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Pen Pictures of Early Pioneer Life in Upper Canada
CO-OPERATIVE GATHERINGS


THE PARING BEE—THE QUILTING BEE—THE HUSKING BEE—BUTCHERING DAY, OR "THE KILLING."

LIFE, to a large extent, was co-operative in f: the early days; the people helped one another. It would, indeed, have been very dull in the backwoods and remote country places if it had not been for their frequent social gatherings. Work and play were combined. One of the chief gatherings of this kind was the paring bee. In the fall of the year, in order to get his apples pared and cored for drying and making apple-sauce, and to prevent them from spoiling, the farmer would invite his neighbors, young and old, to his house to assist him. After a sufficient quantity of apples had been prepared, the guests were regaled with a plentiful luncheon of cake, pie, cider, etc., and then, if there was time, the young folks would spend an hour or so in games of various sorts, and perhaps a dance.

It was the regular thing to see a big burly young fellow dutifully assisting Peggy, or Sarah Jane, or Sally Ann, or Polly, in paring a lapful of apples—sitting as close to her as possible, or we can, in our mind's eye, see some handsome girl throwing a length of apple parings over some bashful Tom or Dick, and laugh to see him blush in confusion at the compliment. Considerable amusement was got by carefully paring an apple so that the peeling would come off in one longpiece, then, holding one end of it in the hand and twirling it around the head, when it was let fall on the floor. The letter of the alphabet which it resembled, as it lay on the floor, was supposed to be the initial of the name of the future husband or wife of the party paring it. At first the paring was all done by hand, but, later on, machines were introduced, which considerably shortened the process of paring and coring.

The Quilting Bee.

A number of the ladies, both married and single, would gather at a friend's house where the bee was to be held, mostly early in the afternoon, to do the quilting. The husbands and young men were invited to tea, after which the time was spent in social conversation and popular diversions, the young folks engaging in the various games and amusements which were then the fashion in those times. Cupid was just as busy and active with his bow and quiver as he is now and has ever and always been, and the young men were not one whit behind the young men of to-day in paying their devoirs to the pretty girls of the company. The socalled kissing games were quite popular, as might be expected. It was the custom at these bees for the girls to throw the quilt when finished over one of the young men and laugh to see him extricate himself from its folds. Sometimes they would succeed in getting one of the party enveloped in the quilt, when, with strong hands at each corner, they would toss them high in the air. This added greatly to the mirth and jollification of the occasion.

The Husking Bee.

Husking bees were quite common among the farmers in the early days. In the fall of the year, after the corn had been stripped off of the stalks in the field, it was loaded on to a waggon, drawn into the barn and piled up on one side of the big barn floor. The men, women, boys and girls in the neighborhood who had been invited to the "husking" would assemble about six or seven o'clock, and spend the evening in stripping the husks off of the ears of corn. The ears, after being husked, were thrown into piles on the opposite side of the barn floor, the husks being placed in front of the huskers and removed from time to time as they accumulated. The old-fashioned tin lanterns, with candles inside, were hung around the barn to furnish light. These gatherings would break up about ten o'clock, after which all hands would adjourn to the house to partake of refreshments provided by the hostess before going home. Sometimes the remainder of the evening was spent in playing games and in dancing.

Butchering Day, or "The Killing."

Butchering day was quite an important and busy day in the early times of our pioneer grandfathers. The farmer generally arranged to complete the job in one day. From the killing of the six or eight pigs and the "beef," to the making of the sausages, all had to be completed without rest or adjournment; All hands on the farm took part in the work—men, women and children. If the farmer did not have sufficient help of his own, he could always depend upon getting the necessary assistance from his neighbors. Some handy man in the neighborhood who had a special "knack" for butchering, was usually engaged to act as "chief factotum." The farmer would rise early in the morning and put the large kettles of water on the fire out in the backyard, and with his smock coat buttoned around him and, perhaps, his pipe in his mouth, would get the knives sharpened for the butchering.

The first part of the work was to catch the pigs. The farmer would enter the pig-sty, catch one of the animals by the legs and drag it out of the pen, and the pig would be held down while the chief butcher plunged his ready knife into the animal's neck, which soon finished the poor hog. The carcase was then removed to a raised platform, against which leaned a barrel filled with hot water, into which it was plunged and allowed to remain for a few minutes, or until the bristles became so loose that they could be easily scraped off. After the hair had all been removed the carcase was hung up by the gambrel, a stick which was run through between the cords of the hind legs, to a bar at the top of a post, or to a tree, washed and wiped off with a cloth, a slit or opening made the whole length of the body, and the entrails removed and taken to the house, where, the women help would turn them inside out and clean them, so that they might be ready for the sausage-making. The women were very careful in removing all the fat adhering and rendering it into lard; the liver was cooked and made into "liver-wurst," and the meat around the bones of the head and feet chopped fine and made into "head-cheese." The operation we have been describing was gone through successively until all the carcases were seen dangling from the posts in the yard, forming a far from unpleasing sight for the farmer. The fatted steer or cow was next brought around and held fast while a swinging blow of the axe on the forehead, wielded by one of the strongest and most expert of the men, would bring the animal down on its haunches, when the knife in the hands of the butcher on the watch was immediately plunged into its neck. After the stream of blood had ceased to flow the carcase was hung up, the hide removed and the entrails taken out, after which the beef was allowed to hang for a few hours before being quartered and put away. In the afternoon the carcases of the hogs were taken down one by one, placed on the table and cut up. In the evening the men and women helpers would finish the job; which consisted in grinding the meat for sausages and stuffing it into the "caseing." This part of the work took considerable time, and it was generally two or three o'clock in the morning before they got through, after which there was usually a meal of sausage served before retiring.

Fireplace and old utensiles


 


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