The Guarlford Story
Tractors and Horses.
Until tractors replaced horses on farms, the methods and tools of the farmer had remained little changed for 200 years. Even when tractors were introduced, they merely did the work of the horse at first, albeit with less effort and at a faster pace. During the Second World War, fuel was hard to come by, so horses were still commonly used. Before the war, there was little corn grown in the parish. When the demand for corn increased, there was still a limit to the amount of corn which could be grown: ploughing was very slow and heavy work for horses. Farmers had to take care of their horses and, unlike tractors, they tired. In summer, hot weather would also limit the amount of work which a farmer could ask of a horse, so mowing for hay would often be carried out early or late in the day.
The War Agricultural Executive Committees ('War Ag') were set up by the Ministry of Agriculture during the Second World War to encourage increased agricultural production locally and thus counter food shortages. They ensured that farmers ploughed grassland and increased arable acreage, while they also provided contracting services at cost. Locally, the 'War Ag' had depots at Hanley Swan and Deblins Green, which provided modern Fordson tractors, with rubber tyres or spade luggs; and they were much preferred to the more usual tractors on small farms which ran on tracks, such as the Bristol tractor, which were not allowed on roads. After the war, when the 'War Ag' finished, there was a need for contractors. Many farmers were still reliant on horses to draw farm implements. People remember that the charge for baling in the 1950s was nine old pennies per bale. These bales were heavier and denser but the same size as modern small bales, and were tied by wire rather than twine.
The process of haymaking was important, as it enabled farmers to preserve surplus grass grown through spring and summer to feed to stock in winter when grass barely grows. Before the Second World War, and even during the war, the grass was mown by horsedrawn mower. The hay was spread out with a swathe turner and turned until it was dry. It was then put into rows called 'wallies' with a side rake. When it was dry, the hay was pushed up by a 'sweep', which was on front of a tractor. The loose hay was then lifted or pitched onto the stack in the field or on a wagon to be drawn to the stack yard. Someone remembers that they had a monkey pole and a gib, and a horse was used to draw the hay up high onto the stack or the wagon. A petrol driven elevator was often used to take hay to the top of the stack. An iron horse was fitted to the shafts of wagons, which were designed to be horse drawn, and this connected the wagon to a tractor. When machinery became tractor drawn, the same machines were used, but adapted. Horses, of course, always pulled the implement, but tractors were able to pull and push. Haystacks were then thatched in order to encourage rain to run off them. A hay knife was used to cut out a block of hay called a keetch, which would be thrown out to feed stock in winter . . .