Sunday, 9 August 2009

Harvest Home - well at least a start's been made

It is a rare sight to see more than one combine harvester in the small sized fields of the Cotswolds. Unlike the fleets of monster machines you see gradually working their way northwards across America, here they work individually or occasionally in pairs.

All the rain we have had this July - the wettest since the late 1800's - has held up the start of the harvest and the machines have sat idle while the farmers have watched their golden corn, (in England we call wheat 'corn'), turn black with moulds and the price fall, along with the quality. With modern drying techniques and machinery the crop can be salvaged but how terrifying it must have been, just a few centuries ago, knowing that hunger and possibly starvation was the only certain outcome.

Now the rape is safe in the barns, the wheat is on its way and the barley, still to cut, hopefully before it is lost completely to the weather.
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I sometimes think that our Cotswold country looks at its best when the fields are golden and the countryside takes on that special late summer look: the photo below is of a cornfield near Leafield, a village just outside the town of Witney. But then, when their season comes, I think that of spring or autumn or winter too for they each have their own special beauty and magic.

40 years ago when I helped on a farm on Exmoor, that wild country, they still harvested using the old fashioned binders. Placing the sheaves of corn upright, six to a 'stook' was skilled work and I remember my dismay when the first two rows that I stood toppled over like a pack of playing cards. The binder was considered long out of date even then but it suited the farmer and gave me an insight into a way of life now long lost.


The practice of stubble burning is also lost but this is due its being made illegal, except under special circumstances. Used mostly to get rid of pests and diseases and excess straw, it was an exciting if somewhat frightening sight. Occasionally these fires would get out of control but our changeable climate meant that there was no risk of the 'wild' fires of elsewhere in the world, with the devastation that those cause. This photo was taken a few years back from my garden when I lived in the Chiltern Hills, 50 miles away.

Fingers crossed for a few more dry days and the harvest safely in - then we can all celebrate with the Harvest Home.



3 comments:

  1. Johnson, one of the prettiest times to me is at harvest time. You don't see shocks setting in a field much anymore but I remember it from my childhood. What I especially love is haying time--the smells associated with it are such a trigger of happiness for me.

    Burning the fields still takes place in my home state of Oklahoma--and like you say, sometimes they get out of control but not often.

    We have seen the combines in action, 2 and 3 abreast harvesting a field. We've also been stuck behind one going from one farm to another. Slow going! They are just massive--the pictures don't do them justice!

    Beautiful pictures!

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  2. You are right, Jeannie, smells are so evocative of places, especially of childhood. Whenever I smell geraniums (pelargoniums) it reminds me of my grandmothers garage! In the winter, she would hang them up by their roots and then replant them next spring when the frosts were gone. I assume she saw it done that way in Poland, with their very cold winters, where she originated from. I've never known an English person do it that way - we just leave them in their pots in a frost free place.

    The combines when they pass my house only just fit the road - I always worry that they might harvest my car!

    Thanks for taking the time to leave a post, it's much appreciated. Johnson

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  3. I enjoy views of your countryside and crops. You might enjoy taking a look at my other blog... www.freshairlife.blogspot.com I've written about our area and the people who live around here.

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