Garden notes: August

There are so many things to love about August. School holidays, for one. Sunny days which are actually hot, as well as bright. Bare feet indoors and out. Swimming in the sea. Ices. Those blonde wispy bits at the front of Ilse’s hair – and then finding the same in the mirror. Reading in the garden. Reading in the park. Reading on campsites and beaches and trains. Little knits, and planning the big ones. Child-sized adventures here, there and everywhere. Catching up with family and friends. Baskets of garden goodies which make for easy, tasty gifts.

Putting up the rest of the produce. Every day there are more windfalls to be dealt with. I made fifteen jars of apple jam last week, then began on the apple sauce. The beans are living up to their reputation and providing enough for a couple of meals a day, were we that way inclined. Instead, we share some and preserve others. There are tomatoes and cucumbers and crisp green lettuce leaves for lunch and the potatoes, no longer early, are big and floury enough to roast on Sundays. The courgettes need picking every day or two, and those which hide beneath a floppy leaf get missed and swell to awkward proportions in no time. There’s a bed of summer cabbage to bring in and salt. Beetroot and small red onions have begun to fill a row of ruby jars, while bigger onions dry off in the sun.

On top of this, new seedlings have gone in. There are spring cabbages on the kitchen windowsill, and the empty pea bed is sprouting once again with beetroot, radishes and fennel. Winter salads have been sown to grow on under cover, as well as swiss chard and spring onions. The brassicas are standing in the beds, ready to brave the winter when it comes, and beneath the soil the parsnips are waiting to be sweetened by the frosts.

But not just yet. They’ll have to wait a little longer. This August, which kept on giving, has me convinced it’s going to be an Indian summer. Even if it isn’t, it’ll be a while before the pears come in off the tree, and the apples need to be picked and wrapped in paper. There’s a good month of harvest ahead, surely. There are still days left before school starts, still weeks till the clocks go back. I can’t quite believe that this summer, which has given us so much, is ever going to end. We’ll keep it going till the very last minute: till the frost strikes and the fire is lit and the blankets go back on the beds. And even after that, we’ll be remembering it and talking it over. Looking at postcards and photographs, making plans to go back again next year. And eating its bounty, tucked away in the jars and bottles that line the pantry shelves.

Not today, though. I’ll turn the page of the calendar tomorrow. Today, let’s pretend it’s still August. After all, the sun is high in the sky and school uniforms lie crumpled at the backs of drawers. Today, in this house at least, we’re calling it August.

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