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Another Experiment in Threshing Wheat

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Wheat harvest is in June, and we try to get it threshed and winnowed as quickly as possible. It’s much easier to store as grain than in a bulky, non-threshed form (easier to protect from moths, too). In the past, both Dan and I worked on this together, but last year, I had an abundance of tomatoes, figs, and pears, so that I didn’t have time to spare for the wheat. The other day, I got out the last of the wheat heads and thought about how to thresh it.

Some of our unthreshed wheat from last summer.

 Of growing wheat, I’d have to say that the growing is the easiest part. Scything isn’t too bad, or last year, we had a small enough patch that we could just cut off the heads with a hand sickle. The hardest part is the threshing, which is separating the grains from the seed heads. Winnowing is just tedious.

To thresh, we’ve tried stomping, pounding, flailing, and rubbing. Dan even tried converting a little yard chipper into a thresher (pictures and explanation here.) Even so, every year we’re still looking for an easier way to do it. 

And that’s where my experiment came in. 

I filled a couple of pillowcases about a third full with wheat heads, added half-a-dozen golf balls, knotted the pillowcases closed, and tied them off with string for good measure. Then I put the bags into the clothes dryer.

I turned the heat off and set the dryer to the longest timer setting, which was 70 minutes. Then I let the bags of wheat bounce around in the dryer until the timer went off. Here’s what it looked like when I dumped it out.

It worked!

I think this is the most thorough separation of wheat from the chaff we’ve ever had. And it required very little effort on our part! This method is a keeper! Now, I’m wondering how it would work for oats and buckwheat.
There are two caveats that I want to mention. The first is the type of fabric the pillowcase is made of. For my first load, I used one cotton pillowcase and the other polyester. When I dumped out the threshed wheat, the polyester pillowcase had chaff and wheat beards stuck all over it. It was a mess. The contents in the cotton pillowcase, however, dumped out cleanly and nothing stuck to the cloth. For my second load, I used only cotton pillowcases.
The second noteworthy point is that tying off the bags is a must. In the second batch, we tried leaving one bag knotted but not tied with string. Bouncing around in the dryer for over an hour managed to work the knot loose and much of the contents spilled out into the dryer drum. 
Next, I have to finish winnowing. No shortcuts for that, unfortunately. I’ll just have to find the time to work it into my increasingly busy spring schedule.


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