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Harvest time is here again

Its that time of year again: Pete’s old combine has been dusted off, its rat-chewed wires have been taped up with a bit of duck tape (incredibly versatile stuff) to stop the old girl firing. A bit of grease has been applied lovingly to some ancient cranking parts, and we have commissioned it to harvest the first of our crops- the winter barley.

Now obviously, due to the nature of Yorkshire farmers, there is always a negative to everyone else’s positive. Earlier in the year, it was the head shaking and long exhalations – undeniable stress at the relentless rain that stopped the crops being sown on time. ‘I don’t know, I’ve niver known out like it!’ Alan would mutter as the rain lashed the windows and soaked all in sundry to the skin. ‘ The year’s buggered!’ was a mantra that was expressed on a very regular basis.

Then came the sun – it was ok to begin with and I even witnessed an odd spring in the Hoggs boots as Alan went about his daily business. But the sun continued. Now to me, it is fantastic- a proper summer of my bygone days. Admittedly all the watering is a pain in the arse, but it’s a small price to pay for the glorious sunshine and incredible sunsets that leave the sky touched in a hue of pink.

The head shaking is back. And the stress. ‘I can remember in 1976, it were just like this…’ followed by another sharp intake of breath and an exhale of desperation. Admittedly it is a huge problem for some farmers in some places, but not for us. Clay soil means the ground holds the water, our fields are holding their own for now. They are still green and the grass is still growing for the cattle to eat. But for Alan it is clearly a source of potential negativity.

The NorthWest have a hose pipe ban. Alan now regularly reminds me that we are next- more head shaking and grimaces as he describes the chore of watering cans. Some poor sod somewhere has had to cull his herd of cattle due to lack of food. I can see Alan visibly curl as he walks around with his head a little lower. ‘I’ve niver known out like it!’. Our cattle positively gleam in the sun soaked green fields.

And now it’s harvest. The winter barley is as dry as snuff – perfect in fact. Low moisture count means a great crop. The field has yielded well due to the early rains and then sunshine days. The straw is crisp and golden, fluffy and soft. It’s the most perfect we’ve had for a long time. But I know ‘the year is buggered.’ now the combine had been and the straw baled.

As we bask in relentless sunshine of halcyon days that my children will remember: summers lasting forever and winters cold and snowy, Alan shakes his head and joins in the camaraderie of his counterparts. He loves it. It makes him Alan – an archetypal Yorkshire farmer.

The rains will come, the year will progress, the second cut of silage will happen at some point, but each will give the opportunity for that secret Yorkshire head shake and long exhalation of breath as the old boys exchange stories of hardship and gloom. It makes them happy as they tinker away with their duck tape and grease.

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