Smells like Autumn……………

I love Autumn – what was it George Eliot said about Autumn –

‘Delicious Autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive Autumns’.

The smells of autumn are more evocative for me than the changing colours – the smell of chrysanthemums reminds me of the Wendy Bronze flower which used to grow at the front door of my Granny’s house in Edzell – it had such a strong ‘earthy’ smell. Other Autumn smells are the leaves when the birds turn them over to look for insects buried beneath – loamy and pungent – like fungi…….

The grass after the morning frost – decay in the garden – the logpile – the hay barn (I love the smell of fresh cut hay) – the pond when I clear the dead marginals away and leave them on the bank to allow the little creatures the opportunity to bury themselves back in the thick mud at the pond bottom – leeks after the first frost – damsons in my kitchen ready for jam – blackcurrant leaves – the greenhouse filled with plants I dare not leave outside (we are 1520 feet above sea level up here). The smell of the beasts brought inside for the winter – the cattle cake from which we used to pick the raisins when I was a child – molasses which my Grandad used to mix in with oats and boiling water to feed the heavy horses who used to pull the logs from his woods to make into furniture, the fleeces stacked in the loft……wet dogs snuggled up in front of the Aga – even the steaming manure pile!!

Apples, bruised and windfallen to press into cloudy juice with the residual pulp made into a soft jam for crumbles, pies and sauces. Rosehips, haws and sloes all washed and ready on the work surface for jellies, compotes and chutnes – spices for Christmas (shhhh) cake and puddings – soups and warming stews simmering all afternoon on the hob…..and always fresh bread proving on the sill.

But most of all the wood smoke from all the chimneys on a crisp morning like today – I never realised just how each wood smells completely different when it burns – our little village has wood smoke spiraling out of almost all the chimneys. Some smells like incense – fruity and strong. There is a rich, dark wood smell too which catches the back of my nostrils and another, lighter fragrance like the smell of the bonfire – a bit like the smells of different teas………Every crisp afternoon I can hear the sound of axes and chainsaws busy cutting up supplies for the coming months.

Each and every smell has a memory for me and I am grateful to have had such a rich childhood filled with the true sense of the changing seasons – a closeness to the land and the people who’s lives revolved around the rhythms of the Earth, the care of their livestock in the traditional way and the celebration of the unique benefits of all the seasons. xx


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