HARVEST HOME

This time of year is always frantic here in Upper Crustington and the reason is Harvest. As soon as the wheat is ready, everyone rallies to gather it in before the rain returns.

My husband, Sedgewick, and I are the village bakers and everything we make relies on good flour, so we make sure we help as much as possible when Harvest arrives.

We’re always up with the larks to make sure that fresh bread is ready for the village when it awakes. During the harvest, Sedgewick will hang up his apron mid-morning and head for Great Uncle Tew’s farm. I stay behind to finish the cakes and pastries needed for teatime, but as soon as they are ready I set to making a hearty Harvest lunch for the workers in the fields.

A crusty loaf, hand-churned butter, farmhouse cheese, pickle, ham and my famous harvest cake keep the men well fed and ready for their afternoon’s labour. So I set off at midday with my well-filled basket and a flagon of best cider. My niece minds the shop while I help out in the Harvest field.

My arrival is always met with a rousing cheer from the red-faced reapers who’ve been toiling away since dawn. They waste no time in tucking into the food and guzzling the cider to quench their thirsts. The cider is made from apples from Great Uncle Tew’s orchard and most of the reapers helped to pick them the previous Autumn, so they are really just enjoying the fruits of their labours.

Cider can also induce deep sleep, so I make sure the eager quaffers don’t enjoy too much of the golden nectar. Sedgewick is particularly partial to a good drop of cider and could happily snooze the afternoon away under the big oak tree in the top field.

After the well-earned break, I join in and play my part. The men cut the crop with a sickle and carefully lay each handful on the ground. That’s where I and the other ladies of the village come in. We bind the ‘shucks’, take six and stand them together, making a ‘wheatsheaf’, so they can dry. When they’re ready, the men load them on to the ‘wain’ and they are taken to be threshed.

Sometimes when the field is clear, I return with friends to glean the grain that has been left behind. It’s a race with the pigeons, but I firmly believe in ”waste not, want not.” Then it’s back to Crumble Cottage to prepare supper. Sedgewick will be as hungry as a horse when he comes home and ready for some well-deserved cider too.