Autumn to some signals a downturn in mood and the end of warmer days and summer holidays. The long road to winter is full of mists, rain, wind and the first frosts.
Summer and Winter are seen as fixed seasons - steady states of warmth or cold, while Spring and Autumn are seen as transition seasons - moving between the other two. Yet this is not true - the earth is always turning and change is always happening.
While not the only rich month, Autumn certainly has the greatest natural bounty, especially when it comes to fruit. The trees and hedgerows become laden with beautiful, ripe offerings from the tiny elderberries to large apples with everything in between. This is a time for harvest, for collecting and for using.
At Wych's Brew the Autumn period is particularly busy and it starts with the repeated anxious roving; checking on favourite spots to collect seasonal staples such as sloe and crab apples. It is checking with friends to ensure a good supply and waiting, always waiting. Then it is collecting in waves, from early damsons and plums, through bullaces, apples and sloes. This is always done with the end in mind - how much to make and how much to use at once, and how much to freeze for next year.
Stalking, cleaning, drying, chopping, freezing, scratting pressing, fermenting and macerating. It is a constant cycle with all manner of sterile containers being used to do the job. The most impressive is the pressing of apples - seeing kilo after kilo apples obliterated and squeezed until the last drops of juice have been captured and started on the route to golden cider.
This work goes on throughout the whole season and often beyond. By the time Christmas comes around there is a sense of relief that the job is done and also an exhaustion from the multiple waves of dealing with fruit in different stages. Thankfully the Christmas period offers a rest and a focus on family while the end products can be enjoyed by so many people. Then we look forward to Spring and the whole cycle moving around again.
This is why I often say that Autumn is not a season, it's a process.