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Autumn 

 

 "Season of Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness"

John Keats said it well.

Looking towards Largo Law. The gravel path leads to Shell Bay.

 

What glorious months are September and October.

 

Earlsferry now belongs to those who make it their home all year round.

 

Children are now all back in school and the summer visitors and the owners of holiday houses have all gone back to the big cities.  The streets are now noticeably clear of the vehicles that lined the sidewalks during the months of summer.

 

Serenity arrives as the feel and the sounds of autumn fill the air. Soon  the snows of an early winter may fall.

 

The flowers in the garden are well on the wane. The leaves turn color and return to the earth from whence they came. The roses on the walls and the trellises are past their best. Time to get out the pruning shears and cut everything back and do the garden clean up before the winter does come.  As the smoke of the garden bonfire rises it goes vertically straight up into the windless air.  I can almost smell the fragrant reek. After the clean up it's time to fertilize the garden and put it to sleep until next spring. Our garden grew everything in profusion. Fertilizing our garden consisted of every member of our family taking large potato sacks and wheel barrows and heading to the beach to gather tangles that storms at sea had deposited on to the tide line.  A layer of tangles was spread on top of the ground for the winter rains to leach the nutrients down into the soil. Next spring what was left of the decomposing tangles would be lightly hoed under. The local farmers also appreciated the value of the sea tangles that the sea deposited on to the beach and with their horses, carts and tractors they loaded and hauled away many tons of these tangles to fertilize their farm fields.

 

The sun at mid-day is now noticeably lower on the horizon. Beach huts that housed deck chairs, bathing suits, towels, kites and sand castle building pails, that dotted the beach during the months of summer, have all been taken apart and removed for the season. Bob Haig and his ponies and donkeys have all gone home till next year. Boats are being hauled up from their summer moorages to spend the winter on dry land. 

 

The Earlsferry beach, the West Sea beach and Shell Bay beach are now all empty except for the few villagers and their dogs that walk the tide lines.

 

West Bay

 

The commercial salmon fishers have hauled out their nets and stored them in the Granary at the Elie harbour until next spring.  

 

The golf course is no longer crowded and play slows to a leisurely pace.

 

Grain, potatoes, sugar beets, carrots, turnips and all of the other farm crops are at the peak of their ripeness.    The potato crops in the fields are ready to be harvested and children in the schools are excused  for two weeks to participate in the gathering. This was always a time of year that we looked forward to as not only was it a source of making money it was a time of great fun. 

 

Up the Ferry Road I'm scanning the farm fields to "preselect" just the right neep (turnip), to, when the time comes, make it into a carved face candle lantern. The local farmers were very good in allowing the boys of the village to do this. It won't be long before bonfire and fireworks display night arrives on Guy Fawkes Day, the  5th of November when with soot blackened faces and dressed up in weird disguises we went around the village, with our flickering lanterns in the dark, knocking on doors.  "Please tae help the guisers". 

 

The boys of the village had a way of rewarding the few who chose not to "help" the guisers. The non participants were treated to an after dark firework display.  The exteriors of Earlsferry houses are virtually fireproof. Walls are made of stone. Roofs are made of either red clay fired tile or slate. Rain gutters and the twelve or twenty or so foot long downspouts are made of cast iron.  The firework display consisted of taking a sheet of newspaper and rolling it into a tube which was inserted  into the lower open end of the downspout leaving about an inch of paper exposed to be lit by a match. Almost immediately the heat of the burning paper in the iron pipe created an updraft of turbulent air which for a short time made a racket like an air raid siren and sparks shot out of the top of the downspout. When the occupant of the house came storming out to find out what was causing the commotion the guisers were nowhere to be seen.

 

Just off the road at Muircambus  fully ripe chestnuts together with the shedding leaves of the trees  cover the ground in the months of September and October.   Gathering chestnuts kept my cohort Jems and I occupied for these months as we gathered the nuts to play our games of conkers with others in the village. The chestnut trees at Muircambus and Balcarres were huge and produced large chestnuts. At Muircambus the chestnut trees were in a line in a field that was split by a wire fence. The fields were pasture for cattle.  Often there was a  large mean bull in one  or the other of the fields that had no tolerance for the tauntings of rambunctious boys. On more than one occasion we had to race to get through the fence or climb the tree to escape its wrath as it came thundering after us.

 

September is the month that shoals of mackerel come to visit in the Firth of Forth. They're great fun to catch. My favorite place to fish for them was about a quarter mile out from the Earlsferry beacon.  I made up my mackerel line by attaching about six hooks to a hand line. I tied each hook with seagull feathers that I picked up on the beach. With a good chunk of lead to take the line down, start jigging. Wham. As the first fish hits start hauling the line up.  Then it's bam, bam, bam, bam as each hook has a fish on before you get the line into the boat. If you really want to sport fish then use a spinning rod with a light line and one hook. I only caught as many as our family and other friends could eat while they were fresh.

 

I was always in good standing with the local farmers.  I had a twelve gauge, single shot, BSA shotgun and the farmers of the lands gave me the free run of their fields for me to take as many rabbits, hares, pheasants and partridges as I wanted.  During the period of food rationing in World War II this was a welcome bonus to the food supply.

 

September and October are now the months to walk the beaches and to go around the headlands. As you do you'll get stopped in your tracks to listen when over the cries of the herring gulls, the lonely, haunting, never to be forgotten, call of a curlew  mingles with the wind and the sounds of the sea.

 

Further north over the moors coveys of grouse are calling  go-back, go-back, go-back, go-back as they skim low over the fading heather.

 

Autumn in Earlsferry is a beautiful and a peaceful time of year.

 

But then in Earlsferry so is every other time of year.

 

Earlsferry is just an awesome place