Saturday, 10 November 2012

Seeing the Mystic in Falling Leaves

Journey into
the darker half of the year..Samhain
There's something completely magical about this time of the year. Not magical in the Christmas sense when artificial lights are colouring houses and trees. And not magical like springtime when hosts of daffodils bend over footpaths and otherwise dreary motorways. This is mystical magical. This is the time of year when everything that we took for granted - long summer evenings, leaves on trees and things a' growing in the garden - is taken from us. The evenings shorten, the lights come on early, the fire is lit everyday and slowly but surely things that were green and living, giving - start to decay and the boundaries between living and dying are blurred. No wonder it is the time of Hallowe'en and the time for spirits to cross over into the world of the living, reminding us of our own mortality. Us Gaels refer to it as Samhain - the seasonal festival that marks the end of the harvest or growing year and welcomes the darker half of the year until the light returns again in Bealtaine (the start of May). Samhain is essentially a festival for the dead and Bealtaine a festival for the living. Meanwhile, back in 2012 Ireland....

While we shiver and bemoan winter's return, those non-humans living closer to the march of Nature's tune surrender without a peep of discontent. Towering beech trees drop the spring green leaves of summer with a gentle shiver - not however without celebrating their passing with a veritable carnival of colour - the like of which would match the canvases of any Van Gogh or Gauguin kaleidoscope of colour. The trees' palette is mostly orange and rust and yellow and purple and green (reminiscent of The Orb's Little Fluffy Clouds anyone?) and all shades between. Walls of burnt orange tunnelling a long beech lined avenue - well, it's enough to take a gal's breath awake on a cold and bitter November day ;) I like ;)

The last three weekends we have been gifted with bright blue skies and views of the sun that would shame a summer's day in Ireland. The cold would bite the nose off you but layers of wool and soft cottons defy the wicked chill and once wellies are on, it's only a matter of minutes kicking through ankle deep layers of crispy, crinkling leaves before the warmth is back in the heart and defiance of life's hardships back in the soul. The Holly dog loves it, and her nose is well buried where newly fallen leaves meet rotting humus. What she hopes to find under all those layers I can only imagine, but the sense of joy that is conveyed by the constant wagging of golden cocker spaniel tail is testament to the joy of the woods and all that it brings her. She first came to us as a puppy in a late October, and I like to think that this is her true time of the year, and her golden coat blends well with the golden carpet that covers the woodland floor.
This one is a teaser - can you spot the Holly dog?
Other than walking the woods in our spare time, it's been pretty quiet on the Holly Cottage garden front. The first fine sunny day we had we emptied the greenhouse of collapsing tomato and cucumber plants, grow bags and all! Then it was time for washing - sudsy water to rid the plastic of the veneer of algae that had built up over summer. The job was painless and kind of therapeutic in some ways. We were reminded of the sweet cucumbers and the cherry delights that we feasted on since July, but resolve was strengthened to do a better job next year....whatever that will bring. In our autumn clean we did encounter the odd brazen slug who was hoping for a mild winter ride under a frost free ledge. Seriously, is there no end to their slug terror? In other news, all the carrots are up, a few sad turnips are left in the ground, beetroot is all harvested and a bounty of parsnips remain in the ground for the winter oven. Speaking of which...

Tonight's creation is oven baked sausages with roasted onions, potatoes and parsnips - you said it, yum ;) Cut spuds and parsnips into wedges, onions cut head to toe. Drizzle with oil, add a sprinkle of fennel and cumin seeds and some fresh thyme. Into the oven at 200deg for 30mins. Then add your favourite sausages - meat or veggie. Roast for another 20mins, let it sit for a few minutes out of the oven - if you can - and then enjoy immensely ;) It's a recipe from the captain of the River Cottage ship, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall....oh so tasty.  Check out the following link, and enjoy!

River Cottage pic..the Holly Cottage pic wasn't taken quick enough ;)

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