Autumn lasted for aroundabout a fortnight this year. The endless summer of an apocalyptic El Nino wrapped up in mid-May, giving the deciduous trees an extremely tight schedule to dispense with their leaves before this weekend’s torrential rain.
We’ve had autumnal glory in the kitchen as well. When Keats talked about the “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”, I’m not sure he was thinking about bananas. In theory our crop of tiny fragrant fruits should have been perfect for lunchboxes, but I made the mistake of describing the first-ripened one as “Geoffrey”. After this, not only Geoffrey but all his brothers were deemed “too cute” to be eaten.
As well as the gold in the fruitbowl, there’s been plenty of gold in the trees. The yellow-tailed black cockatoos are back in force, mewling and crunching in the radiata pines.
And for the first time this year, I’ve noticed the migrating yellow-faced honeyeaters. Thousands of them pass through the Blue Mountains most autumns, it seems, but this year they’ve been funnelled between the mountains and the coast, through the Hunter Valley. I first spotted them darting through the riverside casuarinas at Karuah National Park, on our trip north, but since we’ve been back, I’ve seen flocks of them with their travelling companions, the noisy friarbirds, pouring up the Hawkesbury. I’ve even seen them on the way to work, taking a moment out on their journey to watch the commuters boarding the morning train at Berowra Station.
But not all the autumnal excitement has been touched with gold. Last weekend, halfway through detaining my broad beans (fencing, netting and a mulch of lavender and liquidambar – doubtless all in vain) I spotted a little collation of royal blue underneath the pomegranate tree. Nerf gun ammunition, the lid of a milk container, a peg. Signs that we need to tidy up the yard, and a hint that randy bowerbirds might just do it for us.
More autumnal reflections from our backyard: