"reaping machine"
A reaping machine from 1889
Public DomainA reaping machine from 1889

One of the many industrial innovations to revolutionise farming in the 19th century, reaping machines replaced the older technique of scything by hand.

They were generally welcomed for the speed they brought to harvesting, but Hardy here casts the reaping machine in quite a sinister light, reflecting his own unease about the erosion of the old rural ways of life.