While I know of no practical reason to change my clock, I made the obligatory ‘spring forward’ when I retired last night. I slept until 6AM, an hour later than I would normally awake, and was greeted with a light snowfall as I walked Hans and Clarence in the early morning dark. If nothing else, the clock manipulation reminds me that spring is upon us, the snow will melt, and the songbirds will return. The farmers will soon put their precious seed in the soil.
Surrounded by Farmland
I’ve not appreciated farmland as much as I should, but since moving to Wisconsin and living in a small town, I am surrounded by it. I visit the UWRF horse farm nearly every morning with Clarence to give him the opportunity to run like the Gingerbread Man. I ride my bicycle through it as often as I can. Every Friday when school is in session, I visit the “Falcon Food Store” in UWRF’s Ag Sciences Department to buy the cheese and ice cream the students make. There, I frequently chat with Emily, a junior from a 400-acre farm in southern Wisconsin who manages the small shop on Friday mornings. She and many of her classmates will be the food producers of the future. Emily tells me about her studies and how the university prepares its students for the food production challenges we cannot avoid. I think they will serve us well.
The Scots Prepare to Plant and Harvest
I forever reflect on the past. The 19th century Scottish highlanders were as serious about their farming as the farmers in River Falls are about theirs. In his Carmina Gadelica, Alexander Carmichael includes the ‘Consecration of the Seed,’ one of the many blessings the highlanders prayed as they engaged in meaningful labor. Carmichael explains,
THE preparation of the seed-corn is of great importance to the people, who bestow much care on this work. Many ceremonies and proverbs are applied to seedtime and harvest.
The corn is prepared at certain seasons of the year, which are seldom deviated from. The rye is threshed to allow ‘gaoth bhog nan Duldachd,’ the soft wind of November and December, to winnow the seed; the oats to allow ‘gaoth fhuar nam Faoilleach,’ the cold winds of January and February, to winnow the seed; and the bere to allow ‘gaoth gheur nam Mart,’ the sharp winds of March and April, to winnow the seed. All these preparations are made to assist Nature in the coming Spring. Three days before being sown the seed is sprinkled with clear cold water, in the name of Father, and of Son, and of Spirit, the person sprinkling the seed walking sunwise the while.
The ritual is picturesque, and is performed with great care and solemnity and, like many of these ceremonies, is a combination of Paganism and Christianity. The moistening of the seed has the effect of hastening its growth when committed to the ground, which is generally begun on a Friday, that day being auspicious for all operations not necessitating the use of iron.
|AN COISRIGEADH SIOIL||THE CONSECRATION OF THE SEED|
|THEID mi mach a chur an t-sioil,
An ainm an Ti a thug da fas,
Cuirim m’ aghaidh anns a ghaoith,
Is tilgim baslach caon an aird.
Ma thuiteas silc air lic luim,
Cha bhi fuinn aige gu fas;
Mheud ’s a thuiteas anns an uir,
Bheir an druchd dha a bhi lan.Di-aoine la nam buadh,
Thig dealt a nuas a chur failt
Air gach por a bha ’n an suain,
Bho na thainig fuachd gun bhaigh;
Friamhaichidh gach por ’s an uir,
Mar a mhiannaich Righ nan dul,
Thig an fochann leis an druchd,
Gheobh e beatha bho ’n ghaoith chiuin.
Thig mi mu ’n cuairt le m’ cheum,
Athair is Mac is Spiorad Naomh,
La Fheill Micheil, la nam buadh,
Tilgim am beum fada bhuam,
|I WILL go out to sow the seed,
In name of Him who gave it growth;
I will place my front in the wind,
And throw a gracious handful on high.
Should a grain fall on a bare rock,
It shall have no soil in which to grow;
As much as falls into the earth,
The dew will make it to be full.Friday, day auspicious,
The dew will come down to welcome
Every seed that lay in sleep
Since the coming of cold without mercy;
Every seed will take root in the earth,
As the King of the elements desired,
The braird will come forth with the dew,
It will inhale life from the soft wind.
I will come round with my step,
Father, Son, and Spirit Holy,
The Feast day of Michael, day beneficent,
I shall throw the handful far from me,
As we prepare America for new seeds, I shall ‘close my eyes twice’ and pray that no hardship shall be upon us. God bless the men and women who till the land.