Today many people are on different agendas and looking at circles from their own perspectives. This has precluded them from information that is staring at them from the floor pattern - i.e. lodging, damage etc. What I want to show is only part of the way we look at crop circles.
You need to clear your mind before starting to examine a formation, otherwise you will already have decided what it is without any information. Remember, those who know the least get very agitated and start to defend their cause without listening to or enquiring about what others are finding. Just when you think you know - you don't! So, with this in mind, let us look quietly at how to approach and look at crop circles.
Linseed - when in flower, is a light blue and usually today there are short-stem varieties.
Oilseed rape - has a yellow flower and can be from half a meter to two meters high, depending on the variety. This causes problems for many people because they haven't seen what we call "laid by the phenomenon". The stems, which can be as thick as your thumb, should be bent at 90° near the centre of the circle - not broken, snapped off, scratched etc., but still in the round. The stalks shouldn't show damage at all, except where people may have trodden on them. The stalks at the outer perimeter of a circle aren't bent at such an acute angle, but are still laid low. A broken stem can still keep on growing even if only one eighth of it is still left undamaged. It can also be broken below the surface of the ground. Have you noticed that sometimes approximately half of the plants have straight roots and half have them bent at 90°? This bending of the root can be caused by stones or hard objects in the ground. Don't take anything for granted. Things are not always what they seem.
Cereals (barley, wheat, oats etc.) - when laid by the phenomenon, you will notice that the straw is laid from the roots and not knuckled about a quarter of an inch above ground level (which happens when it is force-bent by mechanical means). Some straws are stiffer than others. Barley is the softest, generally. When we have a rook- or crow-laid circle, it will only be in green barley, not other crops, as the rooks like barley in the soft-to-firm stage (i.e. green). The barley won't be laid low unless it is already wind-damaged, which is what has enticed the birds down in the first place. What you will see otherwise is the crop bent at about two-thirds height, seemingly plaited, with little or no grain left on the straws. (And look underneath and on top for bird droppings.) The reason for the plaiting being so far from the ground is that when the bird flies in it lands with its wings spread out so that it doesn't fall to the ground and can work nearer the head of the crop. It then pecks one stalk at a time, from left to right, leaving a plaited canopy about two-thirds up the crop.
First of all, get permission from the farmer to enter a pattern. When permission is granted, your mind will be free to concentrate on the information in front of you, and not be distracted from the work you are there for by the worry of being told off.
Make sure you approach the circle on the best "tramline" (tractor wheel tracks) to enter the circle. Identify the crop you are in - i.e. wheat, barley, oats, rape, linseed etc. This will help you understand the pattern better when you see it.
When you arrive at the crop circle, spend some time looking at the parts you can see from where you are in the tramline. Note the lay of the floor pattern. Are there any entry-marks in the crop? (This is more important when first at the circle; if it is later, look for damage, added pieces etc.) Then enter, and start a methodical scan, beginning from the centre of the pattern. Observe the centre closely, as this may reveal more than you think. In the south of England you are mainly on chalk soil. This has a greenish tinge where it has been exposed to the weather. The centre may show crushing of the chalk and smudging of this green tinge. Also, you may find a bluish "bloom" (fine coating) on the stalks. This is also easily smudged or scraped away. If there is disturbance to the green tinge on the chalk and/or bloom on the stalks, this indicates mechanical damage - i.e. some instrument has been used in the circle's manufacture.
I have had the privilege of being in circles before they were damaged, which does give a different view - but since 1990 many people who are interested only in being "first in" and showing people round and little else tend to spoil the floor pattern's information.
Before 1990 we had observed changes in some of the patterns - i.e. some two weeks after the circle had appeared - which were quite stark. In 1988 at Corhampton were three circles which were swirled clockwise when the pattern arrived. About two weeks later there were 7 rings and 48 radial lines visible in each circle. This sort of thing still happens today in some circles that have been left alone, but popular ones are defaced before changes are easily found. I do go to circles after they have been harvested, when many more details can be found. (The term "circle" is used here to cover any configuration in crops.)
We will now address some of the things to look for in a crop circle at the beginning of the season, when the crop is green. The impression is quite different, in that the cereals will be able to recover to nearly their original height, providing they are not damaged by too many people "researching" the area. At this stage there is no need to enter and cause more destruction if your observations show mechanical damage, i.e. breakage or scraping off of the bloom on the straw, visible at regular intervals on the laid crop.
Please note: you will need to look down at the crop for a little while for your eyes to adjust to the softer light, when many of the things you would not see by just looking down quickly from the brighter light of day will become apparent.
Look for soil on top of the plants from people's shoes, because if the night of manufacture has been wet, anyone trying to make a circle will leave soil over the laid part, so look carefully if it is still raining hard, as the soil deposits will show lower down in the straw. If the floor pattern is laid by other means none of these things will be present.
If you think you can dowse the formation be careful, because you may be fooling yourself. If you have not dowsed crop circles with someone else for at least three years, do not rely on dowsing as evidence. I am trying to show you that caution is the better part of valour.
Oilseed rape and other thick-stemmed plants will not show any damage (i.e. broken, split or squashed stems) if they are part of what we recognise as a real crop circle: they will be bent at about 90° three inches from the ground in the centre of the circle, and will be bent less and less as the swirl reaches the outside edge - giving the effect of an upside down umbrella.
Later in the season there is more to be seen as the straw is now a golden or light brown colour.
After finding your way to the circle by the nearest tramlines (made by tractors), stop outside the circle, standing there to observe, after identifying the crop - as it may be different from where you entered the field. Look for signs of entry and exit, i.e. heads being bent towards or away from the edge in less extreme cases. Look at the swirled floor pattern. Is part of it going in the opposite direction? Quite often this has been seen, although there seems to be no join where it has changed direction. Is there a pattern under the top layer; are there standing stalks and do these only appear on the upward swirl when on a slope or are they seen throughout the floor pattern? These things should evoke questions before you enter the circle. They will help you when you have entered the formation.
Measuring is very important. Make sure your measurements are accurate and show where they are taken from. Now look to see if the straws have been flattened and where this can be ascertained, by first looking for splits between the nodes (little solid pieces about every four to six inches along the stem), then with the straw between the thumb and forefinger press lightly to feel if the straw has collapsed. This will show if there is any mechanical damage.
The way straw is laid can be very different: some is flattened from the ground as if pulled flat, without any bends in the straw, some is bent about two inches above the ground, and some bent at about two-thirds the height of the crop (the last being done by birds).
Look for damage done by sheep, deer, foxes, badgers, hares, rabbits, cattle or game birds, as this is quite often made into mysteries by people overlooking the effects these animals can have on crops.
Feet marks will give you a clue, especially when seen in grapeshot, which may only be where someone spent the night or rested during the day. for the floor patterns have to be precise if they are part of a group or a single circle.
Nearly all real circles are not round but elliptical. If they are too perfect they must be suspect. All good circles show imperfections. I have not yet seen a perfect one which has all the right ingredients.
Sometimes the floor pattern in a circle has the swirl going in one direction and then going under another swirl, or partly showing one going in the opposite direction. Look at clusters of a single plant being several straws in a group from one seed: you will always notice that the outside straws from the cluster are curved from the roots so that they can all stand together and grow straight from about two inches above the ground. This bend is often mistaken for a curve made at the base when it went down as a circle.
When you are comparing anything from one circle to another please check to see if the same symptoms are showing where wind has laid down the crop, as this will show that they are nothing to do with the laying down of the circle, but are from natural causes.
This often occurs when people think they have found circles or rings in a field of grass laid up for silage or hay. First of all, look over the field and see whether it has a poor crop growing there and whether there are any parts of the field growing with the grass dying off in a yellowish brown colour, the same as the ring or circle. Run your finger up and down an affected blade of grass and see if the colour comes off on your finger. If it does, then you have something that will not affect the weeds - only the grass. The ring will be caused by fungi growing just below the surface of the ground and taking away the nutrients from the grass, making it susceptible to strikes of infections such as rust etc.
The ring will show later in the year as a common "fairy ring". If you lift a piece of turf infected in the ring you will notice fine white strands intermeshed in the soil below. It pays not to accept stories from other people - instead, investigate yourself to prove their worth.
My work is continuing on the nodes with pin-holes in them. It is, at the moment, coming down on the side of natural causes - like the sun. I have left out some things to look for, and not answered some questions, in the hope that you will try to explore and find some things for yourself. If you wish to write to me with questions, I will answer through The Cereologist so that more information to help the discerning researcher to look more positively at the circles phenomenon is made available.
After the crop circles have finished and the crops are gathered in, is one of the most exciting times to look at the areas that were crop circles. This is a time when farmers are more approachable and are more likely to assist you with your research and give you more information on the crops themselves. During the season so many people think that one visit will give them everything worth knowing (and most times don't even have permission to enter the field). How wrong they are!
The autumn is quiet and the leaves are already falling off the trees, revealing so much more than you can see in the summer. Now is the time to get the farmer's telephone number and make an appointment with him or her, so that you can look at the remains of the circle or regrowth after the field has been cultivated or sown with a winter crop.
Assuming that you are there before the laid pattern has been disturbed, you will be able to dowse to find the pattern and parts of the pattern that didn't show up as the laid crop. If there isn't a pattern, the formation is more than likely to have been made by someone, or a group, for whatever reason. If the area has been sown, make sure you have some wellington boots and waterproof trousers, as the slightest rain or heavy mist will make the ground heavy and cover you with mud.
Where there is regrowth of the last crop there should be showing a reasonable facsimile of the crop circle, usually slightly higher or of a colour different to the rest of the new crop. If the circle was in a spring crop it will be taken away by the first frost, but if it was an autumn variety the farmer may have sprayed off all the remains before cultivation. Assuming there is a facsimile of the circle showing, now is the time to collect more information on how the circle was constructed and what else can be seen in the immediate surrounding area.
There are many types of dowsing that can give you information at this time but beware - there are many traps to fall into, one of the main ones being the dowsing of footprints. Quite often I have been called out, only to find that the dowser didn't know the difference between dowsing for the main pattern or what may be assumed to be the main pattern when, in fact, it could be footprints, star shapes, animal footprints etc. If you are dowsing for the main pattern you must ask for the single lines, which will cross in the centre of a circle and be associated with the other lines that are within the configuration. Having noted these, the second instruction must be the rings that are associated with it. If you are giving any other instructions you are not dowsing the pattern of a circle.
When the field is clear of a crop and the pattern is still showing, you'll be able to dowse for rings and lines outside the flattened area. When looking for the dowsable print, check that it fits the flattened area and if it doesn't, you haven't found the print of the circle, and this means that it may not have one. Be careful at this stage because excitement will induce you to make mistakes and then your mind can give you the information you want instead of the information that is there. Always clear your mind regularly and lower your hands by your sides and shake them. This gets rid of any excess energy you have accumulated.
Without the growing crop, you have the time and space to conduct a proper survey. A rectangular hole (cut by fork and spade) or a round one (made with a post hole auger) will give you access to the various layers of soil, enabling you to take proper samples at different depths. What seemed to be a chalk field, for instance, may have areas of clay that were not apparent when the crop was there. There might also be areas where large holes were filled with other types of soil from different parts of the farm, giving different strengths to the soil and different porosity levels etc.
These factors will have a significant bearing on your readings and final results. Record the lay of the land (flat, sloping, on top of a hill, near wooded area etc.) and its relation to the sun during the day; is it exposed or sheltered from the weather? These things and many more will help assess the draining properties of the field, vital for having good information for those doing the tests on the samples.
This can give you an idea of the other uses and habitation of the past. Stones are another source of information. The tops of hills may have more stones visible where they have been more exposed to the weather. Look for fossils, seashells, pebbles etc.
As you can see from the few illustrations here, late summer and autumn can be an exciting and informative time after the Crop Circle season has finished. I look forward to hearing from anyone who wishes to share information they have collected during their time of hunting the circles.
If there are areas of the Crop Circles that you feel are neglected, please ask, through The Cereologist, as we do want to give you both past and up-to-the-minute information of a discerning nature.
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