NEW YORK FOLKLORE QUARTERLY
Vol. VII, No. 1, Spring 1951
YORK STATE FARM LORE
Selected, edited, and written by Edith E. Cutting
Compared with those for planting, the “signs” for harvesting
are sparse indeed. When I asked why, a farmer told me, “Nobody
knows what the weather is going to do around planting time, but
even a darn fool can see when grain is ready to cut.”
The influence of the moon is mentioned a few times in harvesting
lore in York State, but only a few. Some say to harvest all
crops when the moon is getting old for them to keep better and
longer; others, to dig root crops then, but to gather fruits and
green vegetables just before the full moon for them to stand shipment.
Crops gathered when the moon is in earth or water signs of
the zodiac, they say, are in danger of mold or rot.
Haying was always thought of as separate from harvesting.
A skillful farmer prided himself on being able to cock hay so
it would shed rain. Building a big load, too, was an accomplishment.
They tell of a farmer who bought a load of hay from his
neighbor one winter. He was to have all he could load on for the
stipulated price, but when the neighbor saw the load, he asked
with disgust, “Why didn’t you load the barn on, too?”
In Essex County, haying was begun right after the Fourth of
July and was supposed to be finished before dog days in August. If not, the weather was so “catchy,” or showery, that hay was apt
to be rained on before it could be drawn in. A common condemnation
of a slow farmer was to say he drew his last hay in on
sleighs. Now, that isn’t as farfetched as you might think, when
you consider northern New York’s weather. One hot July day
the men were resting after dinner before they went back into
the hayfield. They heard a noise in the barnyard and somebody
yelled, “A bear! a bear!” They all started for the barn with
scythes and pitchforks. Seeing them coming, the bear jumped
over the fence, but he landed in a snowbank and they shot him
before he could get away.
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