Winter barley cut, so of course, here comes the rain

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That was the heatwave that was, I guess, not quite lasting until the end of July.

For the whole of Britain it was the longest hot spell since 2006 and for some areas, although not ours, the longest consecutive spell with daily temperatures at or above 28C since 1976. There was also speculation that it might be the driest British July since 1835 until the weekend thunderstorms and heavy rain.

It was probably predictable that the heavy rain hit our area a few hours after I saw the first combines cutting winter barley. It’s quite possible others had been at work elsewhere earlier last week, but Saturday was my first sighting.

With the wisdom of the roadside pundit I’d say the yield was not too exciting, while farmers I spoke to at the weekend who hoped to start combining this week were not optimistic about likely yield or quality of winter barley crops that had struggled through the coldest spring in half a century before getting a chance to grow and fill.

However, there is more optimism than I expected about spring barley prospects and the possibility that winter wheat crops, with their remarkable powers of recovery and compensatory growth, might produce better results than seemed possible in the dark days of March and April. Now that the first winter barley fields have been cut, some already cleared, ploughed and drilled with oilseed rape, we can say that harvest and the late summer/early autumn rush is under way. Weather permitting, of course.

The bicentenary Border Union Show was as successful as the hard-working show committee hoped it would be. Car parks filled quickly in the morning sunshine, while visitors were still arriving in mid-afternoon. Hot, dry, weather always helps an agricultural show, not least because most rely on temporary grass field car parks that can be a nightmare in wet weather.

Special events such as the History of the Horse, the Story of Wool, trial plots of crops, vintage farm machinery, the story of the Tweed and cookery demonstrations were a draw, although the sheep and cattle judging rings, traditional mainstays of the Border Union, were as popular as ever.

There were also more politicians at the show than I’ve seen before with the “Yes, Scotland!” and No to Independence campaigners making their case. As there is still more than a year to go before the referendum vote, can we expect even more political activity next year?

That’s possible, but I suspect that the main topics of conversation among those who think of the Border Union as a good social gathering more than anything else will remain the livestock judging results, the weather past and present, lamb and cattle prices, harvest prospects and neighbours’ doings and foibles.

But as usual at a farm show these days my abiding impression is the sheer size and sophistication of tractors and machinery compared with 20, or even 10, years ago and the skills needed to operate them.

How much benefit machinery dealers and makers get by supporting their local show is a moot point, but the stands certainly attract lots of attention.