Years ago, the whole of the farming year in this part of the country depended upon the right weather conditions to get in the hay. Then, with the "invention" of silage it didn't matter quite as much. To get good hay the weather has to be hot and dry for some days until the grass completely dries out. With silage this is not quite so important. With hay it was one crop each Summer. Now, with intensive farming and good fertilising, it is not uncommon to get three crops of silage from each field.
So, after a few days of good weather, every farmer in the dale is cutting. The farmer was up early (I really think it is his favourite job) and already two fields are down - one more to go for this first crop. Tess and I made the journey up to the big mill lane field, which he cut first, so that I could take a photograph.
There is always danger to wildlife - curlew, partridge, pheasant, oyster catcher, snipe - all could be nesting in the field. The farmer keeps his eyes peeled but there are always casualties. When he came in at lunch time he said he had seen a mother pheasant coaxing her large brood out of a clump of grass he was about to cut. So he left it over the lunch hour and has now gone back. He will walk through the grass to make sure they have gone before he cuts it - so that is one little brood that has been saved.
The field margins are always left as you will see in the photograph of the cut grass. This margin often has partridge nests as they like to nest near to a hedge. Tomorrow afternoon the forage harvester will be in gathering up the limp grass and blowing it into the trailer for transporting to the silage clamp. Then the dairy herd from next door will be in the next day to "pike" - that is our local dialect word for eating up the grass that is left.
There is a smell of cut grass in the air, the sun is shining and you can hear various silaging activity going on all around on the neighbouring farms.
Tomorrow I shall try to catch the forager and photograph it - but the fields are quite a long way from the house and picking up the grass in that way is not a long job.