The farmers are busy gathering in the harvest and, if we’re lucky, as September fast beckons, we will all be out and about in the Autumn sunshine collecting ripe apples and plums from the fruit trees and blackberries from the hedgerows – or blackites as they are known in the Cumbrian village where I hail from. Isn’t nature wondrous. The nuts from the garden’s hazel tree are disappearing rapidly – they are the red squirrel’s favourite snack, those little piles of broken shells at the foot of the tree evidence of those many unseen stealth raids.
Foraging for Fungi
And then there is the fungi – those strange fruits of the forest in all their different forms and guises that are both delicious and fearsome. You have to really know your stuff to tell the difference. I think most of us are aware that the red and white spotted Fly Agaric is one to steer clear of and that the golden yellow Chanterelles are a prized gourmet delicacy along with the Penny Bun which is also known as the Porcini mushroom but anything in between can be chancy, and a risk not worth taking…Just enjoy those fairy rings of toadstools as a wonder of nature as you pass by… and look but don’t touch unless you’re an expert forager of course! A fabulous book on the hidden world of fungi is Merlin Sheldrake’s Entangled Life if you haven’t already read this book then pick up a copy as it is sure to blow your mind to the amazing world right under our feet.
Busy Bees & Willing Wasps
The Bees are out and about busy collecting the last bit of pollen and nectar before winter sets in, Ivy being a fabulous resource for a variety of insects at this time of year. The wasps too are out in force as their queens begin to leave the nest to reproduce and find a suitable spot to hibernate once autumn sets in. It’s in August and September when wasp behaviour becomes most volatile. The remaining workers and drones start to abandon the nest as their responsibilities have ended and they become more aggressive as they enter panic mode trying to find enough food.
Wasps are actually a beneficial insect to the ecosystem but it may not feel like it when you get stung, wasp stings can be incredibly painful, and unlike the bee, they can sting over and over again…Ouch!
The Hedgehogs will be starting to fatten up in readiness for their winter hibernation, typically October to March, but that can vary depending on the temperature and food available. As humans we try to hang on to the summer season as long as possible, reluctant to discard our warm weather wardrobe, hoping it will be November or December before we have to bring out the woolly hats and scarves and start hibernating ourselves….which we now call hygge thanks to the Danish.
The Deer Rut
Between late September and early November is the rutting season for many Deer species, in the Lake District we have the Red Deer a majestic beast of an animal. During the rut the competing males, pumped full of testosterone, battle it out, locking horns, roaring fiercely, and sometimes fighting to the death to secure mating rights with all the hinds in a ‘harem’ which could be up to twenty or thirty!
The Autumn Leaves
As the leaves start to change colour and fall from the trees it always brings to mind one of my mother’s favourite songs – The haunting “Autumn Leaves.” The falling leaves drift by my window, The autumn leaves of red and gold….Since you went away the days grow long, And soon I’ll hear old winter’s song, But I miss you most of all my darling, When autumn leaves start to fall…..Ah can’t you just hear the melancholy in that dark chocolate voice of Nat King Cole….A sadness for the change of season that perhaps we all feel at this time of year. Some parts of the globe don’t have that seasonal change as we do…..don’t think I could live anywhere like that. We all think we would enjoy perpetual summer, but would we? And how welcome is a cooling down in temperatures after a heatwave here? Sadly though, with climate change, such extremes are already becoming more prevalent. So let’s enjoy our beautiful autumn season while we can……