Far From the Madding Crowd

Don’t you just love harvest time?

My neighbour is the local farmer’s son. Like many another Heir to the Throne, he awaits the transfer of power. He has built a modern bungalow, in the local style, for his wife and family. It sits looking over a three acre rectangle of land. In the middle distance, it slopes sharply towards the river gorge. My inexperienced eye tells me it is laid to grain. Cereal; oats or barley. A rolling hillock, once green, now ripening gold.


Everyone except me, it seems, knew it would be harvested today. The small herd of cows who share God’s green acre with me; they knew. These plump, off-white, Charolaise, have been lining the edge of the wheatfield since early this morning. The birds have been gathering. Active and animated in their own groups. Gossiping and bantering, lively and excited. They knew too. Jean-Luc, the middle aged Frenchman who is my eyes and ears in the hamlet. He knew. Before passing through my gate for his customary visit; I saw him pause, rub some ears of grain between thumb and forefinger, and nod sagely. He spent fifteen minutes struggling with my rapidly developing French, discussing the progress of my vegetables, but didn’t tell me. I found out when my neighbour passed my gate atop a combine harvester that filled the road from ditch to ditch.


I’m now sitting on my front terrace, watching my neighbour at work. Its hot and the sun is still high, although its early evening. Apart from Gabriel Oak riding on a combine harvester, it is a page straight from Thomas Hardy. I am drinking French Cider. Its bought from the local shop; its cheap as chips, and its dry, refreshing and wonderfully moreish. I think its so cheap because there are no expensive chemicals in it! The cider, and the scene unfolding before me, both suggest that I should be drinking the cider in an earthenware beaker, from the hand of the Farmer’s wife. I should be laying the dust of the long-standing barley I have just scythed through. But times have changed, both on the South Downs and here, in the Creuse. The farmer’s wife wears designer jeans, a vest top, and slingback sandals! My neighbour sports a baseball cap, throws his van at the bends way in excess of the national speed limit, and listens to the Kings of Leon. And its a one man job to harvest a field of standing grain.   


But I can still admire the man’s knowledge and skill. Generations of Creuse farmers have contributed to the amassed knowledge and folklore required to plant by the Moon’s phases and harvest at the promptings of the seasons. Its still man and nature in harmony. I’ll just have to find another excuse for quaffing the cider! 


© franciman 2023
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critique and comments welcome.
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“The more things change, the more they stay the same”. Some lovely descriptions in this, so much that I could almost taste that cider. There are things done here, that have been done for generations. No one can really tell you why, only that they work.


despite the fact that this is excellently written and enviably well-paced, I do not understand the final statement. This last sentence did not make sense to me at all. Am I missing something? Why would you need a new excuse?

Last edited 2 years ago by ifyouplease

You should never need an excuse for quaffing cider, especially when it is the “moreish” kind.

Could smell the heavy fragrance of the barley – great descriptions.


I’m a bit stumped. All these literary phrases and descriptions may make for pleasant reading, but where do they lead? For what is this piece written? One reads it, waiting for something to happen and nothing does. And the ending makes no sense. As you write well, try to put something together that goes somewhere and says something, or at the very least, tells a story.


so I returned and having read the story ten times or so trying to understand what exactly you were trying to write about a phrase now stands out it is a page straight from Thomas Hardy. yeah I think I know what you tried to do here. if Franciman separated the penultimate paragraph and rephrased a bit, I thought, the story will be more clear and meaningful. I’ll show you what I mean, I’m now sitting on my front terrace, watching my neighbour at work. It’s hot and the sun is still high, although it’s early evening. Apart from Gabriel… Read more »

Last edited 2 years ago by ifyouplease

Came back to re-read as there are some haunting images in the blog. It is a moment, pearl of time that has been captured so well.

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