Sunday, May 26, 2013

Farming Reality Series and the Reality of Farming

I've been house bound for the past two weeks caring for my bedridden mother. It's been a very hectic two weeks! When I've had a chance to sit down and relax I've been watching a BBC historical farm life reenactment series. This series of shows at YouTube ranges from Tudor England to WWII farming life. Ruth Goodwin, Historian, and Archeologists Alex Langlands and Peter Ginn are the team of  reenactors who take us through all these periods. I was surprised by the interest of young females in these programs. As one of these girls put it Peter and Alex are hot looking farmers!
After watching all of this farm life unfold, and learning about all the intricacies of bygone farming I got out all of my farming related material about my ancestors. One of the first wills mentioned that my ancestor John Thurmon had a horse by the name of Scrug. I was thrilled to find such a personal piece of information in his will. It really inspired me to find more wills and inventories. 
James D. Owens inventory was one of my more extensive inventories; he died in the 1820's at a fairly young age, with a young family. Looking at his farm related articles and livestock it looks like he had a very thriving midsized farm. He owned a Bayshear plow ; I have found a picture of one like it. As I've gleaned from the series plowing in a straight line is an art. I always thought ploughing would be simple, but nothing is as easy as it looks.  

James' inventory of livestock included 6 cows, 2 steers, 3 hogs. 1 sow. and 18 baby pigs. His also owned one bay horse and had a stand of bees. Bee keeping was covered in one of the Farm Series episodes, which I thought was very interesting.
My great-great grandfather Richard Browning left an interesting inventory in 1901 Jackson County, Indiana. His reflected the new farming inventions of the industrial revolution. He had two mowing machines, and a wheat fan. He also had 1 horse  9 years old, and 1 mare 14 years old. He had 2 cows and 2 calves. One sow and 9 pigs, 4 shoats and 1 fat hog. He had 3 heating stoves and 1 cooking stove. As Ruth Goodwin said the worst part of life in early farming days was the cold. It seems like the Browning family was well fortified against the cold.
My ancestor Pierre Mason in Quebec shows up in the Farm Schedule for the 1861 Census for Canada.  I had forgotten it's in French lol. I have managed to translate most of it. Pierre Masson owned 1 horse, 4 steers, 5 sheep, and 2 pigs. He grew oats,peas and potatoes. I have been wanting schedules like this for my American families.
Every time I read through my genealogy material using a different perspective I glean even more about the life of my ancestors. I now have a greater appreciation for my many farming ancestors. I learned a great deal about early farming from these reenactments. Animal care seemed to be the most time consuming chore on the farm. The participants in these reenactments felt like caring for the animals was the most rewarding part of the project. Our farming ancestors had acquired so much knowledge through generations of farming, much of which is now lost. I had dismissed farming as something that anyone could easily learn. As the participants learned farming is an art and science which actually takes years, and generations to master.

1785 Inventory of John Owens

1861 Agricultural Census Pierre Masson

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