Harvestime Reflections From Ireland

We’ve passed the autumn equinox and up in these northern latitudes it’s really noticeable how the days are rapidly getting shorter.  It’s dark by 7 pm.  But while the summer was a dull wash out, now the days are proving perfect for rainbow conditions.  We’ve many sunny days, still with a great deal of warmth, and seasonal showery intervals. There’s still enough sunlight even with shorter days that the rainbows following the showers are just brilliant.

We got the treat of seeing a perfect arch recently as we drove towards Blacklion on the border with Northern Ireland’s County Fermanagh.  “Quick, make a wish,” I commanded. And along with the wishes there is a rush of things for which I feel grateful over the past few months.

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While the slugs and snails and biting ants did not make for a stunningly providential gardening season this summer, I picked some of our first grape harvest yesterday.  We can grow a grape vine in the shelter of our polytunnel and in its third year it has proved to have truly delicious fruit.  While we’ve enjoyed some in our morning cereal and as in between meal snacks most are now in the dehydrator transforming themselves into raisins.

While we have had nowhere near frosty conditions as yet, we have had some very chilly nights.  It was time to bring in the geraniums and begonias from having their summer outdoor life.  The conditions are ideal to either repot or give houseplants a top dressing of compost and one last feed of diluted comfrey tea.

Even though we are not the sort to have a manicured garden, Tony has been busy putting the raised beds ‘to bed’ for the winter.  Basically, this is like lasagne-making;  Tony layers in compost, shredded nettle tops or comfrey, and cardboard with straw.  He puts black plastic on top to keep it warm and get some heat to get the worms working.  For aesthetics we put down a top layer of straw.  In our damp climate there is rarely any worry about it blowing away.  By evening there will be a shower to tamp it all down.  We leave some grapes for the birds too. The teazle heads and other seed-bearing plants lend a sort of sculptural spendour to the garden over winter.

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And as we are winding down from this year there is still half an eye turning towards the next season, using the ‘in between’ time of fall and winter for reflection and planning.

So at this harvest time I’m hoping that while you preserve, can, and put the garden to bed for the season that you also factor in some time to reach out to the community around you. Treat yourself to an evening out, join others in learning something that taps into our communal will to be creative.  That’s one of my wishes as we experience this burst of perfect autumn rainbow conditions.

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