Heading for Harvest

I was brought up in the corner of a wheat field.  Don’t misunderstand, we did have a house and a garden, bounded by two roads, a triangle of land carved out of the corner of the field.  When I was very small, the fields were cattle grazing, but then got ploughed for arable.  And although some years potatoes were grown, my abiding memory is of the wheat. 

Wheat newly sprung, growing green, turning gold, head dropping.  And then the long intense days of harvest.   Dust, heat, noise of a combine, tractors and trailers, endless rounds of bottles of orange squash, hard earth, throwing and catching scratchy bales, and above all the smell.  Diesel and grain and baked earth and sweat.  And the reward, the stores of grain, the ricks of straw.  Always, making a camp in the top of the rick, making a way to climb up to it.  If the weather held, sleeping high up among the bales for a night or two was an adventure.   

When I was little, the round of the agricultural year seemed so inevitable.  As I got older I realised it was anything but.  Each season brings its tasks, the things that must be done if the harvest is to be reaped.  There is planning, skill, care, and luck.  There is hard work, investment in the future.  There is stewardship.  

I always found Harvest Festival at school strange.  Lots of tins and packets, even thirty years ago.  Church Harvest made more sense, with hay and straw getting into the matting, and a multiplication of mice.  But the real Harvest Festival was out in the field, late in the night, with the light fading, a harvest gathered, a celebration with and for those who worked, a thanksgiving that the “inevitable” was so after all, and an acknowledgment always of the God whose Earth we steward.  

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4 responses to “Heading for Harvest

  1. I was taken into care as a child to a home in Kent. They had fields, a farm yard, chickens and farm animals all as part of the community. For a kid from the East London slums, this was a revelation. As it was an RC institution, they didn't do harvest or anything connected with it. Not sure why, perhaps a reaction against something they considered to be Anglican Blasphemy? We loved harvest time, following the mower to help gather and make hay stacks and a whole host of other things. Watching the birds following the tractors picking off the prey revealed by the mowing. So many happy memories of lazy sunny evenings in the summer.

    Despite the conditions in the home, we loved the rural aspect of our lives.After 4 years, we were returned home to East London, back to living in social housing on poor estates and all that went with life in that part of London in the late fifties and early sixties. We were bereft about losing access to the rural life and other things that we enjoyed. But we got used to it.

    It's only after I joined my Rural Anglican Parish in 2008, that I learned about Harvest and all that goes with it. It was a joy and a celebration that know I had missed out on. That God's creation can be so bountiful is still a wonder. And all of the commodities that are donated go to good causes, including a Women's refuge nearby.

    So, harvest for me is special as it brings back happy memories at a time in my childhood, where I was deprived of my parents, and living in community with many others in a similar situation, we made our own amusement in the days before TV, and other distractions.

  2. I grew up alongside the motorway!! The rural aspect where I now am, such as today's visit about the baptism of the gamekeeper's daughter, remind me that I am in Ambridge these days and I try to get my head around different harvest seasons – we have the potato lorries and then apple season (or is that the other way round??)

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