First tastes of Autumn

Every year as the summer comes to a close I feel a sense of sadness about the ending of a season, but I only need to look out of the window to remember that Autumn can be such a bountiful and productive time of year. To me, it is as though the energy from the sun that we have enjoyed over the summer months, is now stored in the fruits of Autumn. The hedgerows are full of berries and the wild brambles are desperately tumbling over each other to absorb as much sunlight as possible before the days become short and the nights long.

There’s a book my kids and I read about a community of mice during Autumn and the first page contains a quote I absolutely love: “The blackberries were ripe and the nuts were ready. Every morning they went out into the fields to gather seeds, berries and nuts, which they took back to the store stump and carefully stored away for the winter ahead. The store stump was warm inside and smelled deliciously of bramble jelly and rising bread…”(Autumn Story, Jill Barklem, part of the Brambly Hedge series)

I want to rush out and collect as much of this bounty as possible and preserve it in jars for the coming months, like this greengage jam I made for the first time a couple of weeks ago.

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Greengage jam

Elderberry jam is also high on my list for this year, as, for the last few Springs, I have picked the fragrant flowers and made them into cordial, but have forgotten to return to the same trees later in the year to gather their Autumnal berries, this year I will. I find apple and herb jellies are a fantastic use for any garden herbs that have grown more than expected over the summer. I love to serve these alongside roasts during the winter months.

As swallows gather in their chattering gulps debating the right time to leave for warmer climes, we too are preparing to migrate inside, where life takes on a more cosy existence. Now, the desire to create homely smells in the kitchen is totally appealing. This is when my slow cooker comes into its own; there is nothing better than arriving home on a dreich day to the warming smell of something you put on hours ago and had half forgotten about. Beef cheeks and brisket are a massive hit with the family, and go well with bread and winter vegetables.

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Wheat field, first in June, and then at the end of August

As I write, the wheat at Lochaber farm is ripe and ready for harvesting, it has provided a beautiful, changing backdrop for the farm since spring and it will be strange to see the field without it. However, there is much excitement in the house about the approaching harvest day – the sight of a combine working its way through a field never ceases to be impressive and exciting, particularly for the under 8s. I hope to grind some Lochaber wheat to use in our homemade bread, will keep you posted on progress.

This year’s calves are currently grazing in the upper field, but it won’t be long before it gets too wet under foot and the ground is churned up by their hooves. We have collected the haylage bales from the field and they are stacked and stored ready for use, we hope plenty to see us through to Spring.

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Haylage bales being brought in from the field

Winter life on the farm is largely dictated by the needs of the cattle, as they must be fed twice a day during the winter months. However, the regularity of their needs brings a pleasing cycle of its own, and if nothing else a reason to get out of bed on a freezing, wet and windy morning! The sweet smell of the silage and the steaming breath of the cattle is always a welcome greeting when arriving at the cattle shed on a cold, dark morning.

Finally, we are excited to announce that you can now read excerpts of our blog in ‘the menu’ section of the Dundee courier fortnightly on Saturdays starting on Saturday 16th September 2017.

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