Saturday, 29 September 2012

Feast or famine year

Where did the summer go ? What summmer...

This morning, almost the last day of September, I sat for a short while watching a spider carefully spinning her web. It is so easy on these autumn days to sweep aside their precision engineering, when hanging out the washing, or in search of an apple from the tree. Often I try to negotiate under, over or around the web, only to completely forget on my return trip, breaking their world.

Along with most people I talk to, the garden has really been unproductive this year. I popped down to the community allotment, having missed most of the fortnightly workdays since spring. The grapes in the greenhouse have once again been a bumper harvest, and there are late raspberries to pick, and a few squashes nestling on the beds.

A Red Admiral butterfly alighted on the bench, and fluttered off, too quick for me to photograph. This year, there seems to have been loads of them feeding on the plum tree at home. I guess they rely on the birds or slugs to break open the skin, but must then be attracted by the strong scent of ripe plums. I haven't seen this feeding frenzy before, but I think I heard that they have forsaken their customary migration southwards to Africa in recent years, presumably preferring to stay and gorge on our autumn abundance and then try and find a warm place to overwinter. Given this year has generally been bad for wildlife too, it was heartening to see.

But whilst vegetable gardening has gained great popularity, the effect of failed crops for us is just to resort more quickly to supermarkets. They will be quick to inflate their prices, both with real costs that they bear, and probably opportunism to boot.The impact for those who depend on either growing their own food from necessity, or growing to provide a modest income, is probably a different prospect, much as the feast or famine that our forefathers faced. Whilst we maybe should count our blessings for not relying on what we can personally grow, the planetary impact of our lack of self sufficiency is a perpetual worry.