One hundred years ago, James McKenney lived and farmed with (his wife?) Lena, in Readfield, Maine. I'm fortunate to have found his ledger at a flea market. Occasionally, we’ll look back at James's notes to see what he and Lena were up to, one hundred years ago to the day.
Sunday, March 3, 1912:
"Fair I worked on the road to day
And went over to Maces with
Monday, March 4, 1912:
"Fair I went up to Town
Meeting with Charles to day
F. Tibbetts came down to
Winner some beans this P.M."
James put down few words, but there’s a lot to comment on here … winter road maintenance, bringing cream to the market (Maces), and Town Meeting (that all-important event). But let’s focus on the beans. I love that James writes “winner” rather than “winnow.” If we imagine hearing him say it, his downeast dialect would probably have it sound more like “Winnah.”
James doesn’t tell us how much winnowing he had to do. But there's nowhere in his ledger that I find any mention of bringing beans to the market, so I’m guessing he grew beans only for his own use, and stored them in his barn.
If he had a lot to thresh, he may have hired someone with a “beaner” to help him out.
“As soon as the vines are dry, they should be removed carefully to the barn, where the beans may be nailed or thrashed out. The modern bean thrasher (beaner) removes the beans much more quickly and cheaply than the flail. After the beans are thrashed, they should be cleaned and graded, and the good beans placed in sacks for marketing.” (Field Crops, Wilson Warburton, 1912).
I suppose it’s possible that F. Tibbetts owned a beaner. If he did, Tibbetts “came down” to lend James use of it, and help out. James does not mention that he paid Tibbetts for the help.
But there were problems with using a beaner.
“Threshing is usually done by special machines called "beaners," which go from farm to farm for hire as do ordinary grain threshers. These beaners sometimes split so many beans that the old-fashioned flail is regarded more economical in spite of its slowness.” (USDA Experiment Station Work, 1911).
If James grew his beans solely for his own use, it’s likely he simply used a hand flail to release them from their pods. Then he set to "winner some beans."
“They are then further cleaned by running through a fanning mill, after which all discolored beans, as well as stones, dirt, etc. are picked out by hand. This latter work is usually performed by children, women or other cheap labor.” (Farmers Cyclopedia of Agriculture, 1904).
I’m pleased to see that James doesn’t delegate this task to Lena. He knew she already had her hands full. If he didn't, I'm sure she let him know.
Read more! The Heirloom Orchardist has prepared