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"Come, little leaves," said the wind one day.
"Come o'er the meadows with me, and play'
Put on your dress of red and gold,—
Summer is gone, and the days grow cold."
Soon as the leaves heard the wind's loud call,
Down they came fluttering, one and all;
Over the brown fields they danced and flew,
Singing the soft little songs they knew.
The Wind and the Leaves, George Cooper (1840-192)
This brief extract from a George Cooper poem sets the scene for many things at Home Farm House. So many poems about the advent of Autumn are about plants dying back, leaves falling, putting things away. Things stopping. This poem is all about action - leaves may be dying but they can still have that last merry dance across the fields! And, ultimately, they become part of the landscape - they replenish our ever diminishing soil base. They renew themselves by becoming something different.
For The Herbs at Home Farm House, September is about new beginnings made from old Summer plants. They make their merry dancing way into preserved goodies! I begin to take my annual herbs out of the Rhino, cut the stems, strip the leaves and transform them into Herb Oils, Herb Butters, Herb Salts, Herbs in Sugar - even Herbs in Honey. I begin to preserve the flavours of those herbs that do not always come through Winter that well or that die back and re-emerge in Spring. And my cupboards are full of bottles, jars, containers; my freezer is full of ice cubed butters and water. All of them filled with preserved herbs. So we already see the active renewal of old into something new.
This means that my beloved Rhino is getting a jolly good clear out, ready for the cuttings and seeds that I sow over the Autumn/Winter period to be planted and potted up in Spring. A Spring clean in September! (It also means I find many things I lose during the year - Notebooks, favourite pens. secateur sharpening blade... ) My Rhino, she transforms too; she goes from being a hothouse of Summer Herbs into a protector of overwintering plants. I do not heat the Rhino during the cold months. So this is the month that I check my stock of protective and warming supplies: fleece, polystyrene bases and bubble wrap. My neighbours kindly save their parcel packaging on my behalf.
For the Ducks and Hens at Home Farm House, their feathers begin to fall like the leaves on the trees. It always struck me as a bit silly that a hen would begin to moult just as the weather turns cooler. But they need new feathers and there's nothing like the cold to generate speedy feather regrowth. Besides, poultry prefer the cold to the heat of Summer. They actively renew their feather coats at the beginning of September.
As for the bees, now is the time that you see the worker bees (the ladies) turn out the drones (the male bees) as the drones have no purpose now. Harsh, but true! They have mated with queens from other colonies, the queens have laid their brood. They have no purpose. The Queen lays fewer eggs so that the colony can decrease in size by up to two thirds. But it is not the end of the activities of the colony, because the Queens are now laying winter brood. The winter arrivals are the hardy lot who will keep each other warm over Winter, ready to get out there as soon as Spring arrives, to begin the process of bringing in forage for the early Spring brood and pass the baton forward. They begin to concentrate the honey they have laid down throughout their hive in a small, concentrated area. Again, a kind of renewal is happening right now in the colony. Food, bees and brood, all being moved into a smaller area so that the work of keeping the brood alive during the winter can happen effiicently.
As for the dogs - well, Chuck has had an operation and now has a new lease of life! He has renewed himself - from a hobbling dog into a dog back to hurling himself at the front fence every time somebody walks past... And Aggie? Well, she is an elderly girl now, but she is such a happy little dog. Every day is new and exciting for her! And, being a spaniel, her fur seems to get thicker at this time of year such that she looks like a little teddy bear. Skinny Summer dog into fluffy cuddly Autumn bear.
So - I see September as a month where I transition from one kind of activity to another. I do not feel sad that Summer is over. because really there is just a bit of a change going on. Plants, ducks, hens, bees, dogs - and herbs - all just become something different. All equally wonderful. Just dancing, like the leaves in the poem, into a different way of being.