The Farming Year

Comparison of monthly activity 1920 and 2000

LAMBING started.
Shepherd lived with flock in moveable wooden hut. Slept on straw-stuffed sack with pen for weak lambs beneath bed. Had cast-iron stove for heating and cooking, and a medicine cupboard.
ROOT CUTTING for animals
THRESHING continued
RIDDLING (grading) main crop
POTATOES from store for sale to Potato Merchants or sold in bulk to processors. Most POTATOES now graded as they go into store and sold in bulk to buyer.
MAINTENANCE WORK on buildings and machinery.
Preparing land for DRILLING.
DRILLING (sowing)
Shepherd still busy with LAMBING.
RAT CATCHER at work. Rats and mice invaded barns to feed on corn and roots. All farms had semi-wild cats fending for themselves plus a saucer of milk at milking time. Moles active damaging crops and pastures. 
MOLE CATCHERS used home-made traps and poisons.
PLOUGHING continued.
Riddling POTATOES.
MAINTENANCE WORK.DRILLING (sowing) SPRING WHEAT and BARLEY. OAT’S drilled on some farms.
MARCH 1920MARCH 2000
DRILLING (sowing) SPRING WHEAT, OAT S and BARLEY. Seed lightly covered with soil using set of wooden harrows.
LAMBING in full swing.
ROOKS and CROWS scared off growing crops by children with rattles.
Continuing to drill corn.
FERTILIZER applied prior to sowing, or with seeds.
PEAS for combining dry drilled.
BEANS for cattle feed drilled.
SUGAR BEET drilling begins as soon as the land is dry enough.
POTATO riddling continues and POTATO planting starts
APRIL 1920APRIL 2000
GRASS and CLOVER (‘small seeds’) sown for grazing and for hay.
Sown broadcast: ‘small-seed’ drill much wider than corn drill and without cups. Small areas could be sown with a ‘fiddle drill’, by hand casting or from a hand barrow.
Drilling WHEAT, BARLEY, OATS, SUGAR BEET and PEAS for combining dry continues.
PEAS for ‘quick freeze’ drilled. Exact date given to each farmer by contracting firm.
POTATO riddling finishes.
SEED POTATOES removed from chitting (sprouting) shed and planted.
DAFFODIL flowers inspected in field for ’rogue’ varieties which are dug out to keep varieties pure.
CATTLE turned out from winter quarters on to pasture depending on weather.
MAY 1920MAY 2000
CORN well up. Thistles weeded out, generally by hand. Some horse hoes
SUGAR BEET; TURNIPS and MANGOLDS (mangel-wurzels) for cattle feed. Seed spread wider than for corn.
SHEEP SHEARERS moving from farm to farm. Often used hand shears, but machines also in use.
BEANS and PEAS for ’quick freeze’ drilled. Exact date given by contracting firm.
Some tractor hoeing between SUGAR BEET rows (weeding done mechanically) is still carried out. Most weeds are controlled by spraying.
Late DAFFODIL’S inspected for rogue varieties.
Fungicide spraying continues.
JUNE 1920JUNE 2000
HAY HARVESTED – a vital winter food for horses, cattle and sheep.
Cut grass turned with wooden rakes and forks and stacked in haycocks to dry before carting in a ‘morphrey’ (hermaphrodite) – a wheeled platform added to an ordinary cart to increase loading capacity.
‘Quick freeze’ BEANS drilled.
SPRAYING CROPS to kill pests. 
Amount varies from season to season.
Weather conditions determine the extent of aphids and various fungal diseases.
JULY 1920JULY 2000
ROOT CROPS weeded – work often done by gangs of women.
July provided a short breathing space before the beginning of harvest.
Group-owned viners harvest ‘quick freeze’
PEAS. Exact date determined by contracting firm – from farm to factory in 2 hours.
DAFFODIL BULBS harvested. Ploughed out with modified potato harvester.
SPRAYING for diseases continues – rusts, mildew etc. Very little spraying for aphids on cereals done now.
WINTER BARLEY ready for combine at the end of the month.
Men cut with horse-drawn reapers and binders, using scythes to make way for machines.
Women followed the reaper to tie up sheaves and stand them up in ‘shocks’ to dry.
Wheat and barley soon carted, oats ‘churched 3 times’ – left in the shock for 3 Sundays.
Children drove horses pulling wagons.
CORN stacked in farmyard and thatched to keep out rain.
DAFFODILS cleaned and graded mechanically in early August. Sold by weight.
Harvesting BARLEY and then WHEAT by combine harvester. Most corn is sold ‘off the combine’, but some is stored for sale later.
OILSEED RAPE combined.
Land needed for growing OIL SEED RAPE prepared and seed sown immediately. (It often follows winter barley).
‘Quick freeze’ BEANS harvested.’ Date fixed by contracting firm.
DRIED PEAS combined for stock feed and human consumption.
Continuation of HARVEST. School did not resume until Harvest was over. Children needed for gleaning.POTATOES lifted. Women workers used.HARVEST SUPPER provided by farmer for all workers. With extra money, rents were paid and a few new clothes and boots bought at harvest sales in town.HARVEST THANKSGIVING SERVICES.End of harvest.Completion of drilling OIL-SEED RAPE and harvesting ‘quick freeze’ BEANS.Harvesting CATTLE-FEED BEANS.DAFFODIL BULBS given hot water dip in sterilising tank (formaldehyde and water at 44C for three hours) to kill eelworm and bulb scale mite.Drilling WINTER BARLEY and WHEAT starts.A large farm in 1910 could employ over 70 people at harvest. Today 1 – 2 men are sufficient.
The beginning of the farming year.OLD MICHAELMAS DAY
October 10th: Farm tenancies changed and farm workers moved jobs.
PLOUGHING begins. In Norfolk ploughman called teamsman. All took great pride in horses and were responsible for their welfare. Head teamsman was senior man on farm.HEDGES ‘layed’ – cut back and woven to form stock-proof barrier. Used a Norfolk pattern billhook and a dannock (thick leather glove).DITCHING: Digging ditches and laying drains. Paid for in 22 yard lengths measured out with a chain. Clay pipe field drains introduced late 18th. century.
PLOUGHINGPreparing land and drilling WINTER (autumn sown) WHEAT and BARLEY.Maincrop POTATOES lifted. Most are stored to be sold later.When corn was threshed from the stack, much labour was needed: the engine driver, feeder, sack man, and others to handle the sheaves, straw, chaff and grain – 14 in all. The straw was restacked and the chaff used for animal feed.
Since the introduction of combines, harvesting and threshing are completed in one operation.
Ploughed land HARROWED and ROLLED. WINTER WHEAT sown from horse-drawn drills. If a small patch was missed out, it was re-sown with small hand drill or ‘dodgers’.ROOTS lifted: SWEDES, TURNIPS, MANGOLDS for animal feed. Stored in ’hales’ or ‘clamps’ (heaps) covered with straw or under cover.
SUGAR BEET relatively new crop. Tops cut off by hand with billhook.CATTLE moved into yards. Teamsmen and cowmen often expected to look after health of animals.
Ploughing and drilling for WINTER WHEAT.Harvesting SUGAR BEET – taken to Cantley by lorry.CATTLE taken from pasture and housed in cattle yards for winter.
THRESHING started. First of intensive jobs to be mechanized. Mostly done by contractors moving from farm to farm, pulling threshing drum and elevator behind steam traction engine. Worked up to 15 miles from base; driver and mate took bicycles to ride home at night.ROOTS cut up for animals in root cutter. Oil cake (made from linseed or cotton seed) also fed during winter.Harvesting SUGAR BEET.Most SEED POTATOES are now kept in 1 ton lots and stored in temperature controlled stores. A very few are still put into trays to start the ‘eyes’ growing (chitting).MAINTENANCE WORK on machinery and buildings.