www.barrowvoice.co.uk - First Publised 1975
3,000 copies published quarterly and delivered FREE to all households in Barrow upon Soar

Life on the Farm: 1958

This was the year my father bought a brand new tractor; his first. It was a David Brown 950 with a red bonnet and mud guards and yellow wheels. The decals on the bonnet stated David Brown 950 implematic, livedrive; at the time I had no idea what this meant but clearly it enhanced its status. (The David Brown 950 was only made between 1958 and 1960 then superseded by the 990 so it is now very collectable).

The tractor was supplied by T and F Keighley of Loughborough and fitted with a fore-end loader.

The loader was a great improvement in mucking out the sheds as we no longer had to do this by hand. I quickly became proficient at using the loader and driving the tractor doing the chain-harrowing, rolling and applying basic slag etc.

During this period my father grew kale which was used to supplement the winter feed for the cattle.

The kale was cut by hand and put on a trailer; the trailer was then taken into the field where the cows were grazing and thrown off in heaps. The large leaves of the kale always held a lot of rain water during the winter months and so one always got soaked doing the job. On the days when my father had gone to market and I was left to do this work on my own, I would set the tractor off in bottom gear (about 1 ½ miles an hour) then jump off and climb on the trailer to fork off the kale in a row so that all the cows had something to eat - not just the bossy ones. Looking back it now seems a dangerous practice, especially for an 11 or 12 year old, but in those days things were very different, particularly in the amount of responsibility an 11 or 12 year old might have growing up on a farm.

1958 was also the last year a binder was used on our farm. I have photos of my grandfather operating the binder while pulled by three horses; by 1958 however a tractor was used. The binder was used to cut the corn; it consisted of a reciprocating knife which cut the stalks, the corn then fell back onto a moving canvas which transported the corn to two inclined canvases. The corn was carried between them to the knotter; here the corn was held up until a sheaf of sufficient density had accumulated, the knotter was then tripped and a loop of twine placed around the sheaf and tied; it was then ejected from the machine. The next job was to stook the sheaves in 6s or 8s where they would stand until collected and taken to the stack.

Before the binder came into the field my father would scythe around the outside of the field cutting the corn which would otherwise have been run over by the binder the first time it went round the field. It was then gathered up by hand and 4 or 5 strands of corn wrapped around the bundle and tied in a knot. The sheaf was then placed by the side of the hedge out of the way of the binder.

After the binding was finished, the sheaves were transported to a stack and the stack carefully built with an apex which was then thatched to protect from the weather. In January or February, the thrashing machine contractor would arrive completing the job of separating the grain from the straw.

The above gives some idea of the work involved prior to using the combine harvester and some of the skills lost. My job during the binding was to shoot the rabbits that were hiding in the corn and help with the stooking.
Growing up on a farm in the 50s was not easy as it involved working in all weathers and lots of hard work. But working with machinery and animals was never dull and I believe provided a good start in life.

Dave Bird