This hay rake might be my favorite artifact in the collection. There is nothing that says summer more than the sweet smell of freshly cut hay, drying in the fields. This hay rake traced the contours of Norwich fields for decades.
Hay is the foundation of the diet for all grazing animals and was a major seasonal activity of the farm year. Just about every household in Norwich needed hay. Making hay while the sun shines was a fact of life in the summer for Norwich farmers. Haying time meant weeks of work, rising at dawn and assembling a team to head to the fields to cut (with scythes). It was said that the best men could cut an acre of hay in a day. After cutting, came raking and heaping of the hay (or tedding) to dry. Getting the hay from the fields to the barn was labor intensive in the heat and required chains of people with pitchforks moving along the hay up into the loft.
The photographs below, taken on the Metcalf farm on Dutton Hill in 1965 captures the rhythm of the work even 100 years after this rake may have been used.
This hay rake is also a symbol of the interconnectedness of Norwich’s local economy. Haying is a labor-intensive process and neighbors helped each other, trading days of work cutting, raking, drying, baling, and storing.
It was a form of currency as farmers traded labor for this sharing of work, tools, and trading. This diary entry is just one of many detailing days of labor on a neighbor’s farm.
This rake is a testament to a seasonal life of hard work and neighborliness lived out on the hill farms of Norwich.