Wednesday, 14 January 2015


"Haymaking started when the meadows were ripe, and the men used scythes. They would help each other, in a co-operative effort called a meitheal (mee-hall) and were given porter and potatoes, bacon and cabbage and bread or boxty for tea.

The oats were ripe around this time and ready for cutting. Oats were important – like potatoes, the main food of the people. When the corn (oats) was ripe the men cut it with hooks and tied it into sheaves, long enough to handle.

It was then stoked, six to eight sheaves standing on end, supporting each other. The stooks were left in the field for a time before they were brought into the haggard and stores in stacks and covered.

 Threshing was an unbelievable feat of endurance. The barn was cleared and the flagged floor scrubbed clean. Neighbours who knew the art of wielding a flail commenced. The flail was made of two strong sticks tied together at one end with leather. The sheaves were put into the centre of the floor in bundles of five or six. Each man wielded the flail in turn until the oats were separated from the straw.

The oats went into sacks and the straw for thatching. It was the work of a few nights. Next came the winnowing – getting rid of the chaff. It would have to be a special sort of day for this work with the wind blowing."

-- Memories of Kathleen Sheehan, growing up in County Cavan circa 1920. Recorded in the book No Shoes in Summer.


Anubis Bard said...

In Pennsylvania the Amish always leave their oats out like that - but they are called shocks rather than stooks.

For the old order Amish, about a third of the land seems to be given over to oats, but for them it isn't so much a staple as it is a biofuel - since they farm with teams of horses.

Brian Kaller said...


Interesting -- I would think you'd try to avoid having your animals compete with you for food. Is it mostly a winter feed?

Anubis Bard said...

That's a good question - I don't know. I see the horses out in the pastures obviously, but I don't know how much they supplement with grains in the summertime.

My grandfather was the farmer (and not Amish!). But he hated working with horses, and once they shifted to tractors he never looked back.