February 2009 - Posts
Most tractors ran on petrol (gas), or started on petrol and run on TVO vaporizing oil (kerosene)
War time restrictions
During the second world war , everyone suffered in some way or other, what with the food rationing , restrictions on fuel and most of the young men away at war.
Mechanization was just becoming popular in farming through necessity , in that a great push was on for the country to become self sufficient in food production.
Every farm had to compulsorily plough up some pasture to grow potatoes and wheat , in all the regions around the country the government( locally called the War-Ag) had a stock of arable machinery for those farms that had never grown arable crops before. It included tractors, usually the Standard Fordson , ploughs cultivators drills an harvesting equipment.
Fuel for road use was severely rationed , and most tractors ran on petrol, or started on petrol and run on TVO vaporizing oil the kind that we now call heating oil for central heating the house. The petrol used on the farm was died red to prevent people from using it duty free on the roads, although it has been known for farm cars to run on a mixture that included a good proportion of TVO, you could always tell by the thin plume of light blue smoke emitted from the car exhaust.
Steel was another short commodity, metal and cast iron railings around buildings, and along the front of houses were commandeered, On older houses even now there is often a low sandstone wall with the stumps of iron where the railing have been cut down.
Coal was another product in big demand, every house had fire places down stairs and up, and with electricity produced by coal fired power stations. Factories often had one big steam engine to run all the machinery, in steel works smelting was a big consumer that was essential. All the railway locomotives were steam up the main lines, transport also essential.
Allotments were provided for those with not much garden to help grow food for their own table, In a lot of back gardens there was a pig sty, particularly in the rural areas.
Pigs A piglet was purchased, and any household scraps, and edible garden waste, were fed to the pig who was eventually slaughtered. The carcass was quartered and salted, and hung up from a beam in the pantry. The bacon was sliced from the flitch by hand, and usually had as much fat as lean, when fried the pan was awash with fat , this was used to fry stale bread.
Always on the inside of the ribs of the pig was great quantities of leaf fat, this was rendered down to produce lard for cooking, the crackling that was left after the fat was drained off was very popular with the kids.
Pork pies were produced, to use up meat that was lower down the legs and the jelly formed from boiling the pigs trotters was poured into the pie through a small hole in the top, this excluded any air gaps after the pie was cooked.
The pigs head was boiled to produce brawn, when all the meat on the head was cooked and the bones lifted out, the water in the pot was further evaporated and reduced. The contents were then ladled into large basins and the top sealed, and a heavy weight place on top to compress it until cold. This would keep for a while and then turned out onto a plate it was sliced brawn.
Milk was produced before the war using imported proteins such as linseed flakes , groundnut flakes and soya. These were the by-product of the vegetable oil crushers based in Liverpool, they also produced Astra soap at the Bibby's mill who also produced Dairy "cake" from the expeller flakes from crushing groundnut. Maize was imported in large quantities for animal and human consumption.
However when the U boats were sinking our ships in the Atlantic these products got into short supply, so it was essential to grow beans and peas. Occasionaly they were grown as crops in there own right, but more often for cattle feed they were sown as "dredge corn" . ,Oats wheat peas and beans all sown together , harvested when they all ripened , bindered ,stacked then threshed to produce an almost balanced ration for dairy cattle after it had been put through a roller mill.
Milking machines started to appear on farms due to the shortage of labor during the war, the milk was sent in churns to the towns and cities by train or by road transport. Some milk was made into butter and cheese on the farms and the whey fed to the pigs. Nothing was wasted.
Eggs , Hens were found on every farm and in a lot of back gardens, most of them ran foraging about the yards and troughs around the buildings. It was important to watch where a clucking hen emerged from, and quite likely more than one would be laying eggs in that nest. So late in the afternoon you would go around with a bucket to collect the eggs from all the known nests. Nearly all the eggs were collected up once a week by the local Egg packing station, each wooden crate held twenty dozen eggs packed two and half dozen to the tray. Some people preserved eggs in a preserving jell, and some eggs boiled hard then pickled in vinegar.
Production of eggs tended to be seasonal; when the days and day light got short during winter they stopped laying. This was overcome to a certain extent it was found, by putting a light on in the hen house, so they would stay awake longer and eat more food from the feed hoppers and water fountains provided.
This was in the 1950's Before the days of combines. We had to collect the eggs from the field ark pens, into buckets. We hung the buckets on the handle bars of our bikes and rode down the main road from Bridgeford, about a quarter of a mile nearly all down hill. We got up to a fine turn of speed until one day I crashed with about twelve dozen eggs, these all broke across the road in front of Seighford Hall.
Had to explain what happened, but nobody cared about my skinned knees and elbows.
Mothers Laying Hens
1950's Before the days of combines.
Mother always kept, a lot of laying hens,
Some in deep litter, some in field ark pens
Autumn they were put, onto far wheat stubble,
With pens on wheels, round the field did travel.
Each pen held fifty hens, they had slatted floors,
Nest boxes on each side, also flap down by the door,
Every two days they were moved, for the hens to range,
Glean wheat that fell at harvest, and to make a change.
Hens let out early morning, and closed again at night,
There was plenty foxes, to help themselves all right,
Eggs were collected every evening, by the bucket full,
Plenty hay in which they lay, took it by the sackful.
On wet days with dirty feet, walked into the nest,
Left foot prints on the other eggs, Oh what blooming pest,
With damp cloth we cleaned dirt off, worst ones we used Vim,
Took the bloom off them eggs, view of packers would be dim.
On dry days eggs were clean, onto sections packed,
Careful not to pack double yoked, or any that are cracked,
They were kept back for our breakfast, anything she tried,
Always nothing wasted, boiled or scrambled also fried.
Every Thursday lorry came, put out boxes in a dash,
Gave mother last weeks grading chit, and her hard earned cash,
Sometimes she was very pleased, others disappointed,
Deductions made for small eggs, and some that they had jilted.
So it was that these hens, came back in for winter,
In deep litter with light on, continued to lay to Easter,
Any falter or not look like lay, they got their poor old neck rung,
Into boiling pot they went, to feed her four hungry off-springs. (us lads)
Cheese - milk's leap towards immortality.
Clifton Fadiman (1904-1999)
He pushed and pulled the bow, with each stride he took,
For the seed must spread thinly, according to the book.
The old Seed Fiddle
I still have a seed fiddle the same as father used when I was a kid. I used it to sow seed mixture in the corners of the fields for the stewardship schemes. I keep it in the office on top of a cabinet where it won't get damaged or run over by a tractor.
Father always had one for broadcasting grass seeds, but according to its instruction card pinned to it you can sow anything that will go through the aperture (that rules out potatoes). It also tells you how to calibrate and set the regulating lever.
If you have an Aero seed fiddle the chances are that the instructions are un readable or even worn away or just got torn off. However here is a copy of the exact instructions that should be followed
THE "AERO" BROARDCASTER AND SEED SOWER
Place the stick of bow in position, by putting it through the coiled spring immediately in rear of distributor bobbin; fix end on stick; give thong one turn round bobbin the pass it through hole in handle of bow and secure tightly.
To alter machine to sow different quantities per acre, loosen the winged nut on bottom of box, set lever to number required, then tighten winged nut.
No2 sows 6 pints of Clover Seed per statute acre and 16 feet at cast. Or 2 bushels of Rye Grass to a statute acre and 16 feet at cast.
No3 sows 3 gallons of Flax or Trefoil to a statute acre and 12 feet at a cast.
No4 sows peeks of flax to a statute acre at a cast.
No5 sows 1½ bushels of Wheat to a statute acre and 24 feet at a cast.
No6 sows 2 ½ bushels Oats to a statute acre and 16 feet at a cast.
No7 sows 3 ½ bushels Oats to a statute acre and 16 feet at a cast.
Or 3 bushels of Barley and 20 feet to a cast.
No8 sows 4 bushels Oats to a statute acre and 16 feet at a cast.
No9 sows 5 bushels Oats to a statute acre and 16 feet at a cast.
No10 sows 6 bushels Oats to a statute acre and 16 feet at a cast.
A shorter stick can be used for sowing headlands or narrow ridges
Keep your seed clean Keep your belt tight
Oil the journals and grease the stick well. Keep a regular and firm motion.
Never be entirely governed by the numbers as difference in the walk of the operator and the difference in quality of seed makes a gradual difference in the amount distributed therefore always measure in your hopper the amount of seed wanted of a cast or acre, and you will soon know how to set the machine to your walk, and never fail to get just the amount you want to the acre. This machine will also sow fertilizer.
(If you want a new laminated card to pin back on your Aero Fiddle, I could post you one at cost,drop me an email.)
I like the bit where you can sow fertilizer with it, and as for broadcasting 5 bushels of oats to the acre, the bag on top of the machine must only hold about half of a bushel.
Father often liked to broadcast by hand, for this he had a kidney shaped deep pan that had two loops and a vertical peg type handle.
This will give you an idea of what a seed pan looks like.It would hold about half hundred weight of grain seed in old money thats 56lbs, or 25Kilos
It had a strap that went over his shoulder onto the loops to carry it in front of him, this allowed him to use both hands swinging one hand then the other as a marching soldier, picking up seed at the front and slinging in a wide ark to distribute the seed with each stride.
Fine seed like kale, it was a finger and thumb job, and with grain, in wet patches where it was too wet to get with the drill, it was hand full's at a time job.
I Remember the Seed Fiddle.
This happened in spring 1944 when I was 6 years old
Father he sowed the grass seed, with an old seed fiddle,
The field across the road, from house was all in stubble,
He filled up his fiddle, with grass seed and clover.
Seed bag as this end marker, his blue jacket at other,
Four yards move the marker, at each end of the bout,
March strait like a soldier, strides even and stout,
He pushed and pulled the bow, with each stride he took,
For the seed must spread thinly, according to the book.
Working all through the morning, half the field is sown
He was heading for the sack, on which he could sit down,
As a little lad to see my dad, went across the field,
Picked up his jacket on the way, look at me I squealed.
On seeing what I'd done, he wasn't very pleased,
He lost his far end marker, and with grass fine seed,
There was no way of telling, where he'd sown up to,
At very early age I learned, what the markers do.
It is like the seed put in the soil - the more one sows, the greater the harvest.
Orison Swett Marden (1850-1924)
Flitch of Bacon Pair of hams
We watched all this when we were kids, fingers in our ears,
Then bang the butcher shot him, and cut its throat mid tears,
Every house and cottage in the village had a pig sty, and the farms had three or four sty's where they would keep an old sow and breed there own pigs needed for fattening. There would be only one boar in the area and most of the sows would be taken to visit him at the appropriate time.
The cottagers would buy a weaner and feed it mostly on scraps from the house and garden, nothing was ever wasted, if it was edible (for the pig) it was fed to it. Bare in mind that most had big families and a large cultivated garden, and all vegetables and fruit were grown and some would be preserved for winter use. Potatoes and carrots hogged, onions dried and strung up fruit bottled and apples trayed and stored and of coarse there was always a hen run for eggs and some for killing for the table.
Back to the pig, as it got fat, and I mean fat, not like the lean "baconer" types of today, you would start think about its slaughter, and where the village pig bench was, and clear a clean place for it to be killed. Also you would need to think about where to hang it up for it to "set" for five or six days.
On the pig killing day at home, the boiler would be filled and boiling ready, pig bench scrubbed off, the butcher would set out his equipment, including his pistol, and a noose that would be put over the pigs snout and behind the pigs fang top teeth. Butcher did the leading and two more pushing from behind to encourage the pig out of the sty where it had resided almost all its life.
Along side the pig bench the pigs legs were lifted from under it and rolled onto the bench then without any hesitation the butcher put the pistol to its head and shot it. It was a struggle to keep it on the bench as its legs whipped and flailed, while the knife went into its throat. A bucket was on hand to catch the blood for the black pudding, and thing quietened down as the kicking stopped. All the while this was going on us kids would be peeping round the corner as the squealing and noise and the gun going we had our fingers in our ears, also the gushing of blood frightened us. Then one at a time we went in closer to see the steaming pig being scraped after hot water was poured over it. Then saw the butcher dip the pigs feet in the scalding water as if to clean them only to realise in the back of his scraper was a big hook which he hooked into the pigs trotter and ripped the hoof off each of its toes.
Next they cut a slot in the pigs hocks and inserted a "tree" , its like a heavy wooden coat hanger that they will lift the pig up to the beam above.
As if he was drawing a line down the middle of the pigs belly, the butcher stroked his sharp knife gently down to reveal the pigs guts. As these gradually oozed out into a wheel barrow that was put in place for them to slide into,
Useful things like the kidneys heart and liver were saved and hung up on a butchers hook. Inside there was what they called a vale, which was also saved, this was to wrap faggots and had a certain amount of fat in the webbing. Off with the trotters and the head, and then it was left to "set".
The cutting up came some days later the main quarters left whole to be salted down, some fresh pork was saved for immediate use, and some pork went to some friends who also killed a pig some months before.
The head was boiled and the meat and brains was compacted into big basins to make brawn and the jelly stock from the boiled trotters poured over to top the basins up level. When covered these would keep for a reasonable while, and tipped out then sliced and used as you would corned beef.
During the war time rationing you were supposed to get permission to kill a pig but I suspect a good many got them killed and distributed without anyone knowing.
"Remember Killing the Pig" verse was printed last September punch the tag "Pig", in the side column it shows the pig bench as well.
The Cottage Pig Sty
Cottages had a pig sty, as most houses did,
Fatten up a piglet on scraps from house is fed,
Kept it eight or ten months, till it's good and fat,
Shame to see it come to its end, often had a chat.
Always had a name, knew when its time for food,
For this its always ready, door it often chewed,
Killed for pork and bacon, hams in salt well cured,
Hanging in the pantry, muslin covered till matured.
There is no power on earth that can neutralise the influence of a high, simple, and useful life.
Booker T. Washington (1856-1915)
Soon after this picture was taken he bought his first tractor. At an unfortunate moment one horse did little more than stamp his foot, the blade did a quick couple of zithers and father lost two of his fingers.
These are tales father used to tell us round the breakfast table on a Sunday mornings when all the farm weekend chores had been completed, (untill evening milking)
Father had been brought up by his uncle in the 1920`s, a single man who put him to work long hours before and after school, the school was a village in south Staffordshire a mile or so across fields and footpaths, Upon arriving at school the children's boots were inspected, inevitably on wet mornings they would muddy and no excuse would be aloud for not polishing your boots before setting out to school.
Milking was the first job every morning, (even on school mornings) the cows rounded up from the "night pasture" (usually the nearest couple of fields by the buildings), every cow knew her own stall, tied up and ready for milking. Out with the buckets and stools, turn your cap round and head under the easiest cow to milk. With two gallon in the bottom of the bucket, there would be as much again of froth protruding out of the cone shaped pail.
Some were restless and fidgety, some with tails down right filthy, some were just hard to milk, some had pendulous udders almost to the ground and the teats pointing east west (these were usually the heaviest yielder's but the most awkward to milk) When the cows were all in milk it meant there was up to eight or ten cows each, a good hour and half's work.
Milk was carried in pails to the dairy by the farm house, tipped through a cotton wool filter to take out all that might fall into it (straw?) and into a high D shape receiving tub, There was a brass tap on the front so that you could graduate the flow of milk down the ribbed cooling block, locally called a fridge, this was made of copper and plated with tin (or some white metal) the copper a good conductor of heat and the tin easy to clean.
Water from the well is pumped and flowed up the inside of the fridge, the milk flowed down the outside, the aired water that left the fridge went into a cow trough for them to drink when they were turned out from the sheds. From the fridge the milk dropped into the large seventeen gallon churns, all hell would be let loose if anyone let a churn run over, which it inevitably did from time to time, it was one of those things you only ever did once.
Next job was to harness the half legged Cob, put him in the shafts of the float, back up to the dairy, load the churns and tie them to keep them from slipping or moving. The driver, usually the youngest lad ( my father), about twelve or thirteen would be trusted to encourage the horse to move swiftly toward the station, but not too swiftly out of the yard gate as it was a forty five degree turn round the end of the roadside ditch, this taken at speed would "Spill the Milk".
On down the narrow single track road you would be fairly safe, as long as your Cob did not try to load himself up in the back of the neigh boughs float pulled by a slow and old "Hack" (and usually driven by one as well). As you got near the station it was like the "Gold Rush" fortunately everyone going the same direction. Fittest and fastest horses at the front of the queue, (if they did the milking on time,) and wait for the train, when it did come the floats were backed up in turn to the rail wagon, the full ones duly labelled loaded, and the tomorrows empties taken home. Then into the house, get changed and off to school with his boots polished and instant cane if he was late.
Fingers (or not)
In his school holidays father in his early teens would be sent off to mow with a pair of Shires. First the blade had to be sharpened like a razor in the barn, by his uncle, this made it easier for the horses to pull, and always take a spare one with you as well, half way through the morning the blade would go "dull" and block , so it needed to be changed. It was during a blockage that the fingers of the mower had to be cleared, and to an inexperienced lad like my dad he lifted the blade from the lever by the seat, then walked round to the back of the blade, and cleared it with his hand, (not with a stick) he should have put the blade out of gear. At an unfortunate moment one horse did little more than stamp his foot, the blade did a quick couple of zithers and father lost two of his fingers, his little finger was taken back to the first joint and the flap of skin stitched over to cover the hole, similarly the next finger was cut off above the second joint the same again, taken off at the next lower joint. Stitching back on was not an option in them days and you did your work with what you have left.
This is my Father mowing, with his two shires Flower and Dolly, he had lost two fingers in the same sort of outfit that he worked for his uncle Dan some fifteen years earlier.
Soon after this picture was taken he bought his first tractor, a Standard Fordson which took a lot of hard work off the horses
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.
When you point your finger at someone, three fingers are pointing back at you.