Wednesday, 30 July 2008

No rest for the earth

Photo by Richard Calvert

In school I was taught about crop rotation, and how, in order for the earth to renew itself, land would be left to lie fallow every fourth year. The realities of modern-day farming have long dispensed with that old wisdom. Not only is the land smothered in fertiliser and pesticide, but now it is not even allowed to rest between crops, let alone one year in every four.

For the last couple of days the local farmers have been busy gathering in the harvest. The rape has been cut, the first wheat has been reaped, and massive combines have been trundling along the lanes.

Today, the air is pungent with chicken muck which has been spread on nearby fields, and despite the heat, all windows in the house are closed. It doesn't last for long, and is one of the realities of living in the countryside, as opposed to living on the cover of a chocolate box.

What is noticeable though is that the land is not allowed any time to recover. As soon as the crops have been gathered, the ploughs are out and the earth is turned over. Local farmers even pride themselves on how quickly it can be done.

For centuries the church has kept its fourfold agricultural Festivals of Plough Monday, Rogation, Lammas and Harvest. Plough Monday is the first Monday in January! Something tells me that modern farming techniques are somewhat out of step with that rhythm.

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