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Amish Harvesting Threshing Time

Last evening at the Singing, one of the Gingerich boys asked me if I would be available, this week, to come over and help thresh oats.  I always enjoy helping to thresh.  But, why does threshing time always have to be when the temperature is in the nineties.  Oh well, so goes it.  Lord willing I'll be there.

I, usually, take my own pitchforks.  We like to use three tine forks with lighter handles.  It makes it easier to pitch the sheaves.

The big hay wagons start out from the barnyard pulled by a team of two Belgian workhorses.  There are usually three or four wagons being used at the same time.  One wagon gets filled up and starts out for the barnyard, while it is on the way back, another comes up and is being fillled. etc.

Out in the field, you have three or four pitchers per wagon.  The oat shocks have already been knocked over the evening before.  A pitcher uses his pitch fork to catch a sheaf by the binding twine and pitches it up onto the wagon.  A pitcher has to be  careful to get the sheaf up on the wagon but to keep his fork away from the top of the wagon.  It a fork comes to close a loader could reach out to grab the sheaf and accidentally get impaled on a fork tine.  Major ouch!

A couple of loaders are on the wagon to catch the sheaves and arranged them on the wagon.  Woe betide the loader who might have the reputation of being a little ornery.  Sheaves just might be pitched and aimed for his head.  Not that I would ever do this, personally, Mercy me, no.  But, it has been known to happen.  But, woe betide, the pitcher who aims amiss.  A sheaf might just come back off the wagon down on top of his head.  Oh my!

The loaders up on the wagon try to arrange the sheaves so that they are pointing with the heads of the sheaves (grain end) pointing out towards the sides of the wagon.  The sheaves keep building up and up and up until the driver and loaders are about six or seven feet above the bed of the wagon.  Time to head off toward the threshing machine back at the barnyard.  Once the wagon leaves, another pulls up to take its place.

The shocks are arranged in rows so that the wagon can be pulled up alongside.  Wagon on the left.  Driver has to watch and keep the wagon close enough so it is easier to pitch but not so close as to roll over the sheaves.  Also, as the sheaves in the row get pitched up he has to keep the horses moving so that the pitching can keep on going up the row.

It is always nice when the oats have grown up pretty weed free.  But, some years the thistles get in.  Pity the poor loaders when a sheaf of oats full of dried out prickly thistles gets pitched up to them.  Ouch!

When a loaded wagon gets back to the barnyard it is time to feed the threshing machine.  Our machines are old threshing machines powered by belt power attached to a tractor.  There are a couple of pitchers waiting for the loaded wagon.  They climb on and start pitching the sheaves, one at a time,  headfirst onto the conveyor belt.  The belt takes the sheaf up into the threshing machine where it gets separated into  oats grain, chaff, and straw.  The golden oats fill up in a hopper; the chaff gets blown out into a pile; and the oat straw gets baled.

Meantime, at intervals during the day, the young children have the job of coming out to the field witih pony and wagon to bring refreshing treats: water, iced tea, watermelon, ice-cream bars, popsicles, etc.  Those breaks are very welcomed.  Especially, looked forward to is dinner.  (middag)  Lunch for city folk.  A nice hearty meal and maybe a chance for a brief snooze under a shade tree afterwards.  Then, back to the fields.

Finally, the last sheaf is pitched onto the last wagon.  But, the work isn't done yet.  Those stacks of oat straw bales need to be dealt with.   They need to be under cover before the next rain.  The bales are taken by wagon to the barn where they are loaded, one-by-one onto  a conveyor elevator which takes them up to the haymow.   The men unloadingthe bales, grab each bale by the binding twine and heave it onto the conveyor elevator, longways pointing up.  Waiting hands grab them as they tumble off of the conveyor at the top and start stacking them up.  Sometimes clear up to the roof of the barn.  When the last bale has been unloaded the wagon gets a sweeping down and is ready for its next task, whatever that may be.

Anybody who has helped to thresh is invited for the threshing supper.  What a feast.  Chicken, corn-on-the-cob, fresh sliced tomatoes, mashed potatoes and gravy, garden salad, relish plates with garden fresh veggies, pies galore, and home cranked ice-cream.  I always look forwards to  the threshing suppers.  It is a very enjoyable time of great food and fellowship.   

The Amish have learned something that the Greater Society has overlooked.  Being as efficient as you can is not always the best way.  There are more efficient ways to harvest oats than how we do.  However, the Amish have learned that coming together to help each other is a great bonding facilitator.  As we help each other in work, we are helping to build relationships, build community, build the Body of Christ.  It is a blessed time, really.  How sad that for many English people, the only concept of bonding they have is over Facebook or Twittering each other.  They've missed some great interaction and some good exercise, too.

Well, time to go out and get my pitchforks cleaned up and ready.  My water jug needs to be washed out and made ready.  Better get plenty of bandannas ready, too.  You can sweat buckets out in the fields at threshing time.

Re: Amish Harvesting Threshing Time

I really enjoyed this.  Thank you. Smile

Re: Amish Harvesting Threshing Time

hello in Christ Gus,
I have not spoken to you in quite some time now, I know that you have been very busy in your farm work. I am glad that you took the time to tell our 'English' friends all about the threshing time, I am sure that they have learned from your teachings. I, in the meantime, have learned to drive a motorcar. That was a very funny experience and was enjoyed by all who know me. Glad to be able to talk to you again.



Re: Amish Harvesting Threshing Time

FASCINATING!!!! MY father and grandfather always put up loose hay with a horse drawn loader(it was converted for a tractor),What fun we had riding in on those loads of hay!!! It was thenput into the mow with a giant hay fork run with a block and tackle. We(our son and us) now farm the same land,but we do the small,square bales. My Dad did oats,but a local farmer came and took care of those for him. I tend to think that those old ways are better..and I know first-hand more enjoyable...even though more labor-intensive. I always enjoy your posts,Gusluke!

Re: Amish Harvesting

Hmmm.  I don't know why these posts are duplicated.  I must have messed somethiing up.

Re: Amish Harvesting

Hi Gusluke! It's been my experience on this site, if you hit 'preview' first, then you hit 'save', it will be duplicated. I don't know why, though!