September is usually a last little burst of warmth before autumn sets in properly, the mornings chilly and dewy, and the afternoons mild and golden. A 'season of mists and mellow fruitfulness'. This September however has been tempestuous and unsettled as the country is lashed by the tail-end of hurricanes from aross the Atlantic. Inbetween the storms the days have been as mild and sweet as usual, and the garden is full of abundant apples, damsons, autumn raspberries and blackberries. The hedges too are dripping with sloes, elder and hawthorn berries, rosehips and hazelnuts. The good weather in the early part of the year allowed excellent pollination rates and now we are reaping the results.
There is uneasiness in my heart though. Weather patterns seem to be changing, and although I know climate change and weather patterns are not the same thing, still there seems to be something going on. The last few years we have had bitingly cold winters, an unseasonably hot, dry spell in spring/early summer, followed by wet, windy summers and flood-prone autumns. Everywhere I hear people exclaiming about the unusual weather, not just here in the UK but all around the world. Droughts, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, prematurely melting ice. Something is going on. And it disturbs me.
Here on the calm, mild days the sun is interspersed with gentle rain and it seems like a normal September. But in exposed places, traumatised trees have had still-green leaves torn away by the fierce winds. In the garden there are few signs of dew-dropped spider webs in the morning. All their careful weavings have been torn and battered down by storms.
The swallows have already left, and no doubt the martens will follow shortly. I pray they will find safe passage to their winter homes. Soon the winter flocks of starlings will be in evidence again. Hopefully this winter won't be so harsh for them.
I hope my fears are unfounded. But I worry about stormy times ahead. In the meantime I harvest fruit from garden and hedgerows, bottling, jamming, pickling, chutneying, drying and brewing it into store cupboard goodies for the cold months. What else can we do but prepare as well as we can for the lean times, whilst hoping for the best?