Monday, September 1, 2014

Autumn arrives, in boots.

Autumn arrived mid August at La Chaise. The weather gods gave up trying to be nice and concentrated on being unreliable. Fruitfulness was rampant rather than mellow.  Heavy rain storms beat plums, apples and unripe walnuts from the trees.  Intermittent bursts of sunshine fermented the fallen fruit, confused bees and butterflies. I saw one of each, rocking on the open wound of a fallen plum. They seemed friendly enough. Picking plums became dangerous because of the dopey hornets clinging to the fruit.

Our plum trees were obviously tortured in their youth.   Just look at the twisted trunks, the strangled bark. It is not just that the sheep use them as scratching posts.  Even the young plum saplings, self sown, are beginning to torture themselves into twisting.   Some of the trees have little or no heart-wood, are just hollow.   It is a wonder that they produce fruit at all.

Two tortured fruit tree trunks

The sheep get the runs from eating too many fallen plums, followed by wet grass. We worried about letting them into the former horse fields which are heavy on clover and different kinds of vetch. Worry unnecessary - the sheep suddenly remembered that there were other kinds of fallen fruit - namely chestnuts and acorns.   It was difficult to get them out of the woods, even when it was not raining.

Books on sheep-rearing strongly suggest that sheep predominantly eat grass.    Obviously the La Chaise Clun Forest sheep, when young lambs, were not read these books at bed-time.   Indoctrination classes may be necessary this winter. Something along the lines:  what you are eating now is hay, you like hay, hay used to be grass, you will like grass.   Sheep look at people with a peculiarly blank, slit-pupilled stare that leaves in the balance the answer to: which one of us is stupid?
Attractive but deadly

Formal confirmation of autumn's arrival was given by the emergence of the  autumn crocus flowers.  Their pale lilac petals look too fragile to be able to pierce the earth - but they do, every year in the same place.   The fragility is doubly deceptive .   This flower is extremely poisonous.  One local name for it is 
tue-chien, dog killer.  Apparently it is similar to arsenic in its effect (death) and there is no known antidote.  Curiously, many of the fungi that come up at this time also are inedible - or plain poisonous.

Red for danger?

A secondary confirmation came when the Official Local Crone was reported to have predicted a morning frost for Tuesday 22nd August.....She was wrong.   The weather gods got their act together, remembered that 'Indian summer' should be on their activity schedule.   The warm weather has duly arrived.

It is not that one wants to complain but this does mean that a glass of wine, or any other slightly alcoholic, fruit based beverage cannot be left unattended or uncovered.  The minute but suicidal fruit flies are present again and they will be in the glass in less time than it takes to sneeze. (Or the bottle, corks must be replaced pronto.)  Also the house flies are getting curious and the Queen Hornets are looking for winter quarters....

As always, the arrival of autumn was abrupt, unexpected.  Suddenly we are closing curtains in the evening, not opening them until after eight in the morning.    The year is suddenly shorter.    Must make a calendar note for next year.....

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