Join the Baker family at harvest time.
WE GET ONE CHANCE TO GATHER THE HAY
Harvest. It’s defined as “the process or period of gathering in crops” but means different things to different farmers. Arable farmers are flat out from July to October harvesting their grain crops, starting with barley, which ripens faster and blows in waves under the sun, then golden oats and lastly, our biggest staple, wheat. All of these need to be gathered up before the process of sowing seeds for next year can begin.
Fruit and then veg farmers gather their crops around this time, too. For us, being an upland farm with old land meadows, we only get one chance to gather our grass for hay after the meadow flowers have dropped their seeds. It’s a tense time for everyone – we get one crack at making sure we have the best feed we can for our animals who face a long winter in the hills.
Once the process has begun everyone is constantly watching the weather forecast – rain and wind during this time are not the farmer’s friend. Some farmers I know have up to six weather forecasting stations on their phones – gone are the days of predicting weather based on the colour of roasted goose bones, watching for rushing spiders and ants, or flies gathering in the house, all indicators of rain in farming folklore. Although watching to see if the cows are lying down is a hard habit to break.
Technology has speeded up the harvest process. A field of grain or grass, which not that many years ago would take 20 men up to 10 days to gather, can now be done by two people in a fraction of the time. The end result, however, hasn’t changed and there’s nothing quite like the satisfaction you get from seeing a shed full of golden grain or a barn full of newly baled hay. I can only relate it to seeing your fridge full of food at the start of the Christmas holidays.
HARVEST BY MOONLIGHT
As a kid I was fascinated by the harvest moon, shining big and bright in the sky. But I now know it’s not quite like that. For a few evenings, when the days are getting shorter and the Sun seems to set all too soon, the Moon appears earlier after sunset than at any other time in the year as it nears the autumnal equinox.
Long before the advent of tractors with headlights, this occurrence gave everyone working in the fields an abundance of bright moonlight early in the evening to help them harvest their crops, hence it became known as the harvest moon. Look out for this year’s harvest moon, which is due to rise on Tuesday 25 September.
“I can only relate it to seeing your fridge full of food at the start of the Christmas holidays”
September’s harvest moon enables farmers to work on into the night