Friday, 5 July 2013

Ash Trees have Shallow Roots

How we found out that Ash Trees have Shallow Roots

In all my seventy three years, it was only during my first nine years that I had anything to do with our farms three shire horse. The most regular job was to lead them to the blacksmith's shop with my brothers on the way to school. They would stay there from nine in the morning until lunch time at twelve o'clock when we were pitched up on top of them and they would take us home for our mid day meal.
In 1942 father bought a Standard Fordson tractor along with a two furrow plough and a tractor cultivator and a set of disc harrows, this took a lot of hard work off the horses, as by now they were getting older. He still had the old ploughs and single row cultivators, the corn (wheat and oats) drill, though by now he had converted the pole of the drill by shortening it and put a clevis hitch on the end so it would be pulled by the Fordson tractor. The binder also had a pole that was rigged up to take three Shire horses abreast, again this was shortened and had a tractor hitch fitted, that was another long and mauling job that was taken off the ageing shires.
By the time I was fourteen we had two tractors, this second one was a David Brown Cropmaster with hydraulic linkage and a hydraulic linkage plough to match. A problem started to crop up where by the headland of each ploughed field was not being ploughed close enough to the hedge row like father always did when he plough with horses.
He always claimed that there was more soil in the last furrow round the outside of the field than any other furrow in the field, and it was always said in jest years ago, that when any farmer was expecting an addition to the family "you will have to plough another furrow closer to the hedge".
Well this was not the case on this occasion, father asked me and my elder brother to take the Cropmaster tractor and a single furrow horse plough and plough an extra furrow closer to the hedge all round the ploughed fields. Myself being the younger and smaller one drove the tractor, and brother who was bigger and stronger controlled the plough, there was a length of chain connecting the two and hitched to one side of the tractor.
Father had set us up and we were progressing well, he had left us to get on with the job at hand, we had a bit of shuffling at the corners and in places we managed to go round a second time, until, we came to an Ash tree.  Ash trees are well known, (but not to us) for having strong shallow roots that spread and grow close to the surface, and do so when the field had been in grass for three years in the rotation, then suddenly there is a problem.
With the horses, they would feel the root and promptly stop, with no damage to the plough or them, but with the tractor, that had no feelings, and a lot more power, it grunted on and snatched the plough, which was well hooked under the root, and it flipped the plough handles skywards along with my brother. Brother was okay, if a little bruised, but the plough was destroyed and lay under that tree for years, an ever lasting reminder that Ash Trees always have shallow roots.

This is my father in 1940 mowing grass with his shire horses Flower and Dolly, he lost two fingers as a lad clearing the blade of a mower the same as this. The horses are in Chain harness. For shaft harness they had a heavy saddle pad and a breaching round their rumps

I Remember Fathers Fingers
A tale he told us while working for his uncle Dan, he must have been around thirteen years old

Father lost two fingers, while mowing hay one day,
He was helping uncle Dan on the meadows, not at all at play,
Only thirteen started working, horses in the shaft,
The mower blocked with grass, clearing it by hand (how daft)

He lifted blade and went round back, while it was still in gear,
One horse did stamp his foot at flies, and gave the blade two shithers,
This was just enough no doubt, cut two fingers in one go,
He never said how he stopped, the blood, there must have been a flow,

The little finger it was off, above the lower joint,
The next was off above second, clean cut to a point,
Hospital took one off at knuckle, and stitch the flap of skin,
Tuther  left half a stub, of finger what a sin.

No safety men to bother them, it was get him back to work,
They healed so slow, it was a blow, but not a time to shirk,
A motor bike he bought one day, to get about much quicker,
It had a belt to drive, hand clutch, and blow up tyre,

Mother he did find one day, while he was out on bike,
He gave a lift and she did find, how cold the bike could be,
Knit pair of gloves did she, to fit his fingers short,
Then regularly did see her out ,and then began to court.

Round the table Sunday breakfast, father told us tales,
Of how he helped his uncle Dan, less fingers and no bales,
We had to always asked him, to tell us that again,
Of how he lost his fingers, and all about the pain.

Countryman (Owd Fred)