The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Threshing and winnowing wheat

Threshing wheatI originally meant to save our first experimental wheat harvest for winter bedding/treats for the chickens, but a pair of cardinals found the plants as they hung drying under the eaves.  I quickly changed my plans --- thresh and winnow out the grain so it doesn't all go in wild bird bellies.

Mark's electric-converted chipper/shredder was a perfect threshing machine for the grain, with an old cardboard box slipped underneath to catch the wheat.  I learned that feeding smaller hanks into the shredder works best, and that it is essential to have all of the grain heads lined up.  I'm glad I tried out the threshing just for these pieces of wisdom since I'll save a lot of time with future threshing by tweaking my harvesting technique.

Wheat and chaff

Winnowing wheatPlenty of chaff ended up in the cardboard box with the wheat, so my next step was winnowing.  I raked the biggest pieces of stems together, tossing handfuls lightly into the air so that heavy grains fell out the bottom to remain in the box.  Then I tossed handfuls of what remained higher, this time in front of the fan, which worked quite well to remove most of the small pieces of chaff from the seeds.

Total harvest was just shy of three cups --- a terribly poor showing since I think I planted about that much in the paddock last fall.  However, I figure I only got about 70% of the grain out with my quick and dirty threshing (giving the rest to the chickens with their bedding straw), and the cardinals ate perhaps another 30% of the whole.  And I had a lot of problems growing the wheat, which is the main cause of the small harvest.  I figure that for our first real foray into growing grain, breaking even isn't too bad.

Our chicken waterer never spills or fills with poop.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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That's interesting - are you just feeding the wheat stalks into the mulcher until the seed heads are ripped off, and then pulling the rest of the stalk back out?

I'm going to have to look on YouTube for info on threshing with a mulcher! I'd never heard of it before, but it makes sense!

Comment by Darren (Green Change) Sun Jul 31 19:56:47 2011

Yup. That's why it's so imperative to have the heads all lined up at the same point, because if you feed in too much straw it bogs down the machine. I got the idea because my father says that's what he used this machine for before he gave it to me.

Actually, I'm not positive it's really a chipper/shredder --- it didn't seem to chip or shred very well. Not sure what this machine really is....

Comment by anna Sun Jul 31 20:47:21 2011
It is a WW Company chipper-shredder. Check out ads for it in Organic Gardening magazines from the 60's and 70's.
Comment by Errol Mon Aug 1 06:45:33 2011

Thanks for the extra data! A google search turns up the following firsthand information:

"Its limb chipping was quite poor by today's standards. It couldn't handle any thing much over an inch.... I raised a lot of corn and it was good at pulverizing corn stalks and corncobs for my compost pile."

"It was almost useless for anything beyond leaves and little branches."

"The W - W grinders use fixed or swinging hammer knives to cut and blend hay, straw, corn cobs/stalks/silage with whatever bagged or other feeds/additives... to make a whole feed blend for cattle and hogs. Not in any way intended to deal with any sort of branch."

"It is a hammermill grinder and is used to pulverize composting materials into a very fine soil like consistency."

"My 10 HSP WW grinder has made dozens and dozens of yards of mulch from Bradford Pear trees etc. Maybe the smaller units suck or something."

Comment by anna Mon Aug 1 07:53:24 2011

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