There is no stage in the year-long process of field cultivation that has not its own peculiar beauty; and interest to the eye, even of those ignorant of farming. This struck me forcibly the other day when a townsman exclaimed to me, “Don’t those fields look fine with the dung lying in heaps, and that half peppered black!”
The rime lay on the stubble and sparkled on the little round black-brown humplocks that dotted the surface of the fields. Not the most fastidious could curl his nose at those fragrant heaps. Instead, he thought it must be delightful exercise on a sharp morning to wield a fork and change the brown dots to a peppered surface on the bleached stubble.
On the other side of the fence the alternate stripes of the reddish upturned soil and the green-yellow-grey gave one a lively pleasure, partly no doubt, because from previous knowledge we were beholding the beginning of a new harvest. And here was a field with three teams at work in the plough; the sort of picture which from time immemorial has touched the imagination of mankind, more kindling even than a harvest scene.
We miss the warm colour and slow movements of the cattle, but the sheep are a constant delight to the eye. They have a way of grouping themselves in an enclosed field that is quite distinctive.
I have often tried to analyse this to get its character; but it eludes me. I can only say that they spread themselves over a field in a communal group that differs altogether from that of a score of cattle. What with the quickening dung, the moving plough, the nibbling sheep, and the flocks of fieldfares, rooks and gulls which feed or rest on the pastures, the winter fields are a scene of active life and future promise.