Saturday, 29 September 2007

Farm visit

We were visited by 80 members of the Church of Latter Day Saints, otherwise known as Mormons. They were in the UK from the US and were following in the footsteps of the LDS missionary Wilford Woodruff who was born 200 years ago in 1807. We set up a display of historic information about the farm and the Mormon Connection and it was a great day. One of the photos also shows some old hop sacks. We used to fill them with around 75 kg of dried hops, and they were then sown up by hand, numbered with an old metal stencil and then sent to the brewers to make beer.

Friday, 28 September 2007

Another harvest picture

Living on a farm we take the beauty and the space for granted. How many harvests have there been since this tree was planted? Wonderful place to just sit for five minutes and get lost in your thoughts!

Monday, 24 September 2007

Late summer on the farm

The ground has been cultivated in the field next to our farm for christmas trees to be planted! Beautiful walk on a beautiful day!

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Hop-picking in the 1940s

Hop-picking in the 1940’s by Betty Manning

Preparing for hop-picking started in July when the buildings were all cleaned out, some where animals had been kept in winter! They were white washed and last year’s straw piled in for bedding because if new straw were used there would be a plague of insect bites!

Blanket washing was an awful job. The last year’s dirty blankets were washed and hung on the fences and hedges to dry, all 250 of them. The cribs to pick hops in had to be repaired or new ones made, then the crib cloths sewn on. Hop-sacks were carefully darned. Benches and trestle tables were made up as the legs usually disappeared either as fire wood or to make stools.

As food was rationed a license had to be obtained to keep a shop. Gladys Vernall and I kept the shop and rations had to be weighed up during the day for the shop to be opened at 6 p.m. Three charabancs arrived from the Black County and one from Wales. We also had a few Cockneys who arrived by train at Ledbury, some Gypsies and a Tramps.

The cry would go up – “The Charras are here” and a stream of women, children and a some men would alight, hopefully they had not brought their dogs. They would go wild for a time while they sorted themselves into the barns. The “Dudleys” in the Granary and the Wainhouse, the “Wednesburys” in the Boiler House, cart shed and fold yard.

After about an hour, the straw had been transformed into beds and then another cart full of straw was used to make pillows from old-pockets. Then the dray with blankets, counterpanes, hurricane lamps and chamber pots came. Each adult had a blanket, a child had a counterpain and each bed had an enamel chamber pot- small, medium or large! And finally each building had an allocation of hurricane lamps, which had to be tended and filled each day.
Each barn had hession curtains and father patrolled every night to see that lights could not be seen. Each barn had fire devils for cooking. Coke was a problem as it was rationed and the “Wednesburys” always had bigger and better fires because they were good at pilfering!

The first morning starting at about 7 a.m. you were greeted by about a dozen dogs, which had miraculously appeared over night and they never belonged to anyone! The pickers were led into the hop-yard were they were allocated cribs and the “Pole puller” (hop yard manager) would direct them into “houses” where they picked the hops on either side of the row from one overhead cross wire to another.
The “Busheller” came round to measure the hops picked into large sacks and the “Booker” recorded the tally on the pickers tally card and in the Book. I was the booker and we went round three times a day. I went straight home to open up shop for about 2 ½ hours, then there was the “Surgery” – Witch Hazel for hop rash and eyes; Milk of Magnesium for indigestion; Burnol for burns; Aspro for headaches and a saucepan full of “Senna mixture” for the third day of hop-picking when constipation usually set in. Nurse Daniels and Dr. Webster from Cradley were called in for more serious cases, but temperature, pulse and respiration were recorded so that they could judge if a visit was necessary.

We have had births, marriages and deaths to deal with and the sight of the large figure of Police Officer Harris was enough to restore law and order.
Saturday afternoons father and I would go ferreting to catch rabbits for their Sunday lunch. I can’t eat rabbit to this day because I have seen it baked in mud by the tramps, spit roasted by the gypsies and boiled- fur on- by another woman who thought it wonderful. With todays standards it is hard to believe the filth and poverty that existed in the 1940’s.

One gang lived from hand to mouth and day to day, never any money and most of it was spent at the Pub. Saturday night there were always fights and on Sunday my father spent his time smoothing things over to get them back to work on Monday. Mother fed a multitude of people- 14+ would sit down to cooked breakfast, a two course hot lunch, afternoon tea and a cooked supper, then a night basket for the men in the kilns.

Although times were hard, there were lots of laughs and it was sad to see the “Charras” depart with the extra lorry to take home the potatoes and cider apples that had been picked. A hush fell on the valley, a few tramps stayed on for the potatoes, but they are another story!
We looked forward to this years picking, but it has become a very serious affair these days.


We used to grow about forty acres of hops (forty football pitches!) and now they have all gone, mainly because we couldn't compete on cost with the US and China, and also because we had a disease called wilt that killed the plants. In the 1940s we would probably have welcomed about 1500 people into our local area in hop-picking time from Birmingham and the Black Country who came to pick the hops by hand. Sadly, all that has gone now and all the traditions with it. We still have some hops in the hedgerows though to remind us of how it used to be!

Baling up the straw

A few weeks ago I did some posts showing the combine harvester, harvesting the wheat, well here are some photos of the straw being put into lines in the field ready to be baled up. You can also see the big round bales in the field waiting to be collected to go into the straw barn until they are needed. Sheep and cattle will sleep on the straw during the winter and probably eat a bit of it too!

Potato Harvesting

The potatoes have been harvested we have photos to prove it! In the photos you can see the harvester getting the potatoes out of the ground and then they are put into the trailer running alongside. When the trailer is full, the tractor then takes the potatoes out of the field to either be stored or packed ready for the supermarkets, or perhaps made into crisps or chips!

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Birds flying south!

The house martins, swallows and swifts are starting to line up on the wires betwen the telegraph poles. Seems early, but a sure sign that they are planning to fly south soon. They are all on the wing catching insects so that they have enough energy for their journey and I am sure in a week or so they will be gone. Shows that the seasons are changing!

Sunday, 9 September 2007

Autumn coming

Autumn is coming, the leaves have really started to go yellow, orange and red, photos to follow soon. We are harvesting potatoes at the moment so it is good that it is keeping dry. I will load up the photos this week so you can see how potatoes are harvested in the field.

Saturday, 1 September 2007

Winter berries and hips

The winter food store for the wildlife that live on the farm is here - we don't feel so bad now picking the sloes, damsons and blackberries for ourselves now!

Field margins

There is a wonderful display of fauna and flora in our field margins. Thought you might like to see them!