First excerpts | Incredible Edible Todmorden | History

First excerpts

‘Most of the land around the farm was meadow land. From this, a single crop of hay was produced. Below the farm and reaching down into the valley was an area of woodland, and rough grazing. Above the farm and to the north-east was the majority of pasture land. The highest pastures contained a lot of rushes, which came in very handy for winter bedding for the horses.’ (P 14)

Kebs Fair 1910

The dairy herd consisted mainly of shorthorns… usually ‘grizzled’ (a dull red or brown mixture with some white hairs), they were a thick-set, dual-purpose cattle easily fattened for the beef trade once no longer capable of producing milk. Some of the calves from the dairy herd were kept and reared for replacements.

During the winter, the cows were housed in the shippons, each secured to a boskin with a cotton cow tie. They were fed hay and given buckets of water, hauled from the well outside in the farm yard. The hay and water were providd twice a day and salt-licks (small blocks of salt) were placed in small metal holders fixed to the boskins. The mucking out and swilling was carried out daily. The cow’s body would be brushed regularly, she would be bedded down daily with wood shavings or sawdust. This was purchased and collected from a local joiner or sawmill

Chopped mangolds, Swedes, carrots or spuds, whichever was available at the time, these being bought in previously, were mixed in with brewers grains. These are the barley grains left over after they have been soaked and boiled in large tanks at the brewery. This we had to transport ourselves by horse and cart. They were all mixed together in a large wooden trough by shovel…. And the provender was placed on top of this, in amounts varying on the quantity of milk produced by individual cows. (P 17)

In summer, the cows would be brought in from the fields for milking twice a day, first in the morning around 6 am, and then in the afternoon around 5pm. After milking they were turned back into the fields again. At the beginning of the hand milking they would have been given a small amount of proven to settle them down. To begin milking, you sat down on a three-legged stool, then placing the bucket between your legs, you started to milk. The two teats at the front first, (remember, the tail was not for pumping out the milk). Then the two at the rear.

When you had relieved the cow of her milk, you got carefully up from her. You took the milk to the kit (a metal churn holding about 10 gallons) and poured the milk into the syle or sieve which had already been placed on top of the kit. This was in the shape of a bowl, and in a cut-out section at the bottom a circular piece of closely-woven metal gauze was placed. On top of this was a compressed cotton wool filter cloth, another circular piece of metal with small holes drilled in it placed on top again. The whole lot was pressed down and secured with a large metal spring clip.

Into the top of the sieve was poured the fresh warm milk which now filtered into the kit below. The milk kit was then carried to the well and lifted into the water, first making sure the water was not too deep or it would have come over the rim and into the milk. When cold the milk was transferred into another kit with a brass tap on it, and this in turn was left in the dairy. On the milk round the milk was taken from the tap and run into a smaller delivery can, to be poured into a pint measure, which in turn was poured into the customer’s own jug. Milk had to be delivered daily to our customers in the 1930s, as household fridges were unheard of at that time…

In the shippon we had a cow called Betty and she was treated as a pet by me. I would take a pint pot from the house and milk by hand into it, and although the pot became almost two thirds full of froth from the milking, I would take it back into the house with pride.

One of the farmhouse activities was butter making. The milk for this, still warm from the cow, was poured into large glazed earthenware bowls in the farm dairy. As the milk cooled, the cream rose to the surface. This was skimmed off and poured into a large jug. The skimmed milk was mostly used in the household and the surplus was fed to the pigs.

The cream, once collected, was poured into the large butter churn. The barrel of this was operated by a handle at the side. This rotated the barrel end over end. In the lid of the churn was a small eyeglass. When the cream was first poured into the churn and rotated, the thick cream could easily be seen on the eye glass. As the butter began to form, the cream appeared more thinly on the glass. When you could hear the chunks of butter bumping from one side to the other, the glass became clear. The churn was stopped upright with the eyeglass at the top. Next to the glass was a small valve, and when this was pressed down, it released the pressure in the barrel and you were then able to take out the wooden bung at the bottom. the buttermilk was then poured into a bucket, already in place underneath. This was fed to the pigs.

The butter was then removed from the churn and placed in a large wooden bowl. It was then cut up into portions and pressed against the sides of the bowl, thus the last drops of liquid were removed. Finally, after cleaning and drying the bowl, the butter was put back into it and ordinary kitchen salt was added to taste and kneaded well in. The butter was now ready for sale.

The flock of sheep kept on the farm were gritstones. Another local breed was Lonks. Both were hardy Pennine breeds with distinctive black and white faces and similar conformation. The gritstone is easily recognised by its lack of horns and is also known as a Polly Lonk’, ‘polly’ meaning ‘hornless’. Both breeds have good soft thick fleeces, the type of wool sought after by the woollen cloth manufacturers.

More excerpts to follow shortly.