Changing Seasons

This year I’m thinking more about the change of the seasons.  Mainly because this year, the seasons seem a bit mixed up.  Instead of summer cooling into autumn freezing into winter, the season seems to go:  summer, summer, autumn morning last Monday, summer, summer…and so on.  Apart from Queenslanders, I think it’s surely a human condition to crave the change in the seasons.  Gives us a break in so many ways.  Nice to relax into cooler autumn evenings in front of the fire, eating tomato based pastas every night until the sight of another red sauce brings out a rash…

 People said when we moved to Newstead that it was a dry climate – hardly ever any humidity.  This autumn is proving everyone wrong.  The growing season has extended by at least 3-4 weeks so far, with no end in sight.  The eggplant hangs heavy on the bush, still turning deep purple.  The first batch has already been grilled on the griddle iron and pickled ready for pizza making or moussaka later in the season.  The capsicums which I planted late are maturing nicely.  The only hint in my veggie patch that winter may be approaching is the presence of rocket which rocketed out of the ground in 2 days flat from seed (even with the seven year old doing the sowing).  At least it will survive the frost when it finally comes and I can give up on trying to grow lettuce this year – a hopeless enterprise for unknown reasons!

I couldn’t bear to make the skeletal tomato and zucchini plants keep dredging out more fruit.  I had to pull it all out last weekend and dig over the beds.  Hard to believe I’m actively encouraging some colder weather by prepping my soil for winter vegetables.  It helps that I have a huge compost heap brimming with all sorts of goodies waiting to be applied liberally over the top of anything standing still long enough in my garden. 

I had the (fortunate?) experience of exiting the shower a couple of weeks ago to the call from my neighbour, Richard at the back door with, “Where yo’all want your horse maaanure dumped then?”  He’d fronted straight from his part time job with a Ute load of oats and horse poo. 

Surely the most thoughtful gift I’ve received in years.  (Life changes, huh?!  Used to be Gucci purse, Vuitton key chain…)

So, into the compost to break it down for a bit…quality time spent with husband shoveling shit!  (comments to the effect that now it’s not only happening at work).

The change of season usually prompts me to start all those winter preparations on the dot after Easter.  Newstead seems to usually change season on the day.  Bang, now it’s autumn.  This year I’m guilty of taking an unconscious sabbatical from all things calendar driven in garden.  The warm weather has beguiled me into a false sense of security that it’s not necessary to actively work your garden if you want actual – food!

The almost frost last week had me leaping from bed to comfort my magnolia sapling – I know, call me an optimist!  But great to see the butternut pumpkins reveling in their almost freedom from the vine.  Another frost can see us prise a few off and start some soup for easy weekend meals.  So nice to have a pot on the stove and just ladle some out when hungry.  We like to mix lots of ginger paste in with the pumpkin to jazz things up a bit.  A nice cob loaf, lots of butter and a big bowl of creamy butternut pumpkin soup on Sunday (toasted seeds on top) is heaven when we’re all busy outside with no time to dream up long lunches.  I find that a bunch of coriander added to nearly any soup makes it seem sophisticated.  Maybe with the hothouse I’ll be able to keep some alive for more that 2 weeks..

The other harbringer of winter in our household is the day I set aside to make quince paste.  I’m still waiting for the cold, wet day to light the stove and spend a good 4 hours stirring every 10 minutes.  Meanwhile the quinces are sitting patiently (losing pectin by the hour), in the summerhouse – a reproach every time I go out the back door and that once a year detective novel I look forward to while I stir has had to be put on hold.

I had a chat with a nice lady the other day who told me in no uncertain terms that “one should always make one’s preserves with love and hold the experience dear as one of life’s nurturing experiences”.

Lovely concept I’m sure.  Easy for one who hasn’t had to entertain visiting parents, refill the champagne flutes, whilst making dinner, while keeping an eye on the boiling quinces nearing their jel point, answering the business mobile, feeding the dog, stoking the fire (s), kissing the husband hello when he comes home from work, running to put out the bins in case we forget in the morning – and all while making a quick ‘bum check’ for the 7-year-old.  Yes, that’s right.   The glories of home preserving can often be interrupted with the odd bum check in our household.  Very important little people be reassured that perhaps too many stewed fruits could have an altogether unwelcome effect on occasion…..

So, feeling the love, I keep churning away at the autumn preserving chores, yes, chores! – and waiting for winter.  Whenever that will be.

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