It's that time of year when we go gathering nuts and berries, windfalls and freebies.
Our walnut tree has fruited so well this year, every day I go out and there are more of the green outer casings on the ground, split open to reveal the wrinkly brown nut inside. I am drying them off in a mesh hammock in one of the sheds, but I think there are too many for us and some will be given away. They don't keep forever after all.
And not far from here grow chestnuts, not the conkers - well there are masses of those all around the village green and outside the village too - but the chestnuts you roast, then try to eat whilst juggling them because skinning a hot chestnut is a painful experience really. It always sounds so romantic that when we go to Cambridge, we look out for the street seller with his little oven and hot roasted chestnuts. The reality is scalded red fingers, indigestion and a yearning for the taste they used to have, which was more, well, tasty than it seems to be now.
We have had apples off the tree, and in the lanes nearby are crab apples, which I always mean to gather and use, but somehow always forget. We have had plums as windfalls from a neighbours trees, some pears too. Lots of rosehips in the garden, which again I know I should make more use of than I do. Also the old favourite of blackberries, growing along th quieter, less petrol-polluted narrow lanes not too far from here. We have some of our own in the garden, but the bush, which began life next door, then forced its way SAS-like through the wooden fencing into our garden, has put on lots of growth when it comes to length of branches, and thorns, but very little in the way of fruit. So, being kind, I leave them to the blackbirds, who already have a lovely diet in our garden from various berries like pyracantha, holly and so on.
Pretty flowerheads to be gathered and hung in the kitchen or left to dry off in the summerhouse... thistle, hydrangea, lavender, alliums, nigella, honesty, grasses... all manage to be picked at their peak, left to dry and used in arrangements over the winter, with added colour from bronze and coppery chrysanthemums, and branches of scarlet berries. Seeds to be harvested as plants begin to die off, cuttings to be taken from penstemon and buddleia - we have a pale apricot one, as well as white, lilac, and a very deep purple which smells deliciously of plain chocolate, about 70% cocoa solids I think. And now time to be thinking about putting away some of the tender plants, the fuschia and scented geraniums, to dig out the tuber of the scarlet flowering 'Bishop' dahlia from his summer bed and put him in the greenhouse where he'll be cosy for the winter.
And speaking of cosy.... remember love's old dream I talked about in my first blog all those weeks ago? Esme, newly arrived spinster of this parish and many more before, moved into Walnut Tree cottage as she named it, next door to old Sam, our resident old codger? He with the designer stubble, which has been allowed to grow now into a fine white beard, not straggly but well trimmed and making him look a bit of a handsome old sea dog... or in practise for being Father Christmas at the village school Christmas Party. It seems he gave Esme a talking to about their friendship. Laid it on the line, that he wasn't looking for anything at all like a relationship at his time of life, too set in his ways. He enjoyed the odd bite of supper and a chat now and then, but nothing more serious. He told Sheila, at the pub, that he felt he ought to tell her straight, now, before things got out of hand.
Esme took it well apparently; at the local coffee morning for charity, she was happy to tell all and sundry that she'd had to tell Sam straight, there was no hope of anything permanent with them, only friendship. Besides, he was too old for her, she added, turning to look at the new, single, postman who's just taken over this round! Hope springs eternal, so they say.