Tuesday 28 September 2021

Embracing Autumn: Cosy

Last week's golden Indian Summer weather has turned into blustery winds and lashing rain. This morning when I went out to the chicken run, the storms had damaged the overhead netting that protects our flock from buzzards and goshawks. Slipping in mud and squinting through rain-splashed eyes, I struggled to tie everything securely back into place, with cold slippery fingers.

How delicious then, to come back into the warm house, cast off my sodden jacket and boots, towel my hair dry and curl up with a hot cup of coffee and a few pages of a good book. 

This is definitely one of the great pleasures of Autumn and Winter. Cold, wet weather and short, dark days make one truly appreciate cosiness. The Danish word 'Hygge' is often now used in the UK. As I understand it, its one of those words that has no direct English translation but it's usually used (in English) to mean cosy or comfortable. It's a good word, but I have to confess to loving the English word 'cosy', which seems to have been a little bit pushed to one side in the enthusiastic  embracing of 'Hygge'.

When I hear 'cosy' I think of curling up under soft quilts and blankets, sitting round a crackling log fire with loved ones, a gentle candlelit glow, a warming mug of hot chocolate, fleecy slippers and snuggly scarves. It brings memories of the nights when, as a very small and sleepy child I was wrapped securely in a fluffy blanket for the journey home from my Grandparents' house. It makes me imagine hibernating animals in their dens, overwintering safely and securely through the harshest weather. It makes me eager to dig out sheepskin boots, favourite jumpers, quilted coats.

Here's to being cosy - one of Autumn's great pleasures.

Embracing Autumn: Lean Into Cosy

As Autumn winds begin to blow and the temperatures start to drop, embrace the opportunity to make life more cosy.

  • Reacquaint yourself with flannel shirts, chunky sweaters, woolly socks or tights, comfy cardigans, boots, slippers, velvet and corduroy...
  • Put a soft blanket or throw on the sofa so you can cuddle up under it in the evenings
  • Enjoy candlelit evenings and early mornings
  • Swap frappuccinos for cappuccinos, iced tea for steaming mugs of tea, chocolate milkshakes for hot chocolate and whipped cream...
  • Enjoy a log fire in the hearth, or a bonfire in the garden
  • Cosy up your home with increased insulation, thick curtains, draft excluders etc
  • Pile up your bed with cushions, throws and blankets
  • From within your snuggly sanctuary, listen to the rain against the windows and the wind in the trees, and appreciate the simple blessings of 'cosy'.              

Friday 17 September 2021

Embracing Autumn: Scarlet and Crimson Treasure

As we move further into Autumn there are more and more splashes of red to be seen in the trees and hedgerows. The rowan berries are the first, in August, but as September progresses they're joined by rosehips, haws, the berries of honeysuckle, and nightshade - and of course, unripe blackberries.

Bright scarlet rowan berries hang in distinctive clusters, in contrast to the crimson haws which are distributed much more evenly amongst the hawthorn foliage. 

In the hedgerows hereabouts there don't seem to be many rosehips - but there is a huge crop of haws. Some claim this signals a harsh winter ahead of us, but I tend to think it's more to do with favourable pollination conditions back in the spring when an exuberant froth of blossom covered the hawthorns.

I often think of the hawthorn as being the epitome of spring - its bright green leaves are among the first to break when the world begins to green anew, and the appearance of its flowers usually coincides pretty well with Beltane. Yet at this time of year when its leaves have darkened to glossy forest green and rich red haws jewel the hedgerow it is a striking feature in the landscape. In spring hawthorn seems full of lively joie de vivre, perfectly matched to the festivities of Beltane. As we approach the Autumn Equinox, its energy is of quiet, benevolent dignity - and generosity. There are enough haws for both us and the birds to enjoy - take advantage of this bounty and go foraging. 

Embracing Autumn: Hawthorn Brandy

Haws can be used to make many delicious edibles - jam, jelly, syrup, chutney, wine etc. Just Google 'hawthorn recipes' and you will find lots of inspiring ideas to make the most of your foraging. One of the simplest recipes of all is Hawthorn Brandy. If you've ever made Sloe Gin it's made very much along the same lines -  but everyone makes sloe gin, so why not try something a little different instead?

After picking your haws, pick them over and wash and dry them. Put them into a plastic bag and place them in the freezer overnight (this will soften them and begin to break down the skin so that their flavour will infuse the brandy effectively). Weigh the haws and put into a Kilner jar or similar tightly-lidded wide-mouthed container. Add sugar (half the weight of the haws), a pinch of cinnamon and some lemon zest. Pour over enough brandy to completely cover the ingredients, fasten the lid on tightly and shake well to dissolve the sugar. Store the jar somewhere dark, allowing the fruit to steep in the brandy for at least a couple of months (better yet until Yule). Shake the jar regularly. When enough time has passed, strain out the haws and lemon zest and bottle the flavoured brandy. Enjoy!  


Saturday 4 September 2021

Embracing Autumn: Read A New Book Month

I just discovered something wonderful about September - apparently it's officially Read A New Book Month, which gladdens my little bookworm heart no end! Not that I need much encouragement to dive into a new book in September, or at any other time of year for that matter. 

A couple of my recent favourite reads are 'A Spell In The Wild' by Alice Tarbuck, and 'Where The Crawdads Sing' by Delia Owens - both of which I wholeheartedly recommend. I also really enjoyed 'The Lilypad List' by Marian Van Eyck McCain which I picked up on a whim when I discovered it in a local telephone box which has been converted into a book swap library. These ingenious little libraries are popping up all over the place - hopefully there is one near you. If not, perhaps you could be the catalyst that gets such a local scheme going? Thanks to the Global Educational Trust, there are also free book shops in locations across the UK which quite literally give away free books in an attempt to keep them out of landfill and improve access to reading. And let's not forget our wonderful public libraries which still exist in many places as a means of access to books despite horrific cutbacks and closures imposed by Tory austerity. 

When buying books, please consider buying from a small independent bookshop whenever possible. Jeff Bezos really doesn't need any more of your hard earned cash - he'll only fritter it away on spaceships. You can find your nearest here, or shop online here

Embracing Autumn: Read A New Book

As well as curling up at home with your latest book, you can also make reading a more social activity by 
  • Joining (or starting?) a book club
  • Reading with your children
  • Swapping books with friends
  • Asking friends for book recommendations/sharing your recommendations with others
And if you find a new book that you absolutely love - please leave a comment on this post letting me know about it! I love getting book recommendations and hopefully other readers of Moonroot will find it helpful too.