Sunday, 8 August 2010

And So Life Goes On . . .

August - The Month of Harvest.

The first day of August, Lammas Day, is the festival of harvest's beginning, when the first sheaf of corn, or bread made from it, was blessed and offered in churches.

Wheat Field

Wild Oating

Students have always been keen to earn pocket money during the summer holidays.

There aren't many jobs around nowadays, particularly in rural areas. There are odd jobs, like mowing the grass, there's shelf stacking in supermarkets or generally helping out in shops while the full-time
staff go on holiday. On the whole, summer jobs are hard to find, jobs like cutting asparagus, and picking fruit are done by students from abroad, mainly East Europeans, who come for the season,  live on the farms and go home again at the end of the harvest.

No so many years ago, local children went 'wild oating'.

Oats are prolific self-seeders; armed with an empty fertiliser sack, each teenager went up and down the tram lines in cereal fields to rip out self-seeded wild oats. Oats spoiled the crop and farmers were keen to eliminate all trace of them from their harvest. Pay was £1/hour, not a bad rate, according to the young labourers.

At the end of the day face, neck and shoulders were burned by the sun while the legs of their jeans were bleached white from the day-long rubbing of the cereal stalks. The full sacks of oats were left for the farmer to collect, perhaps to be used as fodder or bedding, depending on its condition.


Are you giddy in the head? Now is the time to harvest feverfew, the febrifuge, or fever-chaser.
Its Latin name is Tanacetum Parthenium; it's a pretty yellow and white daisy-like flower, pungent and a prolific self-seeder. Once you have it in the garden, it's there to stay.

Gerard's Herbal from 1633 says: Against summer headaches and migraines inhale the crushed leaves of yellow and white feverfew, or dried, powdered and taken with honey or sweet wine.

"Feverfew purgeth by siege melancholy and phlegm, wherefore it is very good for them that are giddy in the head, or which have the turning called Vertigo, that is a swimming or turning in the head. Also it is good for such as be melancholic, sad, pensive, and without speech."

August Visiting

August is the month for visiting around here.
If you are going visiting, remember this: Visitors are like fish, three days on and they begin to smell.
Besides, as Marianne Moore's Father said: " Superior people never make long visits".


  1. What a gorgeous Ode to August. It is one of my least favorite months, but, thanks to you, I just may keep it.

  2. Yes, it's busy all about us here, too, at the moment. Fortunately, no lingering odour of fish. Although we did have some fishy visitors recently. A couple of young lads were peddling fresh trout. Hmmm, I wonder where they got those from?

  3. I love a post like this one - a little bit of this and a little bit of that, but all interesting bits. We have ferverfew growing in cracks in the rock and through the gravel. I depend on it in August when nearly everything else is taking a rest or just plain finished. Wild oating must have been a summer job with lots of benefits - fresh air, good company, freedom. Are foreign workers that much cheaper than local, or are these jobs too rough for local students?

  4. Meant to say - I picked asparagus between graduation from university and my first teaching job. On my first day in the school one of my students was my boss from the asparagus rig. Baptism of fire!

  5. I love the visitor quote.
    I wish I liked feverfew,it tastes foul and I feel it doesn't agree with me.

  6. Interesting bits and pieces, Friko! I didn't know about the wild oating.

  7. The nicest thing about August, is the fact that September is nearly here with a breath of fresh air!

  8. I'm in total agreement with Pondside - and not for the first time! - about the this-and-that aspect of this post, and many others that you write. You come up with things I know nothing about and would never discover if it weren't for your....may I say it publicly? ....restless and curious intelligence. My hope is that I can remember one or two of them when dinner-table conversation needs a lift.

  9. The same thing is happening here in our state with the seasonal jobs. Soon tobacco cutting, hanging and stripping. Cutting hay, bundling and loading it on wagons.You talking about hot. No local kiddos are up to that. I had a call the other day, wrong number for a Jones family, but it was from Hawaii, looking for tobacco field jobs. Love your posts Friko.

  10. Your post is getting me to relfect on August. When I stop and think that we are in August already and we haven't been out camping yet a little panic button gets pushed. It's been one of those summers where you get one or two hot days then they are gone so it never feel like summer has properly arrived. Never mind, will just have to go somewhere warm for the winter.

  11. Visiting from the Roast. You have a lovely blog and I think the wheat field photo is mesmerizing.

  12. You August season is so different from here as my feverfew has long since stopped blooming. I just planted it in the herb garden this year and I will see how prolific it becomes! I would love to see images of those teenagers collecting wild oats...I wonder if that is where the saying came from?

  13. August is just plain ole Dog Days around here. too friggin' hot to do anything but lay around.

  14. Perhaps the Eastern Europeans COLLECT the wild oats now and the locals SOW them...beautiful reflection on August, Friko. You are so knowledgeable! I wonder if I can grow Feverfew here in the Pacific Northwest? It sounds like a handy flower to have around!

  15. I can't believe how the year seems to have just flown. I would still love to meet up with you sometime Friko. I'm just hopeless at arranging things. Perhaps we could both say,'Hello' to Hercules at the same time and then go for a coffee?

  16. august is my birth month - which doesn't make me love it anymore than any other - but i am always interested in the stories behind the surface. thanks for these friko. steven

  17. marciamayo - I don't like August much either, summer is getting stale, as is the garden.

    Martin H - the local river any good as a guess?

    Pondside - the East Europeans work harder for less money. they come simply for the work, so don't feel that they need a lot of time off, as an English kid would.

    Cait O'Connor - but you must admit it looks pretty. I admit to pulling out a lot of the plants, it can spread itself around too much.

    Vicki - it's true. I was told about it by a young woman who used to do it.

    Jinksy - breath of fresh air? isn't it cold enough for you yet?

    Deborah - happy to be of assistance, and yes, you may flatter me as often and publicly as you like. as for all this knowledge I have - you just don't know where to look for it!

    daylily - isn't it weird that local kids just can't hack it. actually, they are probably just too well-off.

    maggie - oh dear, you too. join the club! I bet people living in hot places envy us. Still, I'd love a drop of sun.

    Pseudo - thank you for visiting. 'the roast'?

    Tabor - Feverfew never stops blooming here, it goes on and on until the frosts. Are we talking about the same plant?

    ellen abbott - never mind, dog days are officially over here on August 11th, having started on July 3rd.

    Night Monkey - Can't see why not? It's totally hardy. Try it, anyway, you have nothing to lose and it won't be an expensive plant. you can grow it from seed.

    mollygolver - yes, let's.

    steven - you are welcome, steven.

  18. The first summer job i had, was ironing clothes at a factory for about four Euro an hour. August the month when I arrived here in Athens, as well as the month me son was born.
    Surely a month for change. Please have a good start into the new week.

  19. I enjoyed reading your post - it reminds me of the years that my son spent his summer 'holidays' working long hours in corn fields where pollination was hand done to produce experimental varieties! He would come home so burnt and very very tired. It is hard for students to get these summer jobs now as they are competing with so others who need employment.

  20. Love your picture of the wheat field with amazing colors of the sky. I can drive to the ocean, but don't get a lot of those types of shots here.

    And our mountains are so dry for so long, the colors tend to blend in after just a short time.

  21. ein schönes Bild und ein passende grossartige Beschreibung des Monats August. Hier ist es ruhig, die Bauern arbeiten auf den Feldern und andere sind weit in die Ferne gereist um fremde Länder zu besuchen. Irgendwie ist es ein Monat der Stille und des Geniessens...und einen solchen mit vielen glücklichen Momenten wünscht Dir Renée

  22. Superior people need much alone time to BE.

    Aloha from Waikiki :)

    Comfort Spiral

  23. One of my best memories from childhood is the oat bin in the barn, its fragrance, its mountain of slippery oats, the smell of burlap bags. It still exists in my memory, but outside of that I don't know.
    I am going to look up feverfew; I wonder if it might grow where I live. The climate isn't radically different here in the nw US.

  24. So that's what he was doing! Thanks, Friko you've solved a mystery for me.
    The field opposite us is growing wheat this year and on several occassions I've seen the farmer - in his 60's at least - walking up and down pulling up what I thought were stalks of wheat. At first I assumed he was taking samples to test, but he collected several armfuls and then dumped them at the side of the field. Must have been those wild oats!

  25. I'll be hanging on to August as long as I can .
    But the retailing world seems to agree with you what with Back To School banners in the shops from mid-July and , since yesterday , artful little Autumn displays .
    And then it's time to dig in for .... " -- shopping days till Christmas ".
    I'm off to eat my lunch by the river and watch the summer boats go by .


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