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ictou County Reminiscences ---Farming

written by Stanley Graham, Scotsburn, Nova Scotia

© COPYRIGHT 1997 by Stanley Graham

Farming Operations

We have endeavored in the preceding chapter to give some of the foods used and the methods of providing and preparing these foods as well as clothing for the family, perhaps more from the household base. Now we will detail more the methods of farming and the implements used. Everything began on a small scale, as we mentioned before. The first crops were hand planted after clearing the land from the forest. First they were planted with the hoe, and cut with the Sickle or scythe, as their clearings grew they were able to use a plow and harrows to prepare the land, these of course were made in the blacksmith shop. After cutting and drying their grain, whether oats, wheat, barley or buckwheat, it was threshed with the flail on the barn floor or other solid platform. The flail was made from two round pieces of wood a bit bigger than a mans cane or staff. The two pieces of wood were fastened together near the top by threading a leather thong through them so as to make a swivel. The grain was spread on the floor, with there men threshing one on each side with the flail, turn about they beat the grain out by swinging the flail over their heads, and coming down, thump, thump in rhythm on the grain, then it was turned and beat some more. The straw was then lifted off with a fork and the grain gathered up, then more grain was laid down and work was continued untie all their grain was threshed.

In my early days, the men often liked to get the buckwheat threshed before the regular threshing was done. It was an early crop - and the sunny fall days were ideal to cut, dry and gather in the buckwheat. I can still remember coming home from school on a nice sunny afternoon, and when still afar off would hear the whack, whack, and thump, thump of the flails, and knew the buckwheat was being threshed.

As time went on the Harvest Reaper came into use, with a cutter bar the grain was cut, rakes on the machine raked the grain off the table into loose sheaves to the ground. Some years later the grain hinder came into use, this was a great improvement as the grain was tied into sheaves. Hay making was also a strenuous season, the hay was cut with a hand scythe and raked with a hand rake and a drag rake, a wide wooden rake pulled by hand, this was also made at home. This was all heavy work. The hay was then forked on to a cart or two wheeled wagon for one horse, then at the barn it was all forked off by hand from the wagon into the barn.

In course of time the horse drawn mowing machine came into use, and the horse drawn rake, still for years it was still all forked by hand, to the now larger team drawn wagon, Later a big hay fork in the barn saved a lot of the heavy work. A long track was built, stretched all along near the peak of the barn inside. The large fork with two large prongs were stuck into the hay, locked and drawn up by a horse, hitched to the rope end, so that the hay was drawn from the wanton, struck a stop block at the carriage over the wagons and carried alone the track and tripped and dropped where needed by pulling the rope and releasing the prongs.

Plowing was a major job in the fall of the years first of course, oxen would be used, until they were able to buy a horse. Plowing was all done with a one furrow walking plow, later the two furrow gang plow was used, this required a good team of horses.

The manure had to be forked by hand to a cart or wanton and spread on the field with a fork by hand.

As time went on machinery was used for threshing, first tread mills were built, and the horse was used for power, ( small sized tread mid were used sometimes to churn the butter, using dog power). Then after some years larger threshing machines were used. Some person would get a machine and go from barn to barn in the fall threshing farmers crops. But this proved expensive and wasn't always convenient to get the machine when needed. So in Rockfield plans were set in motion to buy a threshing machine for the Rockfield farmers.

In 1915 the men met and formed a company, then made inquiries from different sources and people. Finally they decided to do business with a Mr. Pope in Pictou. From they bought a 4 H.P. kerosene engine of the International Harvester Company. This was bought and set up, also a sawing mill outfit was ordered and 56 feet of 5 inch belting from Thompson and Sutherland for the sum of $269.00. It was agreed the shareholders pay 32.00 each. Later 1.00 was paid as dues each year for up keep. The first members were: William Carson, George Carson, Wm. T. Adamson, George Hilslop, A.E. Graham, Andrew Graham, Charles Graham and James Y. Graham, some others joined later.

William Carson reported he had bought a threshing machine from George Grant, Six Mile Brook for $11.00 and repaired it, until now it was in good condition. The Company agreed to share the expenses for this machine. This arrangement was carried on for several years, then the company seemed to be dissolved about 1940.

Albert Graham bought a threshing machine from Alvin Graham later, and this was used for many years. Eventually the grain combine came into use and the grain was cut and threshed in one operation.

Until the combine came along the threshing and sawing wood was a community affair, every man who had shares in the company outfit made the rounds with the threshing outfit from barn to barn until all the grain was threshed, likewise with the wood cutter or saw mill.

Every family had their wood stoves and went to the woods every fall after freeze up, and the fall work was done, they then cut and hauled home a seasons wood of hardwood if available. When all were ready, and the days got a bit warmer and longer, the wood saw started on its rounds until it had their wood sawed ready for splitting into stove sized pieces.

The house wife had to prepare meals for the grain threshing as well as for the sawing crew.

Then there was the in between season work, the farms had to be kept drained, these drains and ditches were all done by hand with pick and shovel, many were built with flag stones and covered over. Many of the fences and dyked were built up with the many stones they cleaned of the stony land on their farms.

The winter season gave them time to repair and make their tools, such as hand hoes, shovels, rakes iron and wooden, plows ,wooden rollers for rolling the ground after seeding, harrows were made at home, also stanchions for the cattle barn, the list could be endless.

This was also a chance to make many pieces of furniture for the house, there might be a request for a table, bench, chairs, stools, wash stands, beds as well as small things such as spoons, pot sticks, churn, kneading troughs for making bread, wash tubs and the scrubbing board and so many things needed around the house.

As the days became longer and warmer the men began to prepare for crop time. The grain seed was cleaned and prepared for seeding, this took several days.

Another important item was taking care of the harness for the teams, the harness must be in good condition for the crop season, hey must be repaired, and hen when a warm sunny day came then preparations were made for greasing and oiling the harness, a table or boards were set up, he harness taken out and well oiled and greased and hung over a fence to dry.

Of course fencing had to be finished up before crop time, posts has to be cut, peeled and sharpened and made ready. Many fences were pole fences, which took a lot of time. With the passing of time wire was used more.

I must note here the important role the women played in these early days. There was more team work in sharing the farm work. The farm wife more or less did the milking of the cows, attending to feeding the calves, looked the milk and by products. Of course most every farm had their hens for eggs and meat, geese or turkeys were commonly kept.

The farm wife helped in the hay field, raking and gathering hay with the hand and drag rake. Many times the baby or young child was taken out and laid on a quilt under a shady tree where the mother could keep a watchful eye on the child as she worked near by. In many ways the women worked and helped until the family grew and became helpful.

Pictou County Reminiscences

Stanley Graham, Scotsburn, Nova Scotia

Compiled by: John Broderick

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