Grandmother Wolf and the Harvest: A Lammas story

corn sheafGrandmother Wolf lived at the edge of the village, in a little cottage surrounded by lots of interesting plants.  The children loved to visit her to listen to her stories, help out in her garden and follow her on her little adventures.

One day, at the end of July, The children walked up the path of Grandmother’s cottage and met her coming the other way.

“Come on!” she said “The men are cutting the corn on the big field, they’ve got a new harvester” and off she hurried up the path and round the corner.  The children scurried in her wake.

When they all got to the big field they did not see what they expected.  There was no chugging beast sucking up the corn and spitting out nice round bales of straw.  No, there were all the men of the village standing around scratching their heads and occasionally kicking the wheel of the harvester.

“I don’t know what’s wrong with it Jed” said Jonny’s Dad “It was fine 10 minutes ago.”

“I’ve checked everything” said a muffled voice from under the bonnet of the great machine.  “I just can’t see why it won’t go any more”

Well, the men carried on like this for a while and the children started playing catch the tiger’s tail with one of Leo Brown’s football socks.  It was all getting a bit noisy, especially when Mr Blowers and Old Mr Graver started arguing about how it was easier and better ‘back in my day’

“Shushhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” said Grandmother Wolf.  Now, when Grandmother Wolf said Shush she used HER VOICE!!!  It was the sort of voice that went into your ears and bypassed your brain and you just did what you were told.  Everybody shushed!

“That’s better”, she said, in her normal voice now.  “Something is unhappy here, something has changed.”  Grandmother Wolf looked around, searching and seeking.  “Children!  What is different here now, what can you see?” and all the children started to look about, remembering what the big field had looked like before.”

“The corn is almost gone” said Billy “apart from that little bit in the middle”

“The bit round the edge is gone” said Vicky “where the mice hid and the Poppies grew.”

“Ah yes!” said Mr Blowers proudly “Our new Harvester can get to the edges of the field much better now, I can get 3% more yield off this field.”

“That’s it!” Grandmother Wolf said and she snapped her fingers “Now quietly please I have to listen very carefully.”  And Grandmother Wolf walked round the little patch of corn in the middle of the field.  And she walked to the edge of the field and she laid her hands on the bare earth, and nodded.

“Last year, what happened to the corn at the edge of the field?” Grandmother Wolf asked Mr Blowers.

“Well it just stayed there and rotted into the ground” said Mr Blowers, a bit confused now.

“I made a corn Dolly with some of it” said Vicky proudly

“Exactly” said Grandmother Wolf “You left some of the corn to go back into the field.  The Spirit of the Corn stayed in the field and helped the corn to grow again the next year, and if you take all the corn away the land will get sad and tired, it’s protecting itself, by stopping your Harvester.  I think you should leave that little bit there in the middle, for the land.”

Mr Blowers looked and Grandmother Wolf, and he looked at the children.  Vicky had already started to pick a few stalks of corn and started twisting them into a corn dolly.  Grandmother Wolf gave him a LOOK, Mr Blowers sighed and said “OK, go and get a tractor Jake and we’ll tow the Harvester off.”

Guess what happened, Yes, the Harvester started all by itself, and Jake drove it quickly off the field and on to the next farm to harvest their corn.

Grandmother Wolf stepped up to Vicky, who was making a very beautiful corn dolly.  “Now, what are you going to do with that Vicky?”

“I’m going to set it above my bed for the winter and then I’ll put it in the compost heap like always in the spring.”

“I would like you to come back here with this, Vicky, and bury it up in the big field.  The Spirit of the corn has had a bit of a shock from that big old Harvester today and will need all your love and magic to bring a good crop next year.  Can you promise me that Vicky?”

And Vicky said “Yes, I promise” with a very solemn face on, because a promise made to Grandmother Wolf, was a very serious thing indeed.

So Vicky took home her corn dolly, and hung it above her bed near the window, so it could see the travelling year.  And in the spring when the daffodils danced and the lambs leapt, she buried the dolly back up in the big field.

But that is another story, to be told another time.