It's that time of year again, when the combine harvesters throb and churn, with an umbrella of dust billowing out behind them. It's a time of immense effort, long hours and often extreme frustration as the weather has a habit of letting us down. Driving by when it's dark and seeing the fields lit up with these huge machines, frantically clawing at the crops to get them harvested, reminds me of my years on the farm when it was literally all hands on deck. There was nothing quite as exciting as hearing the three combine harvesters approaching from a neighbouring farm. They have a unique sound and the ground literally shakes when they drive by.
I remember just arriving home from maternity hospital with my first child and the words of the midwives ringing in my ears. "if you want to breastfeed, be sure to get plenty of rest and put your feet up." Ha ha, fat chance. I remember shovelling grain in the sultry heat , keeping the augers running and woe betide me if I failed. Meanwhile our precious new bundle slept innocently in her wonderful big Silver Cross pram with one of those pretty fringed canopies to keep her in the shade. She was parked a safe distance from the tractors and never seemed to flinch with the noise they made. That precious bundle is now a primary school teacher with three children of her own.
If anyone was at the house I was out in the field, leading in grain in a tipping trailer with what felt like inches of itchy dust caked to my skin. Lining up with the moving combine and catching the grain is an art, but thankfully it was something I was pretty good at. My early days on the farm saw us baling the routine small square bales which were then stacked into 17s and clamped into the steading where another arduous task awaited; the building of the bales into the hayshed. In intense heat that is a hellish job. So, so hot. We invented the mobile playpen, which meant that our wooden playpen fitted perfectly into the rear of a mini pick up. As we moved round the field stacking bales the mini moved with us with a child happily playing with her toys.
And then came the invasion of the round bale. The round bale was wonderful for bedding down cattle in the big sheds, we just cut the strings, rolled it a little and the cattle did the rest. These huge bales got picked up with a single spike and lined up at the edge of the fields. Some of course were brought into the steading if there was room. They also made excellent shelter at lambing time with the little lambs being able to tuck themselves under the curve of the bale. The golden rule with the round bale was to make sure you reversed and tipped out sideways if you were on a hill, otherwise it would take off at great speed and hurtle through fences and anything else that lay before it. I quite enjoyed working the baler, seeing this huge circular monster pop out.
A good farmer's wife always made sure the workers in the field had plenty to drink and there is something rather special about having a picnic tea out in the field with children and dogs and the occasional pony. HAPPY DAYS.
It's also the time of year for some brilliant skies. Here's a couple .