Rolling the Fields

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Tuesday, September 16, 1913:  

September 16 – 17 – 18 – 19:  Nothing much of importance happened during these days. I have to help Pa some and get put at rolling for one thing. Of course I had my mishaps even to going off of the roller. That work is all done by this time.

Horse-drawn roller.  (Photo source: Wikemedia Commons, German Federal Archives)
Horse-drawn roller. (Photo source: Wikimedia Commons)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Whew, I bet that Grandma was exhausted. It’s rare that she didn’t write a diary entry every day—but I can understand why she was too tired to write anything a hundred years ago today.

Grandma was using a roller in a plowed field to level the ground and break up clumps of soil in preparation for planting wheat seeds. In Pennsylvania wheat is planted in the fall and harvested the following summer.

Horses were hitched to the roller, and Grandma would have needed to tighten one rein or the other to make the horses go in a straight line. Unlike the roller in the picture, the diary entry makes it sound like the roller that she used may have had a seat. The mishap sounds embarrassing (and perhaps painful).


24 thoughts on “Rolling the Fields

    1. It’s amazing how comfortable and technologically advanced some tractors are today. They not only have air conditioned cabs but also sound systems, GPS, and auto-track self-steering.

  1. Once again, we can’t imagine the hard work our ancestors endured. (Winter wheat is also planted here in Virginia. It’s so pretty to see the green during the winter, and then it turns golden in the spring!)

    1. So true! And what an interesting concept for a blog. I look forward to reading more of your dual entries! A friend of mine recently published a book you might be interested in, “The Bones and the Book” by Jane Isenberg. She blogs here on WordPress, too: Her book features a found diary, and the intertwined stories of the woman who wrote it and the woman who found it.

    2. She never would have guessed that we’d be interested in anything she wrote a hundred years later. But I want to think that she’d be pleased that we enjoy trying to make sense of her diary entries. 🙂

  2. They truly had a ‘hard row to hoe’ a hundred years ago. Farming machinery/equipment has changed that way of life for the better.

    1. With farming timing is so important–and things like weather can create havoc with the best plans. During busy times during planting and harvesting,all hands definitely were needed.

  3. What hard and dirty work. I wonder how many young women work on farms today? I am sure there will be many but technological developments will make their work easier, I guess.

    1. I think that more women would call themselves “farmers” today than back then Back then many women on farms did a lot of hard work, but they thought of themselves as helpers who as assisted the farmer (who was their husband or father).

      Similarly, my general sense is that as a group, farm laborers are still predominantly male, but that there are more hired laborers who are female on farms today.

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