It’s harvest time where I live and the tractors and combine harvesters are rolling past the house and into the patchwork fields, returning with their grain, and slowing up the traffic on the main roads as they frantically make hay while the sun shines, before it starts raining again. And since it’s a typical British summer here, with alternating rain and shine, then harvesting is a bit of a random affair, and for all the mechanisation at their disposal farmers are still subject to the whims of Mother Nature. Too much rain, and the crops rot, not enough rain and the crop yields are poor. One day they are harvesting a ripe barley field during a dry spell, the next they are ploughing it up during a wet one. It seems to an outsider like me like a sporadic business, and as I was walking in the stubble fields the other day, while a combine harvester mowed down oil seed rape in a distant field, it occurred to me that it’s a matter of reaping what you can while the going’s good. Just like the couple in the Hollywood film Random Harvest, with Ronald Coleman and Greer Garson, where, due to Smithy’s alternating memory problems, his married life with Laura is a bit of a random affair until the spine-tingling happy ending (If you’ve never seen this film, I swear it will make you cry). So bearing all this in mind, and I know it’s a bit of a stretch, I thought I would do a blog post now and again, taking a ‘random harvest’ of my recent thoughts, feelings and activities as they crop up (sorry, pun not intended) and see where they lead or whether they connect, or don’t, as the case may be. So I’ll see how it goes!
Now I don’t really know the farmer, on whose farm me and my hubbie live on, particularly well, other than from fleeting conversations about practical matters, even though we’ve lived here many years. Despite what you might think, there are divisions, but that’s pretty normal over here in the UK. But I’ve been wondering lately how he deals with the fluctuating weather, whether it stresses him or not. And I’m reading a book at the moment entitled You Just Don’t Understand, by Deborah Tannen, concerning women and men in conversation. Women tend to concentrate on talking about more personal, and what men consider to be somewhat irrelevant, private matters, while men are happier with public external facts with a sense of contest or status thrown in. Women generally operate from a sense of community and careful discussional interdependent cooperation, which can be seen as lacking in directness; men want to impart direct information, give concrete advice, fix things, decide things, with an over-riding sense of independence. Generally a man feels to speak his worries out loud gives the worries more weight than they deserve, so he wants to keep them to himself, whilst a woman wants to learn what his worries are, to engage with him over them, and also wants to relate her own in great detail, in order to process them at the same time, way before considering possible solutions, which a man is eager to offer – all too soon for the woman’s liking. So with this mis-match, or what Tannen calls asymmetry, men and women frequently find themselves at odds in conversation.
And this is why I can’t ask the farmer the following questions:
Do you lie awake at night worrying about the rain ruining the crops?
Do you have to keep changing your plans every day? (now that’s a man’s question)
Do you find the vagaries of the weather truly stressful, or have your learned to cope with them?
If so, how?
Do you have a sense of your land as an very physical extension of yourself, like I do with my garden?
Despite the right to roam here in Scotland, do you feel a sense of my trespassing when you spot me striding up your field tracks, the way I would feel if you walked through my garden uninvited?
Are there any fields you are more fond of than others?
Do you worry about the cattle out at pasture getting cold in a frosty spell?
Do you worry that the free range hens, currently having to be kept under cover, are getting a bit bored?
Do you ever have the urge to have a real good tidy up on the farm – you know, get rid of some of that clutter?
So you get the idea here. And I promise you that if my hubbie has a conversation with said farmer, it will be brief and to the point. For example, he did ask the farmer what he’s growing in the field we look out onto from our kitchen window. Answer, winter barley, first time ever in this particular field. So I’ll be watching closely the cropping, harvesting process in detail when the time comes.
Random harvest also applies to my days here with am intermittent and unpredictable internet signal, which can be off and on, on and off, for days at a time, due to the rural location apparently. And my own random habit of checking facebook and twitter a little too often, becomes all too obvious on those off-line days through the deprivation. I’ve joined some facebook groups for writers recently, and I’m testing the waters to see how each one works, and most importantly, feels. I want friendly and supportive, not too opinionated or ‘all knowing’ interactions, and I’m happy to tell you that ‘Ten Minute Novelists’ in my favourite so far, which I picked up as recommended in a writer’s blog post, when I was…oh yes…online. You can find such gems when you’re surfing around. On the other hand there can be threads you follow, where you feel the urge to participate, or videos you end up watching, knowing all the while that their value is limited compared to actually going and doing some writing. As for self-marketing time versus writing time, well that is a random harvest indeed!
I’ll finish with some patchwork. I’ve got two patchwork bedspread throws ready to make up. They’ve been waiting for me to finish them for months now, while my sewing machine sits patiently on a kitchen table. My hubbie keeps pointing at the machine asking me how long is it going to sit there, and how is it I get away with this, when I moaned at him about him hogging the table with his workmates’ laptop fixings and hard drive modifications? But I digress. The top layer patchworked surfaces have been machine sewn with a border attached and are ready to be pinned to a lining with some interlining to be sandwiched between. All the materials are ready to go. But I’m putting it off until winter, telling myself that this is the time for crawling around on the floor on my hands and knees for hours, pinning the layers together for machine quilting. I’ve done this ‘on the floor work’ many times, making curtains, mounting pictures, even making frames myself, because I’ve never had a huge kitchen table or designer-built surface for doing any of this stuff on. So I want these two bedspreads to be my last ‘crawling around on my knees’ project. But I will finish them, because my suddenly not so typically male husband is going to help me, so at least I’ll have some support. Maybe he knows that’s the only way to free up the table? If so, he happens to be right. And just why are these patchwork throws important to me? Because I vowed I’d do them some day, and I need to do them before my knees pack in, because they are composed of gorgeous remnants which I gleaned whilst working in the 90s in a soft furnishing department in a Frasers department store. I’m using this environment and this department in the second novel I’m working on, taking my pick of the experiences to use in fiction, just the way I took my pick of the remnants for my patchwork – a random pattern and a random harvest, indeed!
(top pic from pixabay, lower one from me)