Tuesday, 8 November 2011
Mighty oaks from little acorns grow.
Going into the shed early this morning to pick up the bags for my weekly Tesco run, I caught sight of this 'machine', which has been in the shed for many a long year. In case you are wondering what it is = it is a fiddle drill.
Returning from Tesco I determined to look up seed drilling and do a bit of reading about it. I found that the first seed drill was invented by Jethro Tull, who lived from 1674 to 1741. Before that date seeds were sewn by men scattering them - men who worked in all weathers, men whose only protection from the weather would be an old sack fastened over the shoulders, men who gave real meaning to the words of the old hymn -'we plough the fields and scatter......'
When I told the farmer this at lunch time, he told me that his father still sowed seed by that method. The thing is that up here there are no arable farms - we are all smallish Dales farms (that is changing now, but that is another story) and the pasture land is never ploughed and resewn. Our ancient pastures still show evidence of the rig and furrow method of cultivation in the Middle Ages and quite a few fields still show the ancient Lynchets.
During the second World War the Ministry of Agriculture (or the WarAg as the farmer called it this morning) decreed that meadowland be ploughed and sown with food such as turnips, carrots etc. At this time my father-in-law bought the fiddle drill. As a young man the farmer used it too. The alternative was to use a sub-contractor supplied by the War Ag.
My goodness me, how times have moved on. Our friend P, who is an arable farmer in Essex, now has a permanent seed drill built in to his latest Combine Harvester, so that when he harvests his wheat and/or barley, he can sow rape seed at the same time. This seed will be covered up by the straw from the harvesting, and when the Autumn rains come, the rape will come up through the mulch of straw and begin to grow.
I wonder what Jethro Tull would make of that.
Incidentally - Tull got the idea for the first seed drills from watching the retraction mechanism of the church organ as he sang at the Harvest Festival.
Here it has never got light today. There is thick fog in a blanket over everything. After shopping at Tesco, a friend took me over to see a milliner. In the early Spring I have the honour of 'giving away' my God-daughter at her wedding and I am intending to wear some kind of hat. I have to say that hats are just not 'me' but I tried on a variety of 'fascinators' and have been persuaded that one of them suits me enough to have it made in a different colour-way. When it comes I might be persuaded to show it to you - depending on what it looks like. I promise you that I shall not look like Posh at the Royal Wedding!