The climax of the farming year is the harvest - hairst in Scots. The
bringing in of the harvest, especially if it was a good one, was a time
of great celebration and ritual. Unlike today, the harvest needed a
large workforce of both men and women in the "good" old days.
As the reapers gathered they drank a toast and the farmer would lay his
bonnet on the ground, lift his stickle, face the sun and cut a small
handful of corn. This was moved sunwise three timesoo around his head
and a chant set up as a blessing on the harvest. Obviously a ceremony
stretching back into more Pagan times. The harvesters worked as a team
and a kiss could be claimed from the girl bandster, who made the bands
to tie the sheaves, if the band broke.
It was working at the hairst which moved our National Bard, Robert
Burns, to pen his first lyric. At the age of fifteen he worked in tandem
with Nelly Kilpatrick at the hairst and wrote "My Handsome
Nell" in tribute to the bonnie lass -
"But Nelly's looks are blythe and sweet,
And what is best of a',
Her reputation is complete,
And fair without a flaw.
She dresses aye sae clean and neat,
Both decent and genteel;
And then there's something in her gait
Gars ony dress look weel."
But not only farmers are busy with the hairst, now is the season to pick
one of Autumn's most delightful hedgerow fruits - brambles. This week's
recipe - Bramble Wine - requires patience, six months to a year, but is
well worth the wait.
Ingredients: 1 gallon brambleberries; 1 gallon water; 2 lb sugar to each
gallon of fruit; a little brandy (optional).
Method: The berries should be gathered on a fine day and must be ripe and dry.
Pick them over carefully and place in an earthware crock. Bruise the
fruit with a wooden spoon and pour the boiling water over it. Cover and
allow to stand for six days, stirring every day. Skim, and strain
through linen or fine muslin. Measure the juice and the proportionate
amount of sugar. Return the juice to the rinsed crock, add the sugar,
and stir until it has dissolved. Cover the crock lightly and leave until
fermentation ceases (a week or longer). Add the brandy if desired.
Pour into bottles, corking them loosely at first; then tighten up and
leave for not less than six months, and preferably for twelve to mature.