Alex James: An October of sunny kisses and cute chicks

Rural Notebook
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The Independent Online

So much, so many things happening under the golden sun, the best, most comforting sunshine of the year, the stuff of October. Best on the face in the late afternoon when it's dipping low in the sky. Every time it comes it's like a passionate farewell kiss – blazing, amazing between heavy showers and melodramas of wind and heavy grey. Out of the freshly washed sky it comes, brilliant and horizontal through the low windows and casting crisp shadows on inside walls.

Pumpkins, leeks, potatoes flying out of the garden, hedges being trimmed, logs stacked from the wood and the whole of the top field, the biggest one on the farm, being ploughed for corn, and a mass of flocking birds. All the larger species are there, feasting on the worms: herons, rooks, even seagulls by the dozen and yet we're about as far from the sea as you can get.

There is a smell of bonfire on the breeze, and the promise of cosiness as the nights draw in, a big pot of stock trembling on the range and a fire in the grate. The best thing of all, though is the chickens. The biggest success for the minimum effort so far on the farm has been having our own chickens.

A home-made egg is far better than a shop one. We bought a little incubator and for the last couple of months we've been hatching out the eggs from our chickens, although apparently Waitrose Organic eggs work just as well. It only takes three weeks for a tiny, fluffy thing that makes you want to cry to pop out. They make the most irresistible noise, very lively, too. Unbelievably cute.

You can get a whole chick hospital – with oxygen tanks and sick-chick resuscitation equipment, which I thought was ridiculous until one died. The children were inconsolable. I've ordered the whole lot.

Better than drugs

Still getting the odd unexpected biff of the blackberry smell. As I've mentioned before, stumbling on unexpected blackberry bushes in full fruit, especially when slightly out of breath, is one of the great delights of nature, a sensory sensation: a smell like a magic spell.

They're past their best for eating, now, the brambles, but if anything more spectacular than ever on the nose. Close eyes, deep breath.

Better than drugs or dreams.

Running wild

I'm running 10 miles a day, all over the valley, as I've given up smoking again. I'd been dreading it as usual, but I've rediscovered that there is actually nothing quite as wonderful as running through the woods. There really isn't. Must dash.

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