Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Early Agriculture

The early Pennsylvania colonist farmed. After he arrived in this country, he chose his land, built a rough shelter, cleared land by chopping down trees, and planted his crops so he would have food for winter. The settler deposed of the fallen trees by burning them and then sold the ashes or used them to make soap. Neighbors helped chop up or pull out tree stumps using sturdy horses, mules, or oxen.
Only after preparing his field, did the settler Read More
build a better house and add zigzag fences, called “worm” or “rattlesnake” fences. Those fences needed 800 split rails to enclose an acre of land. Other farm buildings included a barn, a smokehouse for drying meat, and a springhouse for keeping milk and butter.
The early farmer grew grain crops of wheat, corn, rye, oats, and barley. His garden included corn, beans, squashes, and melons. Because he already knew what grew best, when to plant, and when to harvest in his native climate, the farmer would settle in an area which matched his homeland’s climate in Europe to better succeed at farming.
To cut down grains, a farmer used a scythe, sickle, and cradle. After he gathered the grains into the barn, the inedible parts had to be separated from the edible part. Some farmers used animals to tramp the grain. Others used a flail to throw the grain up in the air. Either the breeze or a fanning mill blew away the chaff, the light outside cover of grain. If the farmer wished to feed the animals hay, he cut the green grain and bundled it. The farmer used the leftover stems and leaves as straw for animal bedding.
To prepare corn for animals to eat and to preserve it for winter food for his family, the farmer left the ears on the stalk until dry. He then cut each stalk and bundled many together. The bundles, called corn shocks, had to be brought in and processed. First, the harvester removed the corn ears from each stalk then the husks from each ear. After that he separated the kernels from each ear. He also parted the corn stalk from the leaves. The farm family ground some kernels by hand or at a gristmill to make them easier to eat.
The farmer usually planted an orchard. Settlers found peaches already growing in in Pennsylvania when they came, but from Europe they brought seeds and small saplings of apple, cherry, pear, and plum trees. The family preserved fruit by drying or juicing it. The farmer also sometimes fed fruit to the animals.

            Besides working together to get rid of stumps, early settlers aided each other in other ways. Community members helped each other to build barns and better houses. At harvest time, they sometimes all worked at one farm at a time to bring in crops. As the area grew in number of settlers, they joined efforts to construct a school and a church. 


Klein, Philip S. and Ari Hoogenboom. A History of Pennsylvania. University Park, Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1980.

Stevens, Sylvester K. Portrait of Pennsylvania. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1970. 

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