MATT BAKER

Join the Baker fam­ily at har­vest time.

Countryfile Magazine - - Contents - Watch Matt on Coun­try­file on Sun­day nights at 6.30pm on BBC One.

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

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