Page 15 of 19
A Walk Through Hilton in the 1930s, continued
The reason for leaving one stook of sheaves, which would be loaded on to the carts at the same time as the draggings, was to let the gleaners (mostly women) know that the field had not been cleared. If the wheat was over ripe before being harvested quite a lot of the ears would drop off, making easy pickings for the gleaner. A sack full of wheat ears would last a few backyard chickens well into the winter. Farmers would also let people glean the potato field after the crop had been harvested as the potatoes would not pick up unless they were a reasonable size and undamaged.
Some farmers reared pigs. The farmer that I worked for as a boy, was also a butcher, so there were always quite a lot of pigs around of all ages. All of his potatoes would be harvested and the small and inferior ones would be boiled in a large copper, then mixed in a large wooden tub with meal and skimmed milk, made into “porridge” and fed to the pigs. The sows and their litters would be hosed in sties until the piglets had been weaned. The doors of the sties had small doors in them that allowed the piglets to go out into the strawed yard, several families of piglets running together.
In the winter, the tops of sugar beet would be a very welcome addition to their feed and in summer, they would be let out into the meadow adjoining the farm, where they seemed to enjoy digging up the ground with their snouts searching for worms and grubs. Sometimes they would make quite big holes, after rain they loved to wallow in the muddy holes. They would always be fed in the yards in the evening. It only needed the stockman to open the gate and to rattle the feed bucket and they would come running for their supper!
I remember after harvest one year, in one of the fields that had been sown with beans (a variety of broad beans), many of the beans had shelled, so it was decided to put the pigs in the field to feed on these beans. This field was quite close to the farm and I was given the job of driving the pigs to the field in morning and back again to the farm in the evening. Pigs are awkward animals to drive as they have poor eyesight and many breeds have long ears which flop over their eyes. They do not flock together like cattle or sheep and while I was chasing one, others would walk off in different directions. I even tried putting a bridle on an old Welsh cob, which was kept at the farm for light jobs and rounded them up like a cowboy!
After a short time they were left in the field and temporary shelters built. They were still fed with their porridge each day but it was much easier to take food to the pigs than pigs to food.
There was always a few sheep on the farm. The farmer who was also the butcher, would buy a pen of sheep from the sheep and cattle market at St Ives. A pen of sheep usually consisted of six sheep, sometimes eight ( but never more than eight). When they arrived they would be released into the meadow to graze. If there was not much grass, they would be fed some hay and also some dry mix, which would be put into a wooden trough. The dry mix would consist of crushed corn and linseed cake, also some locust beans, which were black and tasted like liquorice.