Barely Autumn


Sunny autumn day with a few mild showers. Now to bring in the last of the John Downey apples, lovely small, elongated red and yellow fruit, too many of which already lie on the ground. Some effort to pick the high ones. Has any home-made jelly the sharp, tang of crabapple jelly? Beside the tree is a huge Leycesteria (Pheasant Bush to some), with the luscious hanging purple berries - not for humans, though.

Biggest disappointment of the day is to find that, in about 48 hours, a youngish oak (say thirty years) which was marked down for the finest, biggest acorns, has been cleared of all but a few small ones. No sign that humans had been at them. No broken-off twigs or hanging branches - it could only be the grey squirrels, which have not been much around the bird-feeders they normally haunt. They are heavily engaged, another of the party announces, at the far end of the property. After sloes and haws? But do they relish these? (Herself says, have they not as much right as you to the acorns? Greater need, for God's sake!).

Remember those stories of squirrels digging holes to cache the nuts for winter need? Ever found such a store? Incidentally, Jessica Holm, in her book Squirrels, writes that many do not survive their first year, and optimum life is five years. "Even in the case of adult squirrels, starvation is still the number one killer."

Cars, by the way, are listed as killers, too, of these animals, nimble though they are.

The trees seem to be turning slowly enough. Of a grove of American red oaks, only one showed the full colour - on one side. Patterns of bird appearances at the hanging nuts has changed. Have most of the coal tits (very numerous this year) moved on? But chaffinches and greenfinches come in increasing numbers to be fed. The ground is unusually squishy to walk on, even the lawn.

Odd-looking small mushrooms in the ash planting. Must look them up, but like many Irish people tend to baulk at anything that is not clearly the normal field mushroom. Sometimes a solid puffball, cut in slices and fried, maybe. Enthusiasts explain what is being missed, but . . . Anyway, lovely blue skies, in spite of forecast, mild breezes and feeling that it's not quite fully autumn yet.

The river is high. Hope it still is by November, when the salmon come up to spawn. Y