On Boxing Day morning my husband suggested a walk. We could walk around the block I suggested. “Well”, my husband replied, “I wondered if you fancied a field walk and I could inspect the crops at the same time?” I smiled to myself, field walks are something a farmer's wife gets used to. I didn’t mind, after spending Christmas Day inside cooking and eating turkey and all the trimmings a walk and exercise out in the fresh air was a welcome relief to household chores. We left the children curled up on the sofa by the fire, practising social distancing on their mobile phones and ventured out into a rather grey, damp morning.
This autumn has been one of the wettest I’ve ever known. Last autumn was wet but this autumn beats last. It’s been incredibly difficult for farmers to sow next year's crop and get this year's crop of sugar beet and potatoes out of the ground. My husband resorted to spinning seed on with a spreader and cultivating it into the sodden ground. Not exactly precision drilling but on heavy clay soils the only thing we could do to ensure there was a crop to be harvested next year. As we saw, to my husband’s relief, his plan had worked and the fields showed signs of growth. The sugar beet still left in the ground were a concern. Where the harvester had tried to lift the beet out of the ground and miserably failed, getting stuck up to its axles, was a scene that resembled something of the Battle of the Somme. Walking across another heavily rutted field one of my boots sank into the mud as I landed in the bottom of a deep rut. “Keep moving,” my husband yelled back, “and keep on top of the ruts.” Thanks for that! I pulled my boot up out of the sucking mud while doing a very bad impression of a stork and hoping no-one could see. Of course no-one would see, anyone with a hint of common sense would be tucked up at home snug like the children.
Back in the safety of the Land Rover and heading for home it suddenly came to an abrupt halt and my husband wound down his side window and shouted out a 'hello' to a neighbouring farmer. The neighbouring farmer was scooping rubbish out of a ditch with a curved, three-pronged fork. It looked like a scene from long forgotten years gone by. My husband and neighbour reminisced over how the NRA (National Rivers Authority) used to send people out in the ‘good ole days’ to clear the ditches. “That must have been a cold, miserable job,” I commented as we moved off. My husband agreed it was but said it performed a key part in preventing flooding. He added that no-one nowadays has the time, inclination, money or enthusiasm for such menial tasks in life.
I pondered over that last comment. It is the menial, tedious, boring tasks in life that are so vital to people’s well-being. Jesus showed us by his own example of washing the disciple’s feet that no task should be considered too lowly. We might not be asked to wash people’s feet, it could be doing the washing up, or helping to prepare a meal, or put the hoover round or make someone a cup of tea or yes, even clearing a ditch. Whatever the Lord asks of us as we go into another new year, with all the restrictions that the coronavirus pandemic has enforced on us, let us remember, as our Lord did, that it is the ‘menial’ tasks in life that make the biggest difference.