....is not haymaking.
It didn't take long - about 20 minutes actually - for me to realise, as I stood hayrake in hand in the sunshine, to realise that this wasn't actually a great deal of fun. The prospect of raking up much more than a hen pen's worth of grass was not only a depressing prospect but damned hard work too. However much I fancy an afternoon's visit to the landscape of Thomas Hardy or Bruegel, naively imaging rural and bucolic bliss, I think the reality would be bone-aching drudgery with only the prospect of a mess of potage for tea.
I conclude I am probably not of peasant stock.
Over on next door's pocket-handkerchief-sized horse paddock our farming neighbour has brought a disproportionately large machine and is baling the hay he cut a few days ago. It takes him mere seconds to gather up the now dry grass and spew out a gargantuan 'big bale' even in this small space. I not suggesting for a minute he come over our way and do the same for us. That would be silly.
It did make me think though how labour intensive farming was in the days before mechanisation - when even the simplest task - raking hay for example - involved hours of activity on the part of a large workforce. We live in our converted barn courtesy of the fact that no farmer these days wants a building too small to get a tractor in. Who wants to stack hay or straw with a pitch fork, a bit at a time? Who wants to muck out animals with a shovel and wheel barrow? Big doors and airy spaces are the things- something a multi-horsepowered tractor and a lad in an air-conditioned cab can get into. Who can blame them?
I will take me to the scriptorium - or its latter day equivalent, the Mac, on which I am gathering illustrations for that must-read book of next spring. (Marton, the story of a Shropshire Village).
Possibly work at the screen is every bit as arduous as that in the field if you take note of the words of one 10th century prior who, observing his monastic scribes, recommended: 'Only try to do it yourself and you will learn how arduous is the writer's task. It dims your eyes, makes your back ache, and knits your chest and belly together. It is a terrible ordeal for the whole body.'
So. Creativity's not for wimps either.