Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness

Because of global warming, September is a much warmer month than it would have been when John Keats wrote his best-known poem, Ode to Autumn, over two hundred years ago. Our first frost dates are now more likely to be the end of October.

Anyway, the story goes that Keats left his lodgings to escape the terrible violin practice of his landladys daughter and found himself wandering in the water meadows behind Winchester College. Inspired by the natural beauty he saw on his walk, he composed the whole poem in one go when he returned to his once again quiet rooms.

We love autumn on the flower farm. Our work is so bound up with the seasons that we cant escape the changes we see every day. This is a liminal time, when the ground still retains some of the summer warmth, but the air starts to chill, the damp settles, and leaves begin to turn and think about falling. We start to notice more dew on the grass in the mornings as the nights get cooler. The colours of our flowers seem to intensify as our crops slip-slide towards the end of the season. 

But how is the beginning of Autumn determined? Who decides when we cross the slippery line that marks the changing seasons?

Well, there are two systems that apply their logic to this problem the Meteorological seasons consist of dividing the seasons into four periods made up of three months each. These seasons coincide with our Gregorian calendar (which, incidentally, we adopted in England on the 2nd September 1752). Following this calendar makes it convenient for meteorologists to observe, forecast and compare seasonal and monthly weather variations. By the meteorological calendar, the first day of autumn is always 1st September and it always ends on 30th November.

The seasons are defined as:

Spring - March, April, May
Summer - June, July, August
Autumn - September, October, November
Winter - December, January, February.

Then there is the Astronomical calendar, which determines the seasons as created by the 23.5 degrees of tilt of the Earth's rotational axis in relation to its orbit around the Sun.

Usually, when we talk about the first day of autumn, we are referring to the astronomical autumn, which is defined by the Earth's axis and orbit around the Sun. This much more scientifically accurate way of dividing time is the system that our ancient ancestors followed. Both equinoxes and solstices are related to the Earth's orbit around the Sun and they are considered to be the true transition points between the seasons.

This year, autumn begins on 22 September 2021 and ends on 21 December 2021.

On the autumn equinox, day and night are roughly equal in length but the nights will become increasingly longer than the days as we progress into winter, until the spring equinox when the pattern is reversed.

The autumn equinox also marks the time of year when the northern hemisphere actually begins to tilt away from the Sun, which means we get less direct sunlight and consequently the temperatures drop.

As Northerners say, "we are in the Backend of the year".

1 comment

Dear Fiona, please write more often. You are a muse.


ayşem gündüz March 14, 2022

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