The Clerk in the Country

Tuesday 7th April 2020
Seed corn and skylarks

On the first day of the lock-down a Radio 3 listener asked to be cheered up by a playing of “Oh, what a beautiful morning” from Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma”. The song effectively lifted my spirits too, although I reflected that if any farmer around here were to feel like singing, the lyrics would probably run:

There’s a dark murky mist on the meadow
There’s a dark murky mist on the meadow
The corn is as low as an elephant’s toe
It looks like it’s drowned and will never make dough

The corn here is of course wheat and barley, rather than maize, so is expected barely to reach the height of an extremely young elephant’s eye. Nevertheless after an autumn so wet that crops couldn’t be sown, it’s only in the last few weeks that farmers have been able to get onto their land to plant cereals. Seed grain bought for autumn planting has had to be put into storage for next year and varieties suitable for spring planting bought in. Long before supermarket shelves were stripped of soap, toilet rolls and cat litter, in the countryside the year’s first shortages were of seed corn.

On my latest walk it was good to see that thanks to the recent sunshine and occasional shower the newly sown crops are starting to germinate. Overhead skylarks were twittering their version of “Oh what a beautiful morning”. They like to nest on ground where the vegetation isn’t too dense; a spring-sown field suits them perfectly.