Dog Days of Summer

The wild chicory is in flower, so it must be July. The end of June blurred into its successor in the gloom of overcast days, and rainstorms. As I drove home from work on the longest day I was surprised to see the dashboard displaying just 13 degrees. Some days have been so dulled with drizzle it’s almost tempting to look at the apple tree and see if it’s full of fruit already. When the sun does shine, it’s with a heat and brilliance that reminds you that This Is Summer.

June and July are always busy months. Birthdays and weddings, dates filling the diary. The allotment suffers from either too much rain or too much sun, and little enough attention. Evening walks focus us on what we may miss if we don’t slow down.

After a muddled concoction of weather through the spring, the countryside is at last gathering up her skirts and making a determined dash for high midsummer. In a months time we will reach the old calendar notch of Lammas, the first of a trio of harvest festivals, but until then, all is green, full bosomed, and dancing.

We walked up the hill yesterday after our evening meal, over the Winterbourne which still contains a slow murmur of weed choked water, following the flint wall alongside the flint wall that borders the flint field planted with oats. The seedheads gave the crop a silver green hue; we’ll need a few weeks of sun now to play the alchemists trick of ripening them to gold.

Between the field and the hilltop lay the woods, punctured by shive lights and over canopied by beech, sycamore, and yew.

I could hear the yellowhammers before we stepped out onto the path. The field at the hilltop was planted with flax for linseed, but it’s the poppies that draw the eye, and earlier in the month drew the crowds too. Now they have largely gone to seed, but I think I prefer them like that, a tapestry of gold and pinheads, yellowing green and splashes of red. There are always sky larks here, their song tumbling ever on in the wide sky over the field, with yellowhammer song hitching a ride to be towed heavenwards on a kite string. Swifts scythed the same airspace, a pair of cutting wings seeming to revel in the wind; more air than bird. Even as I watched a pair of swifts bank sharply over the view, the coastal plain spread out below bird and I like a painting of a view, I found myself wondering how many more weeks we’d see them; when would we notice their absence in the late summer sky?

I’m going to write a to do list for the rest of summer, a conscious reminder of things to savour. BBQ in the garden, staying out will dusk. Dry herbs. Watch butterflies visiting bramble flowers at the back of the garden. Visit the pick your own farm. Get down to the sea. Feel sun on bare skin, and the cool lick of shade. Harvest garlic from the allotment. Eat wild strawberries.

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