There has been a mini-industry of rural reminiscences produced for publication and archive collections often have unpublished manuscript recollections to explore.
An entry in the archive catalogue for farm diary might set the pulse racing, as we look forward to a latter- day Samuel Pepys describing life on the farm, all his family and village acquaintances in vivid detail. There are some diaries like that, but not very many.
Most farm diaries were more like our desk diaries and you can gain a lot of information about the farmer’s circle of working contacts from them. Early in the 19th century, stationers were printing diaries for farmers’ use and into their pages went records of appointments and daily activities, notes on the weather, the fields being harvested, the cows put to the bull, visits to the market, memoranda of bills paid and accounts settled.
Diaries often name the people wwho the farmer dealt with every dday from the corn merchants and livestock dealers to tradesmen, ssuch as the coal merchant. For eexample, Joseph Stevenson, who ffarmed in the Vale of the White HHorse in Berkshire (now OOxfordshire), noted that he had sold some cows to Mr Perry in NNovember 1909.
Using directories, we can build up a detailed picture of the faarmer’s world. Some farm diaries even mention the farmer’s extra- curricular activities, such as membership of the board of guardians or parish overseers.
There might be an entry in the diary “paid the men”, and some farmers go as far as to list each of the men by name and how much they were paid every week.
FarmersF used d speciali l di diariesi like this one from the collection at MERL