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March: Threshing

March: Threshing

Quiet lies upon the fields and the wood this morning. No one is 'at plough', no one is carting. One might wonder what has happened but the familiar humming noise comes up from the rickyard, and skeins of black smoke are blurring the outlines of the leafless elms. Let us walk down to the farm, for surely this means they are threshing . . .

It is a dull morning. The sky is a monotonous grey; there is no wind to give shapes to clouds: and well it is so, for any breeze would blow the dust of the threshing into eyes and throats unbearably. Even as it is, everything is dimmed and blurred by the grain dust. The rickyard is enveloped in a golden fawny mist. The men's clothes may be blue, green or brown, but today they all look the same dust colour. The red of the threshing machine is muted by the dust. The men's beards are full of it; the blue of the elevator is no clearer.

And now, through this film one perceives the actors in the game, each in his place, like players in an orchestra. On top of the half-demolished grain stack five figures stand out dark against the sky, pitchforks at all angles as they pierce the sheaves of wheat that have lain packed there since last August, and throw them over . . .

For several days now the air all around will be filled with the whirring, humming sound of the threshing machine. The ricks in the yard will have changed places as though a giant had been at play and had shifted them about. There is something eternal in this sound of threshing, even though it be made by machinery; it recalls the primeval songs of the women in the small islands of the Mediterranean as they chant in their strange Lydian mode to the horses and mules trotting round and round, blindfold, on a circle of sheaves, as they tread out the grain with their hoofs. For all sounds of the labours on the land date from the beginning of time. 

Extract from Clare Leighton, The Farmer's Year

February: Lopping

February: Lopping

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