Already the leaves are starting to fall and the beach beside our home looks browner when the tide is out. There's a chill in the air and we've had the fire lit for the past few nights.
In the old Celtic calendar Autumn began at the beginning of August - it was the start of the harvest. There's a Threshing Day in a field not far from here on Saturday - I must go - to bring back memories, although I don't ever remember the thresher in our field. Ours was a smaller operation but I do remember the smells of this time of the year - as children we had to do our share in saving the hay - after the grass was cut with a scythe, we helped rake it into long rows, the length of the field. After a few days, we helped in turning it - there was a knack to it - either pulling it to you with a rake, or turning it over with a fork - so that the underside could dry. And then the next day building hay stacks - the smaller ones had the honour of standing on top of the stack as the men threw up the yellow straw like strands to complete the rounded top of the rick.
"Being dry is the key to preserving hay -- a wet stack will rot from the inside, or ferment, causing enough heat to catch the stack on fire. But a properly dried stack can last many years outside."
Turning the hay....
In the hay field, tea was brought to the men in a tin can which I would carry on the bar of the bycycle when I was deemed old enough to be entrusted with such a precious task. My mother had been baking scones all morning and making egg and onion sandwiches. I've never tasted sandwiches as good as those and the tea had the most special flavour.
Bringing the turf home from the bog was another smell altogether - the smell of winter coming in. The dark peat had been drying for ages and on the day it was piled onto the red and blue cart, the children piled on top of the turf - at least 3 or 4 of us - to be taken home by the donkey and pulled up the Pullen Brae. That road was closed off not long afterwards when the Troubles started in the late 60s - the end of a childhood.