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Harvest work

I drove home from Gothenburg on a beautiful summer morning at 5 o'clock am, the sun was shining, the birds were chirping and a month's holiday was ahead of me. Dad sat outside on the bridge branch, sucked on the pipe, scratched the cat behind the ear and drank coffee. "How lucky you are to come so soon, would you like a cuppa?"
It was a matter of starting the hay harvest. The first thing to do was to 'scrape' around the fields. All the small hay that grew around the edges and between the stones - and there was no shortage of such - would be cut down with a scythe and raked up in the field to become a small reinforcement for what would be cut down with a mower later in the day. This was before we had bought a tractor, so it was appropriate that dad and I started with the scraping until breakfast, then I continued with the scythe while dad and Breida, the horse, did the big work. Towards the middle of the day everything was down and mother and we brothers raked up the hay that had been cut near the edge of the field towards the middle of the field so that it would be easier to pick up the hay up to the harrow with the rake.

Anyone who passed by our area at that time saw, from late autumn until the mowing began, what it was claimed that Germany thought during the war were permanent anti-aircraft guns. Two hay poles were tied together and the reeds, the straws on which the hay was to be hung for drying, were leaned in the gap between the poles and pointed straight up into the air, struts and extra poles were placed against the whole arrangement.

When the hay had dried a suitable time on the ground, the hedge timber was driven out into the field, an open space was raked for the hedge, and the stubble was laid out to mark where each post was to be set down—three posts on a rough length, the center post facing back to front. A hole was poked with a skewer and the post was pushed down and anchored with a firm kick.
The reeds were laid up and supports were placed against the back of the post. Ready for big action. Three men at the haystack and, usually, dad with the big bale behind Breida caught the hay and dumped load after load at the haystack and then it was time to try to get the load onto the haystack. It was important that the uppermost stubble was well hung so that it partly held the underlying hay in place and at the same time functioned as a protection against rain. It amazed me every summer how well Dad calculated how many lengths of hay each field yielded, because we rarely had to haul home leftover hessian wood.
Then we continued until all the hay fields had their long soft walls of winter fodder on the fields.

After one or a few weeks, it was time to drive the dried hay into the lodge or to small barns that every farmer had around his property. A hell of a job because hay dust has the ability to penetrate everywhere in the body. Some improvement came with the so-called hay spear, which was driven down into half the hay load and winched up onto the log. Probably saved a lot of backs. It is a wonder that more of our old farmers and farm workers do not suffer from back pain and bronchitis.

Grain harvest
After all, the grass comes up by itself, while a grain field has to be prepared to give what it should. The field was plowed in late autumn or early winter and would lie and absorb the moisture from snow and spring rain, and the plow furrows would be broken down by the frost. At the last snow, the manure from the barn, dass and stables was driven out into the field and left in piles which would then either be spread by hand or with a horse-drawn manure spreader. When the soil had dried sufficiently, the plow furrows were harrowed and plowed into an even seed bed.

Then the seeder made its rounds. After sowing, the seed bed would be turned over so that the cursed birds could not eat what would later ripen and sprout. Then it was to wait and hope that the spring was warm and good, that the autumn rain did not knock the grain down to the ground where it rotted or mouldered. If everything went well, it was time to harvest.
After the arrival of the self binder, harvesting was relatively easy. The self-binder knocked off the grain and tied it into sheaves that decorated the fields in a pleasant way. Again the hoists were put up, but now with the posts leaning at about a 70 degree angle, facing the same direction and with steady supports behind. The sheaves of grain were collected by horse and cart and driven to the hessjan, where we 'broke' the sheaves so that they would lie safely on the reeds.

If bringing in the hay was dusty and unpleasant, threshing the dried grain was infernally much worse. Whoever was standing at the feeder table at the end of the threshing floor was doing relatively well, even though it was a hell of a lot of noise. The youngest boy or mother lifted each sheaf onto the feeding table with a pitchfork and the feeder cut the string with a knife strapped around the wrist and then bit by bit fed the loose straw into the threshing machine. The grain ended up in sacks attached to the side of the thresher and the straw was fanned in a drum up under the roof of the straw lodge where it would be trampled down to make room for as much as possible. The dust was terrible and in the heat you turned as black as a negro. Then the grain sacks would be carried up and emptied into bins up in the barn and it is still with admiration that I remember how, after a long day's work, Dad carried these sacks of over 60 kilos, from the lodge, about 200 meters and up two flights of stairs to the grain bins.

I remember a time when dad drove the grain to one of the mills that existed – one in Vålsjo, one in Hamre and one down in Teve – to grind food grain for rye flour porridge and baking. Further on, we acquired our own mill where we ground pits for the animals.

I only have one memory of how we harvested flax at home in Kåra. The only thing that sticks in my memory is that you got really slimy in your hands from the linen and that it was very dirty, because the roots had to be torn up with the straws. When a suitable sheaf was torn, a band was made from about ten straws and tied together with a strange knot that I don't quite remember how it was made. Then the flax was hewn in the same way as the grain and driven, after drying, to the flax preparation factory in Hybo. I enjoyed those trips very much. Dad and I and a full day excursion.

The heyday of linen in our area was probably at an end at that time and the final blow came when the linen factory in Hybo burned down sometime around 1950.
No matter how disciplined we were about school attendance, we school children were always free to help with potato planting and picking. Setting was relatively simple even in the days before the automatic setting machine. The harrowed field was lined with a potato harrow and the seed potatoes were collected in buckets and put into the soil about half a meter apart. It was a bit of a pain in the back, but since this work was almost always done with the help of people from other farms in the village, it became a bit of a party with good food and good company. Besides, early summer was in the air and everything was fun.

It was a little worse with the admission, although the operation was still more party-like. But when all the potatoes were picked up after the machine harrowed up the crop, it was always the case that we boys would go out and make one last search for forgotten tubers. Walking around a muddy potato field in the evening to look for a few extra buckets of potatoes in the twilight with a sore back and chilled hands was not something to look forward to.
Man should have his and the animals theirs. We will never forget the half turnip that was nailed up in the hen house every winter.
Once harrowed go and sow with the seed drill. Wait until the plants have come up a few inches and then down to their knees and thin so that the plants have adequate space to grow. Then clear the weeds, loosen up around the plant and every few weeks, with a row, draw a line between each row so that the soil is baked up and protects the fruit. When the turnips were ripe, they were uprooted and placed in "burgs" where the blast would lie outwards and reasonably nicely. Then go forward with the big knife, cut off the blast and throw the turnip in the dump truck.

As often happened, there was no room for the turnips in the potato cellar. Then dad dug a grave, about two meters long, a meter wide and half a meter deep, a mattress of straw at the bottom and then the turnips were thrown in and got a cover of more straw and then the earth was dug over. The turnips did well in that grave until the edge of spring but at the end there was only a rotten mush left to lie where it lay.

Kåra Lars-Erik

PS by Micke

When my father was young, and I was between 5-10 years old, those brothers were called in (those who could) when it was time to save the hay harvest in Björs. This too must have taken place during the second half of the 60s. The hay was probably cut with a tractor and scythe but it was still dried on haystacks. The brothers helped to retrieve the hay from the haystacks and put it in a wagon to finally be driven to the haystack.

Getting to ride on this hay load was fantastic and I was saddened that my hay fever prevented me from participating. Once I tried cyclops, but it didn't help much. Jumping in the hay inside the haystack was also great fun, but of course gave me hay fever - every time I tried! It is comforting that this hay fever has eased over the years and at the age of about 50 it no longer bothered me, but nowadays there are neither haystacks nor haystacks to play in ;)

Mikael Björs