Tomorrow is the first day of autumn, for those who measure it astronomically. Those who prefer a meteorological approach took 1st September as the first day of autumn.
And many people who read nature to track the seasons have been muttering about autumn coming early. (If you like the idea of tracking the seasons using nature, contribute to Nature’s Calendar – a wonderful citizen science project, with biological records dating back to 1736.)
Whenever you think autumn starts, the Autumn Equinox on Friday is a great excuse for celebration. It’s one of my favourite times of year. The gardens are ripe with produce.
The hedgerows are bursting with colour – and I’m not the only one to have noticed that this year’s berries seem particularly plump.
I’ve spent a large part of this month making jams and fruit wines, chutneys and stews. The bubbling pans warm the kitchen, and the delicious aroma helps make grey days less dreary.
It makes sense to me that the time of harvest is also a time of feasting. Given the bounty that nature offers for free, it seems only fair that we share the joy – and show nature some gratitude.
I’m hoping to help create a community feast in the near future. In the meantime, I’ve been sharing my jam and chutney with fellow allotment volunteers, and swapping bags of fruit from friends’ gardens for jam and crumble mix.
Traditional ways to celebrate Autumn Equinox include making a festive altar – possibly including a cornucopia; preparing for Samhain (or Halloween); and making offerings of apples.
I’ve started making my first apple dolls of the season. I make them from windfalls and dehydrate them at the bottom of the oven when making slow-cooked stews and fruit leather.
It’s also a time of reflection and finding balance. The year is passing into a new phase: a great time to assess whether you’re on track for whatever it is you want to do – and remember those who are no longer around. I love looking into the fire as I reflect – and sitting round a fire with friends putting the world to rights is even better.
It’s the opposite of spring: now we are moving towards more darkness rather than the light. Preparing for this makes it more manageable.
If you’re less into reflection and more into decadent celebration, head to a feast. There are numerous food festivals to choose from.
It’s the Great Cornish Food Festival and Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival this weekend. There are food festivals in Thame and Broadstairs next weekend. The Stone Food and Drink Festival runs from 6-8th October and Melton Mowbray’s Festival is on 7th-8th October.
There’s also Bath’s Big Feast starting on September 23rd and running until October 8th. And these are just a few of the food festivals to choose from.
If they’re out of your budget, have your own feast using foraged food and produce from your local community allotment. Alternatively, host a pot luck meal, with everyone bringing a dish to share.
Make the most of the most fruitful time of year. It will help you prepare for the darker months ahead.