Saturday, 13 September 2014
Come ye thankful
The congregation will be singing in our local church Harvest Festival tomorrow. The congregation will be totally different from how it would have been fifty years ago. The last time the farmer and I counted, he could only think of fifteen people living in the village who were actually born here - the rest are incomers, some from other surrounding Dales but mostly from much further afield.
In the 'Old Days' all the local farmers would have been at the Harvest Festival, most of the villagers, most of the farm workers, and also usually quite a large Sunday School. The produce would have been stacked deep in front of the altar and would always include a home-baked loaf of bread and a sheaf of wheat. The vegetables would have almost all been home-grown and the produce home-baked jams and preserves. Now I suspect that most of the produce comes off Supermarket shelves as so few people seem to have the time or the inclination to grow vegetables any more. But, hopefully, the feelings behind it are the same. And if there is a sheaf of corn it will be because one of the farmers has grown a patch of long-stemmed wheat especially. These days corn has been engineered to have much shorter stems.
Is it all safely gathered in? Well, apart from a few fields of whole-crop maize it does all seem to be finished with round here.
Walking the dog down the Lane during the last few days has not been the usual quiet experience I enjoy. The air has been full of noise and a feathery dust, as giant combine harvesters (owned by contractors who come in specially for the occasion) race up and down the fields and have them cut and then baled into large bales in no time at all. Gone are the days of the quiet clack-clack of the reaper and then the binder, the barking of the dogs and the shouting of the men as the terrified rabbits and hares ran out as they became trapped in the last bit to be cut, and then the quiet chat of the men as they stacked the sheaves to dry in the sun before they were taken back to the farm on the farm cart, pulled by some faithful old farm horse and put ready for the day on which the threshing man chose to come. My first sight of the Flying Scotsman was from the top of just such a cart in a field in The Dukeries, where my aunt lived, and where the railway line of the main London to Edinburgh train cut through the middle.
Yes, Autumn has really set in. We shall pick no more blackberries from the hedge because the devil has spat on them - early this year - in reality the nymphs of the frog-hopper, which cover the berries in spumes of foam.
Another sure sign is that the only bird that is consistently singing loud and clear is the robin - they are everywhere and their song is so uplifting even if, like me, you had a really rotten night last night, when sleep seemed to evade me for most of the night.
On the way back from taking these pictures the black cat decides to try his hardest to trip me up all the way home in an effort to secure an extra saucer of milk. No chance - bedtime only.