I paused the combine at the top of Cheyney Field and grabbed a cuppa and a couple of paracetamol (I was still waiting for Claas to fix a rigid header accumulator.)
The late July view north over White Hill and the Folly was spectacular, and I was reminded of Wedding Crashers.
It’s a top film – two scoundrels gatecrash weddings with the sole intent of seducing eligible young ladies. (My word, 2005 seems a long time ago.) Citizen Kane it is not.
They achieve this feat regularly thanks to the inherent anonymity of a wedding guest. If you see a stranger, you assume he or she is from the other “side”. “I thought he was with you!”
As I looked across a couple of hundred acres of freshly harvested fields, it was frantic. There were half a dozen tractors, several huge bale trailers and a couple of teleporters, all going hell-for-leather baling, stacking and carting.
Hazel had done a very successful job of selling the straw; she’d put the word out that straw was available, the phones had been red-hot, confirmatory emails had been exchanged, postcodes and what3words had been sent, and no sooner was the combine out of the field than the balers arrived.
In fact, the vehicles started even earlier. I was doing an early grease-up when a white pickup (which would at any other time of the year provoke a call to my Countrywatch officer) arrived.
He was, he claimed, part of Straw Team A, and was checking to see if the headland wheat straw was still a bit green.
It needed another day’s drying – which was lucky, because it was all I’d done at that stage, and I needed to get well ahead of the baler.
My plodding harvest speed is about half that of a monster baler, even when the header accumulator is at the right pressure.
Meanwhile, as I finished my fourth tea-break Hobnob, Straw Team B were carting the early winter barley straw from Drier Field, huge trailers stacked and strapped, heading up the sunken Hampshire lanes in full confidence of not meeting anything coming the other way.
After months of low-level activity, the fields were alive with busy farming folk.
But here’s the thing; I had no idea who any of them were. I could tell a make of tractor and possibly a make of baler, but no more than that. It dawned on me how easy it would be to do the rural equivalent of “wedding crashing” – you could call it “bedding crashing”.
Find yourself a tractor with a front grab, a bale trailer and a pile of straps, and drive confidently into an arable field full of bales.
Give a cheery “thumbs up” to the combine driver and anyone who passes you doing corn cart, load up the best part of two dozen bales and vanish into the sunset.
It sounds absurd, but then again, I remember finding our flat eights of small bales turning into flat fours overnight (one of the many reasons that we moved from small bales) – and I’m still smarting from finding my precious 4t trailer gone from a barn.
Thankfully, trust still prevails. In the next few weeks, there will be more phone calls and emails, numbers will be crunched, and we’ll take the answer to “How many did you get in the end?” as gospel.
Some years, prices get retrospectively changed over a kitchen table cuppa.
But all that was for later. I shook out the dregs of tea, hoped the paracetamol had reached my fragile sacroiliac, and engaged the header.