The clocks go back on Saturday night and recently I’ve been noticing the solar panels haven’t been topping the batteries up fully any more, so I’ve been running the engine for a couple of hours each day. This may be because coincidentally, the dry, sunny weather we enjoyed for weeks this autumn disappeared at the start of October, to be replaced by some much murkier days. I did wonder if it was partly my own fault- I hadn’t cleaned them for ages- but I have done now and it’s not a massive improvement. They’re still brilliant, but we just aren’t getting the bright, long hours of daylight they really need for full effect.
We have had a lovely autumn so far. Gorgeous sunshine, beautiful colours; not much in the way of crisp mornings though. We’ve had the fire in during the evenings but not needed to keep it in during the day or overnight. Some lovely clear dawns; still days, good for boating- and of course a couple of named storms! Tom helped me attach some of my fenders directly to the corrugated steel bankside before Ophelia arrived, which stopped the worst of the bumping. After nearly losing my boat last time I was at Patch, back in the summer (thanks, cruisers… and strong winds) I didn’t risk pins but used my chains and metal hooks and so far they’ve worked well (touch wood!).
The rain which arrived on Monday has made the towpath muddy and all the gaps on the boat show up, as the wind blew moisture in under the witch’s hat on the chimney, in through the windows and vents… times like this I’m grateful for gaffer tape! I’ve also rejigged the interior a little bit- my sawing arm is getting good!
It’s also been a fruitful season. The neglected allotment did me proud, with weeks of beans, several sweetcorn, little squashes, and loads of apples from the communal trees. Boat Girl and I have been baking and making chutney, jam, cake and biscuits. There’s something about autumn which inspires the domestic goddess in me, that sense of chill that you get on a damp day can only really be chased away by making the home warm, with appetising smells wafting around… mmm! This cake was a traybake from Good Food (I think)- it had four eggs in it, apple, pear and blackberry, but you could easily vary the fruit according to the season. I replaced some of the flour with ground almonds, and it was wonderfully rich and moist- I took it along the row of boats and it went VERY quickly (this makes me happy- I think I was made to mother a large family with food, but when it’s just Boat Girl and me that impulse doesn’t have much chance for fulfilment…
I also made a chutney using windfall pears from the towpath. They weren’t nice to eat so I hope they’ll be okay as chutney! I ended up staying up until midnight because it took so long for a ‘channel’ to develop (Delia’s signal that a chutney’s ready to go into jars…)!
What with Boat Grandmother’s productive garden and my allotment, we’ve done pretty well for veg. The last sweetcorn was eaten on Monday; the last of the beans the previous week; I have some beetroot relish from Mother in the fridge and she’s now digging carrots and celeriac, so hopefully some more soups in the offing! She also has chard, with its beautiful bright stems and crunchy green leaves. I had some in a pot on the boat earlier in the season but it bolted in the dry weather when we were in France. It makes a good substitute for spinach or kale, and is robust enough to stand up to stewing in soup or curry.
Once the current DIY is finished, the next project will be clearing the allotment and covering it with manure and cardboard ready for the spring. I’m hoping to do a lot more with it next year- onions, more squash, leeks, beans, carrots, chard, kale or broccoli… it’s incredibly satisfying to gather food you’ve grown yourself.