Nonie Hardiman, Doonane - (Part 4)
Selling the Wool:
In late May or June the sheep were shorn. The sheep were flocked into a pen which every farm had in those days. My father was a great shearer of sheep. He would send me to Clooncureen to John Coppinger to sharpen the shears. Next day the sheep would be penned and their coats taken off. The fleece was rolled and tied. At the end of the day the wool was packed and after a few weeks it was taken on the pony and cart to Sonny Burke’s shop in Colemanstown. At that time wool was selling well. After it was weighed a good price was paid. A good fleece of wool would weigh up to 8 or 9 lbs. It’s a lot different now as a lot of other synthetic fabrics have come on to the market and wool is cheap. I remember going to Galway on O’Connor’s bus with a bag of wool. I carried it to O Maille’s shop and in return came home with a double wool blanket. Those blankets lasted for years, it’s all duvets now!
Saving the hay:
The saving of the hay in Summer was a lovely time of the year. My Uncle Mike (Keary) used to cut the hay long before the rotary mowers arrived on farms. After it was cut the hay was left for a few days and, depending on the weather, it was then raked and turned. We might have to turn it a few times. Two rows were then raked into one row and made into handcocks. Then the small handcocks were made into bigger cocks and tied down with a rope made from hay or in later times twine with 2 long stones at each end of 2 ropes to tie down the cock of hay. Later a “sheepcock” or reek was made from all the haycocks in the haggard. These cocks were thatched with rushes to keep the hay dry. This was fed to the animals on the farm. All hands were on deck for the hay, we often worked all day in the hot sun (no suncream in those times) and, sometimes, if we got the hay saved by evening we would help out Tom Kelly next door or he would come to help us with the last few cocks. There was a great sense of satisfaction when the hay was saved.
Harvest time was a very busy time on the farm with the picking of potatoes and the making of large pits of potatoes in the field. A covering of straw and rushes was made to protect from frost damage. Some of the potatoes were sold for seed but had to be graded at McGivern’s Mill in Monivea. Some potatoes were “turned down” much to the disappointment of the farmers who spent hours at the mill separating big from small ones. There was a lot of work involved also in growing crops of turnips, mangolds and beet. The thinning out of the crop was done by going down on the knees and crawling along the drills and pulling out the surplus leaving more room for the crop to grow larger. Jute bags were tied with string around the knees for this job. It was mostly a man’s job but women also did it on occasions. Cutting and binding oats and barley was also a big task and the sheaves were tied and made into “stucks” in the fields with the seeds facing upwards. Many farmers in later years, including ourselves, harvested sugarbeet and big lorries brought that to the beet factory in Tuam. And, of course, a very big occasion on the farm in Harvest was the arrival of the threshing machine.
The Autumn season brought the thresher to every village. Peter had a thresher and was well known in the area even before we married in 1953. The thresher would be expected for a few weeks and everyone would be waiting to see when their turn would come. Then the machine would rumble up the road and all the men would arrive. It took a few hours to thresh a few cocks in the haggard and afterwards the men would come into the kitchen for tea, boiled eggs and currant cake. The bags of seed were carried into the barn and the chaff removed for bedding. The straw fell from the seed and was used for thatching or bedding. The thresher had a distinctive humming sound that could be heard all over the village. It was a great day and certain men were suited to certain jobs, some cutting the ties, another feeding the sheaves down into the mill, another lifting the bags and carrying them and another removing the chaff. Sometimes the “belt” would break or shut down and there was a big fuss fixing it again. There was a great sense of achievement at finishing the threshing as it marked the end of the season and a relief that the seed was dry and stored for the months ahead.
Calves and cows:
Two to three cows were kept and young calves kept in a separate cabin. In Spring and Summer I used to take the small stool and walk to the cows at “the angle” – a piece of land jutting out towards the west from Corrandoo. Other times the cows would be over towards the limekiln near Mannions field. Sometimes the cat would follow behind and would sit expecting milk. Hand milking was also done inside when the cows were brought inside in Winter. The bedding, when it was composted down, was taken out on to the dung heap and brought by horse and cart to be spread on the grassland and crops as top dressing. This was organic farming before the term became fashionable! A cow calving was usually a big event and the calves were fed from buckets when weaned off the cow. Many a night was spent waiting for a new calf to arrive.