Saturday, 13 September 2014

Summer fruits

When I studied English literature back in my teenage school years, I was struck particularly by Keats' 'Ode to Autumn'.  That's the one that starts, "Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness".  I was so smitten that I decided to have a go myself.  My poor imitation started thus:
'Tis autumn; the armies of the season
Intermingle. Summer retreats, winter
Advances her probing, dead'ning squadrons.
Strange how those few words just came back into my head.  I know there was more but that is forgotten, which is probably just as well.

On opening the bedroom curtains on the last couple of mornings I have been unable to see the Downs for the autumnal mist.  It really feels as though we are on the cusp, slipping not so slowly from the warmth of summer into the cool freshness of autumn.

My raspberries - an autumn fruiting variety - are really coming into their own right now.  I picked enough the other day to have them for dessert with a scoop of ice cream and there were plenty for the Old Bat to have a lunch of strawberries and raspberries yesterday.  Yes, strawberries - in almost-mid September!  I was astonished to see how many there were when I did the shopping yesterday - and several different varieties as well.  I was even able to buy some of our favourite Camarillo.  We thought last year that the strawberry season had lasted longer than usual and it is doing so again this year.

In a way I find that rather a shame.  Strawberries are such a special, summer fruit that can be enjoyed piggishly when the season lasts only a few weeks, but when it lasts for months they become ordinary, more on a par with grapes and bananas and apples and oranges - all available all year round.

Not only have I been picking raspberries, but I also picked a plum this week.  Yes, one plum.  That makes about five I have picked this year from our two trees, which is five more than last year.  There is always plenty of blossom, which sets well, followed by plenty of fruit.  But there is some disease or other in my trees and I have been unable to work out what it is that causes the fruit to go mildewy and rot on the tree before it is ripe.

Earlier, it looked as though this would be a reasonable year for pears, although they were not as prolific as last year.  Now there is just one left on the tree - and I have not picked any!  In past years, the jackdaws have pecked away at the fruit before it is ripe and a good many of the pears have suffered as a result with woodlice getting into them.  This year, though, the jackdaws actually plucked the pears and flew off with them, holding the stalks in their beaks!  Then the neighbourhood squirrels decided that perhaps they would like some fruit, and even the blue tits joined in.  Windfalls became snacks for the dog.

Oh well, there's always next year.

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