Every week, I share an excerpt from the book my Great Aunt helped write, As the Story is Told: A History of Morpeth and Community, which was printed in 1986. This week we launch into the Farming section.
Of a much later period Verne Arnold, a farmer for many years, has many interesting stories of farm life in this area dating back to 1916 when he moved here with his parents. Of his childhood he has many pleasant memories of being brought up in a happy home with parents that were good people. As a young boy he was expected to do his share of the farm work whenever it was possible. Every night he must see that the woodbox was filled with plenty of wood for that evening and the next day. There were also the chickens to be fed and the livestock to be tended. After his marriage to Jean Stinson he continued living on a farm. They had one daughter Joyce (Mrs. Ted Sharp).
When thinking of life as a farmer he knows it has always been a life filled with uncertainties. The success of a farmer is not only dependent on climactic conditions but also world happenings and manipulation of the markets for farm produce. For example prices for a bushel of wheat during the time of the war of 1914-18 rose to $3.00 a bushel in contrast to a price of 42 cents a bushel delivered to St. Marys in the Depression of the 1930s. A wise farmer in those days learned to be thrifty and save up for a rainy day.
During those Depression Days, known across Canada as the “Hungry Thirties” you were fortunate if you lived on a farm. The farmer’s table was usually well supplied with good nourishing food and the children had clothes to wear, even though they were often “hand-me-downs”. Many people in town and cities, who depended on making a livelihood from some industry, did not fare as well.
Of the early days Mr. Arnold refers to it as a time when you needed a strong back as everything had to be done in a physical way. Since you didn’t have much in the way of modern-day equipment, home-made devices were often put to use. For planting corn he remembers making a corn maker which the horses pulled across the field both lengthwise and crosswise. This marked the fields in squares. Then they came along with a hand planter and dropped seeds into each corner, making it possible to later cultivate the field both ways. It was possible for three men to plant about seventeen acres in one day.