The first line of the all time favourite harvest festival hymn which will be sung, very lustily, at our parish harvest festival which is this coming Sunday. Another milestone in the annual cycle of rural life come and gone. A trite comment I know, but the weeks just fly by.
This hymn which I have always considered architypically English was actually by a German poet, Claudius Matthias, a poem written in 1782 and set to music shortly after. It was later translated into english by a cleryman’s daughter and has become the hymn everyone seems to know and love.
The local farmers are all “ploughing and scattering” like crazy round here at the moment. All the corn is off the fields; straw baled and collected and the fields are being prepared for yet another growing season. I have my winter fodder for the sheep and horse coming next week and I have already collected my first load of straw for bedding.
Since we came back from our week away I have got the horse stabled for part of the time. It is pretty wet on and off. I have to graze her very “tight” and with no sward under her feet she soon starts to churn the wet pasture into mud. She has a few hours only on good grass any more and she gets fat very quickly and gets “silly” – especially about going into the lorry. This does not do my blood pressure any good whatsoever!
The other crop the local farmers have started on is “the fern”. Here on the open hill bracken abounds and it makes for very cheap cattle bedding. It saves the farmers a fortune in straw which has to be transported in from arable areas. Every farm that has grazing rights on the “hill” attached to it has its traditional patch where the farmer cuts, dries and bales his bracken. And whow betide anyone who interferes with ground outside his patch. I have known it become a very heated area of discussion at the annual “grazier’s meeting”!. A meeting we are entitled to attend having the right to graze two and a half sheep on the open hill. Needless to say a right we have never exercised!
The trees round and about are still very green. It is only the virginia creeper on the end of the our barn that has “turned” to its autumnal hue – the most magnificent deep claret colour. However, the hill itself is now the colour of autumn as the already dying bracken turns gold and brown and a deep russet red. It is a hive of activity with the bracken cutting in full swing.
Bracken spore actually is pretty carcinogenic and is known to provoke tongue cancer in cattle if they chew on it. Horses too can get pretty sick if they eat too much of it, which they can do if grass is sparse. However, the Japanese eat the tiny “croziers”, the little crooked shoots that start off in spring, as a pickled delicacy!
The other agricultural job that is just starting is hedge trimming. Our hedges were done yesterday by a neighbour. It has to be done, and the hedges have grown tremendously this season, but it is a bit of a nightmare horse riding on the lanes for a few weeks. Of course the other risk is tyre punctures! The work cannot be started legally until September because of disturbance to birds, but as soon as that date comes round the flail trimmers are in action. The lane up to our home could really have done with an earlier cut – having become very over grown with the ideal growing condition – it made driving and seeing more difficult than usual on a very narrow winding lane.
Anyway, I have my own crop to harvest when it dries up. the “Charles Ross” apple tree on the drive is absolutely laden. It is a dual purpose apple – a nice eater if picked fresh and cooks really nicely. But as I have discovered does not keep very well and goes dry and “mealy” before it rots! so any gathered need to be cooked and frozen. Another little job on the list . . . . . .