Harvest, season of mists, ironing and witches mirrors

The full industry of harvest arrived today. Most of the time in our little lane it is all peace and quiet; not a lot happens, so when something does it is worthy of comment. This morning, the lawn was covered in witches’ mirrors; dew covered spiders’ webs, a sure sign that harvest is upon us. When I was a child we used to collect the webs on pieces of looped grass, straw or thin twigs from the hedge to make witches’ hand mirrors. Of course we were all witches; you couldn’t see our reflections.

Just a few hours later, when the dew had dried off, the field behind the house became a hive of activity. A combine, trailer, baler, lorry, and bale lifter all arrived and a great speed the field was harvested, baled and cleared. The gap between the first and last picture is only 4 hours, during this time I ironed and thought back to harvest in my youth. It makes me feel about a hundred years old but things really have changed. My father went from dairy to arable/beef farming in the mid 60’s, in the Cotswolds an area much better known for its dairy than arable farming. The lanes around there are narrow and banked hedges rather than open verges mean that the size of equipment used here in East Anglia would still not be viable. Also, back then as children we could be employed as child labour blistering our hands on baler twine, and ripping our knees when stacking bales and because health and safety hadn’t been invented we were able to ride on top of the bales on the trailer back to the farm. The bales today are cleared within minutes; whereas we used to stack them

one day and if not finished, the children from the ‘other’ end of the village would destroy some of the stacks by making dens that evening, we would then have to restack before carting back home the next morning. Where now the farmer is hooked up to his Bluetooth and satellite my mum used to communicate with the field by hanging a bath towel out of the window of the farm (which sat on the hill above the fields) to indicate that lunch was on its way. I wonder if we can still describe rural England as bucolic.

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Posted on August 9, 2009, in Harvest, ironing, rural Suffolk, witches' mirrors. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I've heard of that bath towel signal. I've done 4 or 5 funerals for a local family who all worked on farms, and they told me that when they were kids, their mum would hang a table cloth or something out of a bedroom window so they'd know it was tea time. How many kids play in the fields all day now?

  2. What a lovely story!

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