Enjoy Autumn: Prepare Winter

It’s been a glorious September this year. Golden. Warm. Sea swimming and beer garden gigs. The good weather has added a few extra weeks to the feeling of summer in the garden, not to mention my mood. The bounty has been wonderful: tomatoes, squash, potatoes, the last of the green and runner beans, and lots of crunchy lettuce. When September is good it’s hard to beat (apart from a heat wave in July!) As my daughter said: “September would be my favourite month if it weren’t because it means that winter is coming.”

We are officially in the Autumn as of this week and before we get cosy, I’d like to recognise that Summer 2022 was one of the really good ones. It’s up there with the summer of 1995, when the weather was lovely up to Halloween. Here’s hoping.

Despite the lovely sunshine, there’s no denying that sharp chill in the morning air, and the mushroomy smell of leaf mould. The trees are all getting into the act as well, changing the landscape’s colour palette from all the greens to all the russets and browns. The deep red haws and bright orange of the rowan berries line the hedgerows like fairy lights. 

Talking about berries – we have a glut. Raspberries, black berries, elderberries, and sloes are keeping us busy picking. In fact, we’re setting time aside this weekend to properly focus on looking for damsons and picking more berries. We also need to process over 40 kgs of apples, so on Sunday we’ll bring our apples to the Community Garden to use the community apple press. It is a delightful afternoon, meeting up with lots of lovely people with the sweet smell of apples in the air. It has become one of my favourite events in my calendar and it marks the official start of Autumn for me. Of course, all that berry picking and apple pressing means a lot of preserving, pickling, and fermenting ahead. Nothing says Autumn as much as the smell of raspberry jam simmering on the range, and the blip-blip of the airlock as demi-johns of cider bubble away. There’s something quite primeval about this time of the year. It’s as if something in the ancient part of our mammal brain kicks in and makes us want to gather nuts. Few things are as satisfying as lining up a row of jams and chutneys, alongside tall jars filled with macerating sloe and rhubarb gin. This year we’re trying something new: pickling elderberries (thank you Pilgrim’s Restaurant for the idea!) and preserving green elderberries to use like capers.

That urge to stock up and sort out the woodpile is particularly strong this year. I’ve lived through feast and famine, boom and bust, but I must admit that this year’s apprehension about the coming winter is different. The war in Ukraine and the unbelievable hikes in energy prices have created a heavy blanket of uncertainty over the coming months. We don’t know what’s to come, but we do know that’s it’s not going to be good. Most of us are dreading what the electricity bill will look like. I am very cross at the suggestion that one of the things we can do to mitigate the spiralling costs, is to open and close the fridge door quickly. Not only does it lay a new guilt trip on us, but it’s also bonkers. Could they not come up with anything better to combat the energy crisis other than suggesting that we don’t dawdle in front of the fridge. Cheddar, or gruyere? Know what you want before you open the fridge door!

So far, the only concrete steps we’ve taken is to start looking into getting solar panels. Watch this space for updates. We have also decided not to use the electric kettle since we have a range and a stove and a perfectly good kettle that whistles when it’s boiling. In fact, we’ve hidden the electric one away, just in case we get tempted. I’m also learning more than I ever wanted to know about electric heater efficiency.

So far so good. The weather is still holding. We haven’t lit the stove yet, but I feel like tonight could be the night. Remember to enjoy each sunny day. Before we know it, it’ll be November.

Tina Pisco

Tina Pisco is a best-selling author, who has lived in West Cork, Ireland for the past twenty years.

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