Friday, 19 August 2011

The Longest Swath

The longest swath or the longest furrow is always the one round the outside of the field.

I seem to walk and work about the farm these days in a reflective daze, half looking back, and half looking forward, with every thing starting to overtake my way of working.

(This is the interview I gave and aquired the badge of Featured Farmer of that week  )

I look at the trees and hedges some of which I planted over my life on the farm, and how we used to mow and plough right up to the edge of every field. After all the longest swath or the longest furrow is always the one round the outside of the field. We cut the hedge banks by hand and trimmed the lower branches of young hedge row trees and trimmed the hedges with a brushing hook.

Looking now we don't have the same labour force, but is it so hard to cut that last back swath of hay/silage right up to the ditch or plough that last furrow and plough out the corners properly. They have the excuse now that it's for the wildlife, but back then we had far more wildlife than we have now, or so it seemed.

I see the balance of the countryside gradually changing over the years, and reflect on what it looked like sixty years ago, but then memories can be selective.

When growing up everything around you is the "norm", you take it all for granted that that is how thing have always been, when in reality, your parents and grand parents went through or have gone through modernisation and change over their years. The situation we have today in farming and the world of farming in general is just the "norm" for all those starting up a farming operation now. It's all I suppose what they call progress.

I don't think my father had an overdraft in his life, what he bought he saved up for, worried for days if his cash flow ( the word cash flow is too modern, never heard of it until I went to farm college) was running low.

Friday mornings were the crunch day when mother came home from shopping after calling at the bank for the wages for the men, (about twelve pound a man). It was like a big bank roll stuffed deep in her handbag, and quickly transferred when she got home into father's desk and locked up for the night, wages being paid out on a Saturday mornings.

Money had been very tight for my parents in their early days in farming, and they knew how to run a tight ship, nothing was ever spent if it did not need to be spent.

There had always got to be a guaranteed return, and this habit never left them in all the years of their life, whether it be the first fertilizers ever purchased onto the farm (nitro-chalk, basic slag, Humber fish muck) or whether it be knitting wool for knitting all our socks gloves and jumpers, which eventually became working garments and were darned and repaired many times before they were too holey to repair.
Thrift was the by word then, and we seem to have lost that word from the modern day vocabulary, it's become a throw away society now, nothing is repaired, if it don't work chuck it, and get a new one.

Maybe that's why I still have a couple of old tractors in the shed, still in good working order, but not anywhere near as comfortable as the modern ones, still got an old scythe hanging up and a brushing hook, you never know when you might need them (you silly old Bugger), I probably haven't got the strength now to work them now anyway.

Mother Always Worked So Hard (1945)

Mother always worked so hard, to rear her brood of kids,
As we grew bigger and in our teens, we must have cost her quids,
Four of us lads and our dad, Uncle Jack as well,
Looked after all of us, knitting socks and jumpers she excelled.

Big appetites we had, and thrifty she had to be,
Most things grown about the farm, including all the poultry.
Eggs and chicken, more often old hen, regular we had,
Potatoes beans and cabbage carrots, all grown by our dad,

Rabbit pie most every week, killed a pig and cured,
Only thing she did buy, big lump of beef well matured.
Bottled all the fruit she could, and salted down the beans,
Got the meals and baked the cakes, did washing in between,

Baker came three times a week, six loaves every call,
Corn flakes she also brought, lot of boxes I recall,
Through the war and rationing, never seemed go short,
Well fed, we all worked hard, and not much time cavort.


Nature is the most thrifty thing in the world; she never wastes anything; she undergoes change, but there is no annihilation, the essence remains - matter is eternal.Horace Binney


  1. It's good to keep those old things around...too easy to forget the work that came before us otherwise.

    I remember our last team of work horses, though I wasn't much of a lad when they died. Grandpa liked them and kept them around more or less as pets, though his excuse was he might need them to haul wood or run a sleigh in the winter time.

  2. Jason ,
    Our team of shire horses went when one young man who worked for us left to start farming on his own, he had most of the harness as well, and by that time we had a second tractor a David Brown Cropmaster.
    The only time I had much to do with them was when us kids we had to take them to the blacksmiths shop for shoeing on the way to school, then on the way home at lunch time blacksmith would shove us up on top to go home, as you know horses will find their way home anyway