In the cold dark days of winter a great deal of time on the farm is devoted to the caring of livestock; in days when most farms kept livestock and a very diverse range of it, the time spent was significant.
r phile the feeding and bedding ' of stock was routine and in many cases straightforward, the preparation of feeding and bedding materials was complex but vital as most farms produced the raw materials for animal rations. Much of this work was carried out in the feed house, a place of relative warmth and dry and exotic aromas providing a comforting refuge from the vagaries of winter outside.
But in the pre-electricity days on the farm the feed house would be a dark dingy place lit only by a paraffin lamp. Nervous lads would make a very noisy entrance to the shed hoping to scare away any rats. Fastidious farms could reduce the incidence of rats by keeping the feed house tidy and well swept, and encouraging the farm cats to hang around in this area for rodent rations and warmth.
In the post-agricultural revolution steadings in Scotland these feed houses were placed strategically in scientifically designed ranges of farm buildings. Mostly they were placed underneath the granary so the stored grain to be used in the feed ration could be fed down chutes into the machinery. They tended to be close to the threshing area in the steading where there was a chaff house for storing this by -product of threshing that was used in feed mixes.
They also tapped into the power source for the threshing mill which could vary from water wheel, stationary steam or oil engines or latterly tractors or even electricity. In relatively close proximity were the livestock to be fed; these included the work horses in the stable, dairy cows in the byres, beef cattle in the courts, pigs in the pig craves and poultry in their sheds. Sheep required their feed to be carted out to the fields that they tended to be wintered in although some breeding sheep may have been housed indoors for lambing.
Nearly all feed houses would be floored with big flat flagstones that may have come from Caithness; this facilitated easier mixing with shovels and cleaning up. in some cases concrete floors were added providing an even smoother surface and in some progressive places a cement render coated the lower walls for the same reason; others may have benefited from whitewash for cleanliness and light in pre-electric days. Z)
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