There has a been a definite change of the season in the air the past few weeks, transitioning from summer’s end to autumn. The rains fell and then they fell again. Next came storm ‘Ali’. We felt the strength of the storm coming off the Atlantic, with gusts of over 60mph and all of a sudden the green edges of the woods were wind burned; curled and crisp on the peripheries.
The mackerel (Scomber scombrus) shoals arrived on calmer days in the seas of Loch Indaal and for a few weeks at least one soul was to be seen; stooped over, hood up, on the end of Bruichladdich pier. With rod in hand, they waited to catch their dinner or bait for their creels.
The island’s hillsides were swathed in purple in the ever brief but glorious heather flowers. As quick as it comes it seems to go again. The ling heather (Calluna vulgaris) was gathered for the season but not after concern over weather from James. However, he managed all he needed in good time and even now, there a few spots still in healthy bloom.
The last of our 22 gin botanicals to be harvested for the season was bog myrtle (Myrica gale), having one of the longest growing seasons. It may remain green for several months yet but best picking is when it is fresh green and waxy, James looks for the fullest looking sprigs. On a trip to ‘bog myrtle alley’ the difference between some plants to others was obvious…but only once pointed out. It takes an expert eye.
The Elder tree (Sambucus nigra) berries came thick and fast this year. After a hot, lengthy summer with a wet end, they seemed to ripen and plump up in no time. Driving past a favourite spot for picking it was a race to gather some for this year’s batch of elderberry vinegar and elderberry wine. 2017’s elderberry wine has never taken off as we hoped and what sits in the demi-johns is likely to change direction and become vinegar. Solutions as to what to use the unreactive elderberry wine for are most welcome.