Fall on the Farm

By Elizabeth Donaldson
Special to the Times

When summer holidays ended we began to think of the return to school and of the harvest. Winter preparations were on my mother’s mind as we never quite knew what lay ahead. Her main concern was for the warmth and comfort of our family and the animals and she spent time covering and chinking cracks and draughty spots in the barn.

Probably one of the most exciting times of the year was the harvest and threshing. Usually oats had been sown in the spring. Later Eric and I would walk through the crop picking the bad mustard plants. When the grain was mature it was cut with a Massey Harris binder by a neighbour and then the sheaves were stooked. We all worked at this and four or five sheaves were stood up together in a certain way so they remained standing to dry. It was prickly work and your wrists if not covered could be scratched. The stooks stood in the field until it was our turn to have our grain threshed. We were kept home from school that day as we were needed to help. A neighbour supplied one extra team and wagon. It was so exciting watching for the big cumbersome threshing machine pulled by the big tractor coming up the road. The machine belonged to my great uncle Charlie Strachan who lived on the next farm.

My mother prepared for the big noon meal as there were usually four or five men to feed. My sister and I helped get the vegetables ready and set the table. There were always two kinds of pie. I did love watching the setting up of the machines while the sheaves were being loaded onto wagons.

It was especially interesting for us because of the caricatures of neighbourhood men drawn on the grey metal side of the threshing machine. My father who was quite artistic had drawn these faces years ago and each was signed neatly a.e.a – (Axel Emil Anderson). We always looked for these faces.

When machine was ready some loads of stooks were waiting to be fed into the hopper. All the cogs and wheel and canvas belts were in motion and someone had to stand ready for the threshed grain to pour out from a chute into a gunny sack. As I remember it took three dumps to fill a sack which then had to be quickly tied and another bag ready. Both Eric and I worked at this when needed and Alan usually worked in the field. Some of the golden straw was directed right into a corner of the pig pen for the pigs to happily burrow into and then the remainder became straw stacks to be used in the winter. The sights and smells of this day were so wonderful.

The granary was on the upper floor of the big barn with rows of bins, far more bins than we ever had grain for. My grandfather who had built the farm also had invested in all types of Massey Harris machinery. A fanning mill that was quite fascinating stood in the granary. This was used to clean the threshed grain of weed seeds and chaff and foreign material such as small stones or dirt. The grain was put on screened slats and when you turned the handles it shuffled through different sized screens somehow to come out clean. Some of the oats was made into chop for pig feed but I don’t remember where this was done.