Being small and wiry, she was sometimes at an advantage. Most of the labourers were too old to be called up, but they were all experienced farm hands. One tip she soon learned was, when hoeing rows of vegetables or harvesting crops individually (such as turnips), don’t compete with your neighbours but find your own rhythm. So let your neighbour carry on while you stand erect to ease your back, or take a drink of water, and then don’t try to catch up. You’ll both work more efficiently, though there’s no harm in being near enough to carry on a conversation.
There was a tractor and various mechanical aids, but a lot of the work was done by hand or with a horse. One early mistake was in sowing corn one spring. Being careful to keep the rows straight (you fix your eye on something in the hedge at the end of the row, a splash of colour or a distinctive branch), she didn’t leave the final row uncovered and so the next morning, though she knew roughly where it was, she couldn’t start parallel to it. Of course, it happened to be on a slope visible from the main road and her shame was on show for the whole year – the farmer was teased more than she was, however.
She used to choose a short-handled hoe which the men scorned to try. It was a convenient height and she was able to speed along the rows faster than anyone else.
She used to talk about the harvest, when the dust and chaff got into everything. Even tying a scarf around her face didn’t keep it out of her nose and everyone would sneeze in the evenings. It was a dirty, dusty job, but the satisfaction of adding to the war effort – far more than she would have as a pen-pusher in an office – and helping to keep the country fed was consolation for that.