This weeks guest appearance is a true story from my husband Steve’s childhood, although he won’t want his family to know as he told me that I am the first person he has ever told this story to – let’s just hope that they are not reading this right now!
When I was a young boy I always used to help out at harvest time. In those days the some of the grain was handled in bulk but some was bagged off the trailer and stored temporarily in bags.
When grain is stored it must be below a certain moisture content otherwise bacteria and moulds can grow and cause the grain to spoil. When it is stored in bags the moisture content can be higher (up to about 18.5%) than when it is in a bulk store or in bins (only up to about 16.3% moisture content). One can get a good idea of the moisture content of grain through experience and biting the grain to see how crunchy it is.
Even so, back in the 1970’s we had an electronic moisture meter to measure this parameter as accuracy is very important. These were precision instruments and very expensive – ours was manufactured by Marconi and was a large grey box with dials and knobs and an elecrically operated needle a bit like a speedometer on a car which would swing in one direction or another depending upon the moisture of the grain.
Before the grain could be tested it must be ground which we did in a mill (that we also used for producing animal feed). After grinding the flour like material was placed into a cell where it was compressed and then the machine would take it’s reading from this compressed flour. The spent flour was emptied back into the sampling scoup and then tossed over the wall into the pig stye, where a lucky pair of fattening pigs would get a treat each time a sample was measured.
I was taught to use the moisture meter from an early age and I was probably only about 8 or 9 years old when I went to test a sample of grain. I completed the test and tossed the spent flour over the wall and into the pig trough to hear a clunking noise as the flour hit the porcelin trough (made from an old drainage pipe, concreted into the pig stye). I had inadvertantly thrown a piece of the moisture meter with the flour over into the pigs! The pigs had immediately jumped up to get their treat and within seconds one of them had this piece of metal in it’s mouth and was chewing it. What to do? I didn’t want the pig to swallow it, nor did I want to chase the pig and for it to drop the piece of metal somewhere in the deep straw where I couldn’t find it. Luckily the pig dropped the metal after what seemed like for ever but was probably only about 10 seconds. The metal wasn’t damaged so I replaced it and said nothing about the incident, that is until right now (about 24 years later). I was always more careful after that day.
A Treat For The Pigs by Steve @ Vintage Tractor Engineer.
If you have a farming story, memory or farm visit that you would like to share then please send me your story and I will happily include it on a guest appearance post.