Joy and hard graft in the autumn

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The hedges have finally all been trimmed, and the garden is winding down after a really long season. Hard work from March through to November, our garden gives us immense joy as well as hard graft. Though the space is used more for enjoyment and relaxation rather than for growing food, next year we will be turning our front garden into a vegetable garden (out back the terrain isn’t ideal, and it’s full on sun so we’d have to water every day, and even with three water barrels it wouldn’t be enough. The front garden has some shade in the morning, so watering in the evening will last longer and be more efficient). We have three apple trees, two of which are groaning under the weight of the fruit. I see even more work in the future, but it is well worth it.

Half of our garden is on a steep slope, so it’s really difficult to grow anything there.  We bought a load of old railway timbers a couple of years ago, and created tiers going down the slope to stop the soil erosion that was happening. Planting a lot of hardy bushes where before a few perennial and some annual flowers simply could not stop the soil from washing away after a rainfall, we’ve also been blessed with lots of newcomers to the gardens that we never previously had – new butterflies, loads of crickets, ladybirds – even a mole! The bottom of the garden is delineated by a hedge, where muntjac and even fallow deer come through to have a drink from our pond and nibble on various things. It’s an organic garden as we wouldn’t have it any other way, so weeding is a constant chore, but it has encouraged so much wildlife that it only supports our decision to keep it pesticide free.

Working the land, even if only in a landscaping as opposed to a food producing endeavour, really puts me in touch with the ancestors. Not only my blood ancestors, such as my father and maternal grandfather who were landscapers by trade, but also the ancestors of place. Our house deeds go waaaay back, and we have framed in our hallway one of the grandest deeds, written in the time of George III, when the land went up for auction. Included in the details of the land were “hovels” where our house was situated, where obviously the poorer people in the village lived. I have no idea what happened to these people after the land was sold, whether they remained here or not, but I can feel their spirit still in the songs of the land. There also used to be an old apple orchard on this land, and the songs of apples and autumn are still heard on the cool breezes and lazy golden sunshine at this time of year. Though I may not work the land in the same way as the ancestors did, at least I can feel this connection with them through my sweat falling on the soil, my in breath and out breath mingling with the old ash trees that are hundreds of years old. The smell of dirt on your hands after gardening. Bit of tree and hedge in your hair. Sandy soil in your boots.

There is so much life in my garden. Roaming neighbourhood cats, owls, pigeons, mice, beetles, bats, spiders, swallows. Every day it changes, and something is different. At this time of year, when the sun sets ever further south on the horizon, I sit outside and watch as it jumps over the landscape, the days getting shorter and shorter much quicker. The light is always different, casting new shadows across the lawn, creating new shapes and colours. The smell of woodsmoke is on the wind, and the decaying leaves from the beech tree mingle with the tingly scent of freshly trimmed leylande. Life and death are all rolled into one beautiful cycle in my little haven, my little sanctuary.

My garden is pure awen.

Blessings of autumn to you all.