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!


Toffeeapple said...

As long as you don't look like the Princesses you should be fine. Please don't be persuaded to wear 'nude' platform shoes!

I liked the history lesson, I love to re-learn things like that and I was fascinated that your friend in Essex can reap and sow at the same time, that must be time-saving.

MorningAJ said...

Posh's hat looked like a navy blue Murray mint! But better that than the 'toilet seat'.

Gwil W said...

I imagine Dominic knows quite a lot about Jethro Tull.


ps- did the mirror photo come out?

H said...

I had to look up the word lynchet, but now I know, I'm familiar with what they look like.

I can totally believe that a modern combine can reap and sow all in one go. It'll be driven by remote control before another decade has passed. Your friend will be able to twiddle buttons from the comfort of his living room and watch the harvest being gathered on screen. (I sincerely hope not!)

Crafty Green Poet said...

It's fascinating to look at how technologies have changed, thanks for sharing this

Gerry Snape said...

Pat ...I love your new profile photo...and Jethro Tull...how good is that! I learnt all about him back in The Methodist College in Belfast all those years ago!!I wonder did my grandfather have one? I'll never know now ...they are all gone!

Heather said...

I'm sure your hat will be more elegant than several worn at the Royal Wedding!
Another fascinating post and a further insight into farming life. Times have changed indeed.

Cloudia said...

you mix the personal and the historical into a marvelous mix!

Aloha from Honolulu

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Pomona said...

It has been pretty grey here - not foggy, just never very light. I seem to remember that Posh wore a horse blanket and impossibly high heels - not your style I am sure! I would certainly have fallen off those heels.

Pomona x

Elizabeth said...

I'm sure the hat will be a ripping success!

Jinksy said...

Now that's a sight we can all look forward to! ♥

Dave King said...

We had a similar sort of day - mostly night with continual drizzle. Fascinating post, loved every word of it.

The Weaver of Grass said...

I think many of the more recent combine harvesters are already very much computerised - but I do agree that the day will probably come when you can organise the harvesting from the comfort of your armchair. And if we think that is ridiculous then we have only to think of those men scattering seed in the past - things move forward, whether we like it or not.

Thank you for responding.

H said...

I talked to my aunt (ex-dairy farmer) about Lynchets and she tells me that the Derbyshire word for this feature is Lonts.

Tanya @ Lovely Greens said...

You should give it a go just to see how it works! LIGHTBULB - you could fill it with seed for the pheasants this winter and give them a bit of a feed on your rambles :)