To thresh, lay out a tarp, lay out an old sheet on top of it, take a couple or three shocks, remove the binding and arrange them in a circle, grain ends in hte middle of the sheet...and beat the tar out of them...preferably with a flail...two lengths of wood joined in the middle...think nunchucks..with one end longer than the other...then gather all the grain from the sheet into a bucket, leave the sheet out, and scoop up some of hte grain...a few cups and pour in into the middle of the sheet from about head high...preferably with a stiff breeze blowing..also not a problem in mesa...this will blow hte chaff and hulls out...
slovakian grain cradle
They make the point that for really small plots a sickle is probably the best tool.
If you try a cradle I'd be interested in hearing how it goes...we are still four months away from harvest, my fields are just greening up now.
Hand-harvesting generally means using a sickle. What you have to do is to bend down, grab a handful of grain, and then cut it off by reaching around it with the sickle and cutting it off. There’s a lot of bodily movement involved, so go slowly and take lots of breaks, at least until you get used to it.
A sickle is a one-handed tool, whereas a scythe is for two hands and allows you to stand up. You can go much faster with a scythe than with a sickle, since you don’t have to move around so much. There are 2 general types of scythe, one with a curved handle and one with a straight one. The type with the curved handle (actually double-reflexed, like an archery bow) is sometimes called “American style,” although it appears in several other countries, and the straight-handled type is called “Austrian style,” although it’s not just Austrian. The Austrian style is not well known in North America, but it’s far superior to the American style, since you don’t have to bend your back constantly to use it. A lot of modern Austrian-type scythes have aluminum handles, which work quite well.
At this point, however, I should dispel a popular myth. Throughout world history, the scythe alone was almost never used to harvest grain. It was commonly used for cutting hay, but not grain. The problem with a scythe is that, by itself, it cannot lay the stalks straight enough for them to be gathered and bound. The solution, invented mainly in the nineteenth century, was to attach to the scythe a set of long, finger-like projections known as a cradle. It’s possible to harvest grain with a scythe that has no cradle, but it certainly does a messy and wasteful job.
But the scythe with a grain cradle is not necessarily superior to the sickle, and the latter is still used in many countries. Scythes with cradles are heavy, they are dangerous (people sometimes cut their legs while flipping the stalks off the cradle and onto the ground), and they still do a less neat job than sickles, so grain tends to be wasted. A final advantage of a sickle is that you can leave a longer stubble if you wish to do so, leaving most of the stalk in the field; that longer stubble can later be dug in to replace the organic matter in the soil.
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