Tuesday, 14 October 2008


Ploughing is in full swing now that the fields have dried up a bit after the heavy rain.
The stubble fields, which were heavy with pheasants, are rapidly being turned into rich brown earth.
In the days of horse drawn ploughs it was always hard to set the first straight furrow and so many of the old farmers planted one, or sometimes two, holly trees as markers. One at either side of a field, opposite to one another, would mean that the farmer could line up a straight furrow.
A lot of these hollies remain to this day. So if you pass a field with one solitary holly tree standing tall at the edge it is likely it was once a plough marker.

The Early Bird

Early went the plough
to the holly,
to make the first
straight furrow;
while the moon still sat
on the brow of the hill,
and the barn owl
worked the hedgeback.

The seagulls came,
first one,
then three,
and then the sky filled
with heaving birds,
plunging at the black earth,
splitting the furrow.


Dreadnought said...

Thats interesting, I didn't know that. When I used to be on the farm we would upend a coping stone in the wall to set the rigg by

willow said...

I love the notion of the holly tree markers and that you can still see random lone trees.

Loren said...

Not sure what all of this means, but I love the concreteness of the description.

Anonymous said...

Love the poem, Pat. And thanks for that piece of lore, which had escaped me until now. I shall be checking all the fields around now!

Mad Bush Farm Crew said...

What a lovely poem and a great description. Sadly holly trees aren't very common in my country. My Grandfather used to tell me about ploughing time when he was a young boy. Lots of hard work and always a good hearty meal at the end of a long hard day. The photo is wonderful. Liz

Lucy said...

My dad was a Somerset farmer's son, and though he had little romanticism about farming, he could always sigh and gaze happily at a field of freshly turned earth!

Your blog conveys delightfully the business of the coutryside at this time of year!

Lucy said...

Oh yes, and I love the poem too, it's very rich, and almost a little pagan!

The Weaver of Grass said...

Love the use of the word "rigg" dreadnought. Nice to hear from you on my blog. Shall go directly to read yours now.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Yes, willow, there are certainly a lot round here still - three or four on our farm alone. Whether it is a national or just a Dales thing I don't know - but most of our fields have dry stone walls and that might have a bearing on it.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Hi Loren. Round here the farmer would go out with his plough and line up the first furrow by following a line between holly bushes. That way his ploughing would be reasonably straight (other farmers are a critical lot and would soon ridicule a wobbly furrow!!) I tried to get some semblance of association between the straight furrows and the sea (via the seagulls). Thanks for visiting.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thanks madbush for the comments. Holly is indigenous to the UK and makes a sturdy tree - good for cutting branches to decorate at Christmas - the berries are a great favourite of our winter fieldfares. It also makes superb burning logs for our wood fire.
Lovely to hear about ploughing in the old days - and hearty meals.

The Weaver of Grass said...

I think most farmers (and their sons) can wax lyrical about a well-ploughed field, Lucy - after all the hard work is done then, isn't it? Thanks for visiting.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Like the almost pagan comment too - farming goes back so far that I think your comment is a fair one.

Mistlethrush said...

I didn't know about the holly trees either - thanks.
Enjoyed the images in your poem.

Red Clover said...

"then the sky filled with heaving birds, plunging..."
fantastic! I loved the imagery in your last stanza!!!