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Stratford centennial

Stratford area farming,   pp. 264-270

Page 264

Stratford Area Farming
Agriculture is a very important part of Stratford's past and
present. In the early days, especially before refrigeration,
many village residents kept a cow or two in small barns behind
their homes. During the summer months the cows were "put
to pasture" in the woods around the village and brought home
in the morning and evenings to be milked to provide milk,
butter and cream for the family meals. Excess butter or cream
would be sold to neighbors who did not keep a cow.
As more land was cleared of trees in the surrounding
country side, more farms were settled and agri-business
sprang up in and around the village. Feed mills, creameries,
cheese factories and livestock sales outlets are all businesses
that made Stratford a "farming community".
Early Farming
This story gives an excellent account of early farming in
settlement times.
From Saw-Dust by Len Sargent, Jr.
Len Sargent (Sr.) purchased eighty acres of virgin timber
land in the town of Day, Marathon County, Wisconsin. It was
two miles to the nearest store at Rozellville and two miles
from the Potowatamie Indian Village.
"After the trees were cut down, the branches trimmed off
and the trees cut into logs and hauled off to the saw mill, the
real work started in.
Crops had to be planted as soon as possible, so the
branches and brush had to be piled up and burned. We waited
until just before it started to rain and then we had giant
bonfires. The small stumps were pulled out but the big stumps
were left standing for several years before they were dyna-
mited out. As soon as the fires were out, plowing started in and
believe me that was some job because of the large protruding
roots that reached from one pine stump to another.
The plow used for this breaking of the ground was known
as a shovel plow and although it was a wonderful implement
for the new farmers, it was one devilish tool to handle and a
back breaker if there ever was one.
It consisted of a pole that was attached to the neck yoke
between the horses, the other end to a vertical member with a
shovel fastened to the bottom. There were two plow handles
attached, which permitted the plow to be steered and lifted
over the roots.
I drove the horses, and since my folks could not afford
shoes, I was barefoot. I remember stubbing my toes against
roots and sapling stubs and occasionally stepping on a hot
ember from those fires. Every time the shovel would hit a root,
it would be "Whoa, back up, and get up Molly or Jack".
It was hard work for me but the real work was done by my
dad, lifting that plow over the roots and steering it all day long.
Stratford Area Farmer Swinging a Scythe.
At harvest time, I remember my Dad swinging a scythe
to cut the hay and a cradle to cut the grain. The cradle was a
cumbersome thing, with a scythe to cut the grain and a series
of wooden fingers to keep the grain stalks together. Mother
would follow Dad, picking up the grain, taking a few stalks
and twisting them together and binding the sheaves. She
would stack the sheaves together, putting a few on top as a sort
of shelter to form a shock.
Threshing the grain was done with a flail. It was a stick
about six feet long, fastened to another stick with a raw hide
string. The flail stick was about three feet long. The grain was
laid on the barn floor, and both my mother and dad would
pound at it with those flails until the grain was knocked off the
stalks. Then is was sifted through screens, all by hand.
Later my uncle, John Hughes, bought a threshing ma-
chine and went from one farm to another in the fall of the year.
Threshing day was always a big day. All of the neighboring
farmers would come to help. Mother would have a big lunch
ready and dad would have a pony of beer ready for the
The power for the thresher was furnished by a horse
power machine. It consisted of a big gear, laying horizontal,

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