It’s late summer and every day is a little shorter than the previous one; a change that was almost imperceptible a month ago, is now noticeable. There seems a need to enjoy these summer days before they slip away. To notice the colours and the smells. To gather up all the fruit to preserve in sugar or vinegar. This is what late summer looks like at Slamseys this week.
The dusty haze of high summer in the fields has been replaced by more earthy hues. The landscape changes field by field as the plough turns over the pale yellow wheat stubble to leave a rippled field of brown, scattered with white gulls that scavenge the furrows. Standing on a late summer’s day breathing in the smell of freshly turned soil is a life affirming moment.
The bright colours of summer flowers are gradually being replaced by the washed-out colours of the developing seeds. In the fields, the seed heads push above the dying foliage and float away in the breeze though I don’t think these artichokes in the garden are likely to float off anywhere.
The orchard is filling with colour as the fruit of each tree ripens; coral coloured crab apples on one tree and yellow on another; bright red Discovery apples contrast with the green leaves looking like a child’s naïve painting of an apple tree; Bramley apples slowly develop streaks of red, quite unlike the unripe green Bramleys in the supermarket.
In this bumper year for plums, it’s hard to keep up. The tiny yellow plums are just coming to the end and the deep violet coloured Czar plums hang forlornly as they’re ignored in favour of green orbs of deliciousness that are greengages. The damsons on the earliest tree are just ripening. How I long to be an artist who could capture the dusty blues and purples of damsons in a still life painting. Instead, I make damson jam and damson gin that might not be quite so romantic or permanent, but can be a powerful reminder of summer days in the depths of winter.
In late summer we are poised between the growing years. All the wheat is harvested though there is still barley to cut when it dries out enough. The wheat is in the co-operative store, from where it will be sent for milling into flour or used in animal feeds. The raspberries are slowly infusing the gin with their vivid pink colour and taste. Jars of jam and chutney line the pantry shelves. Courgettes in the garden are being ignored as they grow into mini zeppelins. The mobile seed cleaners have been at the farm today preparing the seed wheat for next year’s crop and before long that will be sown. And the growing cycle begins again.