Farms tend to specialise nowadays, but in the old days they were more mixed. In Timsbury farmers would keep hens, pigs, sheep, dairy cattle etc. There wasn’t much arable farming around here because of bad weather. There was a pigsty on every farm, and in many a back garden too and there would be delicious free-range eggs, laid by hens that selected and ate food they found necessary.
Milk produced would be cooled in a corrugated vessel (rather like a modern car radiator’s, but there were problems. In the summer sometimes a whole load would be sent back if it was tainted by the heat. It was a dicey business being a farmer. Bert Nash would deliver milk on a cart, using two dippers, a half pint and a pint to measure amounts into a jug. He always gave you a bit extra.
In the spring a ‘dung-put’ (dung cart) with great wide wheels would scatter its contents on the field. A chain harrow would rake up the ground and start the grass growing. The resulting hay would be turned by hand, and then, when it was ready, stacked up into a ‘mow’ (a hay rick) and thatched like a house roof. There was a technique to building one of these. If wrongly-built, it could overheat, causing steam which could make it ignite (at worst) or turn black so that the cows wouldn’t want it. It also had to be rainproof. Particularly remembered at haymaking time was the cold nettle tea the Workers would enjoy, known locally as ‘mobby’.
Building ‘mows’ and hedging were felt to be lost crafts. The father of one lady in the group was a carter but he could cut and lay a hedge for 2d a yard. This would be a hard job with the thorns and nettles, but he would turn out a lovely neat hedge. The lady would give her father breakfast at 8 o’clock after be had been thistle-cutting. Thistle-cutting was done in July. When dried the thistles would make cow fodder. There is an old saying:
‘Cut a thistle in July
He’s sure to die’.
Here is an account by a member of a Timsbury farming family.
My husband took over the farm when we married. He was the third generation, so Haydn, my grandson, who farms with his father, is the fifth generation. Milking was done by hand in the fields in summer and in the cow house in Tabor Farm yard in winter.
My husband drove an open old Austin 12 tourer car to transport churns, stools and water for washing adders, also the dog! The land is very scattered, some as far away as Tunley – and at times he milked where Southlands Drive is behind the Cheshire Home. We had two horses, sometimes three, and my husband broke them in himself. I remember when the first tractor came in the war years and Mr. L Russell and Mr. B Newth shared a little Ferguson for some time before they were able to get one each. There was no plough land, hay was cut by horse-drawn machines and turned ready for collecting. This was done by means of a ‘sweep’ on the front of the old Austin 12, taken to the rick site and loaded on an elevator where it was tossed out to form the hay rick which was later thatched by hand. Milk was remained from the kitchen, people bringing their own containers and on Pancake Day a lot of skimmed milk was sold very cheaply. The milk was cooled in the dairy and the churns were picked up by lorry and taken to Bristol where it was retailed by Lansbury Bros., whose people had connections with Timsbury. I made butter, but used an electric mixer, and the skimmed milk was fed to calves. We had pigs and poultry, raised our own calves and knew every animal by name, which could be harrowing when the time came for them to go.
Reproduced from ‘Reflections of Old Timsbury’ by kind permission of the Cheshire Home.