August 8, 1956

#OnThisDay in 1956, the author of Ellen’s Diary talked about Prince Edward Island’s summer coming to a close, mechanization in farming, and how some Island farmers were still holding on to traditional methods.

PEI potato field

“Now the clouds we send our dreams sailing upon are August’s. They moved quietly today on a sunny sea of blue above the gleen-clad hilltops, great liners of smokey down, with a bit of austerity in their rigging an ominent edge of Autumn, it seemed. But not yet are we content to let Summer go. ‘Once the haying’s over’ one of the family said today noting the blackbirds in a flock gleaning tidbits of insects in a shorn hay hayland, ‘well, they days are noticeably shorter by then’ and her smile was wistful, ‘whether or not we like to acknowledge it, the heart of the summer is spent.’

‘Folks can commence then to store their fuel-wood’ another offered, thoughts evidently going on to envision the deserted lawns and verandahs, the closed doors, and hearthfires once more kept bright.

Today was still summer. We kept jealously every hour sunny and warm and breeze-fanned. It was pleasantly warm for the workers, for Rob in the field building the great loads of hay, for the younger farmer in the closeness of a mow at the storing. 

‘There’s no exceptional call for cooling drinks this haying.’ Jeanie said. Not a hot day- just warm, this one. And in the fields the hay making to a nicety for the farmers. And away in far places of the countryside, a dreamy haze of season veiling the hills.

…‘With machinery now to help, the haying is certainly much easier done than once,’ we commented remembering more toilsome days at it though nonetheless sweet. ‘The changes there have been!’

‘We still have an old mare in the lift- no change there.’ another chuckled. No, no change there. The hose still beats out a regular path along field or yard, retarding so far the march of progress at Alderlea it is true but keeping for our sake this nice item of old at the haying.”

July 25, 2019

Hay saving is an age old tradition that many farmers employ in the stocking of fodder for their livestock, as seen in this entry of Ellen’s Diary dated from July 25, 1958. The process of saving hay involves cutting long grasses, then drying them, and storing them until your other fodder stocks are depleted. In the 1950s, saving hay was still an arduous task. It took a great amount of time and injuries were commonplace. However, Ellen’s time period was significant for island farmers, as many started using more efficient and easier to use tractors instead of horses to aid in their harvest. This diary entry helps illustrate this important transition from horses to tractors.

“Gathering in the grain 1906” from Earles Picture Restoration Prince Edward Island.

“’And take your time!” James called after the help going on ahead in the truck to the field and the saving of hay this morning.

“He was harnessing the team for the rake at the time, buckling an end of the double reins to a bit, and adjusting the others in turn.

“’It’s the haste, Ellen”, he commented “that brings the accidents. There’s never a haying that there isn’t misfortune somewhere – falls and broken limbs, and other hurts. And there’s also those that come from poor gearing. I like to have everything in good shape, down to the smallest detail of it. They say ‘An ounce of prevention…”

“’!… is worth a pound of cure” we finished with a chuckle.

“’Well” he nodded, “there never were truer words than those when applied to the haying. A block half secured gives away, an old swing on the lift breaks or poor harness gives… and too late folks are in difficulties!”

“’You’ll ride?” we said watching him gather up the lines.

“‘Oh no, I’ll walk. The exercise will be good for me. I’ll be seated on the rake long enough!’

“Granddaughter, by choice, and with her assistance much appreciated, managed the horse in the lift this afternoon, enjoying it much.

“…Mack a steady little fellow, and with an adult close by, was allowed to drive the tractors on a level field, well pleased at this responsibility and his elders that he did it so well. So with all the help there was a great saving of hay, and by this evening first barns were full.”