Sunday, 11 September 2011

Corn Harvest 1940's (2)

Corn Harvest 1940's ( No2 )For those on tuther side of the pond read WHEAT harvest)

When father came to Seighford, he grew a lot of wheat,
He built it into corn ricks along the stack yard neat,
Started at bottom getting wider up to eves,
Then narrow off to great tall point, all built out of sheaves.

The main cash crop apart from sugar beet, was wheat this was sown usually after a break crop of grass as in the Norfolk four coarse rotation of Roots Barley Seeds Wheat, before sprays were brought out it was always important to give the ground a rest of perhaps 3 years of grass, to break the cycle of annual weeds, the only troublesome weeds were docks and thistles, which were pulled or spudded in the growing crop.
Wheat is sown in the autumn, then when ripe cut with a binder during August, the shoffs of wheat are then stooked in the field and left for 2 church bells ( ten to fourteen days) before being carted in to the barn. It was our first real driving job in the school holidays to drive the Fordson tractor pulling the binder with father at the controls to adjust the binder according to the crop.


Wheat stooked in the field and left for 2 church bells ( ten to fourteen days) before being carted in to the barn, although if you look close this looks like oats being stooked


In the days before the tractor this was a job for a team of three horses with one man in the seat of the binder machine and the reigns to steer the horses, the horses would be well used to the job, and walked close along side the crop to be cut. Only at the corners they needed guidance when they had to step sideways in unison because of the long pole stretching from the machine up to their collars.

After two weeks in the stook, the shoffs of wheat are loaded onto the wagons and taken to the rickyard, where it was built into the remaining bays of the barn. The first in the bays would be the hay for winter fodder for the cows and horses, then the corn would be built into ricks in the rickyard the shape of a house with the top going up to a ridge.
 This was then thatched with the previous years straw that had been saved for the job, father would go down to the Moor Cover wood to an area that was being coppiced and cut hundreds of thatching pegs, a lot could be saved from the previous year and reused so it was a matter of topping up the number you were short.
The straw was then straightened and taken onto the roof of the stack and pegged down with string between pegs to stop it being blown away, starting round the eaves the next layer overlapping the lower one until he reached the top of the ridge. This would keep the stack dry until the threshing machine came sometime during the winter.


I Remember Father Showed us how to Thatch

When father came to Seighford, he grew a lot of wheat,
He built it into corn ricks along the stack yard neat,
Started at bottom getting wider up to eves,
Then narrow off to great tall point, all built out of sheaves

Then before it rained, he would have to get it thatched,
Gathering the thatch pegs, the thatch to rick attach,
With big long thatching ladder, which the wheelwright made,
He took bundles of straw up top, never he afraid.

He wound ten  pegs as bobbins, with forty feet of twine,
Then started at the gable end, first thatch was pegged in line,
On two feet up the ladder, the straw he overlapped,
The twine was tight from peg to peg, into rick were tapped.

The ladder rolled twice along the roof, two more pegs allow,
And on again until complete, to thatch he showed us how,
The eves were trimmed with shears, and sides of rick also,
To give a weatherproof stack, the result of reap and mow.

Owd Fred

The threshing was done by a contractor who had a complete threshing set, of box baler and binder, pulled in the earlier days by a steam engine then latterly by a single cylinder Marshall Tractor which was more manoeuvrable and a lot smaller than the steamer.
Two men travelled from farm to farm in sequence with the machinery going round the local area about once every two months. Once in the village he called at all the farms that needed corn or straw for the cattle, it took a gang of nine men to operate, that meant one man from every farm would follow it all through the village.
The driver of the steam engine would arrive from Woodseaves on his bicycle ( about six miles) at six am to get steam up ready for an eight thirty start, he would stay with the steamer all day and oiling moving parts and bearing on the equipment it was driving and feeding its fire with coal.
Two men would be pitching the shoffs of corn onto the thrashing box, it was an easy job throwing down from the top of the stack until lunch time, then hard work getting harder till the end of the day when it was pitching from ground level Two more were on top of the box one cutting the strings (or bonds as they were called) and one usually the other operator feeding the crop into the drum, the grain came out of a row of chutes where two more men bagged it off weighed it if it was for sale and stitch the top of every sack, other chutes took off the light grain and one the weed seeds.

At the other end the straw emerged into either a baler if it was for stock bedding or into a binder if it is to be used for next years thatching, this occupied another two men and with the driver that makes nine.
On moving from the village he would often be seen calling at the Hall pool to take on water for the next days work on the next farm.

This is like the threshing set that used to travel around the farms in our area  , the steamer was eventually replaced with a single cylinder Field Marshal tractor





I Remember Ozzy Alcock



Ozzy Alcock drives a threshing set, about the parishes' local,
He's well known by everyone, steam engine blowing whistle vocal,
A cheery smile and a wave, to us kids all standing in a row,
A second stream of smoke arose, from his pipe it did billow.

A wiry man with a broad and bony face, under his oily cap,
Prominent jaw bone always shut tight, not in his nature to yap,
Very keen eye that missed nothing, set deep under his eyebrow,
They were bushy hung over his eyes, dust they did not allow.

His greasy cap well pulled down, over right eye jaunty angle,
Its really is well water proofed, not for him a spangle,
You never saw the top of his head, could be clean and polished,
Whispy grey hair all sticking out, comb he must have banished.

His head was forward of his shoulders, keenly looking out,
His nobly knuckles with grip like iron, nothing let breakout,
Fingers oily and black with coal, never picked his nose,
Thumbs resemble Z with pressure, to top of pipe impose.

Twist he always smoked and chewed, and sqit tabaca juice,
Scraped out the bowel of his old pipe, black and burnt with use.
Cut the twist with his old pen knife, then rub it in his hand,
All mixed up with oil and coal dust, for flavour he demand.

Always cut a knob to chew, made inside mouth and near black,
Rinse it out with brew of tea, and eat his mid morning snack,
He's on the move all day long, walking round the live machines,
Arm between the belts a flapin , to oil an oil cap dust he cleans.

Never had his arm pulled off, looked dam close to me,
He's done it all his life it seems, experience on his side has he,
Couple of shovels full of coal, to loco fire he stokes
Plume of dark smoke blows across, water into the boiler soaks.

At the end of the working day, steam engine quiet and very hot,
A round disc just like a plate, place up on funnel top,
Makes it safe to leave all night, among the chaff and straw,
Easy to get lit next day, tall chimney makes it draw.

Onto his bike he climbs with bag, and home with bearings all well oiled,
His mate he does the same, their clothes with dust and dirt all soiled,
They're not much cleaner the next morning, had a shave and scraped it off,
Start again with loaf to toast, cheese and home made cake all day to scoff.

Owd Fred


Farming looks mighty easy when your plough is a pencil, and you’re a thousand miles from a corn field.
Dwight D Eisenhower (1890-1969)

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