This is when dehydration is a good thing! Our daughter Becky bought a dehydrator a few years ago and uses it to make all sorts of weird and wonderful foods, made with raw ingredients. We were sceptical : not so much about the merits of raw food (of which we have an abundance) but the effort and cost of the dehydrating ; and especially since the dehydrated food doesn’t keep long. However, we’re always interested in new ways to make the abundance of summer available in the depths of winter, and as I was ambling about the garden one early autumn afternoon, it occurred to me that a hydrator would be ideal means to capture the colour and scents of summer to liven up home in winter (and perhaps our holiday lets, if we have a surplus). And then it occurred to me that we could use it also to make plant dyestuffs available for dyeing in winter – when we have more time for it, than rushing to use it all in summer – when dyestuffs are plentiful but time to use them isn’t. we never have enough time. It’s good to be doing something like this instead of civil engineering and construction !
No completed pot-pourri yet. I started this too late in the year to have much available to dry, but next year I hope to have a plentiful supply to chose from.
There’s so much to do right now : harvesting and processing garden produce, building maintenance that calls for full days of dry weather, cutting grass, keeping the borders tidy(-ish), foraging for natural dyeing materials. And then there’s serving customers and hopelessly straining to replenish our fast-depleting stock of hand-spun or plant-dyed yarns, knitted garments, crochet articles …
But it’s not any of those things that cause us to linger in the evening sunshine, to take every task out in the garden that might be more conveniently done indoors, nor why the cats come in for the night (if it’s not raining) at the very last moment possible, after I’ve taken Tilly for a walk, and just as they know I’ll lock the door and turn out the lights.
With the currants and gooseberries down to the last pickings, our organized efforts have turned to harvesting the peas and, since a day or so ago, the broad beans too. That’s is how we know that summer’s early has given way to late (if there was a mid, we must have missed it!), and the year itself from waxing to waning. From here on, every moment counts – it feels we’re on borrowed time.
The cats know it. The sheep do, too, and of course the birds of the sky, the countless varieties of wild flowers, each and every blade of grass, and even the mites and earthworms in the soil. All of nature knows it!
Already, there’s that unmistakable scent of autumn in the air.
Leaves from Lemon Verbena, ready for drying
View from Ludag, South Uist, across the Sound of Eriskay and the causeway, to Eriskay.
Goldenrod flowers – a natural dyestuff.
Drying onions in the sunshine
Lemon Verbena leaves, dried and stored for winter
Drying onions in the sunshine, outside the dyehouse.
Denise podding peas for the freezer
Goldenrod flowers harvested for dyeing wool. The Hebridean Woolshed, Isle of South Uist
Goldenrod over Alum, on Cheviot
Peak Summer Salad: Homebaked bread, everything else home grown.
Lemon Verbena in the sun and warmth of Greenhouse 2