There's something about Autumn which brings out the dormant domesticity in me. After a summer of shoving stuff here and there and settling for satisfaction when the piles aren't higher than my head, the girls go back to school, and the sharp September sun shows all the dust and detritus.
I suppose the sensible and truly domesticated woman would take advantage of that sharpened sight, and get tidying. Well, I did, for a while. But between starting this post a few days ago and basking smugly in the newly clean and polished sitting room and kitchen, reality rudely reintruded, and now the house is more or less back to looking well lived in. But that's ok; we do live here, after all.
And anyway, this weekend we just had to get going on a more interesting and definitely domestic job; rumour had it the blackberries were ripe. And ripe blackberries wait for no woman.
Memories of childhood, empty ice cream cartons, a field with nosy horses in it, and endless brambles, twice as high as my head. Sweet juicy berries, staining fingers and clothes and lips a rich deep purple. And then a kitchen with jams bubbling in the preserving pan, and the promise of blackberry and apple crumbles, sponges and pies in the months ahead.
It's a little bit more complicated these days. Heavy traffic on our previous roadside stops; dangers and probably polluted. And the fields with their horses and cows all accessible only by wishing gate or stile, which is to say, not accessible for our family as it stands.
We headed for Jarn Mound. Many brambles, most accompanied by stealth nettles, but very few ripe berries. Still, by picking diligently, we were able to keep more in tLP's bucket than she was able to eat; retreating to the car after an hour with enough for a couple of crumbles if nothing else.
And then, honour satisfied and memories built, the girls and dropped the grandparents off at The Spot (Field at the top of Sunningwell for locals interested!), and drove slowly from the top of the field through Villages and winding roads to the Village Hall at the bottom of the field. And there we found the mother lode. Branch after branch, bursting with berries, at a height lockable from wheelchair or on foot, no need to shinny up fences or bend double. And by the time Mum and Dad had picked over the top field, we'd very nearly filled our own bucket again.
So hurrah, a freezer full of blackberries. Top tip: when freezing blackberries, spread them out in a single layer on baking trays, freeze them like that then put them in a freezer bag. They stay frozen singly rather than all clumping together, and I can now shake them out half a dozen at a time for smoothies if I wish. Perhaps I'm the last women in the western world not to know this tip. But in case I'm not, and on the off chance the one remaining didn't-know-that woman is reading this, I offer a further top tip. Before carefully and lovingly spreading out the blackberries in a single layer on your baking trays, check that the trays you are using will fit in your freezer. Thank you.
So, the house is dusty and cluttered once more, but motivation is somewhat lacking as it is about to be torn apart in order to give us a functioning boiler once more. Hot water and heating are kind of useful these days. There are tufts of wool lying around because I've finally finished Great Grannie's birthday present. There may be the odd gingery clump of dough in a corner somewhere, from where tLP made off with the remains of the gingersnaps. But for today I'm looking at the memories and the coziness, not the lack of polish. I hope the girls are too.