Stooks and sheaves at an historic farm

At Hanley Historic Farm near Jacksonville, Oregon, we came upon a wheatfield that had been cut and stacked, and it was a beautiful sight.


These aren’t just bunches of cut wheat tossed up into heaps like our idea of a haystack; they’re carefully constructed of sheaves, or bundles,



and each sheaf is self-tied with wheatstraw.


This takes us back a hundred and fifty years or so: before mechanical harvesters and threshers, grain was cut with scythes, made into stacks in the field to dry, heaved up onto wagons with pitchforks, and then threshed and winnowed to separate the wheat (or barley or oats or millet) from the chaff and straw. Hot, dusty, backbreaking work.


Winslow Homer (1836-1910), The Veteran in a New Field, 1865 (source)


(source; artist unknown.)

Think about cutting acres of wheat this way, stopping every 20 minutes or so to sharpen the scythe blade which had to be razor sharp so that the cut wheat would fall neatly.


Heinrich Bürkel (1802-1869), Loading The Hay-Wagon [and hurrying to beat that rainstorm!] (cropped for this use; entire painting here)


I’m curious how this wheat will be threshed and winnowed. Historic methods for threshing included having oxen walk round in circles stepping on the grain to break it (mentioned in the Bible: “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain” Deuteronomy 25:4) and using a flail,



I’ll see what I can find out from the farm, which is run by the Southern Oregon Historical Society.



2 thoughts on “Stooks and sheaves at an historic farm

  1. I am featuring Hanley Farm in a short, one-page regular feature (“Day Trips in Southern Oregon”) in a newsletter that will be distributed to about 3000 seniors in Southern Oregon. I would like to have your permission to use some of the photos from this blog and I would like to know who to credit. Your images perfectly capture the historic feel of the farm. If I don’t hear back from you by Wednesday, March 7, I will have to look for other photos because we go to press at the end of the week. Thanks!

    • Dear Mara,

      I hope I am still in time to grant you permission to use my photos of Hanley Farm for your newsletter. Please credit them to ‘Cynthia Cheney’. It’s a pleasure to know they will be seen in another way.

      If you could send me a copy, I’d be delighted!

      best wishes,

      Cynthia Cheney 8060 Upper Applegate Road Jacksonville, OR 97530-8984

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