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Scenes from a village 27 - Harvesting sweetcorn and potatoes (HD)

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Published on Dec 8, 2010

There cannot be two more contrasting crops grown in our village than sweetcorn and potatoes. And while the majestic corn towers above everyone the foliage of the modest potato has all be disappeared.

By September the time for harvesting the potatoes has arrived and while there is little remaining evidence above ground buried below in the good earth a rich crop. The evolution of mechanical equipment for the task has given us this rotating series of batons, and it certainly is an effective means for job. But the actual gathering of the vegetable is still done by hand and they are graded in situ into three categories, for the pigs, for the humans and those that will be returned to the earth next year.

It has been a long and tiring day but in the room under Tona's house the graded potatoes are stored

In the past the task of lifting the potatoes was far more arduous. Here is what the old technology looked like. A plough with five separate shears individually adjusted to the optimum height. It was pulled by a bullock over the field and into the earth to loosen the soil around the vegetable.

Our modest but satisfying planting, once it had been located under a tangle of weeds, produced just enough produce to accompany a few meals. But the same cannot be said for the sweetcorn that withered before it reached any significant stage of maturity. While our corn is best forgotten there are magnificent examples all around us.

By the time the husks of the corn are the colour of a full moon in late Autumn it is time for picking.

Overshadowed by the tall stalks of corn it would be quite easy to loose all sense of orientation, but follow the space between the serried ranks and the edge of the corn field is met. Picking corn, while still physically demanding, is much kinder to the spine then the bending down to gather potatoes. Each plant yields just one cob which is not always immediately apparent but by and large is readily accessible. Wrapped in its papery husk it is barely distinguishable from the plants dried leaves.

Arms, bags and trailers are filled with these golden packages which are then brought home to be unwrapped. The pleasure of this task is given to this machine. Rows of rotating drums strips the husks from the cob to reveal the bright kernels inside. Nothing is wasted. The papery husks, once removed, will be given to the cow for feed.

The cobs themselves are kept for a year in these narrow slatted store houses to allow them to dry, and only then, after a year, are the kernels ready to be removed. Striping the hardened kernels from their cobs must surely have been one of the most demanding jobs for the hands and fingers but thankfully, again, mechanisation in all its glorious variations, as demonstrated here first by Marica and then by Kata, has made the task somewhat painless.

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