It was then time to start learning. Classes covered both the theoretical and practical sides of farming. The theory we learnt in lectures in classrooms and the practical in the buildings and fields with the Institute. Our classroom teachers both male and female were younger, the outside and practical work taught by older men. We were a lively and energetic bunch of girls from all over Lancashire and whilst some had a farming background, the majority of us did not, and we were very ignorant of what lay ahead.
Our training covered the many aspects of the farming we were likely to encounter; whilst farming is essentially practical what we had to be aware of was the theory, the seasons, rotation of crops, fertilization, sowing, tending, harvesting, storage and many other things besides. We were expected to take and keep notes and do our “homework” of an evening. The practical training included that of the dairy, making cheese and butter, hand milking of the Institute’s cows, bottling the milk, washing and disinfecting the bottles beforehand and cleaning up the milking parlor and dairy afterward we had taken the cows back to the fields, all twice a day.
We learnt how to handle poultry; feeding and collecting the eggs from the batteries the birds were in, and for those destined for the table to kill, clean pluck and truss them for the oven. Despite our qualms, we had to learn to do quickly and humanely kill birds. Our first attempts led to horrible surprises as the “dead” whose necks we had wrung would suddenly stir, hop off the bench and run away. Our Instructor promptly grabbed these escapees and did the job properly. But it was a bit disconcerting. Cleaning out the huge battery houses was a horrible job with the pungent acrid aroma of the droppings that got in my hair and clothes. Despite this I got to like working with hens and all their little ways.
We had pigs too and they were always amusing. Often we had to enter their pens and pigs are very difficult to catch being so agile, and one day when it was all wet and muddy I slipped and fell among them. Not so good was the killing and butchering, for pigs appear to sense what was intended beforehand and squealed in their distress very loudly and pitifully. The need for all this I was supposed to get used to, but never did.