A Homestead and Homesteading today is quite different from its practice during the pioneer days. We still have the abilities to live self-sufficiently on a small piece of land however many of the techniques and tools to establish a homestead have changed. My childhood was spent on a Homestead however we did not consider ourselves Homesteaders …. it was our way of life based on my parents upbringing and experience. My parents grew up in Europe through the second World War, a time of great despair and transition. After the war the last remnants of a once predominant Agrarian society were in the final stages of decline. Traditional farming methods and a self-sufficient livelihood were being replaced with mechanization and corporate structuring. My parents clung to their traditional roots and this is the primary reason they decided to immigrate to Canada, so they could enjoy the freedom to live as they choose.
I was very fortunate to come of age in a farming environment even though as a child one may not perceive it as fortunate. The endless daily chores, the seclusion and did I mention the chores. Our farm could not be considered typical for it’s time, it was more a throw back to farming practices prevalent at the turn of the century and prior. Everything we did was done by hand, to the extreme. In the early stages we mowed all our fields (approximately 8 acres) by hand using only a scythe and rake. I recall one fine summer day when my father took me into the woods carrying his bow saw and small hatchet. I curiously watched him as he selected several young poplar saplings, cut them down and peeled the bark off using the hatchet. He next cut a couple of the thinner poles into short even lengths and sharpened one end of each into a point with the hatchet. We gathered the cut pieces, took them home to the little workshop my father had upstairs. He cut a piece about 32″ long from one of the poles and placed it into the vice. Next he placed 14 evenly spaced marks on the piece in the vise and with a brace and bit carefully drilled holes through at each mark. Then he took the sharpened pegs he had cut in the woods and sized them so they would fit into the holes. Once all the pegs were positioned he wedged them in place. He drilled a larger perpendicular hole through the center of the pegged piece and sized the end of a long pole to fit into this hole. He wedged the pole into place and a wooden rake was born. He presented me with this creation and said ” This is yours, it will help to flip and rake together our field of hay” We then proceeded to the field and he taught me how to flip the hay and once it was dry I was taught how to gather it together and then pile it, carefully “combing” each large pile (hocke) so it would shed rain.
This is just one of the many lessons I learned on our farm and a fond memory I keep close to my heart. My next story will be how I was taught to Pull and not Push.