September on the farm (2021)

Haws. (The fruit of the whitethorn).

Richard Fonge writes:

September the beginning of Autumn and therefore the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness . With harvest behind us, the land is being cultivated for next years crops, with Oil seed rape growing vigorously up the Moreton road. To survive the winter the crop needs sowing in August . The flea beetle poses a major challenge right now, followed by pigeons later on in the winter. Gas bangers are used to scare them away, but  a hide, decoys and a gun can be very effective also, and pigeon is very tasty in a pie.

The fruits of the hedgerow are in abundance in late September. The blackthorn for the sloes to make gin. Crab apples for its jelly. Blackberries to go with cooking apples. Then there are the hips and haws. The hips are the fruit of the Wild rose from which can be made a syrup, the haws the fruit of the whitethorn and a winter feed for the birds. Whilst mentioning hedgerow species, an unwanted one is the elderberry as it is inclined to dominate and is useless in a stock fence, but from its flowers wine is made and my late mother used to make an ointment, which was marvellous for soothing chilblains and putting on chapped hands, an occupational hazard when you worked out in all weathers and milked cows.

This time of year brings the regular invasion of crane fly or daddy long legs . They can be seen in the grasses, and it’s grub called the leather jacket causes damage to newly sown crops and lawns in the autumn. Rooks feed off the leather jacket and we have plenty of rooks around the village, because of all the permanent pasture and the woods for them to make their rookeries in. You only see rooks where there is grassland to feed off. Therefore you have a small example of natures interdependence. Woods and spinneys provide a habitat for many species, with the rooks nests high up in the canopy. The pasture grazed by cattle and sheep provides us with beef and lamb, their dung feeds the rooks, who feed off the leather jacket and other pests such as wire worm.

There is much talk of living off the land, something that most rural villagers did till the modernisation of agriculture after the Second World War and the exodus of labour into the towns. The Church harvest festival meant so much then, because of this close connection to our food , and whether a Farmer or allotment holder, a poor harvest had consequences for the family budget.

Richard Fonge.



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