Maintenance, and decay

The windbreak on the finally dug asparagus bed takes the full force of the southerly squalls which form the usual airy backdrop to the garden. I find myself threading wire through the eyeholes in an attempt to reinforce the top, but it is raining really too hard to ignore, and too dark to easily see. Stumbling in, I find it is barely 5pm; we are back on Greenwich Mean Time, and autumn can no longer be ignored.

It has been autumn with us for a while. Long gone is the drought, with sufficiently regular rain to have made getting into the garden hard of late. The hole in the top of my steel-toe-caped welly boots makes itself known in the long grass of the field; the dew or rain never burns off during the day now. Some progress has been made on the chicken run: all trenches full of wire and dirt, sods of long-dead grass returned to place, and gravel boards now fitted. Various garden helpers have been recruited to aid in moving soil, and holding wood – a welcome way to encourage some time outside during the half-term.

The trees lose their leaves in reverse to their budding in the spring. The rowans are long since denuded, except for the ailing specimen on the lower lawn which maintains its berries, now turned a beautiful pale pink. I hope this is some augur of a return to health, and not a final bowing out. The field maples are briefly resplendent when the morning sun catches their yellowing leaves. The beech hedge, and small shrubs, seem barely noticed to turn in the season.

A sudden almost storm – strong winds and rain from the south – removed most of the maple leaves, and toppled the sweet peas up by the house. This time the terracotta pot broke cleanly in two. A little research suggests epoxy resin to repair, or a flexible grab adhesive. I think I will experiment with the latter, trying for a Kintsugi effect, though with black sealant, not gold inlay. Jessica has collected some of the seeds, so perhaps both plant pot and plant will regrow next year.

In Operations Research, the notion of Critical Path Analysis finds, amongst possibly overlapping parallel tasks, the longest chain of tasks, each one depending on the previous one. Well, in the absence of a garden helper being available ( while visiting grandparents), tasks cannot be parallel, but the concept came to mind as I worked in the dying light last Sunday evening. The rain having returned to usual Pennine levels means that the patio table and chairs had long since outlived their possible usefulness on the patio. Time to pack them away for the winter.

Scouting out space in the barn this wet afternoon suggested no obviously free spot, except maybe for where an empty compost bin was being inexplicably stored. Where to put this? The obvious place is with its brethren, near the vegetable patch, but here there is a pile made up of the remnants of trees, now well composed. So, move this compost, but if one is doing that, perhaps other compost should be spread evenly across the now mostly bare vegetable patch. And some trees in the garden could be mulched.

The job is finished in the growing gloom, rushing to avoid having to find a head torch from the house. I find working at dusk enjoyable. Lights show from the house, and busy goings-on can be seen, while I move invisibly about the garden. Birds sing their evening chorus but otherwise it is quiet, human activity stowed behind doors. It might be cold, and damp, and almost dark, but when one is done, the warm house awaits. And I have put the chairs and table away.

Fixing, tidying, preparing for the dormancy of winter- this feels the lot of the gardener right now. But from the associated decay comes the compost I was spreading, and a good year for mushrooms. With a little trepidation, we foraged and ate our first wild mushroom: a shaggy inkcap. It fried down to almost nothing, but was pleasant enough on some homemade sourdough with a cup of tea.

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