It’s harvest!! The drone of combines fills the air late into the night and the small village roads are filled with tractors and farm equipment coming and going. There is a general sense of busyness bordering on excitement as people discuss the weather and the condition of the surrounding fields and crops. For a city girl from the states it is all new and I immediately feel caught up with a sense of wonder at the process of it all.
I have grown to love watching the fields as they grown and change. Barley is my favorite with its amber waves blowing in the breeze. It looks like flowing gold as it reflects the afternoon sun.
Next I love the rapeseed, even though it plays havoc on my allergies, rows and rows of vibrant yellow flowers that give way to browned seed pods that
rattle and pop like little musical instruments when the heat of the sun stimulates them. Then comes oats, wheat and peas, all possessing their own unique qualities and beauty on the land.
Standing on the ridge in the late July afternoon, gazing out over the valley, I am captivated by the patchwork of color. Golden hued barley rolling into silver fields of wheat surrounded by green fields of peas and beans and other vegetation. Each field separated by a hedgerow, fence, or farm track. At the holidays we used to work puzzles together as a family, many of them had illustrations matching the scene currently before my eyes.
Not only are the fields bursting with life and the “fruit” of labor but also the forests, gardens, and all of the natural world. I feel in a state of wonder each and every day as I watch the bounty unfold around me. It’s difficult to put to words the feelings that are evoked; excitement, introspection, wonder, awe, delight and even a bittersweet realization that while this is an intricate part of our interconnection with nature and food and survival as a species and yet for many who live in the cities, this is something they will never get to experience. I’ve tried to grasp a couple of the fleeting moments in vignettes.
In the Garden:
I am standing in the lovely rambling garden of Monk Haven Manor, admiring the variety and bounty as Jan Mathias points out plants and berries, sharing anecdotes here and there. She points to a particularly happy looking berry bush, lush with berries on the cusp of ripening to fullness. “These berries will make preserves and pies”, she says and shares a little story about that particular plant and how it ended up there. Jan and Alun continue through the garden but I am held in sway by two amazingly, juicy looking berries hanging right in front of me. I contemplate them for a moment; okay, I admit it I was salivating not contemplating.
I reach out to pluck them anticipating that they will be juicy and delicious but just as quickly, I stop. I think of Jan’s comment that they will used to feed her guests. I’ve tasted her berry preserves and trust me; it is an experience that everyone should be able to enjoy at least once. Do I really want to eat these two berries and potentially limit the harvest? Okay, so what’s two berries??? But what if I eat two and birds eat more and someone else eats two, and so on and so on... suddenly, these two luscious berries have taken on a whole new meaning. An awareness that I can’t quite name yet but it’s there at the back of my mind causing me to pause and consider.
In the Forest:
We are making our way through the lush green forest; I am delighted by the abundance of wild food coming into maturity. Everywhere I look, there are berries, currants, grasses, apples, pears, nuts, herbs, mushrooms and more, all in various stages of ripening. I pick a few raspberries along the way, remembering the berries at Monk Haven.
I look around me and imagine what my life would be like, what my thoughts would be, if I had to insure a full winter pantry from the abundance around me. I look at the small apples hanging on the tree. They are plentiful! For now; but they are also not quite ripe yet. What will happen to them as they ripen and fall? The creatures of the forest need them, even as I desire to pick them and take them home. I am uncomfortably forced to acknowledge that for me foraging is a novelty. I can just as soon go to a market and purchase an apple as pick one here in the forest. And yet, no apple in the market can begin to compare to the flavor of a wild apple or any other food for that matter. Wild food tastes better!
By the River:
It has been raining for a few days. The conversation turns to the weather. It strikes me that in rural areas conversations about the weather are anything but small talk. What will happen to the harvest if it continues to rain? Will the grain get a chance to dry out before it needs to be cut? Remember what happened in the year of such and such when the crops molded in the fields? The sky is red tonight with the setting sun; the day should be dry tomorrow. As I watch the last of the sun’s rays disappear over the horizon with the bats dipping and diving in the night sky, my thoughts return to the earlier conversations of harvest and weather. Suddenly, I feel a part of an intricate web of life
From the Combine:
I feel like a delighted child as I climb up into the cab of the combine. I’ve been listening to them for days, watching them comb through the fields, avoiding them on the roads (barely). And just generally feeling caught up in a sense of excited anticipation. Harvest! Riding in the combine is awesome! Watching the grain as it is pulled into the header and after an intricately involved process ending up as grain in the back, I’m completely captivated. It’s dusty, it’s gritty, I suppose to someone who does it day in and day out, it could even be monotonous...but for me, it’s thrilling. After the grain is removed and transferred to a trailer, which then takes it to a granary, what’s left lies in the field waiting to be rolled into bales and then used for animal feed or bedding or any number of things.
The Harvest Moon:
The weather has cleared enough to get try to get the Barley in but it will mean working late into the night. Thankfully, there is a full moon that lights up the sky as bright as bright can be... I now know the true significance of Harvest Moon. I am again, in awe. Standing in the road catching pictures of the moon, listening to the machinery and the sounds of the night creating a unique harvest symphony.