10 April 2017

Harvest, hay and a Hills hoist

A-Z challenge - My memories of life on the farm in the nineteen fifties and sixties

Harvest time

The weather dictated harvest time. Too damp, no reaping. The crop must be dry. The very long days on the tractor meant my father and later my brother were gone for hours. In early days my father and Uncle Joe bagged the wheat. The bags had to be sewn up before they were moved so for many long hours they would stand out in the height of the summer heat. They stitched up the tops with the curved bag needles that were threaded with thick twine. The bags were branded for delivery and others were stored in the barn for livestock food.

Sometimes harvest was finished by Christmas but it often went on well into January. In those days the crops were mostly wheat, barley and oats. A paddock of peas would be sown to enrich the soil and they also provided peas for home consumption.

1958 Branding bags of wheat before they are conveyed and stacked via a bag elevator.  Photo 103794 A History of agriculture in South Australia http://pir.sa.gov.au/aghistory viewed 30 March 2017


At the end of harvest, the remaining crops grown specifically for hay and were slashed then rowed ready for gathering. When I was small the hay on many farms was made into sheafs which were then collected and stacked in stooks. Using a pitchfork the hay was tossed on to the truck for movement to a shed or to the corner of a paddock where a traditional stack was built. Hard physical work.

The arrival of a hay baler improved the process and rectangular bales soon appeared in the paddocks. Hay making was still hard work as the bales were about 25kg each. Large bale hooks were used to move the bales. Haystacks changed shape and baled hay was fun to climb on but prickly for play. We were expected to stay away from the haystacks. Skill, dexterity and accuracy in stacking were needed to ensure the stack did not come tumbling down.
Linwood 1953 season's bales, Edward John Horgan - Maurice on top

Hills Hoist

Moving from the old small house to a larger new one in the mid-1950s brought many delights. For my mother, the addition of a rotary clothesline must have made a huge difference to her washing days. The Hills Hoist rotary clothesline was made by a South Australian company started in 1946. Lance Hill had improved on an earlier model. The clothes line had a winder handle so that it could be lowered for pegging then raised to make the most of any breeze and sunshine. This was a huge change from the prop line along the edge of the creek.

Mum always pegged the smalls, underwear and socks, on the inner lines then the larger items such as work clothes, sheets and towels were hung on the outer circles. Complete privacy for those unmentionable items.

Next I – Instruments and implements


  1. For a while the smaller bales seemed to disappear from paddocks, replaced by those big round rolls, but I have seen some back again.
    Lovely photos.
    H is for the Cudmore family arrival in Hobart in 1835

    Anne Young

    Anne's family history

  2. Hi Carmel - great range of Hs ... and with such history. Sounds like the old days that I remember - though I never lived on a farm ... the lanes and fields resonated with your words. Those rotary clothes lines were and are amazing ... fresh air through clothes is a treat ... cheers - a lovely read ... Hilary


  3. I remember my Uncle Harry's old hay baler - it was old when he had it, practically an antique, and would no way be allowed under health and safety today. It made much smaller bales than even the square ones they make today, a man could lift one, where it takes a tractor today. Thinking of it reminds me of long Summer days and the butterfly meadow at the end of the farm :)

    I've never sewn up a bag, but I did used to do potato picking for another farmer friend and they went into paper sacks that had to then be sealed with a twisted wire - it was a piece of wire with loops on either end and you wrapped it around the top of the bag, hooked through this special tool and pulled, and the head of the tool twisted and wrapped the wire around itself.
    Sophie's Thoughts & Fumbles - Dragon Diaries

    1. Potato picking must have been hard work too. So many different types of farming and so much work goes into producing our daily food.

  4. Such interesting memories and a glimpse into the hard work of farming! Had to laugh about the arrangement of clothes on the line. My mom would do the same thing about hanging underwear near the home where the neighbors couldn't see it and putting shirts and pants out on the main line where it was more visible.

    1. Thanks for visiting and taking the time to comment.

  5. Totally relate to the hay bales. We raised hay for sale on our farm when the rectangular bales were popular. Love the photos of the sacks and labeling!

  6. Wish you had a photo of the Hills Hoist! My dad built us a multi-line clothes dryer between two "T" posts. I have to make do with a line strung between the house and my garden shed, no fancy stuff at all :)
    The Ninja Librarian’s Favorite Characters

    1. shall get a photo of the hills hoist and add it in mid-May.

  7. Ahhh...the Hills hoist. The central feature of our suburban backyard... hang sheets off it and make a cubby house, tie crackers to it and whiz it around, throw a tarp over it and use it as a giant sun umbrella for the wading pool...
    Plus there was always a hole under it.Mum used to claim the dog was trying to sabotage washing day.


    1. Seen and well used in so many backyards over the years. Now gradually disappearing for straight wall installed lines.


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