The days are shortening and the northerly winds bring a cold nip to the morning air. Time to find the woolly hats, fill the log baskets and get ready for Samhain which begins on 31 October. This is one of the Celtic fire festivals when the doors on the hills open and the wee folk visit the realms of men. However care should when dealing with the Sidhe* and there are severe penalties for a mortal entering their world. The Great Darkness (the months of November and December) is also the time of storytelling and recalling the deeds of heroes.
On a more mundane level it is also time prepare the polytunnel for the winter season. The cucumbers have produced their last fruits and it is time to cut down the tomato vines and prepare the final batch of chutney. Although the fruits are still ripening they are losing their sweetness so they must make way for the crops which will fill the hungry gap next spring. The onions which have been drying on the benches are now being moved into storage to make way for the pots of the more delicate herbs which require some winter protection. I have been drying herbs for a few weeks now but I prefer to use fresh leaves when possible.
The baby beetroot and carrots will be ready to eat during November and the spinach is growing nicely. As the days shorten growth slows down but provided it does not get too cold the seedlings and young plants will enter a period of what appears to be suspended animation and then burst into life as soon as the day length increases.
There are still the early onions and potatoes to plant and these will go into the beds as soon as the ground has been prepared. Intensive cropping requires care to maintain soil fertility and health. Our sandy soil is so free draining that the volume of water flushed through the beds during the summer is sufficient to prevent a buildup of mineral salts from the use of liquid fertilisers. Whenever a crop has finished we add some new compost to the growing area which maintains the level of organic matter and replenish the soil micro-organisms.
The plants might be slowing down but there is still plenty of work to do in the garden but there is now the excuse of stopping work in the late afternoon as the light fades and temperature drops. Always a good excuse to call it a day and enjoy a cup of tea and a slice of cake by the fire.
“Sidhe – pronounced shee. The realm of the aos sí oraes sídhe literally the “people of the mounds”. They are not referred to directly but spoken of as the wee or fair folk. The aos sí are often appeased with offerings, and care is taken to avoid angering or insulting them. The Sidhe, often referred to as Tir nan Og, is seen as closer at dusk and dawn and during the festivals of Samhain, Beltane and Midsummer.