Everything is late it seems at the moment. Even the moon is still up when Hoover and I go out for our morning walk. We have a glut of tomatoes at the moment, and although I can freeze them, they taste better fresh, so I took some up to our neighbour. Mrs Wasbie is in her eighties, but lively and energetic and still involved in the running of her farm. Since the death of her husband and son, the farm is worked entirely by her daughter-in-law and granddaughters. Mostly is is only one granddaughter, but come harvest they all muck in.
She took great delight in telling me how Harry had persuaded some one to demonstrate a fantastic new harvester and they’d all had a ride in the plush cab.
“Like floating, it was. None of this bumpy ride like our own combine. Three of us, two dogs and still space!” I can imagine the demonstrator was only too delighted to be packed into the cab with Harry, who is all legs and blond hair. Chaperoned by Mrs Wasbie might not have been so delightful, but they still had a free harvest of a whole field.
A third harvest of haylidge was under way which will help to make up for the poor grain harvest. Mrs Wasbie told me about a friend of her, also in her eighties, who inspects black currants for Ribena. The harvest is dire; the slow ripening has meant that it has been impossible to harvest in the normal manner by machine and blackcurrant farmers are in desperate straights. I picked ours in shifts, bottling them in syrup so that we can have summer feasts in the depths of winter.
“You can’t feed black currants to the cows, not that those farmers have any.” At least with their farm being dairy they can plough their harvest into the cows, and if the worst comes to the worst they can sell a cow to make ends meet. With the hatylidge made, the heifers will be back on the field to eat the last of the grass. That I know is still growing with gusto, as I know from my regular battles with the mower in the garden.
Farmers all around us were making the most of the sudden patch of dry weather. Richard was ploughing on James’s fields, the Turners were topping theirs. When Hoover and I reached the road on the far side of the fields a tractor whizzed by, rushing off to another field. Bees were making the most of the late flowers still blooming.
Normally I would expect to be collecting blackberries for jam and jelly by now, but this year they are only just coming into flowers. Bees making the most of the late flowers stagger drunkenly between them and I have to admit that here the bindweed that I drag out of the garden looks lovely, twining blithely upwards through harsh stinging nettles to lift its clear whiteness to the sun.
We arrived home to an excited call from Mrs Wasbie.
“Have you seen one of these wrappers working! Come up and see it; its right by the house.” I hauled my wellies back on and Hoover and I raced up, jumping over the fence between our gardens.
It is indeed a sight worth watching as the machine grabs and wraps the bales, turning them in one direction as they wrap in another, for all the world like giant spiders stashing their prey as they rumbled about the field.
“Wonderful machines!” sighed Mrs Wasbie in admiration. With milking finished in the parlour up the valley, Harry and Georgie bounced past in their landrover, waving cheerily as headed off to harvest another field. We are lucky to have such good neighbours.
“I’d better go and pick my beans,” I admitted to Mrs Wasbie, getting up from my chair in the sun where we had been admiring the others working hard.. “They should have finished long ago, but this year they are only just ready to crop,”
“It’s a strange year,” grinned Mrs Wasbie. But then that’s what farmers always say. And worth remembering; we’re about to hit harvest in my book.