We have spent the last couple of weeks on an arable farm that is rewilding a great swathe of its land. We witnessed the wild flower corridors left on the margins of the cornfields that had hare’s, guinea fowl and goldfinch. We were seeing how balance was trying to be achieved in a place that was relied on for income but that has a responsibility to nature.
The wildflower corridors bordering the cornfield reminded us of the folklore that the spirits of the corn needed a place to retreat to as the fields were being harvested and made us realise the true wisdom in these old beliefs that have largely been forgotten. The margins provide a haven for wildlife that struggles to escape the huge harvesters that can harvest a large field in hours and not days as used to be the case. The natural rhythm of the seasons and seasonal activities has become quicker and Lammas, as the marker of the first harvest, is now more the marker of the mid harvest, as the bounty of our fields becomes ‘ready’ earlier each year. We are witnessing the affects of modern seed-stock, farming methods and of course Global Warming and how it is changing the nature of our planet. But we felt inspired and that there is hope seeing a local farmer as an instigator of positive action in the local community.
Traditionally Lammastide was when the bounty of prior hard labours was finally realised. July is known for its changeable weather events, in part attributed to ‘the dog days’ due to the appearance of the star Sirius rising in our morning sky accompanying the sun, which always and still does make this time of the year a stressful period, as fields of crop can be ruined by severe storms or heat induced fires.
Each year, as the last sheaf of corn was cut by the mower with their scythe, a ceremony according to local tradition was afforded to appease the corn spirit or Mother Nature herself, to ensure the harvest would be good the following year. The taking of the last of the crop was so afeared by some of the mowers that they would all stand around the last corn standing and throw their scythes at the same time so that it was not known who made the last cut. The fallen wheat was gathered and ceremoniously carried to be celebrated and made into a ‘dolly’ or ‘baby’ that was kept through the remainder of the year until being buried on Plough Monday in January, as work began again on a new growing season. The effort and reverence given to the harvest was a good reminder that nature is fickle at the best of times and that even though we often feel we are in control of our destiny, especially as we have ‘progressed’, that in fact we are fragile, vulnerable and at the mercy of nature. As our respect waned so did the care and understanding. Perhaps we can learn from our ancestors that the personification of the corn, as John Barleycorn, or some other nature spirit rather than just as produce helps us to be kinder and attentive to the needs of the whole of the ecosystem needed to make each field benefit and support us all - from the bees to the birds, from the hare to the badger, from the crow to the mouse. And of course to ensure the earth herself, the living organisms within the soil, are not poisoned but preserved.
But this all goes back to the word balance and our struggle as a world to find it.
Sitting and observing the valley on the farm that has been allowed to wild once again gave balance to our spirit. The slightly unkempt look of the wild, that for so long we battled to keep tidy, has a natural beauty and provides a haven for wildlife. We saw stonechats, indicator birds, that nature is once more balancing in this area. On those hottest of days we were able to sit in the shade by a small stream and watch a kingfisher, in dappled light, go about it’s day. Perfect.
But we too have been harvesting, after our year of folklore labours. Lammas marks the time we traditionally launch the Country Wisdom & Folklore Diary and Wall Calendar. Thanks to our lovely printers WPG we have managed once more to provide as eco-friendly products as is currently possible. We have reacted to our responsibility of accessibility by changing the font for our text and using coloured paper, we’ve also added photo’s from our travels to the sites of the folklore.
Our countdown ‘advent’ calendar will be available in September together with new cards and a few other new products (we hope!)
The more we find out about the ‘eccentricities’ of the British Isles the more we realise the value of many of these old traditions. We really feel there is an innate longing for a slower and kinder rhythm that is kind and respectful to our earth and in doing so is restorative of our well-being as well as the well-being of our planet.
As always we hope you will enjoy travelling through the seasons and celebrating the cycles of the passage of the year with our diary and calendar as gentle guides and companions.
Above is a sneak preview of the Yuletide ‘countdown’ advent calendar.
The 2023 Diary and Wall Calendar are available from August 1st, Lammas, from our website, our Etsy Talking Trees Books shop and Amazon. If you are buying from outside the UK Etsy is the best way to buy our products.
Happy Lammas to you all and may you find balance and have a bountiful harvest.