« PreviousContinue »
way as mowers. They leave the corn in small bundles at first on the ground, and afterwards tie it up in sheaves. The bands they make for this purpose are formed by twisting two small parcels of the straw together at the ends, taking care that the ears are not damaged by the knot. These sheaves are then set up, leaning against each other, in two rows, of four or six each, which meet like the two sides of a roof. The parcels so set up are then called traves.
August 20th. The harvest is general now; and we have one hundred acres down. We have been a good deal interrupted by showery weather; but I do not think the wheat is materially damaged. Our carting, however, has been delayed; for corn housed or stacked wet spoils fast. Pitching of wheat, that is, heaving up
sheaves on a long fork into the waggon, is very hard work. He who receives and adjusts it is not fond of an incautious hand to pitch; for, if the fork be thrust forward instead of being withdrawn, it is apt to wound the face of him who takes it. I knew one who lost an eye through such a circumstance.
And now the beer, strong and weak, flows copiously indeed. The heat is great, and the evaporation from the human frame, whilst employed at the same time in severe labour, is such as to require a great supply of drink. The small beer is dispensed without limit to the men; who have besides five or six pints apiece of the old or strong beer during the day, which day is indeed a long one; commencing nearly as soon as it is light, and continuing almost as long as the light lasts.
The scythe is now at work again, as well as
the sickle. Oats and barley, the straw of which is lighter, are mown, and so is now the second crop of clover. The harvest weeks are indeed a period of toil and solicitude, which none can understand so well as those whose essential interests are then at stake. Το those especially who are in difficulties for money, and have, perhaps, borrowed for this occasion, the danger of ruin, from weatherspoiled or otherwise deficient crops, is an oppressing anxiety, which, I am sorry to say, is probably experienced by nine farmers out of ten in England. As with hay, so with other produce, the crop which by weather is reduced to half its value costs perhaps twice as much in extra labour to get it up. Let those, therefore, who regard as a calamity a shower of rain on the day of a proposed excursion, think how slight their trouble really is, compared
with that of the industrious struggling agriculturist, whose hopes and labours for a year are, perhaps, exchanged for disappointment and despair by the dripping season!
Our barns are now full, and we are preparing to stack a considerable quantity of corn in the rick-yard as usual. I need not say that we take the same care to secure the cornstacks from wet, above and below, as we bestowed on the hay-stacks. The heads of the sheaves are, of course, turned inwards; and thus, when properly thatched, the corn is as well protected as that in the barns.
There is not so much to explain with regard to the corn-harvest as there is in hay-making, for this reason; corn is merely cut, carted, and housed; whilst grass, as we have seen, undergoes a sort of manufacturing process, distinct from the operation of gathering it in
as a crop. It is well, indeed, that wheat, for instance, which is sometimes ten months upon the ground, does not require more than mere harvest labours, otherwise it would be too costly a commodity for common use.
Whilst Philip is overlooking the stacking, I must return to the fields, and see what is going on there: I hear voices, and am apt to think that certain unhired harvest folks have commenced their operations a little too
Such, I see, is the case: a party of thirty or forty gleaners, women and children, have made their way in before the sheaves are cleared. This we do not allow; and, I observe, they are aware of their error, by decamping at the sight of me. "Halloo! you there, the weather is too hot for you to-day!" There they go, pretty civilly as it happens. We are not,