autumn leaves

swing under the horse chestnut tree with autumn leaves

Autumn has arrived. The sun still shines but the days are cooler and the leaves on the trees and hedges are slowly turning colour. The bramble leaves are tinged with red, the field maples are turning yellow and the horse chestnut trees are almost bare, with a carpet of leaves on the ground underneath them.

crab apples on footpath

Crab apples litter the footpaths.

Old Man's Beard

On the farm, the crops are in the ground so Bill and Jack are making the most of the dry weather to do some hedge cutting, though the Old Man’s Beard still manages to thread its way through the branches. They start to cut the hedges in September, once the nesting birds have flown, working around the farm so that most hedges are trimmed every two or three years. Over the years, they’ve had to adapt as they accommodate Beth’s fruit gin business, which means the hedges laden with blackberries are left until after Old Michaelmas Day (on October 10th) to give her a chance to pick as much fruit as possible and the blackthorn hedges are carefully managed to ensure there are enough sloes each year to make Sloe Gin.

sunset apples and quince

In the garden orchard, the Discovery apples are past their best. We picked the last of them at the weekend, but they’re decidedly woolly inside now and the juicy call of the crisp and juicy Sunset, Cox and Blenheim Orange is too much to resist.

quince poached in syrup

By the pond, the quince have started to drop from the tree so I gather them up and bring them inside where they sit perfuming the kitchen until I get around to dealing with them. At first glance, quince seem an unpromising fruit; they’re hard, astringent and definitely not a fruit to eat raw. But, peel them and poach for a few hours in a simple syrup (1 cup of sugar to 1 litre of water) flavoured with a vanilla pod and bay leaf or perhaps some lemon peel or cinnamon stick and the quince soften and the fruits turn a delicious coral colour. Keep the syrup to poach your next batch of quince or reduce it down to make a sweet, thick syrup to pour over your quince or trickle over ice-cream.

Last weekend we cleared The Barley Barn, made up gallons of apple punch, set up some barrels of beer and held a ceilidh with friends, family and farming neighbours ranging from babes in arms to octogenarians. The word ceilidh comes from the Gaelic for gathering or party so it seemed fitting to way to celebrate the end of summer, a good harvest, the new farming year and the start of autumn.


30 thoughts on “Autumn

  1. Hi Anne, you are more into Autumn than we are into spring. It is still cold here (thou a couple of days ago it was 32). I am sure it will hit us with a bang soon. We clearly have more of a bird problem here. No fruit gets to ripen unless they are netted. The birds get the lot.

  2. Further north the leaves have only just started to change colour and are still on the horse chestnut trees. But the early morning stroll round the garden in pjs are well and truly over! Autumn is here!

  3. [J] Blenheim Orange!!!!! Memories of childhood, late autumn, swinging the swing higher and higher, letting it throw me off at branch height and trying to snatch off a Blenheim Orange in the arc of my trajectory!

  4. Lovely Anne, you had me at the quinces! They are such an incredible fruit, one of my favourites. Your ceilidh sounds like a special gathering of like minded folks. These sorts of events are such a great way to strengthen communities. The tree swing and the autumn leaves are like a work of art x

    1. Quinces are special aren’t they? Over the years, I’ve used them in all sorts of recipes but I don’t think you can beat simple poaching. Eating quince is one of my indicators that autumn is truly here.

  5. Such an atmospheric post. I can almost smell those quinces. The swing photo is gorgeous. We had a ceilidh at our wedding – it was brilliant fun and a great way to celebrate!

    1. Ceilidhs are very inclusive and tremendous fun. When I was in Young Farmers (way back in the late 1970s/early 1980s) we used to have a Scottish Dancing competition at our annual show, which probably started because so many Essex farmers originated from Scotland,. It sounds very old fashioned now but we enjoyed it even though our team always seemed to get in some terrible muddles.

  6. I would like to suggest that you make quince paste or quince and pear paste to have with cheese and a good glass of wine. Very easy, lots of internet recipes around, very worthwhile doing. Paste will last a couple of years in the fridge so a windfall crop is not wasted. Just fabulous with cheese and biscuits.
    Sydney summer trying so hard to break but while it is 32 degrees here, still snowing in our ski fields not so far south. Love it.

    1. That sounds delicious. What a good idea – guess what we’re going to have for dessert in a couple of days time. Not that I’m easily influenced …

  7. Mmm quinces, delicious. We are back in London now and it has been lovely watching the leaves change colour, I have been surprised that we have seen far more colours in the south than the north, maybe it’s just the timing. Love the idea of your ceilidh!

    1. It’s surprising how much difference the north and south are in such a small country. I read about someone who walked south to north in spring time, timing it that so that primroses were always just reaching their peak flowering season as they walked northwards. It would be rather fabulous to do that in autumn too.

    1. The farm bonfire used to be next to the quince tree so that some years the branches got a little burnt and we only had fruit on one side of the tree. Now the fire has moved, we get them on all sides though this year they’ve been a bit sparse – possibly because we had such a bumper crop last year.

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