Friday, 17 May 2013

the farmer's year

May: Sheep Shearing
Now it is warm in earth and air. Spilt are the fertile rains of April, and May is among the trees as they quicken and swell. The wastes of sky diminish between their branches; the meadows are growing lush and high, and the pathways in the little lanes have shrunk in width, so generously have the green things grown in the ditches. In the depths of the hedges, above the mist of cow parsley, many small bright eyes watch the lanes, fearful of men and boys; for nests are full of fledglings and a few late eggs, and mother birds remember.
Clare Leighton, The farmer's year, 1933

I am lucky enough to own an original copy of The Farmer's Year, published in 1933. It is the most beautiful publication, green cloth-bound with embossed golden letters, each month of the year according to the farmer's life, each month of the year according to the turn of each season, each month of the year according to the rotation of the Earth. Its handsome woodcuts detail the work, the labour, the routine, the hardship, the connection, the rewards. January: Lambing, February: Lopping, March: Threshing, April: Sowing, May: Sheep Shearing, June: Hay-making, July: Cottage Gardens, August: Harvesting, September: Apple Picking, October: Cider-making, November: Ploughing, December: The fat stock market

Swirl and dance through time another 80 years and take stock of how we farm today. You might recognise some of the work and labour from times past, but now it is called agri-business, now farmers farm with such massive machinery that hedges are removed to simply make way for those combines, tractors and trailers, now when you protest you are told this is how it is, it has to be this way because this is the only way to make a profit. How right the bright eyes watching the lanes were, how right to be fearful of men and boys who, with little or no thought, destroy the natural world for profit.

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