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.


Rachel said...

My brother came to see me this morning. He has seen farming right through from the binder to the 40' cuts of today's combine harvesters. There is no doubt which he prefers - the 40' cut of today.

Rachel said...

Nice cat, looks like one of mine.

John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

How many of the congregation will have been directly involved in bringing in the harvest from the fields, I wonder. Probably more in the Dales than down here in the agro-industrial south.

Heather said...

I used to love singing the harvest hymns as a child and looking to see where my contribution of fruit or vegetables had been placed in church. We were married in late September and the church was decorated for the harvest festival service the following day and looked lovely. I am sure today's machines help modern farmers and that my memories of farming methods are seen through rose tinted spectacles.

angryparsnip said...

First adore your red shoes. Now that the important comment is made.
Such a wonderful post I could see the fields as you talked about them and felt sorry for the rabbits.
We don't have a "Harvest Festival" but ours is at Thanksgiving which is very much the same.
I am somewhat confused about the corn and sheaf of wheat but it all sounds so wonderful.

cheers, parsnip

Joanne Noragon said...

I used the line "We shall come rejoicing bringing in the the sheaves" in a post once, and then had to explain both the concept and "sheaves."

Tom Stephenson said...

I was shocked to see some canned produce at a Harvest Festival church display once. but that was before food-banks.

Amy said...

oh what a bummer about the berries, I don't see many of those growing here I tend to buy the frozen ones but I use them in baking and desserts.

Maureen @ Josephina Ballerina said...

Swing the shining sickle
Cut the ripened grain
Flash it in the sunlight
Swing it once again

Tie the golden grain rods
In to shining sheaves
Beautiful their color
As the Autumn leaves

A song I learned when I was 10 and i remember it, still. A beautiful, haunting melody. Sung with great gust by our 5th grade class.

Mary said...

I loved Harvest Festival at church as a child - all the bounty from the fields, garden plots and home kitchens were a sight to behold. We then filled baskets to deliver to those in the village who were housebound/elderly - I loved doing that!

Mary -

donna baker said...

I've never heard of a church Harvest Festival, but it sounds wonderful. The old customs still around... Even here at my farm, across the world from you, the robins are everywhere. Guess they are getting together to fly south for the winter.

JoAnn ( Scene Through My Eyes) said...

Growing up in S.E. Alaska I never saw or heard farming sounds. Don's grandfather farmed with horses long after everyone else in Wisconsin had gone to tractors - he never did. I like your description of the haying in the old days.

Here in Washington state many people grow large gardens - it is so nice to drive along in town and in the country and see all the gardens. The pumpkins are already ripe this year, it has been such an unbelievably wonderful summer. Tomorrow I shall have a tomato sandwich from my own tomato plant - and my giant pot of potatoes are ready to harvest.

Cloudia said...

"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."

Such treasures you share with us! Rest assured they are appreciated and turned over in my mind's eye lovingly, P.

ALOHA from Honolulu
=^..^= . <3 . >< } } (°>

Cro Magnon said...

I remember when all the farmers sons would gather in the fields and pick off the rabbits with their 4.10's as they tried to escape from the last central refuge of wheat. No doubt a few of them had peppered backsides at the same time.

Our sunflowers have now been harvested, so nothing left to do here other than gather the already falling chestnuts.

Jayview said...

I think I must read your blog for the sense of continuity it gives with my farming forebears - both in the UK and here in Australia. Even suburban churches here often recognise the seasons with a harvest festival which is more about sharing donated foods with refugees etc. Jean

The Weaver of Grass said...

G;ad I have raised so many memories - and special thanks to Donna for joining in too.

Frances said...

This is such a beautiful post. You write so well about your part of the world, and allow folks like myself to share a bit of the traditions that follow seasonal patterns, and how contemporary technology and economics now enter into the traditional mix.

How lovely to still have the robins singing!

Best wishes from New York.

Terry and Linda said...

WONDERFUL! I feel the same way!


Hildred said...

|What used to be Harvest Sunday here has become Holy Cross Sunday, and we will celebrate Thanksgiving the second Sunday in October, - a lovely time of year. Being in a rural farming area we still have sheaves of wheat and great bundles of corn, - not many of our rather elderly congregation still grow veggies, but we have a plethora of fruit and vegetable stands along the roadside and they carry mostly local produce from orchards and market gardens.

I find that young people are growing more interested in having their own gardens and am really heartened by that - I know that in the Fraser Valley, towards the Coast, agriculture is very much big business, but not so much here, - yet! Thank goodness....

The Weaver of Grass said...

This morning it is foggy and very damp and there is a real feeling of Autumn in the air, although the forecasters tell us that it will get very warm later in the week. Thanks for calling.

thelma said...

Nostalgia for olden days;) which many of us feel of course, but I suspect life could be hard. There was a sad piece on Countryfile yesterday, when two old residents remembered their homes in a village in Norfolk they had to vacate because of the army taking over the land. the women traced the rooms and the front doors just by the humps in the grass.