Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Farming Northj Yorkshire style.

Up here the corn is just beginning to ripen. There is not a lot of arable land around the Dales - this is grassland and sheep country with a dairy farm thrown in here and there for good measure. But some farmers grow a field or two of corn for winter feed and the sign that it is beginning to ripen is that combine harvesters are on the move. Most of our roads are little more than lanes and meeting a combine harvester coming in the opposite direction creates no contest - you just get out of the way and let it go past.
Further South harvesting has been taking place for a few weeks now, but up here we are what is called ' close to the weather' and things take a little longer. But there is no doubt that corn has been cut - the proof came today in the form of our first load of straw. And with its arrival the thought struck me - up here farmers really spend the whole of the Summer preparing for Winter.
We cut the grass to make hay or to make silage - for Winter feed when the grass in the meadows has stopped growing and has gone dormant for Winter. We fill the barns with straw for Winter-bedding. And on a house-keeping level, we stock up the freezers with surplus vegetables for Winter-eating; we gather the blackberries, raspberries, gooseberries and make jam and chutney for Winter-eating; we pick blackberries and make blackberry whisky for colds and sore throats in Winter; we pick sloes to make sloe gin - a warming drink on a chilly night.
No wonder in the 'old days' harvest festival was such an important time - people really were thanking God that everything was safely gathered in, in the knowledge that once this has happened then animals and people alike would survive the Winter months with plenty to eat. Add the logs from the sawn up branches of a few fallen trees and you would be just as snug and warm as the cattle would be snuggled down in the straw.
Now that almost everything can be bought in the supermarket we have no need to make jam and chutney, wine and sloe gin - it is all there on the shelves for us to buy and making it has become just an enjoyable hobby for some. But we still have to store that straw, and believe me, today, with a brisk Westerly breeze, there is straw everywhere as well as in the barn!
The cats are happy - a nice high stack of straw to sit atop - a bit closer to the newly-hatched swallows; the farmer is happy - good clean straw already for putting down in the loose housing in late October; the only person who is slightly unhappy is the farmer's wife, who is still wading through straw in order to get to the back door - I cannot tell you how it has managed to spread itself about.


angryparsnip said...

Thank you for the peak into your life.
Love Love Love the photos !

cheers, parsnip

Heather said...

Straw bales are massive these days - no wonder tractors and other farm vehicles are also much larger. There was a tractor from 1948 on a TV programme the other night and by comparison with modern ones it looked like a Dinky toy! Thankyou for your lovely comment on my blog Pat, and I'm glad to know you have plenty of butterflies up in Yorkshire - I had begun to think they were disappearing completely. Perhaps I am not growing the right plants.

Eryl said...

The photographs are spectacular, I love seeing hay bales they're so van Gogh.

Reader Wil said...

Straw is not the same as hay,is it?
There are some farms here with haystacks on their land.
Great that you come to the Netherlands! Can we meet? It would be nice to meet you. I live not far from Rotterdam.

Elisabeth said...

Two thoughts from this wonderful post, weaver, the idea of being 'close to the weather' and therefore things taking ther own time, a little longer and the thought of all that preparation for winter.

Certainly your summer time seems to be going faster in my mind than your winter time. But it's winter time here now and I find during the winter that I develop a sort of hunkering down mentality, a sort of waiting-till-it-is-past, even as our winters are nowhere near so severe as yours. For all of us in some way, winters are to be endured.

George said...

Thanks for another day on the farm, Pat. I always search your posting for some experience I haven't had. Today, in addition to hay gathering, it would be blackberry whiskey. Does that qualify as a dessert that can be consumed even when is otherwise in good health?

Robin Mac said...

Oh those tractors in narrow lanes - my enduring memory of driving in the north of England! Blackberry whichey and sloe gin - you certainly make some exotic drinks. Lovely post and lovely photos, thank you. Cheers, Robin

Cloudia said...

I feel I was there...loving it!

Aloha from Waikiki

Comfort Spiral

Hildred said...

You are so right about Harvest Festivals, Pat - they were truly times for thanksgiving.

I see the September fall fairs are already being advertised, - even city people love them, but they have fallen by the wayside in small communities.

I love the colour of straw, - so sorry it is itchy and spreading itself in your way.

Crafty Green Poet said...

the straw is such a wonderful colour!

you're right about how much we've lost as we become so used to beign provided for by supermarkets

Anonymous said...

I so know the feeling of meeting a laden grain lorry on a narrow road - I had to reverse up the hill for what seemed like ages the other day!

Tramp said...

"close to the weather". Yes I like that phrase.
Blackberry whisky - Any chance of a recipe?

Unknown said...

Your description of the preparations does indeed make Harvest Festival seem more relevant, Weaver. And your description of the straw blowing everywhere is something we know only too well! I was going to ask you "What's the difference between straw and hay?" I'm sure you must have said before, but I am something of a townie!