Full Dark Harvest

Full dark falls so quickly now that it’s November. In the countryside away from streetlights it is quickly complete. Driving my warm-cabin car I am surprised to see lights where I expected none – on a road I have been walking and driving all of my life. In addition this is a dropped temperature evening and the clear sky is showing a wide array of stars.

Fireworks, my brain answers, before the question was formed. (This is England; it’s that time of year. https://mucktwineandthinker.wordpress.com/2012/11/04/bonfire/)

But my brain is wrong. This is a pair of machines like something from a future-shock science fiction action movie set on another world. Hugs agricultural monsters that intimidate, dwarf and obliterate the crop of maize that has marched in all it’s life stages across these fields since spring. Sweet corn plants rank and file like Roman legionaries arranged in battle order; plants that loomed high over the mixed species hedges.  Maize plants like the cereal equivalent of the Swiss army pen-knife crossed with the high technology multi-purpose weapon staff used by Predators in the film series: sharp, smooth, thin, thick, flexible, strong, and adaptable.

And agricultural work being done after the sun has set by these mechanised robot crustaceans with their intense arcs of light and a remote driver so small and high above the cutter bar, the walker floor and the gears and guts of the machine. The lights are arrayed over the cab, facing forward and down, making visible the limits of the stage-wide mower; and forward to light up the path that must be followed, slavishly through the standing crop. From where I stand, in the dark on what used to be a bridge, the driver in his dimly lit cabin appears to be being turned by the wheel, not the other way around.

It’s like watching H.G. WellsMartian tripods stalking contemptuously across the countryside imposing difference and dominance. Three metre tall corn plants reduced to shredded chaff by the second in enormous amounts then screwed up an auger pipe and flung into a slave trailer, something the size of an upturned garage with mighty prison-steeled sides. The relay of trailers that pirouette and twirl alongside the mother ship harvester move away, with orange flashing beacons sending cars scuttling, cowed onto the uncut grass verges. There is precision in the driving. The dust and chaff thrown pell-mell from the the snout of the pipe is lit by more high-powered lights. This is a vast, industrial scaled harvest waltz. Before my eyes, fields that took two days to combine wheat from are turned into deep-rutted patches of wet earth from which short splinters of cane protrude.


In previous years, when conditions have been far better for growth the maize has been harvested while still green. This crop is dried out, stalks and leaves becoming pale cream and lifeless.

I am not sure what use the harvested debris will be put to (animal bedding perhaps?) but, aware of how small I am alongside these behemoths I creep back into my car and depart.

Perhaps this apparent, wanton destruction is purposeful after all.



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