Half-mile of barbed wire unrolled

From our January 2012 issue

By Bob Patmore – Oliver, B.C.

After a long, cold winter, we were sure ready for summer! In the spring we’d pick rocks and roots off the fields, and then work the land preparing for seeding. Wheat was sown, usually about a bushel and a quarter to the acre.

We got the wheat planted first, so it got a long growing season. Then came the barley and lastly the oats.
After seeding, fencing was our next job, to establish a summer pasture.

We would have cut and sharpened the fence posts in winter.

We unrolled a half-mile string of barbed wire along the line where the new fence was to be, and stretched it tight to make a straight line.

We distributed the posts along the fence line, about a rod or 5-1⁄2 yards apart. We then paced off the distance between posts and made a hole with a crowbar.

After placing the fence posts in these holes, we’d drive the sharpened posts into the ground with a post maul. We usually stood on a hayrack, pulled by the team, to do this.

One or two additional barbed wires were run out, after the top wire was stapled in place. The remaining wires were then stretched and stapled to the posts, making a two-wire, or three-wire fence for livestock.

Calves known as ‘pail bunters’

If the fence route was through a low spot, we’d often hang a large rock or two with wires to these lower posts to prevent them from being drawn up out of the ground.

Mixed farms usually had most kinds of livestock. A family farm would have a few milk cows and some other cattle for beef.

If you were milking cows and shipping cream, the skim milk from the cream separator was fed to the calves.

These calves were known as ‘pail bunters’ because they bunted the pails to get more milk!

We usually kept a pig or two for our own use. Each farm usually had a ‘chore team,’ for use around the yard. There would be a few horses, known as ‘school horses,’ for the kids to ride to school.

By this time the fieldwork was done by a tractor and other machinery.

Haying was a happy time

The farmer’s wife usually looked after the chickens and turkeys, as well as a big garden. There might be a few ducks and geese too.

Soon after the fencing came the haying. The farm would have some land in grass for hay, either tame grass, alfalfa or wild hay.

Haying was a happy time, with nice weather, and sunny days.

The hay was cut with a five-foot mower and two horses, and left to cure a few days before being raked into windrows.

The windrows were raked into hay coils and then picked up by one or two men with a team and hayrack. The hay was stacked carefully in the barnyard for next winter.

Junior members of the family, boys and girls, did the raking. They didn’t usually do the mowing because it could be dangerous, as runaways, often due to wasps, sometimes happened.

There were dances in the local school. Usually the music was supplied by a piano and a harmonica.

If the dance was in a community hall, there would be an orchestra of piano, fiddle, drums, and often an accordion.

A Shadow Social

In the fall, ladies took pies to a ‘social’ that were auctioned off and the highest bidder could share it with a lady – hopefully his girlfriend!

In the tougher years, times were hard, so a new solution was found. This was the ‘Shadow Social’. A double sheet was stretched across the stage and a bright gasoline lamp placed at the back.

The girls walked between the lamp and the sheet, and their boyfriends would bid on the shadow. The girls used pillows and other padding to disguise their true identity!

Proceeds from these ventures were used to buy Christmas gifts for the district school children. Everyone worked together, and that in itself was a worthwhile social occasion.