Is autumn here?

Is autumn here

With golden sunlight piercing skidding clouds

A fruitful harvest of colour, smell and taste

Rosy apples, juicy beans, sweet courgettes

Swollen by fiercely pounding rain

Whipped into a frenzy by swirling winds

Heralding the cold and dark.

 

Is autumn here,

with the summer barely gone

Hand in hand, seasons dancing before us

Day by day they swirl and show their face

Warm, cool, bright, dull,

Bringing the lushness of autumnal fayre

All the while summer is still in the air.

 

Is autumn here

As we seek out warm jackets

Protection from downpours

Cosy homes, fires, thick casserole dinners

Only to sweat and curse and lie

Watching summer flies buzz

And midgies dance their bloody hypnosis.

 

Is autumn here

As an evening drive suddenly requires headlights

As leaves reach the darkest green

As flowers tire, and seed heads swell

As meadows turn golden, under a hot sun

And flatten under strong winds and heavy rain

And hedgerows grow fat with multi-coloured fruits.

 

Is autumn here

Or is this just another turn of the wheel

A way of confusing the observer

Be it human, animal, plant.

Will it be summer again, this year

Or does the gold fade until spring heralds it next

Are we to watch autumn arrive in stately procession

Or crash through like a charging bull

 

Is autumn here

Or does summer remain, somewhere.

Will it remember us, return,

Bless us with warmth and sunshine

Or are we to remain veiled in white,

The cast-off, cloud woven bridal gown, draped over us

Whilst summer cavorts elsewhere in gleeful nakedness

Does autumn sneak in and don the dress.

 

Is autumn here

And if it is, how shall we fair?

Shall we revel in the joyous harvest

Of fruit, vegetable and herb

Drying, freezing, pickling, preserving

Glass jars with summer contained

Lining our battlements against the dark foe.

Will the defences be enough

If autumn is here?

 

 

 

 

 

Balancing diets

I have been using a phone app for the last 10 days to log what I eat. Have you ever done this and really, genuinely calculated what you eat?  The app I’m using not only keeps a food record but tells me how many calories I have had, and the nutritional content of my daily intake – protein, fibre, sugar, fats, some vitamins, some minerals, and so on. So for the first time, rather than presuming my diet is balanced, I can see whether or not it actually is.

I have to admit I have been rather astonished. In the last ten days I have not hit the protein, fibre, potassium or iron targets at all, and have only hit the vitamin A targets once (and that was only through eating probably a months’ worth of butter!)

I have also over the last few days had a couple of complete pig-out days, eating far too much of all sorts of foods. You would think this would at least have enabled me to meet all the targets, even if I’d gone vastly over the fat and sugar limits, but no!  Even then I was very low on a number of things.

Such knowledge, of course, could easily lead to obsession, of the “I can only have carrots and pistachio nuts for supper” variety. This is a real danger when measuring nutrition so precisely. But at the same time it could also lead to a much clearer picture of what a balanced diet actually is and what foods really are good – or bad – for you as an individual.

The temptation is there, of course, to supplement and medicate. A multi-vitamin and mineral pill twice a day, a tub full of protein powder milkshake mix, and several ispagula husk capsules each day and my dietary problems would be over, right?  You know, I actually don’t believe this at all.  Supplements are there to support a balanced diet, not replace one.

So what is to do? Do I continue to measure and watch as the numbers (mostly) fail to add up? Do I allow myself to enter ‘obsession’ mode? Do I go and spend a fortune at the health food store? Do I delete the app and stick my head in the sand? Do I continue to eat an unbalanced, almost certainly bad-for-me diet? Or do I try and make real changes?

Whatever I do, its a harder decision than it sounds, believe me!

 

 

Herbs

Have you ever dried your own herbs?  Or, more specifically, have you ever attempted to dry sufficient herbs over the spring and summer so as to keep a supply in your spice rack all year round?

I tried this last year.  And with some of the more esoteric herbs I grew, I dried an elegant sufficiency, more than enough to last for twelve months. But with my primary culinary choices, those being thyme, rosemary, marjoram, basil and oregano, every leaf I could get my hands on without killing my plants still was not enough.

And so the cycle begins again, this time with a little more planning. Extra plants have been purchased this spring. And as soon as stalks were long enough I collected an entire trug full and tied them in bunches in our utility room to dry.

One lot of oregano is already in the jar.  And a wonderfully aromatic mix of oregano, marjoram and basil has been hung to dry just this afternoon.

This pattern will be repeated every three weeks or so right up until the start of September, when I finally allow the plants to keep some growth to protect them over the winter. And hopefully, with a bit of luck, a following wind, fingers crossed and a minor miracle or two, I might just have dried enough!

 

Almost a thunderstorn

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We almost had a thunderstorm a few minutes ago.

The sky went dark, the wind picked up, and faint rumbles were heard in the distance.

We sat under the porch, enjoying the high temperatures that persisted despite the dark clouds, and waited for the storm to arrive.

And waited.

And waited.

And…. nothing. Except for a few faint rumbles, a darkening sky, and birdsong.

So much birdsong. Blackbirds and finches and tits and sparrows and robins and thrushes and swifts and crows and rooks by the score.

And the wind stilled to a gentle breeze again.

And the dark grey sky turned paler, whiter.

And…. nothing.

 

Lawn Mowers

We awoke this morning to the sound of lawn mowers outside. Contractors to the local housing association cut the grassy areas around the estate where we live with huge, petrol-fuelled monstrosities that always seem to make too much noise and take too little care.

I tried to complain to the council about the mess they made once. All I got told was they were subcontractors of contractors and thus there was nothing the council could do. “Try talking to your landlord” was all they suggested. I have yet to make that particular call.

And this morning they’ve been out again, and with no regard for wet weather and soggy grass following yesterday’s rain they’ve chopped and strimmed and cut all the random grassy bits down into some semblance of tidiness.

I’ll get into my garden later on and clear the clippings from the fence edges, and perhaps do some weeding, tying and staking of rain-limp plants while I am at it.

What the lawn mower guys or their managers or whoever makes the decisions doesn’t seem to realise is that the grass is all limp right now, lushly growing and flattened by the rain. So even their petrol-driven monsters won’t have cut the grass properly and within a week it’ll all look overgrown again.

I, on the other hand, will wait until my grass is dry. My eco-friendly, hand pushed mower works superbly for what I need, it doesn’t churn anything up, it doesn’t create noxious fumes and above all doesn’t wake anyone up.  Sounds like an altogether wiser idea!

 

 

Awake

  • Its 3.43am

And I’m awake.

I can hear the wind and rain,

My husband’s gentle breathing, and

The soothing music played all night,

To ease my tinnitus.

And I can hear my tinnitus itself

A roaring, gushing hiss of noise.

My stomach growls.

‘Is it breakfast time yet?’

Legs ache.

Arms itch.

Body demands I wriggle

into a more comfortable spot.

But what is comfort?

And what is it not?

The wind makes the leaves on the trees rustle.

My husband sleeps.

I write and think

And try and will and wish

That daydreams would become night dreams.

Itch.

Wriggle.

Shake pins and needles from fingers.

Stretch.

Yawn.

Listen.

Ask,

‘Will I sleep?’

Oh for a gold coin for every time I ask myself that question!

I would be a wealthy man.

‘Is it breakfast time yet?’

No.

‘Is anyone else awake?’

No.

‘Can I sleep yet?’

No.

‘Can I get up?’

No.

‘Am I tired?’

My word, yes. Exhausted.

But also achy and itchy

And with a head full of racing thoughts

And an empty stomach.

Its 3.59am

Lets try again.

 

Quiet

Its quiet. All I can hear

Are tweeting sparrows in

The silver birch outside

The window. Busy nest

Building. And an ever

Present pulsating hiss

Of tinnitus ringing

In my ears. Which one wins?

I can hear both clearly.

Tweeting birds.  Tinnitus.

This is what passes for

Quiet. Silence. Absence

Of significant noise.

A car engine putters,

Interrupting the quiet.

A burst of noise. But wait!

The tinnitus has gone.

Clattering of crutches

As doors open, movement

Is heard from elsewhere in

The house. Tinnitus still

Absent. Then silence comes

Back. Returns. And with it

The tinnitus pulsates

Once more ringing, noisy.

Is there ever silence?