Fall falls early, barn camping and the inspection of feet.

And now it’s September. We have been seizing the day or making the most of a flurry of staycation activity. A whole month has gone by. My blue notebook is filled with scribbles – such a long time since my writing was neat or even legible – but they’ve not made it to the blog. So I must apologise for my tardiness and try to catch up with extracts from my notes!

‘Almost the bank holiday. Almost the end of August. And, buffeted by the latest storm – Francis I think – it feels like Autumn is here already. Branches are laden, still very green but now weighed down by fruit and ripening nuts. The loss of a bough in high summer wind is a much more serious proposition than it would be in November or February. We drove up the lane earlier to get animal feed – donkey nuts were still unavailable due to a problem with deliveries – and there were sticks, twigs and small branches everywhere, several getting caught under the car.’

Keats was so right! I do love Autumn – mist in the mornings, cooler evenings, scents of ripeness on the air and underfoot. Crispness to come. But we did not welcome that blustery intruder in late August.

Warmth, humidity and wetness didn’t do any favours for two of the outdoor pets – one sheep and one donkey. There were weeks of checking feet and applying, amidst strong protests, the purple spray. Of the two donkeys, Treacle seems susceptible to anything going – infections, allergies, thrush… Now both of them have begun to look scruffy again, losing their glossy summer coats and acquiring the unkempt between- seasons look.

As ever, I was concerned about our guests, sharing their disappointment about ‘unseasonal’ weather. In the midst of the worst rain two families of campers abandoned ship, or rather canvas, and slept on the floor of the barn.

Unlocking seemed to be progressing everywhere with news of new cases, new ‘spikes’ outside the UK being consigned to the footnotes of journalism. We read articles with graphs showing, beyond the possibility of contradiction, that cases of C19 were climbing again.

‘It’s our fault, our own stupidity,’ one of the barn campers said as he left. ‘We are the virus’.

Garlic and the fairies

Going to the doctor, or the dentist, is viewed currently as a last resort. Other bugs, illnesses and health problems haven’t suddenly stopped but we like to pretend they have. We’re avoiding surgeries and hospitals, unless we can’t avoid them.

Even the three-year-old knows about the ‘nasty virus’. A couple of days ago I printed out some information sheets for very young children. ‘Coronavirus’ is a character in a picture story designed to explain but not to frighten. I printed out two copies for the youngest. They’ll be able to colour them in as well.

I delivered a box of ‘Celebrations’ to their cottage earlier. Their mother isn’t well so I’m not sure what we’re celebrating, but the children will enjoy them anyway. Walking back to the farmhouse I picked a couple of hedge garlic leaves. And ate them. We’ve got chives in the grass, clusters of wild garlic by one of the yurt platforms, (sadly without its yurt right now), and hedge garlic is growing everywhere. Any passing vampire would doubtless get to the bottom of the lane, sniff the air, have a re-think and turn back. At this time of year anyway.

But the tonic fairies have visited in the night. The bottle crate is full and it’s mostly populated with empty fevertrees. Our secretive visitors may not have found a vaccine for C-19, but they could have picked up a little malaria immunity.

Last night’s supper was gin-free but the garlic was flowing. A vegan mayo experiment changed, due to the addition of ramson leaves, into a runny but tasty dipping sauce for fried potatoes. Mary Tudor famously said that when she died and was opened up, ‘Calais’ would be written on her heart. It might be ‘garlic’ written on mine, but hopefully we won’t find out.