Tuesday, April 2, 2013

No whining about winnowing

As our last post of long ago mentioned, we harvested all our winter wheat last summer.  Here it is April, and we're still processing wheat, an activity we do in bursts as needed.  And since we do still shop at the grocery store, I don't NEED to thresh and winnow wheat every week, as I planned to do. 
Despite the day-long chore of many hands that is harvesting wheat, threshing and winnowing is an even more labor-intensive chore.  I used to think the word combine (pronounced COM-bine when, in this case, referring to that huge piece of agricultural equipment) was synonymous with all the evils of conventional, large-scale industrial monocropping agribusiness.  That is, until I learned that what a COMbine is: a machine that combines the tasks of harvesting and threshing and winnowing grain.  Hey, what a novel idea!  HA!  But for the home gardener, this is not only prohibitively expensive, but also all-around unnecessary.  Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of options for the modern back-to-the-lander.  But, by some lucky happenstance, I married an incredibly inventive man.  Check out this apparatus: 
So, we still thresh the wheat.  This means getting the wheat berries loose from the hulls.  First, we take a shock of wheat (see next to the barn), put it in a pillow case, and beat it repeatedly for a few minutes.  This breaks off the seed heads, and ideally you're left with just wheat straw.  Next, you twist the pillowcase closed, and rub your hands together vigorously with the wheat seeds between your hands.  This loosens many berries from the hulls.  Then you pour these into the contraption you see at your right (or a modified 55-gallon drum), insert your leaf blower, and simply sit back and wait.  The chaff blows out while the wheat berries are simply tossed around in circles inside. 
After it's all said and done, we really don't need to even use the bucket method to let the wind blow away the last little bits of chaff.  We do two bundles of wheat at a time, which will yield about a quart of wheat berries; more than a quart of flour. 


  1. Nice description of the process. So when you make flour - how much wheat grass do you need for a pound or even a cup? I talk a bit about wheat "domestication" with my sophomores.

    Hope your spring plantings (and yourselves) were not heavily impacted by tornadoes or other associated weather this year. Thinking about you all.

  2. Randy - HI! A cup of wheat berries yields about 1.25cups of flour. You ask about wheat grass - hmm - a sheath - a double fisted handful. Hope that makes sense.