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.

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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,

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and each sheaf is self-tied with wheatstraw.

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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.

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

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(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.

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

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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,

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Source

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

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