Thirty Years Farming on the Clifton Park System

How to supply Humus, Texture, and Fertility by the Aid of Deep-Rooting Grasses

by William Lamin

Chapter 6

Leading hay and seeds -- Selling hay -- Threshing and selling barley -- Selling wheat and oats

When I first started farming I generally used to go and help the wagoner in the field to pick up, so that we had always got the loads on when the empty wagons came : but it was a big job to get the wagons unloaded when we got to the roof of a big stack. When the Poles and Hay Forks came into being, we set up a big one, and if you set the right man to work the fork, it was not a big job to unload a wagon. And we could put up some big stacks with it and we went on all right with the pole for a few years, but I was always afraid someone would run into a galley rope and fetch it down and perhaps kill somebody. It did come down once, but happily there was no one in the way.

When we had had the Hay Pole and Fork about five or six years Thomas Danks of Nottingham were showing an elevator at the Bath and West Agricultural Show, held in Wollaton Park, and I bought it, and a little engine to drive it, for £50. 1 reckoned it paid for itself the first year. We had a fortnight's very good weather and we got four big seed stacks up, worth about £100 each. We should never have got the wagons unloaded in the stackyard if we had not had the elevator, I may say that as soon as we had got the last stack up it started raining and did not take up for several weeks.

As soon as the hay loaders came into being we bought an International and after we got that it did not take us very long to lead a field of seeds. As a rule we would put two rows together for the hay loader as we did not believe in taking any more rows than the two men on the wagon could contend with. When starting to load a field of seeds, we always liked to finish the load as near to the gate as possible. Sometimes it would be a small load, sometimes a large one -- anyway we did not believe in dragging a full load uphill to the top end of the field and having to drag the empty wagons up there also. We usually had to have four wagons, odd times five -- depending on the distance from the stackyard. We always liked to have a lad behind the hay loader to pick up odd bits that dropped off the wagon and he would chuck them on the tines behind the hay loader. You had not got the bits all over the field if you had a lad behind; and there would be hardly anything to rake up.

When I had been farming eight or ten years and had got some seeds to sell, it was a hard matter to find a good hay dealer to take them and give you a fair price for them. A farmer friend of mine, who lived on the other side of the Trent, would keep telling me he had made so-and-so with his seeds out of his hay dealer, and kept saying, 'Why don't you call and see him.' Eventually I did, but he was a man who was very fond of his horses and there were a few hills to come over to get to our farm from Nottingham. So it happened one year, when he was short, he came over to look at two seed stacks. Another hay dealer had had a look at them and had bid me £150, which I would not take. When this man had tried them with his tube, he bid me £170 -- first bid -- but he would not spring any more, so he had to have them. When he had once got started coming, the hills did not bother him and he used to come every year for a long while, until the last war started and, as he could not get any good seeds for his customers and he was getting on in years, he retired.

This hay dealer invented a tube that he could screw into the stacks for about six feet; when he had screwed the tube in the stack there would be a core inside it about two inches across, and he had a long iron rod with a corkscrew at the end of it, and he would keep drawing three- or four inches out of the tube each time, until he had got to the end of the tube. It was no use you telling him you did not think there were any mouldy bits in it, as the corkscrew brought a good double handful out every time for you to examine. He would put his tube into the stack in five or six places and he would know what he was buying. I did not sell this hay dealer many stacks out and out, as he thought it the fairest way to buy by weight, and so did I, as if you got the best of a man he would fight shy another year.

If when talking about selling seeds by weight I should be wanting an extra 2s. 6d. per ton, it would often finish up with the remark, 'Another 2s. 6d. if old Ben would eat it,' but it was very seldom that it came off. This old horse used to run the brougham of a famous Nottingham physician named Ranson and when the doctor died the hay merchant bought him. He was a very good-looking horse and he could trot away with a ton of hay or seeds on a dray quite easily; but the funniest part about him was, no matter how you tempted him with the best bit out of the stack, he would not eat it if it was not up to his standard; and his standard was very high, and you could only get him to eat a bit odd times.

Several years before the war, when we took the Goosedale Farm next to us, we would sell four or five stacks of seeds most years: we could also sell all the straw we could spare bottled up in the stackyard at £3 per ton. When the war came along, the Army buyer would come along and commandeer all the seeds and oat straw we had got. One year the Army commandeered all the oat straw and only gave us 55s. per ton for it, but it did not stop there -- we had to put it on rail at that. It cost us another 5s. per ton to put it on rail; so we only got 50s. per ton, instead of 60s., and then they wanted us to chop it and put the weight on every bag, but they paid us for chopping it. They had £700 worth of chopped oat straw that year; in fact they had all the oat straw and seeds we could spare every year whilst the war lasted and we were not allowed to sell any to anyone else, although we could have made more money off it.

The first time the Army buyer came along buying seeds, we had got four or five seed stacks, and he commandeered the lot and they only gave us 75s. 6d. per ton. We thought it was a bad price, as we had been selling our seeds for several years at round about 90s. per ton -- sometimes a bit more, sometimes a bit less. One thing that did aggravate me was, when the war was over, we had two stacks of seeds left that they had commandeered but did not want and had not paid for, and instead of letting me sell them they allotted one stack to a colliery company and one to a hay dealer. I did not see any sense in me finding the colliery company and hay dealer seeds, when they would have had to give a farmer quite £2 a ton more for seeds that were not good enough for the Army. I may say I once sold a good big stack of first year seeds for either £5 2s. 6d. or £5 5s. per ton, I forget which -- before it was thatched down. It was a very dry season and the hay dealer was short of seeds.

I may say that when you have a lot of seeds to get, it is a great help if you have got two side delivery rakes and Combined Swath Turner, as you can have one putting it together before the wagon and hay loader and the other one turning some for the next day's leading. I did not believe in putting it together until you wanted it, as I always considered it took too much drying if you put a lot together and got it wet.

When we were starting to thresh barley, if it was likely to rain, we would hang a big stack cloth on that side of the Dutch barn that the rain was liable to come from and then the stack sides were always dry when you wanted to start in the morning. When starting in the morning I was always there to see that each man had got the job he was most suited for: and I would see that the machine man had got his revolving screen set right and taking the right quantity of seconds out, as you had not to bother about winnowing so carefully if you had made a good job with the threshing machine.

When threshing barley we never bagged straight from the machine as we had a good chamber over the barn at both the farms that would hold two hundred and fifty quarters each. When taking a sample we should take some barley from four or five places all over the heap and then run it down the winnowing machine, as I always believed in never showing a better sample than the bulk would be.

I may say, I have never had a merchant say the bulk was not up to sample. In my younger days, I did have a merchant say that some oats were not up to sample and I immediately said, 'Let's have none of that,' and he said no more. No doubt it came off with some farmers. After we had sold the barley we would run it down from the top floor of the barn into the winnowing machine on the ground floor. We made a hole in the floor just above where the winnowing machine stood and then we let the joiner make a wooden shoot about eight inches square and about a yard long and we fastened it to the floor for the corn to run down. We also had a slide made in the shoot so that we could shut it off. We also had some little hooks fastened on about three inches off the bottom of the shoot, so that when we cut the bottom out of a turnip seed bag and hung it on the shoot it would land the corn into the winnowing machine without spilling any. We also had an elevator to the winnowing machine; so it was not a big job to bag the barley with a lad to chuck the barley in the hole above, another to turn, and another to take the bags off and weigh them.

Having got your barley threshed in as good condition as possible, it was a big job to find a good customer to buy it. When I first started farming, the local brewers would buy about all the farmers' barley round about. Then they started buying foreign barley and they did not care a deal whether they bought local barley or not. About that time, I was tired of trying to sell the barley to the local breweries, and there was a firm of barley buyers, from Burton-on-Trent, Messrs. J. T. Jackson & Son that came to Nottingham Corn Exchange. One year when I could not get on with the local brewers I showed my barley to Messrs Jackson &'Sons and I sold it them for a many years and could always make better price to them, to go to Burton, than I could to the local breweries.

Mr. Jackson, who was the buyer -- 1 think he was the head of the firm -- was a very nice man and when you showed him a sample he would smell of it, and then he would say with a smile, 'It's a bit nosey,' and I would reply, 'Yes, you are'; and then his smile would be greater still. He used to call our barley 'Pale barley'; why, I do not know, it was paler than that he was in the habit of buying. He once showed me a sample of barley and said, 'You want to grow some barley like that': and I replied, 'If I brought you a sample of barley like that, you would not look at it.' Anyway, we never had a complaint. He once said to me he liked to buy my barley, as when he had bought it, he had bought some. I suppose the reason was that when there was a fair quantity he would not have to be bothered grading several lots together to show the brewers.

We never grew much wheat -- only odd times when we were short of straw for thatching -- as oats were a more suitable crop than wheat for our light land, and it was not a big job to sell it, as there was only about 1s. or 6d. per quarter between the different merchants. When the 1914 war started we had a twenty-four acre field that had been down four years and a twenty-six acre field that had been down three years with deep-rooting grasses. We cropped them with wheat for three years running, and off the fifty acres we averaged five and a half quarters the first year, and five quarters the second year; and I forget what the yield was the third year, but it would be a fair crop., I may say that these fields did not want anything done to them, only ploughing and sowing, as there was neither a bit of twitch, thistle or annual weeds in fields when they had grown three consecutive crops of wheat for the three years without having the stubbles touched.

Before 1914 we liked to have two or three days leading and threshing oats out of the field if the weather was suitable and we could get hold of the machine, and our oats were often ready before anybody else's round about. I put it down to always having plenty of phosphate in the land, which caused the oats to ripen a shade sooner than they would have done. It helped the oats to fill out better when they had got plenty of phosphates to go at. As a rule in those days, if you had got some really good oats at harvest time, you could often make three or four shillings more a quarter than other farmers would make later on, but they had to be good ones. Gartons' Abundance was a very good oat, which we grew for a long time. They would fill out well and have a thin skin.

Next: Chapter 7

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