By “The Photographer’s Assistant”
It is the first day of August; always a significant time on the Moor. It is the first evening when there is relief from the heat, but you won’t eat supper outside tonight. The autumn breeze has picked up its skirt and rustles through the trees. Overhead, there is an ominous look to the sky and the power of nature has begun to turn its most powerful engines on.
In the fields and in the gardens much work is being done. It is time to think of lighting up your fireplace and getting those logs delivered and in place. During the first week, John has delivered his final load and the Photographer and his Assistant have spent many hours moving and stacking. Unwanted pallets have arrived from the local builder and the logs are stacked in the open up on the pallets out of the water that will soon flow from the sky. Youngest daughter and the Boyfriend arrive to help and the work goes on until dark. They too will share this wood. They will come often in the winter to have a cup of tea, a scone and a chat while they pile their logs into plastic baskets ready to burn in the little cottage in the small town. The logs stand proud in the open under an enormous tarpaulin to keep them dry. In our absences, the Photographer will place the Assistants car (now known as the Kennel), against the gate. The work has been so hard and John’s hard effort so appreciated that no passer by will be allowed to help himself to an armful for his fire.
Up on top of the hill, there is an unusual sight. There is a huge stack of hay, covered in the most enormous green sheet of polythene. Unusually, this farmer has protected his crop. Last years rain is on all farmers minds. By now , most fields have been stripped of anything nutritious for the animals and everything is safely stored away. The clock is ticking on uncollected crops for no one knows when the early Moorland autumn will lead to a dreaded winter of continuous rain or terrible frosts.
In the garden, as the rain increases, the stream becomes louder and its quantity increases to the level where some weed is at last, carried away. The hose pipes are returned to store ready for next summer. In the little shed,which the bore hole has all to itself, the mechanisms sigh with relief. The pump and its systems have all taken a hammering as the sun burnt the vegetables to the extent where the Photographer, being an environmentalist at heart, had to reluctantly take action. He couldn’t see the crops die. This would have been a disaster as regards his current self sufficiency. It was with great reluctance that he turned to his bore hole. All the water butts were empty and the stream was too low.
The Dog, of whom you are all so fond, has not had an outstanding August. It is true, that there has been some sun, but not enough for his old bones. He has put away his sunglasses and his cool dude look, and taken to his basket. He knows, as soon as he sees that pile of Kilner jars, that his life is going to be very boring indeed.
In the kitchen both Photographer and Assistant process, process, and process. For the first time in many years, there are enough broad beans to make hummus and just enough to freeze for Sunday dinners. The enormous garlic, so large that no one can believe it, has been dried in the hot sun and is now having its roots and head trimmed ready for use and storage. The bumper tomato harvest continues. Huge tomato and basil suppers are being consumed. Sun dried tomatoes are currently passing slowly through the kitchen range in its bottom oven. These are easily forgotten as the day goes on. They are supposed to be slightly soft, not crisps when they are bottled in the olive oil, but on one day, they were forgotten and the Assistant and Photographer dragged themselves out of bed at 4 a.m. just in time before the crisp stage happened. The Photographer has taken great pains to make his signature preserve. Now looking a magnificent green in the fridge, his pesto sits with pride in its Kilner jars. He has been over the Moor to buy a huge plastic drum of olive oil for these activities and at last he is rewarded with a range of produce, that after all this hard work, will be on display amongst the family and friends as we enjoy our Christmas.
At this moment, you can hear one of many mowers in the distance. Even though the rain has begun and is more frequent, mowers must be pushed on, for with no exaggeration, this could be the last cut of the year. As Autumn really takes off, the last cut is often very early here and you just pray that spring will be kind or it’s strimmers and occasionally hooks for your first cut!