Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Harvest Time

Harvest Time


Farming at Bank Top Farm became quite changed during the Second World War, my father had to give part of his grassland over to arable so as he could grow edible crops to help feed the nation. We were ordered to plough and sow six acres with Oats, which was when harvested to be fed to the cows to save buying in imported cow food, because all the merchant shipping had to be utilized for bringing from abroad food for human consumption, which the shortage of food had already resulted in food being rationed to the inhabitants of these Islands. Ploughing the grass land in those days was of course done by a single furrowed plough drawn by a pair of horses, these horses were of a lighter breed than the shires and had less feather (hair) on their legs, which made it easier to keep their legs clean. The amount of land that a pair of horse could plough in a day would be about one acre, depending on the length of the working day, because in our case we had to do the milking before and after the land work

Ploughing wasn’t a hard job! Although it would be possible to walk about fourteen miles in one day, the main job was to get the plough adjusted in the first place and then with a good pair of horses and good weather, what could be better, when all one could hear was the sound of the horses and the sound of the plough going through the ground

Photo by

Courtesy of Nick Perry


After the ploughing which was carried out in the winter months, come the spring the corn would be sown straight on to the ploughed land, the corn falling into the furrow seams.

The sowing was carried out by broadcasting the seed from a hopper which was carried in front of your body supported by straps or harness strung round your shoulders, the hopper would hold I should think about two or three stone of corn, which was rhythmically broadcast by hand first throwing with the left hand then the right hand, making sure that the corn was spread evenly,This operation could be quite hard work and hard on the feet, particularly as you were walking on uneven ground all the time, and also having to keep your eyes on a marker in the distance so that you kept a straight line .

The Photo below is of a Fiddle Drill which was another implement used for sowing seed, usually small seed such as grass or kale seed, it was very pleasant to use, because one could get into a rhythm when sowing and of course the seed didn’t weigh as much as did the corn seed


After all the field had been sown it was time to put the horses into the harrows and work the soil until you had a fine Tilth

This would involve quite heavy work for the horses and every now and then we would give them a rest.

Photo of Harrows


The Harrows wood be dragged a across the field by a pair of horses and perhaps about three times over so as to get a good tilth, After this the field would be rolled with a Cambridge roller This was a type of roller with perhaps about twenty five individual rings on one axle, this was to consolidate the soil so as to flatten out the soil to make it

easier to cut the crop later in the year and also retain the moisture in dry weather to aid the germination of the seed.

After all this work comes a period of waiting for the crop to start growing and in the thirty’s there was very little of to-days sophisticated Fertilizers and weed killers,although their were Lime And Basic Slag which was a by- product of the steal works and contained Calcium Phosphate. the main emphasis in those days was on the use of Farmyard Manure, which of course would have been put on before the land was ploughed. It wasn’t possible to get most of the weeds out but an attempt was made to pull out the wild oats which had no value, most of the weed seed was separated when the corn was threshed

One of my Grandfathers sayings, which of coarse applied

before their was any fertalizer other than cow muck


Go and look at your corn in May

you will come weeping and wailing away

Go and look again in June

you will come away whistling a different Tune


Depending on the weather the corn would be harvested in August this would be done with a Self Binder, which would cut and tie the corn into sheaves leaving the sheaves on the ground which were then put into stooks of eight sheaves or perhaps ten. A great pride was taken in making sure that the stookes looked neat in the field and they had to point North to South so has the sun caught each side of the Stookes. Before this I remember my father mowing a small one acre field with the Scythe, then my sister Marjorie and my self both in our early teens and still at School would follow my father as he cut the standing corn and collect the corn and tie it into Sheaves (Happy Days ? ).

Below is a photo of a Horse drawn reaper


After this came the leading of the corn to the Stack yard where the most experienced worker would build the stack , which when it was finished it would have to turn out the worst of the weather so finally it would be thatched.

During the winter the threshing Machine would draw into the Stack Yard and the final operation would be to separate the corn from the straw, threshing took quite a lot of man power so Men from neighboring farms would come to help, the strongest carrying the corn up the granary steps, these bags of corn could weigh up to sixteen stones (two hundred weight}. Threshing day was also a social gathering where there was quite a lot of gossip taking place and a lot of banter. We mustn’t forget the women of the house who would supply a very large dinner with drinkings (tea not beer!) in the morning and afternoo

Below is a photo of a threshing machine. the photo was taken on an open day, about Fifty years ago at Geoff Mortons Farm, Hasom Holme Farm, Drain Lane, Holme on Spalding Moor


I have taken you through from seed time to harvest, hope that you have enjoyed the journey,bearing in mind that ours was a small farm, and some one from a large arable farm would have a different story to tell.