“Come, for the dusk is our own; let us fare forth together,
With a quiet delight in our hearts for the ripe, still, autumn weather,
Through the rustling valley and wood and over the crisping meadow,
Under a high-sprung sky, winnowed of mist and shadow.
Sharp is the frosty air, and through the far hill-gaps showing
Lucent sunset lakes of crocus and green are glowing;
‘Tis the hour to walk at will in a wayward, unfettered roaming,
Caring for naught save the charm, elusive and swift, of the gloaming.
Watchful and stirless the fields as if not unkindly holding
Harvested joys in their clasp, and to their broad bosoms folding
Baby hopes of a Spring, trusted to motherly keeping,
Thus to be cherished and happed through the long months of their sleeping.
Silent the woods are and gray; but the firs than ever are greener,
Nipped by the frost till the tang of their loosened balsam is keener;
And one little wind in their boughs, eerily swaying and swinging,
Very soft and low, like a wandering minstrel is singing.
Beautiful is the year, but not as the springlike maiden
Garlanded with her hopes, rather the woman laden
With wealth of joy and grief, worthily won through living,
Wearing her sorrow now like a garment of praise and thanksgiving.
Gently the dark comes down over the wild, fair places,
The whispering glens in the hills, the open, starry spaces;
Rich with the gifts of the night, sated with questing and dreaming,
We turn to the dearest of paths where the star of the home-light is gleaming.
(November Dusk, LM Montgomery)”
November has that unique poetic quality of sharp contrasts: the howling wind and the chilling rain belong to it as much as the warmth of our kitchens and a cosy time with a cup of tea and a book. It can be quite difficult to pull yourself out of the house, especially as the days are getting rapidly shorter, but when you do manage to get outside, it feels all the more rewarding.
We managed really well throughout the whole month to carry on getting together on Sunday afternoons to continue with our work, and the garden is looking really well. Loads of people I’ve spoken to seemed surprised that we are still doing anything there, so here’s a short list of what we achieved for those who think we must’ve already stopped for our winter break:
– pulled out all the dead or dying plants (having harvested all the edible parts of them first): corn, potato and squash plants outside, tomato and melon plants in the polytunnels
– cleared most of our raised beds
– cleaned the algae off the Small Polytunnel
– cut down and dug in green manure
– cleared the former ‘bottle green house’ which had turned into a bit of a junk pile; we’ve recovered lots of usable wood and are thinking of using it to build a little shelter there
– harvested: chard, spinach, herbs, swedes, salsify, parsnips, beetroots, salads, lettuces, Jerusalem artichokes, leeks
– planted: broad beans, garlic, onions (to be harvested in spring), green manure
We also did quite a bit of organisational work. Over a couple of sessions, we painted numbers on wooden signposts so that they match our map of the garden – it’s now a lot easier to identify which bed is which. We also started a new record keeping system: we have five books, each devoted to a particular section of the garden, where after each session we write down what we did. We hope this will help us track what we’ve done and avoid making mistakes. We also had a few garden planning sessions, starting with a Friday evening gathering of 12 volunteers who talked about what to plant next year and what challenges and opportunities there are. Each person took on a group of plants to investigate and they will then try and plan with Judy where and when to plant everything.
We also took part in the annual Community Action Groups Skill Share where our own Penny and Marta represented OxGrow at the Gardeners Question Time, and participated in other sessions where they learnt some really useful and pertinent stuff about the ways to strengthen and diversify community groups. Thanks CAG!
Despite all this hard work, we didn’t forget to celebrate and have fun! We started the month with a lovely Pumpkin Day celebration – we cooked and ate some delicious soup and pie, using our own pumpkins – making literally zero mile food! We also had a couple of bonfires and at least one spontaneous pub outing.
So it’s been really great: productive, fun, heart and body-warming, relaxing and stimulating! November doesn’t have to be gloomy after all, and we’re looking forward to the rest of this season of slowing down – bring it on, winter!