Saturday, 10 September 2011

Harvest home

Today the corn in the field next to our house was harvested. We live in farm country, and farm machinery is part of our everyday life, but the sound of a combine harvester stll thrills me. As a child living on a farm, harvest-time was the highlight of the year. A stranger would appear one day with an enormous machine, and soon the neighbouring farmers would appear to help. (Later my father would take his turn to help them with their harvest). We were five children, and probably got in the way, but we begged for a ride to the field in the trailer that would soon carry the sacks of grain home. When the men took a break for lunch my mother would come out to the field with a huge basket, filled with sandwiches, cake and old mis-matched cups. She had a big enamel jug of strong, sweet tea, and sometimes a fizzy drink for us kids. This picnic was enjoyed by everyone, big and small. Later, when the straw was baled, we were sometimes allowed to ride home perched high on the top of the load.

My father was brought up Methodist, and we children went to Methodist sunday school. Harvest Festival meant that the chapel was decorated with corn, fruit and vegetables. Each child brought a decorated shoe-box filled with fruit, which was solemnly laid on the altar-ring and later given to local old pensioners. My father went to chapel once a year, and that was to Harvest Festival - but not a Connor Downs Lower Methodist chapel - he preferred to go to the tiny thatched chapel in Roseworthy, a place even smaller than Connor Downs. The chapel had a special smell - of corn, apples and the beautiful bread on the altar, baked in the shape of a sheaf of corn. The hymns were so cheerful, and my father sang them with enthusiasm :-

"...all is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin...", "We plough the fields and scatter the good seed on the land" , "Come ye thankful people, come..."and my favourite lines:-

"Bright robes of gold the fields adorn, the hills with joy are ringing,

The valleys stand so thick with corn that even they are singing".

On a perfectly ordinary Saturday afternoon, we were working in the garden in the sunshine when I heard the combine in the distance. At once the old feeling of excitement came to me, and I found myself humming the old and loved harvest hymns.Thank goodness the rain has stayed away long enough to get the corn safely home.

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