October has arrived and the world is changing. The awareness and observation of this change has been noted, and recorded, and described across the world. Here in Britain the Chambers Book of Days for 1864 describes the country:
The woods never look more beautiful than from the close of last month to the middle of October, for by that time it seems as if nature had exhausted all her choicest colours on the foliage. We see the rich, burnished bronze of the oak, red of many hues, up to the gaudiest scarlet; every shade of yellow, from the wan gold of the primrose to the deep orange of the tiger-lily …. and all so blended and softened together in parts, that like the colours on a dove’s neck, we cannot tell where one begins and the other ends.
October is now the tenth month of the year but in Roman times it was the eighth month on the calendar. So where did the name come from them? Nowhere, actually, the word ‘Octo’ in Latin meant ‘eight’.
By now, summer was sinking into a memory – but winter was still a few weeks away. In Anglo-Saxon times this time was ‘Wyn-monath’ – the month for treading the wine-vats. In Domesday Book the vineyards are perpetually mentioned.
At this time the grain harvest would normally be safely gathered in and attention changed to preparing the ground for next year. One of the pieces of advice – or was it instruction? – says: ‘In October dung your field, and your land its wealth shall yield’.
Another proverb refers to the all-important production of malt for beer and whisky. That says: ‘Dry your barley in October or you’ll always be sober.’