Beware if you are driving in our narrow leafy lanes in Devon - around any corner you can be confronted by an enormous machine which would look more at home on the set of a Star Wars film - the combine harvesters are on the move .The corn has dutifully ripened to its rich golden brown and the farmers are anxious to get the harvest in .These giants of mechanical engineering are gobbling up field after field from early in the morning through to turquoise twilight and then with headlights blazing like great malignant eyes they carry on their relentless efforts throughout the night .Where once the corn stood whispering in the breeze now regimented lines of straw await the baler .
Down the road from our house is one such field which curves lazily over the side of the hill . I wheeled V down to watch the harvest being brought in . As we watched from the gate we were joined by Mr.Vittals -- A local Devonian who grows vegetables for a living . He has an alarmingly ruddy complexion , hair which looks suspiciously like straw and which sticks out whichever what way - I don't think I have ever seen him in twenty-five years out of his wellington boots winter or summer- I suspect he was born in them - he is very organic .
"Aaaaarrhh " he greeted us ' Aaaah" we replied . "Youz be watching " "yes "we said .
'Youz wait till heez gets near t'middle then youzl see they young cornrarebits come scurrying confused like as they no knowledge of edges " Loosely translated this means" wait till the harvester gets near the middle of the field then the young rabbits that were born in the middle of the field will come running out and not understand where to go as they don't know about hedges "
And it happened exactly as he said it would - lots of young rabbits chasing round in circles almost bumping into each other as they sought sanctuary from the giant monster devouring their home .
"tis always zame every year""yes "we agreed , knowledgeably." Aaaaaarrrh"he said and departed on his equally organic bicycle .We returned to watch the final swathes of corn disappear into the mouth of the harvester and I couldn't help but think back to my childhood days .Opposite our house was a field much like this one and every year the reaper (not the grim one ) would be pulled along by an ancient diesel spluttering tractor . And the straw would be left in sheaves which we children would build into stooks which looked like miniature straw wigwams . Many a camp was made ! A few weeks later the stooks would be collected and loaded onto wagons and taken to the bottom of the field where the haystack would be built ( another source of camps and straw slides when the farmer had gone ) - it was all a very prickly business but such fun. It seems sad that my grandchildren have never seen a haystack let alone played in one . Still that is progress- well I suppose it is - I sometimes wonder .