Means of transport on the farm

Milkwomen. Sanctuary of Urkiola Collection. Ecclesiastical Historical Archive of Bizkaia
Milkwomen. Sanctuary of Urkiola Collection. Ecclesiastical Historical Archive of Bizkaia.

Pure human force is the simplest and oldest form of transport. So it was that bundles of harvested grass were shouldered from the field and carried up to the loft for storage. Large baskets would later serve such purposes, and wheelbarrows came to enable and speed up the carriage of heavier and bulkier loads around the farm. Liquids were commonly conveyed in pails suspended from the ends of a slightly curved shoulder pole; a notch was cut at each end to prevent the vessels from slipping off.

Oxen and cattle have traditionally been used as draught animals for a number of jobs on the farm. Large tree trunks (tantaiak), for instance, were sledged from the mountain on a small cart (trakulua or burtzila) pulled by a yoke or more of oxen. The trunks were then placed on a trestle and sawn for timber with a two-handed saw (arpana).

Ox cart with sides made of woven sticks. Zeanuri (Bizkaia), 1925. Felipe Manterola Collection
Ox cart with sides made of woven sticks. Zeanuri (Bizkaia), 1925. Felipe Manterola Collection. Labayru Fundazioa Photographic Archive.

Cart wheels (txirrinak or erreilak) were in olden times made entirely out of wood, except for very few iron pieces: the central hole, several reinforcing sheets and four wedges (ainiparrak) to secure the wheels in place. The axle was made of holm oak or alder wood, and the wheels of oak wood. A band of metal (ubela) was fitted around the rim of each wheel. More modern carts would have rubber wheels and a better braking system than primitive ones.

In poorer farms with no oxen, cows were used to cart manure from the stable to the fields, livestock bedding materials (azpigarria) or large amounts of fuelwood, as well as for ploughing (goldatu), harrowing (areatu)…

Clothing, linen and other belongings collected by a bride (more occasionally by a groom) for marriage, known as trousseau, were also formerly transported to the house in a cart drawn by oxen or cattle.

Donkeys and horses were used for transportation of grass, maize, turnip, beetroot or firewood, to haul grain to the mill and flour to the farm… In most farms there was either a donkey or a horse, though not both. Food products from the farm were taken to the market in a cart driven by the donkey or the horse (asto-karroa or zaldi-karroa).

Good old farming disappeared in our country in the 1970s. Different tractor models have largely replaced all the mentioned traditional means. Mechanization of agriculture, though, requires special consideration and shall be dealt with in a future post.

Segundo Oar-Arteta – Etniker Bizkaia – Etniker Euskalerria Groups

Translated by Jaione Bilbao – Ethnography Department – Labayru Fundazioa

All of the above is data gathered by the author in and around Gernika (Bizkaia).

Reference for further information: Agriculture, part of the Ethnographic Atlas of the Basque Country.

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