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I’ve never been involved in anything like this before. I’ve never even seen anything this before. In Cologne, in a big city, the first we saw of what went into the meals we ate and the drinks we drank was on the shelves in the shops. In Tyrol, other than a few berries we never saw things growing the way we do here in rural Armishire. We didn’t see acres and acres hop fields and orchards spreading across the landscape under the blue sky. And we never saw a harvest.

That’s what we’re doing now, Daisy and I, and some of the mistresses from the school, and hundreds of other people. We’re out in the hop fields, harvesting.

The hops don’t care that there’s a war on. They just keep on growing, keep on doing exactly what they’ve always done. In the fields in Styria, they’ll be doing exactly the same, and people there will be doing exactly what Daisy and I and the others are doing here.

It’s the same with the apples and pears, so lovely and shiny green and rosy red, getting ready to be picked just as they’ve done every year. Come war or come peace, it doesn’t matter to apples or pears or hops. They’re only interested in the forces of nature, not in the forces of man. That’s a good job, really, seeing as at the moment the forces of man are wreaking devastation all over the world. Ironically, that’s making us more dependent on nature than ever. We’re so used to assuming that food will just be there, those of us who are lucky enough to have the money to pay for it. It’s only now that we’re having to turn our thoughts to the land and what it gives to us.

And it gives us so much. I’ve never really thought much about it, until now, but now I can see just how much we owe to the land, and just how important this time of year, autumn, is. Really, until now I’ve always thought of autumn as being a rather miserable time of year. The leaves going brown and falling to the ground, leaving the trees stark and bare, the flowers dying, the nights drawing in and the temperatures falling, and all the fun of Christmas and winter sports still weeks and weeks away. But now I understand just how special autumn is, because it’s in autumn that we do the most important job of all. Bringing the harvest home.



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