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Harvest blessings! Today is the festival of Lammas or Lughnasadh – A time to give thanks for the first fruits of the harvest. The first wheat sheaves have been cut, the hay harvest is over, and the boughs of the trees in the orchard are beginning to hang low.
Yesterday evening I brought my hay in from the fields, where it has been drying.-The completion of a year’s cycle. And yet already, next year’s crop lies sleeping within the earth, waiting for the kiss of the spring sun to wake the new growth, waiting for the caress of the spring rain to work the alchemy of life.

150 bales of hay this year. A good harvest. This winter my goats will feast, and reward me next spring with luxuriant fleeces. The cows in the bottom field will feast, and give in return the creamiest of milk, and cheese that carries a memory of flowery hay meadows.

The rest I barter. Some bales bring me straw, for poultry bedding. Others grain, for poultry food. Delicious eggs are their side of the deal.
Yet others get me the firewood I need to stay warm through the chill months of winter.

The hay is in. But the harvest is just beginning. In the vegetable garden, the hard work of the past few months is now beginning to pay off…lettuces, radishes, tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes, beetroots, peppers, chilis, onions, shallots, garlic, peas, beans, mange-tout, carrots, leaks, spinach, chard, cabbages, cauliflowers, broccoli, melons, courgettes, pumpkins, salsify, turnips, parsnips, swedes…As the Earth gradually draws back in to herself, she offers up her bounty.
And then there are the herbs; chives, parsley, thyme, rosemary, angelica, chervil, basil, mint, sage, borage, sorrel, comfrey, st john’s wort,.. And the fruit; strawberries, raspberries, red and black currants, and soon blackberries, sloes and elderberries…Soon too the first cherries and plums, then peaches, pears and apples. The nuts – walnuts, hazelnuts, and chestnuts- will come later, as will most of the mushrooms

.

As the days shorten, and the shadow of winter approaches, I prepare. Via a barter on top of another barter (!), I get jars of honey from an elderly beekeeper a short flight through the forest as the bee flies…and made by bees who feasted in spring on the same flowers that are now lying in hay bales in my barn, ready to start the next barter cycle. Some of the fruit and vegetables that I can’t eat (enough for a small village…!!), will go into making preserves. Some go to friends (bad news if you don’t like marrows…)

And others do something much more exciting…

Cider! And from the cider, calvados (apple brandy) and pommeau (and if the cider is vile…cider vinegar! Lol).
Elderflower champagne, elderberry wine, marrow rum, sloe gin…

So today I give thanks to Mother Earth. In those dark, cold winter days, when the trees stand skeletal against an iron grey sky, I will pour myself a glass of apple brandy, and remember crickets singing in flowery hay meadows, pollen laden bees and newly fledged birds trying out their wings above plump fruited apple trees.

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