The 1863 Lake Map. Lot 3. Source: Note Centerline Road is marked "Proposed Road"

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Retired Farmer Recalls Early Potato Equipm't. WB McLellan 1978

  Another big thanks to Donna (Barbour) MacPhee for loaning me her scrapbooks - they're a wealth of articles from bygone days - including this one of W.B. McLellan of Lauretta. 
The Shopping News.  Thurs. May 11, 1978 - 7
By Richard Wightman
     ELMSDALE-  W.B. McLellan of Elmsdale (formerly of Lauretta), recalled recently his efforts in 1919 to lessen the work involved in potato production.
     The retired farmer from the Center Line Road said they had on his farm at that time what all other farms had a plow and harrows.  The iron plow was likely made by a local blacksmith.  Some had plows from equipment makers such as Massey-Harris.
     Mr. McLellan saw the largest problem with his operation being the digging of the potatoes.  It was hard work in the fall when conditions were often poor.  He wrote letters to the major farm equipment manufacturers inquiring about their potato digging machinery.  He was told that the machinery for digging potatoes would not work well as too many weeds were allowed to grow with the potatoes which would keep the digger from working properly.  The farm equipment manufacturers told him weeds should not grow with potatoes.
     The answer the companies suggested was to get a horse hoe cultivator to turn the soil up around the potatoes and disturb the weeds between the rows.  The cultivator required straight rows that would best be achieved by using a planter to get the potato sets in the ground.
     The planter required seed that was cut in regular sections, so a seed cutter was advised.  Bugs being a problem in the fields, a mechanical sprayer was suggested to stop that problem.
     Mr. McLellan decided he would be better off buying all the machinery at one time so he purchased it through Ed MacRae in Alberton.  He recalled the seed cutter had a seat on it.  It was hand feed and operated by foot levers.  The sets then fell into a basket.
     The planter was drawn by a team of horses and would do about one acre an hour, one row at a time.  The horse hauled cultivator would make a number of trips through the fields in a season.  The sprayer also used a team of horses and as it did four rows at a time and could do about four acres an hour.  
     The elevator digger dug up the full row on a digging chain with the soil dropping through the chain and the potatoes and tops falling off the end at the back.  It required a four horse team to haul.  To help pay for the new machinery Mr. McLellan did custom work for his neighbours charging four dollars an acre for planting or for digging.
     "You could do about four acres a day with the digger," said Mr. McLellan, "but you would not stop too long at that."
     The producer said he received good service from the potato equipment which totalled $600 in cost at that time.  He was one of the larger producer in the area at the time growing about 10 acres.
     "It lightened the work and made it easier for the people involved.  I was never sorry I purchased the machinery."
     The farmer recalled he was one of the first to grow registered seed in the area.  He was able to purchase a 90 pound bag of Irish Cobblers from a shipment to a group of farmers in Lot 16.  
     One year a group of farmers went together and imported fertilizer ingredients in bulk and were able to reduce the cost to each of them by four dollars a ton.  Nitrate was shipped from Chile, potash from Germany and phosphate from the United States.  It arrived in Charlottetown and was sent out to the farms by rail where it was mixed.
     "Sometimes a late spring is not too bad a thing," said Mr. McLellan.
     The farmer who will be having his 91st birthday during the summer recalled that a researcher at the experimental station in Charlottetown had kept track of the type of spring and the resulting crop for 35 years and found that late springs were followed by betters harvests than those with early springs.
- Below is the article as it appears in Donna's scrapbook -

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