2 Nov 2016

Autumn


To be quite honest, before the first rain in six months the countryside of El Hierro is not much to write home about. The grass is reduced to a greyish buff and the leaves of all but the most tenacious bushes are shrivelled and dulled by the the final vengeful agony of summer. The pines and the evergreen forests are as black and green as ever but our only deciduous trees are fruit trees in gardens and fields and, if they can get away with it, even these surreptitiously shed their leaves rather than allow the island the pleasure of some autumn colouring..

Around this time of year we sometimes see the odd heron, presumably a stray individual blown off course by easterly winds on its migration south. Yesterday one of these huge birds flopped down onto a wall outside my study window. I hope he knew what he was doing for when he took flight again he seemed to be pointing in the wrong direction!

 











A more reliable indication of the season is the ripening of the ugliest of all fruits, the quince. Our four quince-trees provide us with our yearly supply of quince jelly, although my wife says we make it mostly in order to perfume the house!





But the rain eventually does come and we know it's not the end of the world after all! It beats down on the dead grass flattening it into a sort of soggy mulch. In two or three days, even before this spate of showers is over, new grass starts forcing its way up through the dead carpet. For our spring is now, the spring of rebirth, the spring of the Green Man.

Then, at the turn of the month, October to November, the smells of russets and smoky chestnuts, although it seems to me, much less pervasive than they used to be. And, of course, this year's dried figs - but more of those in another post.

But there is one thing that can be spectacular in the autumn of El Hierro - the vineyards. Personally, I think winegrowing should be a tax-free activity. The few days' explosion of colour is worth far more in terms of identity, attraction and indirect revenue to the island than the meagre taxes our institutions extract from the activity.