Country Matters by The Hodge October 2018

Spectacular agriculture.
Country Matters
By The Hodge
“There is more beauty in the plough than in any other farm implement…”
A G Street  Country Calendar (October) 1935

October… the season of mellow fruitfulness when the chill returns and we face the prospect of turning the clocks back and acknowledging that winter is well and truly on its way. And what is happening on the farm? We’re used to hearing about how busy spring can be and the mad rush that is summer when the harvest must be gathered so many outside the industry consider that autumn must be a time of leisure. Sadly for the agrarian, not!
‘Tis the time to harvest the potatoes and other root crops whether for human or for stock feed. Most of the potatoes will be stored in frost-free buildings in mountainous piles ready for sorting and bagging for sale throughout the winter months.
Those fields that have been harvested must be ploughed and cultivated ready for the next crop – rarely the same as has just been grown due to the understanding of the need for crop rotation to preserve soil fertility – and many of the seeds for such must be planted too although some will go in in the spring. So expect to see lots of tractors in the fields busy turning the earth followed by flocks of gulls and rooks being fed on the worms and insects and seeds that suddenly appear.
In the livestock world, the farmer will now be counting the days until his outside stock has to come inside to be housed for the winter because there is nothing worthwhile left to eat in the green fields. As explained last month, this year’s weather pattern means that he’s already had to break into the winter feed store to supplement the grass that didn’t grow so he’ll be hoping that his cattle and sheep can stay out for as long as possible.
Sex is being actively encouraged too as the rams or tups are put with the ewes to perform their duties. Each one will have a raddle – a form of giant crayon – strapped to his chest so that when he mounts the ewe he leaves a tell-tale colour mark showing the shepherd that a particular female has been covered and – if there’s more than one tup on duty each with a different colour – which one is the perpetrator.

An iron horse.

There may also be time to do some essential repairs and maintenance that simply had to be left while more important jobs were done. Fences to be repaired, gates rehung, buildings maintained, machinery overhauled, potholes filled, ditches cleared, hedges flailed and a hundred more chores besides.
And if there’s any leisure time then maybe a trip to the local ploughing match, to compete or spectate at all the teams in the various categories – modern high-tech machines, vintage tractors and ploughs and the ever-popular horse ploughing competitions. To the general public, watching a tractor chugging up and down a field ploughing is maybe not the most riveting spectator sport but to those who understand the intricacies and the skill involved, a few hours chatting to neighbours and watching the fresh brown earth appearing under the plough shares can be as satisfying as an afternoon on the terraces. Everyone to their own.

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