In many places throughout the world, autumn can feel like a clear ending. Visiting Europe during autumn in the past, it seems so clearly defined that when the season is over, there’s nothing to really look forward to for awhile. Local gardeners tell me ‘that’s it, I’ll be covering up the beds and hunkering down for the winter”. And why not! Leaves fall and crunch underfoot, evenings turn crispy cold, harvests wrap up and days get dramatically shorter. There's not much in a vegetable patch can survive snow. For us here at the bottom of Australia, autumn has a very different energy.
The seasons to observe.
We certainly get seasons down here. In fact, Australia’s first people observe six seasons, not four, and it’s apt for gardeners to study these more closely than the seasons defined by Europeans who landed only 200 years ago. It certainly is cooler, greener and wetter than most part of Australia down in our southern bedrock. But frost is subtle and it rarely snows (you can only just see it in the air from time to time, maybe once in a blue moon).
Autumn begins hot.The dregs of summer are still tantalising our tastebuds. Daylight savings feels as if its extended beyond all belief, the sun rises between 7 and 8am, it just feels quite odd. We are still enjoying more daylight than nightfall, even past the autumnal equinox.
It can be quite brown and dry, friends complain about the lack of rain in their tanks, they are hurting now, they urge on the clouds for hydration. We are still eating tomatoes, cucumbers, and zucchini’s for days…
When we do reach the autumnal equinox, that’s when we feel a shift. A colossal moon, massive to our eyes, rises at night. There are huge tides to compliment this and upheaval in the household. No one can sleep well. We have vivid dreams.
Once the moon gibbously wans, the warm nights are over and a nip in the morning creeps in. We’ve had sprinkles of rain overnight and when we wake the garden is adorned with dew.
The chickens don’t want to run out into the glorious hot sunshine anymore. Instead, they warily poke their heads out the door and mindfully step onto the first rung of their ladder, contemplating. It’s time for them to take more time, there’s less for them to do!
Harvests are not quite finished, however we are planning for winter and spring sustenance. We had only 6 hard frosts last year. We can usually grow lettuce, rocket, kale, spring onion, beetroot, Swedes, brassicas, park joy, tattoo, spinach and chards all winter. Throughout this time we forage daily out in the cold, between rain showers, for our lunch and suppers.
We begin the ritual of cutting, splitting and stacking wood in the shed, because before we know it the fire will be on. We realise we need exactly 3 times as much as we’ve just collected to make it through.
A second 'spring' of sorts.
Besides this, autumn feels like a second spring. It’s actually the ‘spring’ that I prefer! There is less rushing about this time of year. Greens will grow quickly and require less labouring than its summer counterparts. Since we don’t have to water, there’s no watering schedule to abide by. We’ll get an average of 1000ml of rain for the next 6-9 months. It will be sludgy underfoot by the end of it and we will be dreaming of seeing blue skies.
With the good comes the bad. Slugs and snails are a major issue of course. The ongoing battle in the wet is mammoth down here in our backyard. We’ll wage the war nightly with torches. The chickens got to feast on so many that last year they got fed up of them! Imagine getting sick of escargot. What privileged chickens!
Like spring though, we can enjoy fresh air again as the daily temperatures drop. We enjoy perfectly calm days with light breezes, so we can air out the house. Nothing is more delightful to me than opening windows and doors to rid the house of smells and freshen up our living space.
Some days there are planned ‘burn offs’ of local bushland and we cannot enjoy the fresh air, but it’s better than suffering through bushfires, believe me!
Autumn is a time of year that is famous for its garden’s harvest. Whether you are collecting seeds, herbs, beans, apples, pumpkins, or flowers for drying, it’s time to look forward to bringing the garden indoors to enjoy for the winter. These goodies will delight the senses for months.
For so many people around the world autumn may signify an ending, but for luck of where we live it’s a renewal, a new beginning, and we are grateful.