‘All is safely gathered in’, so runs the harvest hymn; but how often are these words wishful thinking, especially to farmers whose crops lie battered and useless, victim to our increasingly unreliable British climate?
To produce ripened golden grain, in perfect condition and ready to harvest, while skies are blue, must be every farmer’s dream, in the knowledge that it will be safely stored while dry and its quality unspoilt, a task that, once completed, brings a warm sense of satisfaction and achievement to all involved.
Nowadays, many of the heavier tasks that are part of modern farming are made easy with the help of large expensive machines, such as balers and threshers, saving major amounts of time and energy. Technology has, as with so many things, changed the face of farming unrecognisably over the years.
Because of the huge cost of this farm machinery however, many farmers, especially smaller ones, are forced to share or hire. This often involves a deadline, making them work even harder to complete a job within the time allocated. Despite modern aids, there is still plenty of labouring work requiring strong, fit young farmers.
Farm machines are generally kept in immaculate condition and painted in bright striking colours, making a vivid picture, especially while harvesting golden crops under blue skies and scudding white clouds. While the thresher separates wheat from straw the men must constantly work, using their pitchforks, to keep it feeding the machine in forkfuls, while controlling the engine’s speed. Although the crop itself is light this can nevertheless be hot and thirsty work on a warm summer’s day, especially with a deadline to work to.
When the task is finished the men enjoy well-deserved mugs of tea. Later, after some equally welcome farm food, tired muscles begin to relax, laughter dominates and yarns are shared, with nostalgic tales of farming experiences past and present, while pints of ale and cider are supped around the long much scrubbed farmhouse table. If only it could talk, it too would have tales to tell!
Tales of amusement and danger, sad and happy memories, many spiced over time by imagination and re-telling, including personal and unique reminiscences of childhood adventures in the hayfields and more, gradually merge with the day’s threshing and baling reflections as pints are downed and drowsiness sets in.
Talking of haystacks…Now, wherever did I put that needle?