By William Mills
As lovely as Kemptown is during the summer months with festivals and street parties, the surrounding countryside is also at its best with lots to see on a day out within an easy bus ride from home.
During early July the sun finally shined enabling farmers to drive tractors onto their fields and cut the grass to make hay. After it has been cut, it needs to be turned before being bailed ready for storage under cover in a barn.
Summer has always conjured images of crops growing in abundance and country folk living a happy carefree way of life.
The poem ‘Haymaking’ by John Clare (1793-1864) celebrates the English countryside with immortal lines; “ ‘Tis haytime and the red-complexioned sun was scarcely up ere blackbirds had begun….”
One of John Constable’s most famous oil paintings, ‘The Hay Wain’ depicts a large farm cart being pulled across Suffolk’s River Stour in 1821.
It’s on display in the National Gallery, London, itself a venue for another day out, and was voted 2nd most popular painting in any British gallery by BBC Radio’s 4 Today programme in 2005.
Cattle and horses are kept outside in the warmer months of the year grazing on grass growing in their field. Farmers keep animals out of several of their fields to let the grass grow long enough to produce hay, which is done during a dry spell in the summer. Hay is fed to farm animals during the winter months when grass has stopped growing or is covered by frost and snow. The farmer has to time haymaking just right in order to be able to dry it sufficiently to prevent mould, while at the same time retaining as much nutritional value as possible.
Horses love hay, but if it’s mouldy or contains toxic plants they can become very ill.
A farmers’ work goes on around the year. In the autumn fields are ploughed to kill off any harmful weeds so carefully chosen grass seed can flourish next spring.
For more ‘Greenfingers’ articles see Gardening in categories.