Hazel, willow, beef and storytelling from Bedfordshire

Looking forward to the Last Straw


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I seem to recall being a bit smug about getting this year’s hay crop in without it feeling a single drop of rain. Well, the same feeling isn’t available to apply to the barley straw.

One of our neighbours has grown a crop of spring barley and offered the straw to us. We said we’d have it all even though there’s a lot more than we need – it’s something that can be sold fairly easily in the depths of winter and given the struggle we had last February finding enough to feed and bed down our stock, it seemed a good thing to have a surplus.

The combine ran for two hours on Monday afternoon and we managed to get a couple of hundred small bales in before it was too dark to see. Light rain overnight delayed things until tea-time on Tuesday. I zoomed back from my part-time day job, crammed a bite to eat but as we were about to leave there was a clap of thunder and the start of a very heavy and lengthy shower. By the time we got to the straw, combine and baler driver had left. We did enough pointless fiddling with bales to get completely soaked before going home in silent fury.

Now the forecast’s dubious, I’m committed to work elsewhere and Jane’s off for a few days break from tomorrow. What to do? Jane has talked to a couple of local friends who have offered to help today. If the weather is kind and the straw has dried, they will get another batch under cover. What would we do without friends?

I happened to be chatting to another neighbour last night, a large-scale arable farmer who described his frustration at a string of rain-affected combining days over the last couple of weeks. As a result, he is well behind with harvest. Nothing too serious yet, but it all serves to remind me that food production remains, as it always has been, at the mercy of the weather, however fancy our gear or how clever we consider ourselves.

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