaking along the stillness of the dawn valley.
Tony kept himself wamly occupied, chopping some of the massive beech logs brought down during a storm in preparation for Winter. The coolness of the day seemed somehow to be a veiled warning of bitter weather to follow; it’s time to sweep the hearths & make sure the Long Barn is well stocked with seasoned fuel before the silent snow blankets the earth & holds us all in thrall, huddled against the crackling warmth of the woodburning stoves, swaddled in thick sweaters as we trudge out to feed the animals & smashing the thick crust of ice on water troughs & pools, fingers numb with cold & hungry bellies grateful for a hearty bowl of thick cawl – Welsh meat, leek & potato broth traditionally considered to be made with lamb or mutton.
Certainly, with the industrious buzz of Tony’s chainsaw spitting across the farmyard, woodchips spraying into the still, cool evening air, I could have sworn I scented a tantalising hint of woodsmoke, drifting across the hills & sending me shivering indoors for the comfort of chunky old sweater & a winter recipe book.
Roll on the days of mists & mellow fruitfulness….bread pudding ice cream, anyone…..?!