Once again, the gap since my last blog offering is bigger than I would like. I had planned to send a Summer Solstice post out but several things conspired against its timely dispatch. First, I was troubled by some lower back sciatic pain that slowed me right down in the garden at the height of the busy season and I have avoided sitting down at the computer for too long to give my body a chance to recover. Secondly, my mum came to stay with us in June and I made sure to spend as much time as possible together to make the most of her visit. She joined in with our smallholding activities and loved collecting the eggs, watering pots, tending to seedlings and planting out, weeding and picking produce. At nearly 78, she did well with the full-on pace of smallholding life in Summertime. Thirdly, the Summer Solstice writing I had started suffered a technical glitch and my work, unsaved, got lost in the depths of a laptop out of charge! The moment had passed and I let it go.
The pinacle point that is the Summer Solstice has been and gone and, following the solar cycle, the year has now started to wane. At this point in July, Summer has reached its dizzying zenith and days are long and warm, framed by some beautiful early sunrises and late sunsets. The natural world in Summer is full to bursting, stimulating and giddying, with the fire of life burning bright. Connecting with all the diversity of its sounds, scents, tastes and colours is a rich and nourishing experience. A treat for all our senses!
Here on our smallholding, the air is filled with the scent of hay, lavender, roses, sweet peas and buddleia wafting through the garden and ushering in several species of bees and butterflies. The veg plot is lush and full and we are enjoying picking our homegrown produce: lettuce for refreshing daily salads, beetroots for both sweet and savoury dishes, peas and broad beans, both eaten fresh and to replenish our freezers to enjoy them out of season, and of course the first courgettes. Globe artichokes are plentiful too and those we will not eat will produce the most gorgeous purple flowers that the bees will feast on.
The unusually dry weather is putting pressure on us though, both exhausting our water stores (the water butts have been empty for some weeks) and ourselves, finding it hard to keep up with the amount of watering needed to keep the plants alive and producing. The flower borders are looking a little worse for wear in this heatwave and the lawn is scorched to a crisp!
The polytunnel is the usual jungle with winter squashes growing enormous leaves and long, unruly shoots that we struggle to tame to grow up the ropes provided, cucumbers reaching for the top of their climbing frames and tomatoes growing both flowers and green fruit that will soon turn a ripe red, or orange, or purple. We can't wait for our first tomato of the year. I find it tastes even better eaten on the spot without even making it to the plate!
Warm sunshine is ripening the soft fruit at a fast rate; if we are late getting to the strawberries and raspberries, they quickly let us know by floating their sweet and delicious aroma to find our noses. We have picked basketfuls this year, which we have enjoyed fresh and also turned to jams to preserve the taste of summer for months to come. The first blueberries have made it onto my yogurt for breakfast and there is plenty of blackcurrants, gooseberries and blackcurrants for cordials, cakes, leathers, jams and the odd cheeky alcoholic tipple.
I love the fullness of the season, the high point in the year that invites us to be in the present moment like no other season does. In Spring, we look forward and in Autumn and Winter, we look back. In Summer, we are presented with the opportunity to bask in the now as the year comes to fruition and a certain stillness settles on the land, bringing us abundance, potency, joy and splendour, promises fulfilled and dreams realised.
Let us celebrate and enjoy it all! Right now... For the Wheel of the Year turns and Lammas, with its first harvest and subtle hints of Autumn approaching, is not far away.