Marcus McKeever was the third of four boys born to Samuel McKeever and Helena ne Telford. He is the one astride the donkey, with his older brother Dermot (standing) and younger brother Robert, the baby. This must have been take in about 1925.
He wrote this essay while at St Columba's college in about 1935 and he was about 15. It was during the 'Economic War'. Times were hard and he left school soon afterwards to come home and work on the farm, which he did until he died in 1978. I have transcribed it to make it easier to read.
Managing a Modern Farm
Managing a modern farm is a task which is not very hard when times are good but when times are bad and one does not get the prices one expects it is very hard to make both ends meet. When one has a grazing farm only, the chief thing to do is not to mind the prices one is going to get for fat cattle when buying stores, but to restock ones farm with cattle for fifty shillings or so less than the price one got for one's last fat cattle. Some people who have not much capital and want to get into farming on a big scale set three quarters of their land, and stock the last quarter with heifers which will have calves. After one year they only let half of it and after two a quarter and after three none. This is a very slow way as one hardly gets any profit for three or four years because the land is let for very little over the amount of rates and taxes on it.
The most common kind of farm is a mixed farm which is rather harder to farm than a grazing farm. The chief thing is to find which fields are suitable for tillage and which for grazing. The fields which have water on them are generally kept for grazing unless they are on a northerly slope and have a wood on the south side. The rotation for tillage is oats for the first year after a field is ploughed and sometimes a second crop is taken out the following year, but this robs the soil. Wheat may be sown instead of oats but the yield is generally bad.
After a grain crop has been grown for a year or two a root crop is planted, after the ground has been well tilled and fertilized with farmyard manure or chemical manure. The general root crops are turnips potatoes or mangolds. Turnips and mangolds are said to do the land more
good than harm.
After a root crop the land is generally laid down by another grain crop. Barley is the best crop to lay land down with but wheat or oats are also quite good. When wheat is being grown it is generally sown at the end of October, while oats or barley is sown in the spring. In the middle of May a mixture of grass is also sown.
The grass which is sown is a good meadow in June of the following year and may be mown twice the first year. and once a year for three or four years after.
After the turnips have been sown it is time to land the potatoes, which has to be done twice or three times and it is well to spray them with bluestone to prevent blight. Then comes a slack time which is generally filled by shearing the sheep.
Then the hay has to be made and the turnips grubbed and thinned. Thinning is generally done by school children in their holidays. When the hay is made there is sometimes a week or two before the harvest in which one can get a considerable amount of hay stacked.
The harvest is made much easier to manage by the invention of the "Reaper and Binder" which is a great improvement on the old methods.
When wheat and barley have been cut for a week or so and are fairly well dry they have to be hand stacked. This is not necessary with oats except in a very wet year. After the corn is in and threshed one returns to finish the drawing in of hay.
In October the potatoes have
On all modern farms both horses and tractors are used. The tractors for heavy work and the horses for lighter work. The cheap road taxation on an agricultural vehicle makes a tractor very economical. It is used for ploughing and drawing big loads while a horse is used for harrowing and light carting.
If a man has a dairy farm it is necessary to have some tillage to feed the cows in the winter, if there is no dairy farm cattle are stall fed on the turnips and crushed grain. Straw is used for both bedding and feeding.