For many islanders, writes Kenny Meason, harvest has lost the significance it used to have. A successful harvest nowadays shows a few stubble fields scattered throughout the parish and few round bales of straw alongside as most are stored out of sight safely away from the elements. Not so 50 years ago when real human effort was involved. There were over 40 farms which had large parts of the island under cultivation and the island had a patchwork landscape of ripening crops, unlike today. After bindering, the sheaves produced were stooked in neat rows, six sheaves to a stook, to allow further ripening, before leading began – – the work of literally bringing home the sheaves to be built into stacks in the stack yard secure against the winter storm, ensuring provision for the in-wintered livestock.
As well as being a time of hard work the harvest was also a time when some of the youths on the island might play some pranks – or ‘put on a screw’ as it was known. Jim Hepburn of Kirkton describes one such incident which became the talk of the island:
There have of course been many changes in agriculture on the island over the years as Norland Skea of Northhill who has farmed on the island most of his life told Val More :-
John Eunson was born at Balaclava in 1938 which he says had 87 acres of arable land. Here he talks to Markus and Samantha Muir about farming practices over the years:-