Friday, September 09, 2016

Seedtime & Harvest

I have a wonderful little book, Seedtime & Harvest, the diary of an Essex farmer, William Barnard of Harlowbury. The book is published by the Essex Record office and written by Joyce Jones.
I tend only to think of it at the beginning of autumn – especially if I'm writing a Regency – which I am at the moment.
Harlowbury Farm was part of the parish of Harlow. The soil was gravel overlying London clay. It comprised of around 400 acres with about 250 acres in arable production.

This is what William Barnard wrote in his diary on September 9, 1820:
We had a very fine week & I have finished my harvest this day. I have been obliged to make great exertions to do it having kept three forks always pitching and some days 
four . . . the barley carting was almost endless, two forks beginning at eight in the morning could not cart a large part of it.

 In 1816 on September 23rd he wrote this:

I carted the mud out of horse pond on Little Townfield some weeks ago & did about 3 acres with it. I have been carting mud the whole week from Rushy piece pond on 18 acres Lower Stoney & manured about 2 1/2 acres with it.

This year the weather was appalling throughout Europe because of a volcanic eruption in the Far East. This meant harvests everywhere were poor. Strangely when he had a good harvest and the barn was full it wasn't all good news because the price of grain fell as there was a glut.

 September 17, 1814
I completely finished my harvest on the 12 but had a full days work; I never began harvest with more fear on account of the great bulk of the corn, by very great excursion & hiring Prior's wagon & 2 horses & retaining some of the acre mentally end of the harvest I have got through beyond my expectation.

As always, after a horse rake had been drawn over the stubble to clean off the remainder of the harvest the women and children came onto the field to glean what was left. These poor folk couldn't survive without this extra food which fed their chickens and helped with breadmaking.

I hope you enjoy this glimpse into a farmer's life in Essex. No doubt I shall tell you more about William Barnard next September.

Fenella J Miller


Elizabeth Hawksley said...

What an interesting post, Fenella. I do love these old diaries which illuminate country ways. It reminded me of Flora Thompson's memoirs of her life in a hamlet in Oxfordshire as a child, 'Lark Rise to Candleford', a book I've always loved.

Sudip said...

very nice

Fenella J Miller said...

Autumn is my favourite time of year and this diary reminds me that in the past life went on very differently.These were the days before mechanization -now the job 'farm labourer' no longer exists.