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Harvest time

Posted: Sun Jul 29, 2012 11:14 am
by David B
Times past? Do you remember seeing fields like this?

I took these photographs in mid-Devon only the other day. Unfortunately, they were not actually working - getting hay collected for winter fodder is more important whilst the weather holds. The wheat is being harvested for thatching. Whilst whole roofs are thatched using wheat, water reed is also used. However, only the wheat us really suitable for the ridges because it is more pliable when bent. Ridging usually needs doing every 8 to 10 years whereas the rest of the roof can last 60 or more years if done in water reed, properly 'hatted and booted' as my thatcher tells me when he comes to inspect my roof.

David

stook_1930.jpg
stook_1930.jpg (182.91 KiB) Viewed 6924 times

Field of stooks2.jpg
Field of stooks2.jpg (187.04 KiB) Viewed 6924 times

binder_1874.jpg
binder_1874.jpg (184.51 KiB) Viewed 6924 times

Re: Harvest time

Posted: Sun Jul 29, 2012 12:00 pm
by Brinkly
What an interesting photo David. If you converted it to black and white it could be straight out of the 1930s, bar the tractor!

Regards,

Nick.

Re: Harvest time

Posted: Sun Jul 29, 2012 12:14 pm
by Jim Summers
Thanks for those, David, and the notes on thatching, which should win a pub argument for me some time. Years since I saw stooks. The photos were so different from the usual fare and quite an antidote as I look out at (more) rain, but rejoice that I might as well pass the wet afternoon at the workbench.

What a splendidly informed Forum this is.

JIm

Re: Harvest time

Posted: Mon Jul 30, 2012 6:33 am
by shipbadger
Actually the tractors are not in their first flush either. The MF 135 at the front could well be from the mid-sixties and the 35 behind a decade earlier. Interestingly neither has been fitted with a roll bar or cage. Not that many left that are not preserved that lack them nowadays.

Tony Comber

Re: Harvest time

Posted: Mon Jul 30, 2012 9:41 am
by David B
If anyone is interested in the old Fergies, you might like to look at The Coldridge Collection. It is only open by appointment but, as it happens, is only about a mile from where I took the pictures in Mid Devon.

David

Re: Harvest time

Posted: Mon Jul 30, 2012 11:56 am
by Re6/6
Never thought that I'd ever see such a thing in our landscape today. Thanks David.

I learned to drive as a child on a Fergie TE20 fuelled with TVO (petrol/paraffin). Memories! :)

Re: Harvest time

Posted: Mon Jul 30, 2012 6:57 pm
by martin goodall
I assume the wheat is a long straw variety, specially grown with thatching in mind.

One reason for the widespread use of reed in place of straw for thatching nowadays is that many modern cereal crops have been selectively bred to have short stalks; it makes them less susceptible to being beaten down by wind and rain, but the short straws are no use for thatching.

As others have observed, it is heartening to see that (in one place at least) stooks of wheat are still a feature of the harvest landscape.

Re: Harvest time

Posted: Mon Jul 30, 2012 8:31 pm
by David B
martin goodall wrote:I assume the wheat is a long straw variety, specially grown with thatching in mind.


I am sure you are right, Martin. Just a sight of the single stook shows the length of straw.

The use of water reed increased towards the end of the last century because it lasts longer than wheat straw. My house was thatched in water reed (with a wheat ridge) before we bought it more than 20 years ago and I sincerely hope it sees me out because the cost of re-thatching is considerable. As it is, we have had it ridged twice already and combed to remove the build up of moss. Much of the reed is imported as, so I am told, reed from this country is rarely suitable because of the nitrates and other 'run-off' fertiliser which enter the water courses and makes the reed much poorer in quality and less durable. In Eastern Europe, where I gather much of the reed comes from, the use of fertilisers has been much less, particularly the manufactured inorganic types, and so the water courses are not polluted. With the embargoes on the use of inorganic fertilisers in place now in parts of this country, especially East Anglia, perhaps more home-grown reed will become available.

I have heard, however, that some local authorities are insisting that re-thatching is done in wheat which is all very well, but this means that the roof does not last as long and consequently the cost of upkeep is increased. An argument I have heard used is that 'it is not traditional and does not look the same'. Frankly, to the untutored eye (and some more tutored ones) the difference is not discernible. This particularly affects listed buildings (mine is Grade 2) and grants towards the cost of re-thatching were withdrawn several years ago before the current problems. It's something of a battle between conservation and politics, with the poor householder's wallet in the middle! Where have we heard this before?

Still, it gladdens the heart to see the site of reapers, binders and stooks on a sunny summer's day. All that's missing are the horses.

David

Re: Harvest time

Posted: Mon Jul 30, 2012 10:38 pm
by allanferguson
Absolutely fascinating pictures, and takes me bak very many years. Here in Scotland I think turfs are sometimes used for ridges, hence a pretty growth of plant life along the ridge line. I would love to know what happens to the wheat. Do they thresh it, or even manually flail it? I presume they don't put it on roofs with the ears on.

Allan

Re: Harvest time

Posted: Tue Jul 31, 2012 7:46 am
by David B
A few more images to stir the memory cells. I wonder if someone might make a model of a binder?

David

Stooks-pan.jpg


Binder_1876.jpg


Stook-field_1928.jpg
Stook-field_1928.jpg (176.51 KiB) Viewed 6684 times

Re: Harvest time

Posted: Tue Jul 31, 2012 1:20 pm
by David Knight
Nice to see the Canadian content (see side board on the binder). All we get over here these days are massive rectangular bales or cylindrical ones that look like shredded wheat on steroids.

What material would be best to model a stook, plumbers hemp, sisal cord cut in short lengths?

Cheers,

David

Re: Harvest time

Posted: Tue Jul 31, 2012 4:45 pm
by David B
davknigh wrote:
What material would be best to model a stook, plumbers hemp, sisal cord cut in short lengths?



In 'Cottage Modelling for Pendon' (Wild Swan, 1987), Chris Pilton says that Chinese human hair was originally used (at Pendon), but from the early 1970s, plumbers hemp. He then goes on to describe the technique for thatching from p43. So, perhaps plumbers hemp is a good place to start.

I shall be interested to see how you make the ears!

allanferguson wrote:I would love to know what happens to the wheat. Do they thresh it, or even manually flail it? I presume they don't put it on roofs with the ears on.

Allan


I don't know the answer, Allan, but someone suggested to me that the ears are cut off. Some grain is left as my roof has sprouted a few plants over the years! I'll try and find out.

David

Re: Harvest time

Posted: Wed Aug 01, 2012 7:35 am
by Dave K
David,

That panoramic photo of your would make a suburb back scene for a layout.

Re: Harvest time

Posted: Wed Aug 01, 2012 9:52 am
by Flymo748
dave k wrote:David,

That panoramic photo of your would make a suburb back scene for a layout.


Dave, I don't know where you live, but that certainly doesn't look like any suburbs down London way. Croydon or Lewisham it certainly isn't!

:-)
Flymo