Potato harvest memories

fermec860

Member
Location
Warwicshire
Don't grow any potatoes now but to take your mind off the weather 40 years ago we used to lift with a 2 row chain digger gang of women can't remember how many but had 5cwt boxes 2wd 45 hp on digger 70 hp 2 wd with loader Kenneth box tipper on front how we moved about after a nights rain l don't now or how dad managed to get along I know chain digger was semi mounted brother welded a top link to it found a big spring about 4 inch in diameter 2f 6 long rapped it in hessian in case it broke as a load transfer aid
 

Lincs Lass

Member
Location
north lincs
If its the same machine Im thinking of ,it was a Howard hoover ,,we had a single row ,,get home from school ,chuck some scuffs on and go find where my mum was ,,dad was on the lifter ,all the corners and hedge bottom rows all hand picked .
 

Chae1

Member
Location
Aberdeenshire
I remember tattie picking in school holidays, used to pick them into plastic baskets then were tipped into tattie boxes. Used to be good banter. Went into farmers float at break time, had small square bales round edge. Highlight was moving fields, all loaded up into float and down road.
 

David.

Member
Mixed Farmer
Location
J11 M40
Gramp decided that when the women wanted 2s hour he would get a machine.
Put word out that digging was on for following week, got to field with spinner on the Monday and sure enough there was the annual showdown over pay as the women arrived. They were not going to work for less than 2 bob/hour and downed baskets; Gramp said they could all bugger off then; he was good on labour relations.
Got back to farm, jumped into car and went to wherever Johnsons factory was, Wisbech? I forget. The last half a dozen single row trailed cart elevator harvesters for season were in production, and he ordered one there and then, for delivery as soon as paint was dry.
Machine duly arrived and was put to work, and that was the end of hand picking, save for the few that were cultivated out of the headland rows to open up field. A couple of the women did eventually relent and help man the machine, mainly because like Ernie, he was having his cocoa with one if them three times every week.
I can remember the day when Gramp absent mindedly did a swing turn whilst cultivating a headland, and gouged a lump out of my aunt's scalp as she bent down picking spuds. There was discussion if it was absolutely necessary to go to casualty for stitches, 'cos it was going to rain.
I can remember the old Johnson harvester squeaking and squealing it's way along, with it's metal digging chains. Always trailed a ruddy great tank chain along the bottom of the next row to be lifted, to part the tops and move some chickweed. Tractor was an old P6 E27N.
Following the bonanza year of 76, a new Grimme Gazelle arrived, Gramp having been impressed with the almost silent running of the rubber continental webs, and the claimed low crop damage.
I can remember it being parked in the barn for some time whilst they mackled up a canopy for the pickers out of dexion and clear poly sheeting. I assume the proper factory canvas one was deemed too expensive a luxury.
Tractor was still the old E27N, it used to burble along at about 1200 rpm all day long and actually had about the correct speed to PTO ratio for the job.
Those cage wheel machines were not much cop when it was wet, the baskets soon filled up with wet soil and the drive wheels would slip, it was my job as a teenager to walk alongside and help pull the wheel round as it started to stall. Gramp was big on H&S too.
I also remember how the women on the machine (family) would start harvest all fresh and friendly, but as the job wore on for a couple of weeks it would turn into a proper bitchfest of bad language and ill feeling
Happy days as they say.
 
Last edited:

DrWazzock

Member
Arable Farmer
Location
Lincolnshire
bagger.JPG

Many happy hours spent chatting over the grader. Not for a couple of years now though.
 

chaffcutter

Moderator
Arable Farmer
Location
S. Staffs
We used to dig with a Johnson single row, then two row, chain digger, and the b chains were always falling apart, or the slip clutches going. Hand picking by a big gang of women, who always seemed to be moaning that Dad was digging too fast. They also had a habit of filling their bags with all the best spuds every day. The worst bit was that before boxes like @fermec860 with the box tipper, we handled them off the field to the clamp in hessian bags onto a trailer which we kept moving along as we picked them up. No wonder we all had bad backs!

Bulk handling and a decent elevator into store was a revelation. Having lost a whole crop in the clamps due to blight and frost in 1965, Dad went to the bank to borrow enough to build an insulated store. He got the cash, but the old and wise manager said, ‘but you do know, young man, that everyone knows that potatoes will not keep stored inside’. !!
 

Cowcorn

Member
Mixed Farmer
Don't grow any potatoes now but to take your mind off the weather 40 years ago we used to lift with a 2 row chain digger gang of women can't remember how many but had 5cwt boxes 2wd 45 hp on digger 70 hp 2 wd with loader Kenneth box tipper on front how we moved about after a nights rain l don't now or how dad managed to get along I know chain digger was semi mounted brother welded a top link to it found a big spring about 4 inch in diameter 2f 6 long rapped it in hessian in case it broke as a load transfer aid
We had a two row ransomes johnson chain digger and as many pickers as we could get . MF 565 digging and a ford 66 on the rear mounted forklift moving the ton boxes. Later years a grimme cavalier bunker model with 2 eight ton trailers one at each end of the field . 2 wheel drive tractors mainly and i dont recall much problems with getting stuck . Then in the mid eighties destoners, bed tillers and Amac two row harvesters . The job was getting expensive and top heavy !!! The bust year of 96 nearly broke us but we staggered on and recouped our losses in the better years of 97 and 98 then OUT and no back !!!! Still miss the spuds sometimes but not the muck and worry !
 

Pennine Ploughing

Member
Mixed Farmer
Location
North Cumbria
we had a land drive Lister Blackstone and a gang of pickers, the a single row Ransomes Johnston elevator digger, then a double row one, all picked in to swills and hand loaded on to 3 ton trailers, back ay yard, potatoes were tipped in Dutch barn, tip trailer to top, let down half way and gripped the rest on top of heap,
then got a Ransomes faun and straight in to trailers then as above, as pickers were harder to get,
once finished heap was levelled and a thin covering of straw, to let them sweat,
once colder weather came, straw was taken off, and old carpets were pulled over, and a layer of straw bales put on,
sorted spuds on a Wednesday each week till spring,
 

Teejay

Member
Arable Farmer
Location
Romney Marsh
I think 1976 was like this year. Trying to harvest potatoes when it rains nearly every day. 2 row hover digger, picked by hand into boxes as too wet to put straight into paper bags.
 

David.

Member
Mixed Farmer
Location
J11 M40
I'm getting into this now...
The photographs reminiscent of Flanders mud in the other thread typify how I remember potato harvests if my teenage years, there is one particilar ironstone field on top of a hill, that is so dry that it struggles to grow grass now; but 30yrs ago we struggled to get 3ton trailers of spuds out of there behind a Ford 4600. When we did get out, there was not even a second thought for the mud that came out on the road and down through the village.
The biggest problem was the village old codgers wanting to stop you and scrounge a handful of "roasters" off the load, not to moan about the mess. We dont have ground at full capacity half as often now I dont think.
Our spuds then were tipped in a stone threshing barn, lined with Sisalkraft paper, 40t either side and another 20 in the middle, it was a rite of passage to be able to reverse a trailer in through the barn doors, and to get the tailgate onto the Record elevator hopper tight round the corner. Final levelling of the heap was achieved by rolling the potatoes down a wooden door, which you would have to hold up to the end of the elevator, to fill the inaccessible corners.
Straw bale chimney stacks would have to be set into the middle of the heap as the barn was filled, to allow condensation to wick away. Tecnazine granules would be liberally applied at filling, by hand (ungloved of course), to retard sprouting, you could even smell the blooming stuff when the oven door was opened on cooking jacket potatoes. MRLs were still presumably far in the future.
Scattering of straw on top of heap and face, to stop greening, but not enough to stop heap breathing.
Final covering would usually be one hurried day in November following an unexpected -8 frost, and entail a foot of shaken out straw, to be covered again with a sheet and then a layer of bales if a proper cold snap was forecast.
 

Two Tone

Member
Mixed Farmer
In the very late 60’s, early 70’s, Johnson’s came out with their 727 system, which consisted of 3 x 2 row hoovers, one rear discharge, one with a conveyor to the left, the other to the right, making a six row heap, which an elevator then lifted into trailers. The elevator was so long it had a steering axle at the back.

The biggest tractors we had then where Massey 175’s and we needed 4 tractors to run it all, before the army of tractors and trailers needed to keep it going.

It also did carrots and onions.


I can remember the first harvester’s we used were the Whitstead Super Duplex, then Grimme Gazelle and Commander’s. All single row trailed, the tractor driver would tie a bit if string to the stop knob, get off and get on the harvester to “keep the women under control”! Then when they got to the end of the row, he’d pull the string to stop the tractor getting in the dyke. Some was bagged on the harvester and some was bulk elevated into trailers to store, the riddle out into bags later.

The sheds when emptied were used with trays and strip lights to chit the seed before planting. If seed was short, we’d cut each one in half.
 
Last edited:

Two Tone

Member
Mixed Farmer
Anybody remember building Pie’s or clamps?
You make a potato heap in the field, cover it with straw, then throw dirt on the outside. They’d keep well until some poor buggers would have to riddle them out in foul weather.

I also remember gassing them to stop them sprouting. We never ate the tates from those!
 
Last edited:

fenhayman

Member
Ransomes spinner, flat share under roots and spuds flicked out onto cleared ground. Women picking into baskets which were tipped into 3 ton trailer Power major on spinner. Trailers tipped onto straw to form a long triangular clamp on edge of field.
Clamp covered with straw trusses from a Rausendorf press on the back of a MH 780 combine..
Clamp later covered, by hand, with soil, piece work for 17 year old with big spade!
Potato marketing board? inspected at end of winter, sprayed with purple dye and then fed raw to bullocks.
 

chaffcutter

Moderator
Arable Farmer
Location
S. Staffs
I actually left school to riddle potatoes out of a field clamp (two actually). Spring of 1963 after very late snow in early March that hung around frosty and cold for ages. The spring work was very late and we were a man down due to illness, 3 days after the start of the Summer term Dad said 'would you like to leave and help us with the spuds? If so I'll ring and fix it for today' . Silly question, he knew I was hating 6th form maths and physics cos I was useless at both!

@roscoe erf When I worked away from home the picking women came from, shall we say, a rather less salubrious neighbourhood than ours at home, they certainly frightened the hell out of me!
 

Cowcorn

Member
Mixed Farmer
I actually left school to riddle potatoes out of a field clamp (two actually). Spring of 1963 after very late snow in early March that hung around frosty and cold for ages. The spring work was very late and we were a man down due to illness, 3 days after the start of the Summer term Dad said 'would you like to leave and help us with the spuds? If so I'll ring and fix it for today' . Silly question, he knew I was hating 6th form maths and physics cos I was useless at both!

@roscoe erf When I worked away from home the picking women came from, shall we say, a rather less salubrious neighbourhood than ours at home, they certainly frightened the hell out of me!
Our gang of pickers in the late seventies contained all sorts including some of these " rough women " . The all had one thing in common, the were all on the dole and not meant to be working !!! One sunny day in September the field was visited by a Social Welfare inspector and the pickers ran in every direction to avoid been caught . My father had his card marked and i think it swayed his thinking towards the first harvester . When potatoes were hard work the was lots of.money in the crop now with big investment in kit the good years seem to be less often .
 

Make Tax Digital Software Poll

  • Quickbooks

    Votes: 25 17.9%
  • Sage

    Votes: 12 8.6%
  • Xero

    Votes: 61 43.6%
  • Other

    Votes: 42 30.0%

Five nature-recovery projects spanning 100,000ha launched

  • 15
  • 0
Written by Michelle Martin from Agriland

Image-source-Savills-field-640x360.jpg
Five nature-recovery projects spanning nearly 100,000ha across the West Midlands, Cambridgeshire, the Peak District, Norfolk and Somerset have been announced by the government and Natural England today (Thursday, May 26).

This is the equivalent in size to all 219 current National Reserves.

The aim of the projects is to deliver nature recovery at a landscape scale, helping to tackle biodiversity loss, climate change and improve public health and well-being.

All five projects will make a significant contribution towards the national delivery of the international commitment to protect at least 30% of land and...
Top