Harvest time was a family and community effort, everyone pitching in to make the hay and harvest the crops. Often times families would help their neighbours, exchanging their time for help on their farm in return. Men, women and children alike took part in the work.
Read about preparation of field crops here.
When hay was ready it was cut using either a hand scythe or a horse pulled hay mower. A scythe was most commonly used on small farms or those with hilly terrain. In later years a tractor replaced the horses that pulled the mowers. We have three mowers on display at our site.
If the weather was good and the hay was dry then it could be cut and collected for storage that afternoon or the next morning. Having cut hay get rained on was to be avoided because it reduces the quality of the hay and creates more work. After the hay was cut it was raked into windrows using either a hand rake or a tractor driven rake. We have a rake on display here at the Highland Village.
Once the hay was dry it was forked into a wagon or cart by hand and taken to the barn. Some farms used a hay stacker to load the hay onto the wagon.
The wagon would be driven to the barn, to the threshing floor, and a large fork on a pulley system would be driven into the hay and lifted up into the upper levels (the mow) of the barn. People had to distribute the hay evenly around the storage area and stamp it down. The pulley system was all operated by horses and people.
Some larger farms and communities had access to a hay press. The hay is operated by horse or a team of horses while some presses were later adapted for use with a locomotive engine. The press would have been transported to the field, the wheels removed and it set on the ground.
Loose hay gathered from the field would have been forked from the wagon to the open box on the right hand side. On the left hand side there is a large wooden boom that the horses would have pulled around in a circle (driven by a person). Each time the horses made a complete circle, the press would compress the hay together and push it down towards the end of the press where it would be bound together with wire. These bales would be about 100lbs and compact but would save space in the barn or shipped on a boat and is essentially how we store hay now.
The hay press displayed on site is from the Middle River area circa 1890 and a fairly unusual artifact. This would have been a large purchase and is likely that it was bought by a local agricultural society for the use of its members.
Our site is also home to a potato digger circa 1930 from Loch Lomond which, like the hay press, was a community shared implement. It went from farm to farm during potato harvest.
The small forks at the back would fling the potatoes into the side row where they could be picked up. A net would be strung along the side to prevent the potatoes from being flung too far. The bar at the bottom of the forks would lift under the drill. Someone would walk along side and operate the lever or sit on top (seat missing). This one is for use with a tractor.
Visit Baile nan Gàidheal | Highland Village Museum any day between 10 am & 5 pm to see our barn, gardens and farm equipment (This season, we’re open until October 16).
On September 17th, 2016 join us for Pioneer Day – This afternoon festival of rural life is for the entire family. Join us for a corn boil, square dance, milling frolic, traditional cooking, natural dye displays, traditional woodworking and iron work demonstrations. Watch the Cash Carding Mill demonstrations, and a spinning frolic, a céilidh, and a whole lot more. Regular admission rates apply.