Autumn has arrived in the Midlands. It’s cold at night and in the mornings, but the days are warm and clear. The light is amazing; the sky is bluer and the clouds whiter. It seems as if the veld grass has gone brown overnight, and the fields behind my house are dotted with yellow “Balgowan weed” (not sure what the proper name is) and Khakibos and orange Leonotis leonurus (wild dagga). The leaves of the Liquidambars and Dogwoods are turning russet red. Autumn is all brown, orange, yellow and red against a background of azure blue. It’s time to put the winter sheets and down duvet on the bed, dig out the bed sox and order the firewood. It’s also that time of the year when my thoughts start turning to chocolate and pastries!
Talking of which, there is a genuine French bakery (I kid you not) in the Greendale shopping centre in Howick and they sell the most divine pastries and bread. I can’t resist popping in when I’m in Howick (which is not too often, if I can help it) but I was there yesterday and I bought my absolute favourite, croissant au chocolat, which combines my love of French pastry and yummy, dark chocolate. Yes, I know we may not actually classify it as an essential food item, but I’m sure the French would disagree!
After living in all-year-round green, tropical Durban all my adult life, it is such a pleasure to experience the changing of the seasons here and to actually live (and eat) according to the seasons. Last night I prepared a delicious autumn dinner of home-grown, freshly picked broccoli, cauliflower and butternut with a simple cheese sauce.
There’s a quote I like by Charles Dudley Warner in one of my gardening books (One Magic Square, Grow Your Own Food on One Square Metre by Lolo Houbein):
I have never read of any Roman supper that
seemed to me equal to a dinner of my own vegetables;
when everything on the table is the product of my own labour …
It is strange what a taste you suddenly have
for things you never liked before.
Everything starts to slow down in autumn. The manic planting, mowing, weeding and pruning of summer is over. Now it’s about maintenance and weekend afternoon naps in front of the fire instead of slogging away in the garden.
The swallows started gathering on the electricity wires at the beginning of April. One minute they were there, and the next they were gone, off to Europe for their summer holidays. The little red-billed queleas are back at the bird feeders as the seeds in the fields die off and mBiba (three-striped grass mice, to be precise) have started appearing on the lawn eating the bird seed. I now have to keep the doors closed so that the little critters don’t move indoors for the winter.
Photos of autumn leaves and berries are corny but I have to say they are so beautiful I cannot resist. This is autumn in the Midlands.