Saturday, September 21, 2013

We Threshed and Winnowed the Wheat!

We were very busy after school on Monday September 16th! Our friend, Brittany, was over to visit and the weather was good, so we did some "wheat work".
Time to make a threshing floor!
We used a piece of wood from the garage and a few old play mats to set up a hard and clean spot in the yard. Then we covered it with a bed sheet, and held it in place with some chairs and wood, since it was a windy day.
We got the idea to use some wire fencing (it is also called hardware cloth) from a YouTube video by John Jeavons all about threshing. We watched a few other videos with other methods, but this one looked like it would work the best for us. Here is the link:
A section of our garden fence worked as a threshing screen.
We also knew that we would need shoes with flat bottoms for this, since we were getting ready to stomp on the grain and we didn't want to get it stuck in our shoes.
Flat-bottomed shoes for threshing, please!
With the screen in place on the threshing floor, we didn't need to separate the straw from the heads, we just placed the heads over the screen, stepped on the straw, and started a little shuffle on the wheat to do the threshing.
Julia places the wheat...
...and starts doing the "Wheat Dance"!
Our method worked pretty well, but it was a bit hard to balance on the edge of the screen sometimes. We all took turns, and the threshing took about an hour from start to finish.
An action shot of our threshing machine!
After we threshed a sheaf or two, we removed the screen, separating the straw from and some of the chaff from the grain. Then we simply swept up the wheat, and repeated the process until all seven of our sheaves were threshed.
It looked like this when we removed the screen.
...and then we swept it up and kept going!
Heather's Turn!
Thresh, Heather, Thresh!
From the treehouse you can see the "field" too, behind the white chair.
Brittany's turn to thresh!
We got good enough to thresh two at a time!
After a while we really started to realize how much work it is to thresh wheat. Our system was working well, but it took an awful lot of "Wheat Dancing" to get through those seven sheaves!
UGH! This is a LOT of work for one loaf of bread!
Finally we removed the screen for the last time and got to start cleaning up. With four of us threshing it really took about an hour, but we worked pretty hard for that hour!
With the threshing all done we emptied whatever was left on the sheet into our bin, and that also helped us to get every piece of wheat (and to keep the seeds off of the lawn too!).
All threshed! Time to winnow!
We were wondering how long it would take us to clean all of the straw and husks off of our threshed wheat. It was a windy day, and after we took a bit of a break we decided to winnow the wheat, since we still had sunlight, and it was pretty windy out. Most people use a fan to winnow, and we would have done that too, but the wind worked just fine.

Winnowing is a lot of careful pouring. The wind blows away the chaff.
After winnowing the wheat about five times.
After winnowing about ten times...getting pretty clean!
This week we have been drying the grain, and cleaning it. The grain should be at about 12% humidity (inside the grains) before we try to grind it into flour. We have no idea how to measure that, so we'll just dry it out for now. If the grain starts to stick together or gum up when we try to grind it then we will know it is still not ready. We also have to figure out a quicker method for drying. Right now we just have it sitting in a warm room on cookie pans.
Cleaning and drying the harvest.
Final cleaning, on Saturday September 21, 2013.
While the wheat is drying we have to figure out how we will grind it into flour. This process is also called "milling". We have read a few ways we could try, but we have not settled on a method yet. Hopefully the grain will be dry enough when it comes time!

We have not yet weighed our grain yet to figure out how much we yielded from the 4x8 field we planted. We do know that it fills up 2/3 of a large Peanut Butter jar. Maybe we will weigh it properly next week. We also don't know how much flour it will make, or what recipe we ought to use for the bread when we get there.

We are getting close though!

And that is all we know so far.