Country Living with Francis Farragher
There is always something mildly melancholic about the second half of September with its series of hints that we have at last bade farewell to summer days. The GAA championship season draws to an end . . . the autumnal equinox falls around the 21st or 22nd day of the month . . . the corn has been harvested . . . out the country the turf sheds are loaded up for the Winter season . . . and the dreaded Christmas word tends to get mentioned in the same breath as parties and hangovers.
John Keat’s opening lines in his ode To Autumn, about ‘the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’, and ‘close bosom friend of the maturing sun’ seem to capture the atmosphere of the month, with September always delivering a rich crop of apples and wild fruits.
It is the month of farewells too, as the swallows who have flown in and out of sheds within a millimetre of our temples all summer long, start to assemble on the telephone wires with plump bellies ready for their trip to the warmer climes of South Africa.
Their arrival last April heralded the start of the summer and there’s a long tradition in rural Ireland of never disturbing a swallow’s nest as their lodging periods in our sheds and barns is regarded as a sign of good luck.
True, they do deposit their marks behind them, and through this summer in my own neck of the woods, they were even bolder than normal, winging their way in through half-open bedroom windows before leaving a little reminder behind them that they had called.
Those small irritations apart though, they are the most wonderful of creatures and their loyalty in flying back to us every Spring from the southern hemisphere is a truly awesome gift of nature.
This week the National Ploughing Championships will have come and gone and their location on the calendar through the third week of September is no coincidence.
They are timed to coincide with the end of the harvesting season when the labours of the long days have been completed and the feed supplies have been stored safely away for the Winter season to come.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.