The fields down the lane from us have this year been planted with maize, acres and acres of it. It is a fascinating crop to watch because it grows at such an incredible rate. It is usually planted in late spring, long after the other crops as it is very frost-sensitive, and it must be June before the first tiny shoots appear. At first they are so fine and delicate that they seem to have no substance and appear as a green haze that shimmers across the tilled soil.
Within a few days they can be seen more clearly, row after imaculate row of green shoots marching into the distance, converging towards the skyline, their presence delineating the contours of the land. For a few weeks there seems to be little change but beneath the soil the plant is rooting deeply, quietly putting into place the infrastructure necessary for the immense surge to come. And come it does - at its peak the growth rate must have reached several inches a day. In fact friend Jock assured me that if a man was to sit in a chair in the middle of the crop he would very soon become invisible. Having watched it grow I can believe it, although I suspect he would have got rather bored and hungry in the process!
Much of the maize this year must have been over seven feet tall, each stem with its feathery tassel and each eventually sporting either one or two large corncobs. Having tested them I can assure you that they are no competition for their super-sweet cousins in the supermarkets but the hens love them. More importantly I suspect, so do the cows for this crop is destined to be a high-protein forage feed for the Watchorns' milkers over the winter and it is a vital component of their daily ration.
Anyway, today the machinery rolled in and it was fascinating to watch, the huge harvester with its massive blades scything a swathe through the foliage, the finely chopped vegetation reappearing out of the chute at the top and being deposited into the trailer alongside. And when one trailer was full another moved smoothly in to take its place in a seamless operation.
And whilst farmers never seem to have the ability to be truly happy they surely can't have been displeased today. They even seemed to be smiling ... but maybe that was just for the camera.