Summer’s end

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The moments of sunshine appear in and out of showers in these end of summer days, as I notice the bees nipping in and out of the fading flowers for every last dusting of pollen.

With the cooling of the summer’s warmth, is it my imagination that the bees’ furry coat becomes fuller?

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We spent the last week of summer visiting John’s family in Hereford where the round bales of hay were being rolled in the fields and the trees were showing the first tinges of autumn.

I’ve always liked the autumn and winter months, perhaps because I was born in the winter. At the same time there is also a feeling of sadness as summer ends.

My grandad used to call it ‘the ebb time’. I feel the retreating evening warmth in the buzzing of the bees and watching them eagerly gathering every last flowerful of nectar from the Japanese anemones in the garden.

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This year it’s different because I see the summer sunshine in my bees’ honey. I can appreciate the hard work of summer’s end and enjoy the beginning of autumn as we take the harvest and prepare the hives for the winter.

In Hereford I saw the richness of the harvest in the fruits of the fields as we picked blackberries, plums and apples for pie and crumble.

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The cows were watching as we filled up tubs with fat juicy blackberries from the hedgerows. They (the cows) were inquisitive, said John’s mum. So was The Gruffalo, the magnificent new bull, but he got fresh hay, not blackberries, for supper and enjoyed his nose being scratched.

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After the bank holiday’s rain had passed, we drove ‘abroad’ to Wales to view the impressive Victorian dams set in the beautiful Elan Valley in Rhayader. The country is always changing in Wales. It’s stunning.

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A visit to the Elan Valley “never fails to delight and inspire” says the information at the visitor centre. I could imagine that living here would inspire creativity to flow from every pore.

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There is a feeling of spending time in nature that I can only describe as contentment.

We met a friend of mine for lunch by Hereford cathedral and he put into words exactly what I felt. In London there is everything to do and no time to do it. Here, there is a lot to do and more time to do it. While being on holiday puts everything in a romantic light, I could easily imagine swapping city life for living in the country.

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On the farm John’s dad brought home a bunch of hops and asked if I knew what they were. I didn’t.

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He also found a dead grass snake in the corn field to bring back for show-and-tell. We laid him to rest behind a tree in the garden.

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The last day of summer was the best day with deep blue skies and golden sunshine. I sat on the back of the bike as John cycled from the cottage to the farm house, listening to the birds and bees and watching the cats preen lazily in the yards.

We enjoyed a full roast dinner before saying our goodbyes and driving back to London. John took the very scenic route through Gloucester and Burford in the Cotswolds, and we eventually arrived home just before sunset. Our small London flat smelt of the honey that had been slowly dripping from frames hanging over a container for a week. Patience and perseverance has paid off, I may be able to return wet supers with drawn comb to the hive to give the bees a head start in spring.

Autumn is now here and as the sun rises lower in the skies so the afternoon shadows stretch longer and further, and the days grow shorter. My kitchen is overflowing with summer’s bounty of apples, plums and honey ready to make honeyed fruit crumbles and pies. Winter is coming so I’ll leave this memory of a playful calf frolicking at summer’s end.

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42 thoughts on “Summer’s end

  1. How beautifully put, I actually feel like I’ve had a holiday in Hereford. Next time you find yourselves in Burford stop for a cup of tea and a piece of lardy cake, it will remind you of the last days of school summer holidays when you were small, or smaller, when we used to take a picnic to Ruislip Lido. Anyway, I digress.

    All of your photos are lovely, each in their different ways. I particularly like the Japanese anemone and the lone sheep.

    Your kitchen sounds very inviting too at the moment, full of harvested goodies. Bring on the crumbles, that’s what Bryan says!

    • Hi Simon, I’m just using my iPhone (and John’s Samsung phone) to take pictures with Instagram as it’s been such a busy summer, and only a few of these are taken on my Canon camera. It’s easy to take artistic photos in such a pretty place (and with a little help from Instagram) – I bet you could take some lovely artistic shots of insects!

  2. Everyone of those photos could make a great jigsaw puzzle. Very beautiful. I looked at MapQuest. It looks like Hereford is a mere three hours from London. I’m a grandparent…I’d love to have my kids and grandkids living closer to me, someone to help out on the farm (if I had one). Hmmm, where am I going with this?

    • Well, I’m not sure this is in the books but I came up with my own method of extracting the honey that wouldn’t come out in an extractor.

      I capped all the frames one night after work and left the wax cappings in a bucket to use later. Then I placed all the frames to hang over a plastic storage box that’s about as wide as a super.

      The box of dripping frames is now on my kitchen work surface above the washing machine / dryer. The warmth in the kitchen may be helping some and, I hope, the vibrations from the washing machine, which is on most nights, because I’m a clean freak!

      The frames have been hanging and dripping for two weeks and about half the honey has dripped out now. But it is very slow. I’ve thought of a way to finally get it all out without damaging the comb so that the bees have supers with honeycomb for a headstart next year. I’ll reveal that, if it works, in my next post.

      • It’s a shame as Bob used that extractor for years to spin his honey and it was so lovely of him to give it to me. I’ve yet to repay his generous gift with any honey spun out! I’ve a strong feeling that it’s the type of forage our bees are getting and not the extractor, the temperature or technique that is making the honey difficult to extract. We had exactly the same problem when we took the honey off the same hive three years ago and tried to extract same day. And that was a warm summer’s day.

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