It is November. How can you like one month above another? Months just are and without autumn there would be no spring. Each has its charms. All are necessary to the cycle of the seasons which I love. I tell myself this but I am aware that of all the months of the year there are two which lower my spirits: November and February.
This was always the case and it is odd that, living out here where the seasons hit you in the face, I have not noticed any increase in my dislike of November, in fact perhaps the reverse. Here there is more to look at, more to notice and this is a distraction from the main cause of my dislike: the shortening days.
November is the month when we turn to winter. October has been full of hedgerow harvest and turning leaves, gold and burnished when the sun shines. There are October days warm enough to take your cup of tea outside, even to eat lunch on the bench. Sheltered spots in the garden - the bank below the little quince tree, the herb bed by the wooden greenhouse - hang on to summer and to warmth. Sometimes planting bulbs and working outside I will have to take my jumper off.
But November will be grey. By the end of the month all the trees will be bare. Looking out now across the valley the clumps of trees run into each other, green and gold and russet. Soon they will be distinct, black and grey against the green of the fields. We have no curtains or blind at our bathroom window. You can watch the bird feeders while sitting on the loo and when you lie in the bath you see the branches of the yew tree dipping gently towards the house. No one can see in for the curve of trees up behind the house. In a few weeks the leaves will be gone. It will be lighter and looking through the bare branches you will be able to see the field beyond the fence where our neighbours sometimes put their ponies. You can't take your privacy for granted in the winter. Every now and then someone will trudge beyond the fence and I will have to grab for my towel.
November is the month when life turns inward. There is a sort of relief in the pause of relentless activity in the garden, although I shall be sitting by the woodburner with my notebook, reorganising the vegetable garden, reading Beth Chatto and Val Bourne, making plant lists and sketching plans. But we will often be unable to see across the valley for mist hanging solidly behind the pigsties where the ground falls away steeply to the stream. Sheets of rain will drift across the view. Under foot it will be slippy and muddy. Putting the chickens to bed or bringing in logs will involve waterproofs and fleeces and rigger boots, torches and a dash through the dark and rain. Ian will be spending his weekday time here in darkness, leaving before daylight and coming back every night to the intense dark of our hillside. It is not as bad for me as I have a couple of days here when I am not away for work but I miss the evenings when we could walk up the hill. We won't see our neighbours at the farm, or only rarely. Everyone is inside, battened down against the wind and the rain.
By December I will have adjusted. Christmas will be on its way and making Christmas cake and pudding will be happening. We may start to get the cold crisp days which make everything vivid again. The tulips will all be in and there will be no more sessions of frozen fingers from bulb planting in the raw cold. The house will be warm and I might even have started some of my winter sewing projects. I still have an oilcloth bag cut out and some more cushions to make. In summer I just want to be outside.
I remind myself that there are lots of good things happening in November: visits from friends, a trip to my parents, the enjoyable weekly round of yoga and Welsh classes. Time to be ready for winter. Now I am going to take my stinking cold back to the fireside!