Location:United Kingdom

An avid tea-drinker who likes nutmeg in her coffee and warm lavender-scented quilts. She knits, crochets and partakes in random acts of craftiness (and kindness). She likes obscure works of literature, philosophy and the idea that her mind exists separately from her body. She enjoys moving furniture around, literary criticism and baking bread. She writes haiku about nettles, would like to swim with seals and become completely self-sufficient. She writes as if her life depends on it, listens to beautiful music, and loves her darling husband Mr. VP.

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Monday 30 September 2013

The Song of the South-Flyers

It was midday on Friday and I was about to hang a basket of washing on the line, when suddenly the sky was full of honking and wing-beats.  In my peripheral vision there was a flurry of movement and the trees gave way to a v-shaped formation of birds who all knew where they were going and who relied on their formation-leader to guide them safely to their destination.  And with that commotion of wing-beats and melodious honking and heartbeats and straight-necks, there came the state of autumn.  I can say that now, hand on heart, autumn is well and truly here; a state which can be marked no more perfectly than by the song of the south-flyers.  I felt an extraordinary sense of gladness and emotion; not only that the birds were flying towards us here, rather than away as in spring, but that I was here to enjoy every bit of it.

And all weekend, autumn has been on my mind.  Apples, mellow mists, the first frosts, candles, darkness, blankets; it’s all coming back to me now, this season.  I have shrugged off my summer-frock and imperceptably, but very definitely, donned the mantle of something slightly earthier, mustier and warmer.  What better way to celebrate this season’s beginning than a day spent in the deepest recesses of the Lincolnshire countryside, picking apples at a farm in the rolling wolds?

It was not just one of the best days out I’ve had in a very long time, it was one of family togetherness; a long car journey, a lot of stopping to admire the views and all ending with many, many bags full of apples (~18kg in total!), and a lot of very happy memories of tromping around a dense and sublime orchard.

It was one of the most loveliest days.  The sky was blue, with nary a cloud to be seen anywhere save the odd whisp and curl of cirrus.  The bright sunshine raised the temperature into the high teens and the chill of the night before was a mere memory marked only by the dew-covered grass.

We picked Katy (one of my favourite apples, I think), Fiesta, Sunrise, James Grieve and Bramley as well as conference and williams pears.  We laughed.  I was carrying too many cameras (as ever!) and trying to pick fruit at the same time.  Mr VP rolled his eyes as mine shone with child-like excitement at the joy of going into someone’s ‘garden’ and picking one of my favourite fruits.  It was legitimate scrumping of the very best variety!

As we approached the tail-end of one of the orchard’s rows, Mum noticed this little fella, a rather striking (if very small) frog.

All these apple trees made me remember the traditions that still hold true in many parts of the country.  Wassailing, or blessing the trees, goes on to this day, on or around twelfth-night, when slices of cider-soaked bread are laced through the branches and roots and songs are sung, encouraging a good harvest.  There are other forms of sympathetic magic, too, which see people hanging heavy stones in the branches of their apple trees, weighing them down, to mimic a heavy crop of apples.

There was certainly a lovely feeling in the air.  A definite autumn magic, a feeling of slowing and a sort of productivity.

These crab apples were growing on the periphery of the farm, intertwined as they were with ivy and other hedgerow shrubs like hawthorn and elder.  They looked no less delicious than their domestic counterparts in colour, though I know they need a lot of sugar to be palatable!

This is my first time ever picking pears from the tree.  I love pears and I particularly like conference pears because you can eat them when they are crisp and underripe, or very ripe and so juicy they dribble down your chin!  Yum.

I did get a few Williams pears, because I do like them too.  I had to brush off this slightly tipsy wasp before I could pick it though!

Soon, the call went up from Mr VP that he’d found “Bramleys as big as your head!”.  Whilst that was a bit hyperbolic, they were indeed huge!

They were not only enormous, but they looked like big, cheeky, blushing doughnuts sitting in twin-like formation on the trees.

I couldn’t believe the number of windfalls.  Those brave enough to fight the wasps for them, could buy windfalls for the brilliant price of only 50p/kg.  If only I’d had some way of making cider, I would’ve done so in a heartbeat.  Thankfully, the farm was so popular that I doubt the apples would be going to waste!

Speaking of autumn: I recently discovered this band and their EP has become my go-to autumn playlist.  I was blown away by them and their lead singer’s voice, which sounds so much like Patrick Watson without any of the fragility; it has a surety of place and moment that comes from someone who will go on to do great things.  I think these two songs are just perfect for the season.

Upon the advice of the man who owned the orchard, we bought one of these and had a lot of fun with it.  The apples easily became the fillings for apple pies and upon my suggestion, Mum even made one of these Swedish apple cakes.  The cake is dense but not stodgy and is full of that essentially Swedish spice, cardamom, as well as tangy apple.  It is absolutely delicious.

Welcome, Autumn.

One thought on “The Song of the South-Flyers

  1. Jo says:

    Oooh yum, that apple pie looks delicious. What a wonderful day out, you certainly had the weather for it too. The honking and wing beats are a common occurence here at the moment.

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