The cereal harvest is a noisy affair. I daresay those far removed from what goes on in our rural parishes think of harvesting as a peaceful bucolic affair, if indeed they give the matter any thought at all. In August and September those of us either engaged in the activity of harvest or merely watching with interest from the touchlines know differently. The constant roar of those massive all consuming machines which began in mid July, during daylight hours, and often beyond into the night, is a constant companion to our lives for a short time. The empty grain trailers rattle along our narrow country roads. They are on their way to meet up with the combine and allow it to disgorge the threshed grain for transport back to the farm grain store. What blessed relief the operators must experience when finally they can switch off the great cacophony of noise and escape the dust that accompanies it. Harvests of days past were quiet “plodding” affairs. The noise came later and confined to the stack yard when the great event of threshing took place during later months. However overriding all of that is the satisfaction of getting the harvest in. There is something very primeval about filling up a store, giving a feeling of security against the dark and cold days of winter. The smallest of creatures right through to ourselves experience this basic urge to store up against lean times ahead.
The exceptional almost rain free year so far continues. At any rate it did to mid August after which I know not. In spite of low rain fall, oil seed rape crops locally yielded quite well, which means over 1.5 tonnes per acre of which about 40% will eventually become oil. Barley yields were not so encouraging and in particular the quality of the grain was poor. In the language of yesteryear, the bushel weight (i.e. the volume) was low. Mid August is too early to talk about wheat and who grows oats anymore? Already the ground is being prepared for crops that will be harvested in 1997.
The year is slowing the natural world down a little. Some garden birds seem to be nesting later then previous years. It was not until mid July that a pair of spotted flycatchers decided to build a nest in a most precarious spot; it was wedged between a box of dust masks and a block of wood on a shelf in our shed. Five eggs were laid in the moss-lined nest and four chicks hatched successfully. Each day I checked their progress much to the indignation of the parent birds. They flitted about nearby using the runner bean poles as a perch. Slowly the chicks outgrew the nest. First one suddenly ventured forth and sat on the wheelbarrow, to be followed the next day by the rest of the brood. A neat empty nest is all that remains to remind me of that charming little family.
By the way, do you know of a suitable piece of ground within the parish of Earl Soham, other than private gardens, where a tree or trees could be planted this autumn? If you do please let me know.