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Living in the Countryside - Harvesting August 2022

I'm nearly a year into living in the countryside and a big change from living in a town in outer London. Our local pub is thankfully a ten minute walk away however the opening hours and days require memorising. I suppose with the number of dairy cows outweighing the local population long opening hours wouldn't be viable. Our nearest store is a mile and a half up hill, a very steep hill with no footpath and a speed limit of 60 miles a hour. We do have a milk station about a 15 minute flat walk away. A wonderfully novel idea from where you can purchase a glass milk bottle and metal lid from a vending machine (along with cheeses and honey) and then place the bottle into an enclosed unit where it is steamed and then fills with local milk. There are a few of them locally which is great for the dairy farm here. My regular pop to the coffee shop has become make my own coffee along with cooking more creative recipes if I don't have the ingredients in the kitchen.

Having seasonal ingredients is something I've always been interested in. In England (I can only speak from my own experience) we have amazing produce home grown from strawberries to cherries in abundance to courgettes to cucumbers which our neighbour delivered to us from her garden. Supporting home grown produce means not getting hung up on fruit or veg not being available but adapting to eating what has been provided for us. Home grown to me is more environmentally friendly although I do which they'd drop the packaging, having not travelled from another country and we have the possibillity of not eating modified/altered or adapted crops. Our purchases support a farming industry which provides jobs for farmers who from my observations in the past year work incredibly hard long hours.

Since the beginning of spring we've watched the Oilseed Rape crop growing closeby, visible from our sitting area window. We were filled with excitement in March when the field was a bright yellow colour of the flowers. Observing the lines in the crop and the circles around the electricity pylons and seeing the glow of colour around.

Each day we've had the pleasure of watching the crop until the yellow flowers were washed off in the rain leaving green plants and eventually they turned to the brown dried stems and seedheads the farmers were waiting for.

Harvesting the crops took place later than I originally thought at the end of July. A few weeks ago after the two hottest days of the year we were sat looking out towards the brown seeded field. The breeze picked up for the first time in days and at about 10.30pm I thought it was cool enough to go to sleep. Just as I thought it the avenue lit up with headlights. Three machines rubbled past our home which we have decided has no foundations, a huge combine harvester, a lorry, a tractor, a truck and stopped a little way beyond us but towards the brown seeded field. Despite it now being dark it was obvious tonight was the night for harvesting.

At about 6am I woke and saw the machinery facing the other way from when I went to bed with the harvesters headlights shining into the bedroom. Off they went as quickly as they'd arrived the night before. The field now stripped bare except from some sharp spiky stumps sticking up from the ground.

I initally thought the harvest timing was due to the rain that had been predicited however I have since found out that during the day the pods/beans were so dry or brittle that they would pop/snap during harvesting. This would lead to a less of a yield therefore the decisions to harvest during the night when the moisture content was higher have been given the farmers a greater yield.

The past year has been a huge change moving from the hussle and bussle of a large town to an area so quiet my ears ring. It's provided me with a great opportunity to learn whether I could live away from coffee shops and everything in easy reach. It's allowed me to see our farmers working all night to bring in the crop and I think that deserves our support, buy British seasonal fruit and vegetables.

Don't forget the free blackberries and apples out there going into September!

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