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Norfolk Tales

Chapter E : Husbandry

(Paras. 1 to 9)

2. Growing Pains :  3. All Is Safely . . .
4. Beasts Of The Field
  6. Tools Of The Trade :  7. Fieldwork
8. Heavy Stuff :  9. Pots And Pans

1 : Fruits Of Labour

Before we get to proper husbandry ("farming"),
there are many "catch-crops" (NON-technical).
A little labour is often called-for;
perhaps more in the way of cunning!.

We have mentioned rabbits : a Fenland pit
for trapping was called a  toipe.
Otherwise, a ferret is possibly essential.
A muzzled ferret is a  coped  one.

Even outside Broadland, wild duck ( smee )
could be located (and shot?!); likewise
pheasant or partridge.
Two types of the latter are identified :-
Frenchman  : French or red-legged partridge;
Greybird  (graybaad)  the English partridge.
A brood of pheasants is a  noye.
seat   is a sitting upon eggs (any variety).

Good King Wenceslas heads a long tradition of
gathering sticks for heating purposes.
The practice (including beachcombing)
is known as pawkin'.

On a larger scale, loppings from felled trees are
bra(tt)lin(g)s;  and twigs & small sticks  shruff.
The latter are also known as  ti(t)-faggo(t)s,
as opposed to  bavins   (light, loose faggots).

Hazel-rods (used in thatching) are  sways;
larger hazel branches (e.g. for wattle and daub
buildings) are  rhizzes.

Smuggling is an old profession, appearing
in many places and guises. There were,
at one time, wool-smugglers : called  owlers.

2 : Growing Pains

Before saturation by chemicals, weeds grew
alongside crops (any gardener knows the
weeds prosper more . . . )

Beggary  is the highly appropriate word
for a large clump of weeds.
Poppies in a wheatfield are called  corn-canker.
Twitch, or couch-grass, is  quick.
Coarse, rough grass is  ben(t)s (plural).
A tussock of rough grass is a  hassock,.

Planting alternately, in rows, (e.g. in an orchard)
is known as  mockin'.

After seed-planting, comes germination :
which is to  chick.
Crops which prosper are said to  moise
(thrive or improve); and to thrive is also to
addle ;  but weak and sickly crops
(and people?) are  dwainy.

Spells of cold, wet weather are said to make
the corn appear  yallerified  [ from yellow ].
Corn flattened by storms is said to be  laid.

As crops fill-out and expand (hopefully)
they  fathom.  And  foison  is the quality of
moisture within the herbaceous crops (e.g. hay) :
ple(tt)y-a foison  being plenty of moisture!

Crops allowed to run to seed are
described as  sho(t)  or  pipy.
To  tiller   is not to rake the soil, but where
many stems appear from one root.
Above-average and impressive crops are
clinkers :
We 'ent 'arf go(t) some clinkers t-yare!

Sustenance "on the job" (packed-lunches)
may cheer-up the farmworker, faced with
bad weather and pestilence of all sorts.
dockey-bag  or  pricker-bag  is used
to carry the food from home,  dockey
being dinner (i.e. lunch).
Snacks at other times of day are : bai(t)
(mid-morning);  beaver (afternoon);
also  fourses  (afternoon),
pronounced  farses  ( fower-ses ).

A thumb-bi(t)  is an amount of bread, cheese
and onion, held between the thumb and fingers
of one hand; while the other employs a
shut-knife  to cut it and pass to the mouth.

3 : All Is Safely . . .

...gathered in, says the old hymn.
An irreverant reference occurs here, to ladies'
bloomers - known as  Harvest Festivals !!
Harvesting might well be a  one-journey
(janny)  affair; i.e. working through,
without a meal break!

With the last load brought in, revelry can start.
The following social event & feast (traditionally
in the barn) is known as the  horkey;  hence
horkey-lood  for the last one.
An alternative name, for the last load -
by custom decorated with leafy branches -
is the  bough-load.

A special gift of money - largees (Fr.  largesse)
was expected, by the labourers, at the end;
and they would  haller largees   until they got it.

At the simplest, a meadow is mowed; but the
feed left behind (or a second crop) rejoices in
the ancient name of the  aftermath.
(See  shack  in  4. below). Barley is
gathered in  awns  or,  in Norfolk,  avels.

Before machinery arrived, the sheaves of corn
were placed on horse-drawn wagons.
The  pitcher  was the man loading the wagon.
The  hold-ye  boy  (How'dgee Booy)
alternately cried  (hallered)  "Hold" to the man
atop  the load; and "Gee" to the horses.

There is not much more to say about the
harvesting itself, but there is a multitude of
words to apply to the various quantities/types
of produce obtained.

If the harvested corn contained (as it often did)
quantities of weeds and foreign matter, this
was termed  bulk,  but pronounced thus :
"There's more boke  (book)  than corn!"

A sheaf of corn, before tying-up, is a  gavel.
This term also describes a loose bundle of
straw for thatching purposes. Another term for
bundle  is  bol(t),  again used in connection
with thatch.
Finally, reeds [not in our current purview, really]
used for thatching are bundled in  fathoms
(a second use of the word) or  yellums.

A finished sheaf of corn is a  shoof,
and a group is a  shock.
A stack, when there were any, had corners;
which were called  hips.
goof  (or  gooft) is a
corn-rick laid-up in a barn.

4 : Beasts Of The Field

Not wild ones, but beware of the bull at any time,
especially if he starts bellowing i.e. rorpin' !.
This word can be applied to any loud and scary noise.

Pigs can make a lot of noise too; they also
burrow in the soil (for roots etc.) i.e.  rootlin',
with their big snout or  grunny.
Another animal to keep clear of is the male pig
(boar) : appropriately known as a  brawn.

Young animals often have separate names
(e.g.  lamb ). For year-old lambs, read  dans.
For the (younger) boar, as mentioned,
read  sho(t).
For a young sow, read  yel(t).
The smallest, of a litter of pigs, is the  barrer
[barrow]-pig,  or  pe(t)man  or  pi(t)man.

A weaned calf is a  wennel;  when
beginning to show its horns is a  bud  (neat!).
Bullocks need special supervision, and their
enclosed area set aside is called a  par-yard.
Pigs whose sex is undetermined (why?)
are called  Jonamy Jones.

A sheep, after its first shearing, is a  hogge(t).
Cattle with stunted, down-turned horns
are described as  slung-(h)orn.
Shepherds may still exist : but do they
still have lads - assistants - called  pages
(as in Good King Wenceslas)?

Sometimes a female animal will be barren
which is called  gast.
Animals need feeding, and winter feed
is the tricky one : called  stover.

Arable farming is complementary
in the matter of  shack,  which is either -

  • the feed-name :
    (grain lying about in the field after harvest).
  • the act of turning-out animals or poultry
    onto such a field.
Shack-time  means post-harvest
(i.e. gleaning time).

A trough, for pig food or watering animals, is
pronounced, in Norfolk - like so many similar
words - as  trow  (sound as in  low,  not  now).


5 : Food Processing

Our forbears would never have used such
an expression, but jargon moves on!. We will
take it as any agricultural activity post-harvest.

There isn't much you have to do to a harvested
apple, apart from esoteric "grading"
and fancy packing.

A famous variety of Norfolk cooking-apple
is the  biffin.
A yellow plum has the nice name of
Golden Drop.

Apples, in large numbers, were used for making
cider [in Norfolk, as well as the West Country!].
The pulp left-over was called  pummace
(French  pomme).

Grain, on the other hand, needs threshing
(troshin')  and all-sorts.
The miscellaneous refuse left-over
by threshing is called cavings  (cairvins).
In particular, oat chaff is termed oat-flights
Later comes the flour-mill, at which the
second sifting of the "meal" is known as randan.
Sacks ( pokes ) were carried from the mill
on a  pook-car(t).

Good vegetable crops are  spol(t)  or  spoul(t)
(not  spoilt!) after harvesting : crisp and brittle.

Scorin(g)   (or  scoring-up ) means hoeing
sugar-beet after initial chopping-out.
To  shuck  anything (e.g. peas) is
to remove the shells.
[Americans use the word for removing clothing!].

Knockin' an' toppin'  describes what is
necessary for harvested sugar-beet : knock the
beet together to remove most soil, and slice-off
the leaves with a hook!

Another word for the rubble
(husks, chaff, bits of straw) left-over is  colder.

6 : Tools Of The Trade

Some trades, e.g. thatching ( thackin' ), use
natural materials and ancient skills; yet are
trades  not  exclusively rural or agricultural
in nature. They just feel as if they are!

The thatcher's boy assistant was,
unpleasantly, known as his toad  (tood).

A short stick, pointed at one end, has the
same name as a hazel rod used specifically
for thatching, namely  brotch   (or  broach,
pronounced  bruch - using the  "mid-u"  sound).
Another type of short rod, for ridge thatching,
is a  ligger.
Combing thatch is  yelmin(g)
yellums  see 3. above).

Other tools for general usage include :

  • bee(t)le  (heavy wooden mallet);
  • crud-barrer  ( crowd-barrow )
            i.e. push-barrow = wheelbarrow !;
  • dipper  (handled receptacle for getting
            water from the top of a tank, butt etc.);
  • firplen  (dustpan, but not in Norwich?).
A rub  is, unsurprisingly, a sharpening-stone
for (sharp) tools. Conversely, a tool may be
blunted, or have the edge turned-over.
This is to  bezzle (i.e. bevel ) the tool.

Weeding tools are needed not only by
"country folk".
A long-handled reap-hook for cutting weeds
is a meager  (mearger); whereas a sickle -
a smaller "agricultural" scythe - is an
aptly-named  swipe.
The handle of a big scythe is a  tack,
and the scythe itself a July Razor  (Juloi Rairzer).

A long-handled (or walking-stick based)
weeding tool is either a  spud,  a  grubber
or a  dock-chisel.

flasher,  unexcitingly, is for hedge-cutting
(flashing); other obscure tools for this purpose
being a  bagging-hook  and a  scrogger.

Carpentry is represented by the  fillister -
for cutting grooves or rebating i.e. a  rabbit !
(either as a noun or verb).
Repairs will be needed for a wooden handle
which has  sprung  (split).

7 : Fieldwork

The attractively-named  sedlip  was a container,
hanging in front of the body, being suspended
from the shoulders; which left the hands free
to broadcast seed  (sed)  or indeed fertiliser.
slop   (apron or working-smock)
would also be a good idea . . .

Much of the on-going work, apart from weeds,
arose from the need to keep ditches & drains clear.

To dig or clean out  (fye-ou(t))  is to  didle-ou(t),
the name also given to a ditching spade (with
long handle). A similar long-handled scoop is
mud-scuppi(t)  or just plain  scuppi(t) . . .

Another implement for ditch-clearing, a kind of
rake with strong, curved tines, is a  crome.
The same (famous) name is used for a
muck-rake, or a digger for lifting root-crops;
the tasks and implements all very similar.
Finally the long-handled scythe  (mearger)
or the knife  (shore-cu(tt)er)  can help in ditch-clearing.

pritch  (in general) being a prick, so is the
name given to an iron rod, with a pointed end.
In the case of a  fold-pritch,  the rod is very
heavy and substantial; and is hammered into
the ground.
This operation provides holes into which
sheep enclosure "hurdles" can be fitted.

If collecting eggs from the  hins   (hens) comes
under this heading, then the noise they make
after laying is a good signal i.e. hens  pra(t)ing.
See  biddles  in D.7

Even more dramatic is the work sometimes
undertaken for the "sporting" Gentry,
out on a shoot : beating-up the pheasants etc.
Well, not beating the birds themselves, as
explained in the Norfolk term : gorn' a-brushin'
which covers it!.

8 : Heavy Stuff

Smithy work, in fact.
The shoeing of lively colts usually required
extra restraints, in the form of a wooden frame
i.e.  trave.. Hence  trav'us  (trave house)
for the smithy yard.

The blacksmith's hammer is a swedge.
In winter, to avoid slipping, the heels of the
horseshoes were turned-in: to form small
spurs or  calkins.
The process was known as  roughin(g).

As for repairing vehicles (e.g. the  tumbler
= tumbril), the axle is a vital component.
In Norfolk this has the name of  ackulster
or  ecclester  (axle tree of wagon or cart).
Even the humble wheel has a Norfolk name -

Quite a performance to place a heated iron tyre
around a wooden cart-wheel! : so a special
platform, called a plate  (plair(t)),  is needed.

A less exacting task, not requiring ironwork,
is to fashion some hinges out of  leather : useful
for such things as rabbit hutches. These are termed  jimmers.

An axe may suffer a broken handle or a
split one (subtle difference there).
If the wood is brittle or short-grained (leading
to breakage) it is  spol(t)  (see  Vegetables ).
If split, the wood has  sprung.

9 : Pots And Pans

And baskets. . . and things . . .

broomsquire  is an ancient occupation :
a maker of birch and heather brooms.

Buskins  are more than everyday footwear :
being leather leggings or gaiters, much needed
in agricultural work (watch the  brumbles!).
Similarly, hedging is tough work on the hands,
so special gloves i.e.  dannocks  are worn.

Highlows   are leather ankle-boots,
useful in wet weather.
Much cheaper are the bits of string commonly
tied around trouser-bottoms (to keep out
the cold and other things . . .)
These modest strings have impressive names :
Elijahs  (= Lijahs) or Yorkers  (= Yorks).

keeler  or  killer  is a large wooden tub,
used for scalding a pig after it has been killed.
The same term is used for any large tub
employed in washing or brewing.
A basket, in general terms (to and from market),
is called a  ped  (as in  pedlar ); while a shallow
basket, made of rushes, is a  frail.
Poor little Moses!

It is no surprise (to modern ears) to find
skep  used for a much bigger wicker-basket.
A smaller cousin, made of fine and skinned
willows, and without handles, is a  windle.

gotch  is a large jug or ewer, often used
to carry beer to the harvesters (men),
by the  skinker.
This lad also filled the glasses and horns
at ale-house gatherings.

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