I have always loved Autumn. I blame the hymn Autumn Days which we sang at school: Autumn days when the grass is jewelled and the silk inside a chestnut shell. Jet planes meeting in the air to be refuelled, All these things I love so well. Aside from the jet plane mention, which confused me then and confuses me still as a seasonal marker, it helped me see the beauty of Autumn.
However, as I’ve aged, Autumn also brings pains. My joints dislike damp, my back hates cold and the tension in the air before a storm makes my body sulk. As such, the colour change is double-sided for me: beautiful – and bountiful after a year of gardening, and longer researching foraging – but also signaling imminent pain.
This year, I am taking a new approach to Autumn: embracing the season and preparing for hibernation. Sadly, funds can’t give me winter off, but autumn preparation makes winter easier – even if you’re healthy.
These are a few of my favourite Autumn activities that help prepare me for winter – mostly for free.
1 Eating fresh tomatoes
If you grow tomatoes, gluts are common. If you don’t, you probably know someone with a glut. Markets are great for tomatoes in abundance at this time of year if there are no gardeners in your life (in which case, get some – or better yet, become one. You can grow tomatoes in tubs if you don’t have a garden.)
Slow roasted tomatoes with rosemary and a sprinkling of salt is easy, comforting and healthy – becoming blissfully indulgent with cheese melted through (mozarella and feta are my favourites).
Roast a big tray of tomatoes and they’ll keep in the fridge all week. You can also spread them on toast, add to pasta or cous cous, or use as a base for stews to give depth to the dish. (I also roast onions, aubergine and peppers at the same time to save money and make it easier to cook in the week.)
A home grown tomato surpasses all but the most expensive supermarket tomatoes. Eaten fresh off the vine, warmed by the sun, a tomato can be bliss.
And with home-grown tomatoes, you can keep the seeds (which intensifies the tomato flavour in dishes) to grow more next year (not recommended with shop bought).
Healthy comfort foods help keep my body feeling as good as possible. As do more decadent seasonal joys.
There is comfort to be drawn from the rich purple of blackberries and elderberries for me. It feels luxurious when turned into port; comforting as pie or crumble (with oats if you need a gluten free option); and, I am hoping, refreshing in cordial form (this year’s experiment).
Picking blackberries and elderberries is a fun activity – and see what else is available in your area. You may be surprised. So far this year, I’ve got plums and pears too, and am hoping for almonds, medlar, sweet chestnuts, sloes, apples and cherries over coming months.
Foraging helps you prepare for winter by giving a low cost Christmas present option. Elderberry port can be tastier than shop bought, jams are great gifts, dried apples are a great healthy snack alternative when you’re bloated with Christmas excess, glace chestnuts cost a fortune to buy but are simple to make, pear liqueur is a great cocktail ingredient, and there’s a lot more besides that you can make (including plum-heavy plum pudding).
Save money by using recycled bottles, and collect orange crates to pack your ‘hampers’ in. Fun afternoons lead to an affordable Christmas – and if you start now, you can pace yourself to avoid any stress.
3 Natural Crafting
Autumn is a time for making acorn pixies and apple dolls, pine cone sculptures and seed-pod bouquets (after shaking the seeds out – into tiny envelopes if you want to give wildflower seeds as part of a gift). Crafting can be a good distraction from pain, as well as being fun.
Leaf rubbing is easy and educational: cut the rubbings out and collage lots together for extra impact (or as a group activity).
There are so many lovely natural crafting gifts to collect if you look closely enough. Only take things that won’t harm the natural surroundings, and ‘give back’by sprinkling pollinator-friendly wildflower seeds and feeding the birds (seeds not bread). It’s a great way to have a budget children’s party too.
There’s lots more that can be done in Autumn. Enjoy the change of seasons – along with the remaining sunny days.