Sunday, December 21, 2008

Henry Pratt's Memories VIII

Barrels of apples: The quotes are Henry, the parentheticals are mine.
The main crop of the Pratt farm was apples. This probably resulted from the fact during this period apples were the easiest to transport because they were less susceptible to bruises and spoilage than most other fruits.
The apples were then packed in barrels that held three bushels. W.M.Pratt had been a cooper before he went into farming and was one of the few farmers in the area who made his own barrels.  He also sold them to other growers in the area. Much of the winter was devoted to this occupation and one of the sons was taught this trade (Joe?). Sometimes he even hired another cooper to help him out. Barrel stock consisted of staves, hoops and heads. A great deal of skill was required to produce one barrel and it took a very good cooper to produce 100 in a ten hour day. (I find that hard to believe, that's 10 per hour).
"Staves came flat, with a bulge in the middle, and were cut in varying widths. The cooper set them up, choosing a mixture of widths to make them come out to the proper diameter. They were set up in heavy factory-made hoops, the opposite ends of the flaring staves were drawn together with a rope and lever arrangement. Other heavy hoops were driven on. They were set over a specially designed stove, which set the staves in this curved shape. The barrel could then be removed from the stove, the heavy hoops replaced with thin hoops which were always made of Elm, bevels and grooves were cut into each end and the head put in place". (Joe's daughter Clara inherited some cooper's tools. If Cousin Dwan will tell us about them, what and where, I will forward her message to you all).
"When apples were packed in barrels the apples were sorted into 1/2 bushel baskets. The top hoops would be loosened on a barrel, the head knocked out, a man would pour some apples in the bottom of the barrel, and arrange them in concentric rings, comprising the 'face'. The best apples would be used for this. The barrel would then be filled by lowering a half bushel basket of apples into the barrel and tipping it over. They would be 'tailed off' to a smooth layer on top, about a half inch above the barrel, the head arranged over the apples and forced down about two inches until the head fit in the groove, and the hoops driven down to draw the staves together and hold the head in place." (I don't understand why the best apples and the face are on the bottom of the barrel?). (emailed July 10)

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