Times are getting tough for our wartime farmers. Ruth is tending to the dung heap for compost. The cows are contributing to Ruth’s dung heap. The boys are building a straw house. Alex and Peter are giving up their room to someone who will the farmers with their rat problem. Straw buildings were fairly common during the war as housing was scarce. As the boys build the roof on the house, they realized that they forget a window. They had to rearrange the house to put a window in. Peter works on building the frame and Alex pulls nettles for the roof thatch.
By 1943, there were concerns that stamina was running out. Four years of war were endured. Everything got worse and worse. Life became harder and harder. Now the people of Britain were tired. They were war-weary.
The farmers also take aggressive measures to protect their harvest. They bring in an exterminator to use wartime methods to get rid of the rats. The wheat harvest is months away, so they will need to be taken care of and fast. Over 2 million tons of food could be destroyed by rats. Women were trained as rat catchers and moved from farm to farm to help with the rat problems. Alex and the rat exterminator go through the places where the rats were. They set traps to first lure the rats to places around the farm and then they will switch the bait for the poison to get rid of the rats.
After they build their house, the boys then turn to hay-making. The Farmers turned to unusual places to get hay. All the meadowland had been turned to fields. So the farmers turned to orchards and churchyards to get hay. The jobs on the farm pile up, so our farmers enlist children. They form a harvest camp for the kids. Ruth, Peter, and Alex erect tents for the kids. 70,000 children worked in harvest camps, without these camps the farmers would not have been able to feed the nation.
The kids harvest herbs and plants for the pharmaceutical industry. Farmers could get paid by the pharmaceutical industry by harvesting. At the start of the war, 90% of the chemicals needed for medicines came from plants from abroad. That changed with the war. Kew Gardens helped come up with a list of plants needed for the pharmaceutical industry. Vast quantities of meadowsweet and willow bark would be needed for aspirin. Ruth processes the herbs that were collected by the children. Selling dried herbs was another way farmers gained an extra income.
The children also help out with the hay harvest. They put the hay into big piles to help keep the rain off it. Peter is in charge of the nine kids working with the hay.
Ruth in the meantime prepares lunch for the children. The Government was determined that the children were well fed. Ruth feels challenged by catering for 30 kids. The locals were encouraged to donate food supplies. There were also evening activities for the children.
Alex makes a bee skep; he wants to get honey for the children as a reward for the hard work. Honey could be used to dress wounds and it was also a sugar substitute. Alex collects bramble to build his bee skep. He also uses the leftover straw to build the bee skep. He will continue to add layers until the basket is complete.
Alex building the bee skep would be a good section to show to an art class or an agricultural classroom. This would be a good episode for independent study students.
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