Friday, 23 October 2009

Provender Hedgerows with Autumn Colours

This year the weather has just been just right for the hedgerows, fruit and nut trees to flourish: and it shows – Spring was lovely, so the fruit could set; July gave us rain so those sets could swell, the late Summer has been dry to allow the fruits, nuts and hips to ripen to their best ready for picking, pickling, preserving, drying or just plain guzzling.

Japanese Maple, Westonbirt Arboretum

What is going to happen in the next few months? Freezing weather with loads of snow – that some countries (the eastern parts of Europe and the States) have already had this year? Soaking rains dredging the land with heavy drops bringing the possibility of floods? Or just sheer damp and greyness as we had for much of last winter, with large dumps of unexpected snow?

The mass of shrubs are weighted down with berries, hips, nuts all bursting out from the practically hidden foliage: bright red, yellow, orange, nutty brown sheaves, black or purple fruits exposing their benefice to all who need – the foraging birds, tiny rodents, small mammals, insects and of course, us humans, all content to stock up, maximise and store this free larder.

The wildlife inhabiting the hedgerows are in heaven, the migrating birds and insects can stock up, regain their energies to survive the coming winter; we can stock our larders with jams, syrups, jellies, liqueurs for use during the long dark evenings ahead.

The lazy tea times with perhaps blackberry (as right) jam topping the oozing buttered crumpet beneath; the rowan berries mixed with crab apples to make a bright red, smoky aroma jelly going so well with the mountain meats – the game, venison and mutton, or perhaps a sloe gin for a pre dinner slurp, with a wild pear liqueur to finish off the evening.

Blackthorn - Sloe

We’ve been using the hedgerows as our larder for thousands of years, eating the fruits as they ripen, pickling with vinegar (Egyptian urns dating from 3,000 BC with traces of vinegar have been found) , salting or brining our foods for overwintering, much as wildlife does now, or when fighting, travelling or exploring, (when it was more important to eat, than worry about salt) and as our knowledge improved, new foods such as sugar were found and became commonplace (adding to the natural sugars in fruits and the not so prolific supplies of honey).

In times of hardship – after the war .. I remember pickled eggs (granted not in the hedgerows – but no doubt could be used for duck eggs too), pickled walnuts, fruits, jellies preserved in kilner jars all abounded in our house; now the lanes and fields are filled with foragers benefitting from this edible profusion.

What will they make in these days of the 21st century – no doubt the bright coloured jellies and jams to stir our hearts, but also the flavoured vinegars and sugars utilising the herbal recipes of times gone by – perhaps a rosehip syrup from the dog-rose, a rich damson syrup cordial instead of the manufactured sort, or more appropriate for today: elderberries turned into a flu-preventing syrup.

The hedge – these massed shrubs congregating together forming boundaries to our fields, woodlands, or gardens – perhaps self-seeded centuries ago, still proliferating providing us with a bountiful display of autumn coloured riot.

This time of year is so special when walking through the country lanes – the vistas are so magnificent, the fallen leaves providing an amazing glowing golden walk, the swishing of the leaves on boots, the earthy woody smell rising up assaulting the nostrils, the coloured leaves on shrubs and trees.

The tapestry of colours – golds, russets, rouges, reds, translucent amber – all melding together interspersed with the remaining greens, the nutty browns, the dark browns of chestnuts, the dark grey trunks of trees rising above the canopy of the glorious abundances.

Over 30 years ago this month I came to New York for a friend’s wedding up at the Cathedral of the Pines church in (probably) Vermont; we have wonderful colouring in England and I’m sure there are such wonderful visions here too – but the colours at that time overwhelmed me with their profusion: the land is so much larger than our tiny island.

Female Holly branch with berries

Now here we have the glorious colours of the Canadian and Japanese Maples, Sweetgums (Liquid Amber), Scarlet Oaks, Spindleberries, Dogwoods together with our Chestnuts, Japonicas, Oaks, Beech to name a few; as my mother and I experienced on our trip to Lake Vyrnwy,Wales and Bodnant over ten years ago.

View of Lake Vrynwy taken from Hillside Farm, with the Autumn colours just appearing

The weather is still clement as I walk or drive around the streets – roses are still budding and flowering (after last night’s heavy shower .. perhaps a bit rain saturated, bruised and battered), the reds of the Virginia Creepers, the Berberises full of berries and purple leaves, even catkins on a hazel tree, leaves sprouting, birds singing happily with all the profusion of bounty.

I had a basket of autumn leaves, hips – dogwood, guelder rose – holly berries, together with autumn chrysanthemums made up for my mother’s birthday .. which she loves: nature straight from the bushes, and which she can feel .. the rustle of the leaves, the prickles of the holly, the silky brush of the bamboo flowers – together with some cyclamen giving off their gentle scent – an autumn gift for the ailing.

It's not my favourite - leading to the darkness of winter .. I much prefer the long summer days - but perhaps I prefer the colours of Autumn, even the new shoots of growth and spring don't gel together so well as this wonderful patchwork of reds, oranges, yellows and browns.

Dear Mr Postman .. I know you’re on strike today – but it’s kind of you to ensure that this letter gets through to my mother; we have had a quiet week, remembering at times my uncle and talking about him, while being silent together with our memories: an essential to someone imprisoned in bed. It’s not easy but I cannot give up and need to do as much as can in these trying circumstances.

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories


patricia said...

Oh lovely post and it makes me wish I was there. I have a lovely hedge row around my property, not so prolific, but wild blackberries and asparagus in the wet drains...I love the harvest...and your pictures are just lovely...
My friend made jars and jars of cherry jam this year...I just eat the blueberries frozen while I read!
Thank you for sharing

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Patrica .. spare bed available .. just got to chuck off the potential posts paper!! then free ..

How wonderful cherry jam .. delicious, makes my mouth water just thinking of some for tea tomorrow ..

Yes - frozen fruits are wonderful .. but the hedgerows are stacked with fruits ..

Glad you enjoyed the post - and have a good weekend .. harvest joy ahead ..
Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Marketing Unscrambled, Home edition said...

Hello Hilary,

You make it all come alive as if we are right their. It is a beautiful post. All that can be had from the bounty of nature. It is a wonderful time storing things up for winter so that we have some of these bounties for them as well. Thank you for the beautiful photos as well.

Give your mother a hug from her fans. Have a great weekend.

Dan and Deanna "Marketing Unscrambled"

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Dan and Deanna .. glad you can feel you're walking and sharing the pleasures of those Autumn colours. The bounty of nature is incredible, especially when we go back and see what happened in the times gone by. Glad you enjoyed the photos.

Thank you for your hugs - my Ma is tired .. perhaps from the trial of my uncle passing .. it's difficult for me to know.

Thanks - Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Unknown said...

Your photos are amazing. You have given me the desire to start cooking some delicious fall I'm making a pumpkin pie, pot roast... mmm yum.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Yira .. thanks for coming over - glad you're going to cook for the family. Your pumpkins are so amazing .. I learnt a little about them in South Africa - but they abound here now too!

Enjoy your potroast and goodies. I look forward to following you as you start your new life in another part of the world .. should be interesting.

Thanks - good to see you - Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Liara Covert said...

Hilary, goji berries are another antioxidant which is recommended along with blueberries. They both pack a health & wellness punch any time of the year.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Liara .. yes most berries are good for anti-oxidants .. I just don't think they grow in our hedgerows - yet! However as you say we need all the strength or avoidance from these bugs and viruses as we can get -

a breath of fresh autumn air in the woods would do us all good .. and the exercise ..

Thanks - Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Liara Covert said...

Hilary, I gave my mom some goji berries to help with her healing process. SHe is familiar with lingonberries, blueberries and cranberries in jellies and loves those. People often underestimate the healing power of natureal goodness as well as the power to heal from within. Does your mom enjoy berries in different forms? How is she doing with her own healing?

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Liara .. many thanks for your thoughts - unfortunately my mother is nil by mouth and has been for 2 years .. so spiritually we struggle on. I use Bach Flowers cream, lip balm (new) and there's a spray which use occasionally .. it's difficult as the National Health "own" my mother as they pay for her care .. so I can do somethings .. and have fought often .. but sadly I need to be careful and am. It is very hard on my mother .. she said she should have gone, and Derek should still be here ..

Janice, as our Healer, and I just do what we can - and sometimes it is very very difficult - my mother is a tower of mental strength though - and for that I'm blessed.

As you say we do underestimate the healing power of nature - I eat a great deal of fresh food .. my uncle and my mother used to think I was mad!! Suits me though .. but they lived/are living to good ages .. actually we all had home grown vegetables when we were growing up - a huge benefit .. straight from the garden. Very lucky.

Deniz Bevan said...

Ooh, I haven't been to that part of Wales yet.
Just noticed in your comments - what's Bach Flowers? Sounds like some lovely products!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Deniz .. it's a lovely part of the world - well if the sun is out ... most of England is very pretty!

Bach Flowers .. see the Wiki website, that has the link to their official site ..

We've used Rescue Remedy Cream for at least 30 years and for all sorts of healing aspects .. eg sores, etc and the drop liquid has remedial qualities ..... while the other drops in their range aim at specific challenges. I'd have loved to do more for my mother ... but there were limitations which I needed to adhere to ..

I use Rescue Remedy Cream often and the drops at times ...

Hope you find something of interest ... to give them a try ...

Cheers Hilary