Learn what farming was like a century ago

What was farming like 75 to 100 years ago? If you want to see what it was like plan to attend the Sept. 21 fall Gas Up Show of the Ashtabula County Antique Engine Club. This show will be at the Club grounds on U.S. Route 322 in Wayne Township, southern Ashtabula County.

This club has constructed an Agricultural Museum that houses a progression of farm equipment from the mid-1800s to more modern times. If you visit the museum, plan to take your time to study the farming equipment that was used during those many years.

In the 1850s and ’60s till today, one of the most back-breaking jobs on the farm was making hay. In the early days, hay was cut by hand with a scythe. A man with a scythe could cut about an acre of hay in one long, hot day. Then it had to be put in small stacks to load on wagon to haul to the barn, all with hand labor.

Next came cradles that were scythes with wooden fingers on the back to catch and help bunch the hay. Bunch rakes helped the process but it was still hard, tedious work.

In the late 1800s, side delivery rakes and the hay loaders were invented. Rakes put the hay in windrows, and the wagon with loader attached would drive down the field and bring the hay up on the wagon. Then one or two men had to take the hay and arrange it on the wagon to haul to the barn.

At the barn was another tough job. The hay would be pitched from the wagon by hand into the hay mow. In the mow, one or two men would take the hay and pull it to the back or arrange it to fill the space.

Equipment to do these jobs can be seen in the museum. Take time to study the progression and think about the slow, back-breaking job it was for our ancestors.

Over the years, agriculture technology invented and built equipment to make the work easier. Hay forks to take the hay into the mow were invented. Then along came buck rakes that brought hay up from the field and dropped it at the barn where the fork could pick it up.

Hay balers were one of the next inventions. The original balers used wire to tie the bales and required two men to feed the wires in to the bales and tie them. Sting tie bales came along soon. All bales were square and didn’t shed water well so had to be picked up soon after baling.

Today, most hay is baled in round, wrapped bales that can be left in the field longer.

Grain harvest also progressed from hand harvesting to cutting with grain binders. Small bundles of grain were then put in larger shocks to cure ready for threshing. Threshing rings were a group of farmers who hired a man with a large tractor and threshing machine to go from farm to farm.

Dinners for threshing crews were always big affairs. Sometimes farm wives would like to see who could serve the biggest and best dinner.

Other old farm equipment can be seen in the museum. Some milk cooling and storing equipment from years ago is part of the display.

As I said earlier, plan to spend some time in the museum to study the way our ancestors did things. In my lifetime, I can remember some of hard work that we used to do.

We can be thankful for agricultural technology that has allowed farmers to be more efficient and food to cost less of our budgets.

Parker is retired from The Ohio State University. Contact him at jbparker149@gmail.com.

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