by Max Akroyd
Meteorologically it was 1 September, astronomically it was 22 September, but chez nous Autumn started yesterday with the lighting of the wood burner for the first time. For a while now the goats have looked a bit suspicous about the browning leaves on the hedge trimmings I’ve given them. The hens have been laying slightly later in the day. Mowing the grass is now a weekly option rather than a daily necessity. But the first fire of the year, just to ‘take the edge off’, is the decisive watershed.
The experience of the new season is a bit different here compared to what we were used to in Yorkshire. Being an hour ahead means the first things to change dramatically are the mornings. A sea of inky darkness sweeps in – extra dark because there is little light pollution – and makes any thoughts of early outdoor work impossible. By 8:30 am it’s light enough to get out and feed the animals who are a bit sleepy and grumpy even then. The tendency of the days changes and from now until January. After the optimistic default position of summer, in autumn if there’s changeability in the weather you can assume it’s going to get worse! This was always the case in Yorkshire, though – even in summer..!
An advantage of this latitude is the prospect of the darkness being rolled back promptly in the New Year. January in Brittany is like late March in Yorkshire – a spectacular three month dividend – and February has been almost hot for the last two years.
But there’s no getting around it. It may be mild now, but there’s three dark and probably wet and wild months ahead. Which will be a cause of some apprehension in 2011 when I have to navigate a way through them without recourse to someone else’s produce.