Q&A

DEAR NEW FARM:

I raise sheep and hens. I'd like to grow a half-acre of wheat to feed the hens but need ideas about threshing. Are there any really small scale threshers out there, say the size of a home or farm chipper/shredder? Any ideas of where to look?

Thanks,
Sherry
Dancing Sheep Farm
Oregon

 

DEAR SHERRY:

Check out the article Small-scale grain production today by Eugene Canales, CEO of Ferrari Tractor. The site also lists some small-scale threshing equipment.

Good luck,
NF

 

DEAR NEW FARM:

Thanks for the tip. It's a great site and helpful. I see by your email that you're connected with Rodale. The article talks about a Treadled Indian thresher and mentions that Rodale produced a book with plans to make a similar thresher. Is the book sill in print and can I get a copy? Does that thresher really work?

And so long as I have you…What I'm working on is making my own feed for the hen flock. I can't irrigate but can grow wheat by sowing in fall and harvesting in early summer. I can buy the corn portion and cull peas, but I need to crack those. I was thinking of a Corona mill, but they seem to be only hand crank. Do you know of any mills of about the same size or slightly larger that will crack corn and peas and is motorized?

Sherry

 

DEAR SHERRY:

The homemade thresher plans mentioned in the Canales article appeared in the book Build it Better Yourself (Rodale Press, 1977), which is out of print. So, we forwarded our exchange to George Devault, an organic farmer who writes for New Farm and will be scribing a tool column, geared toward new farmers, on a monthly basis. George is a longtime Rodalian, so he might have some ideas of where to locate the plans.

You might also check out our New Farmer Forums and pose your questions to the group.

George writes:

Hi Sherry,

You have exactly the right idea about raising a small patch of wheat to feed your flock.

But forget the expensive equipment—What you really need is to read Small-Scale Grain Raising by Gene Logsdon. It was published by Rodale in 1977. Try to find it at your local library or ask for it on inter-library loan, because used copies are hard to come by.

It’s been a long time since I read this book, but it sticks in my mind that one of the things Gene addressed in great detail was threshing grain for his chickens-- by hand--using a plastic baseball bat and a tarp. Just pile sheaves of wheat on the tarp and flail away at them with the bat.

Simplicity itself.

Gene's son was maybe 10 years old at the time and had a ball threshing the wheat this way, as I recall. The book is packed with lots of other simple, sustainable and affordable techniques and tools.

For example, to winnow the grain, simply pour it slowly from one 5-gallon bucket to another in front of an electric fan. Blows away the chaff, and your grain is nice and clean.

Two Acre Eden is another Logsdon classic that might contain some helpful hints. One of these classics, I forget which, talks about raising your own "pancake patch." Make mine buckwheat, please.

Hope this helps. Happy sowing--and threshing.
George

P.S. Gene harvested his grain with a scythe, which is another lost art that on half an acre is fun work, good exercise and quite affordable.

Editor’s note: After reading George’s reply, we did a little more digging for those thresher plans and found them (where else?) at “The unofficial, totally unauthorized (but very enthusiastic) Gene Logsdon fan club homepage!” Ain’t life funny that way? Here you go: www.geocities.com/RainForest/Vines/4095/resources/thresher.html. There are also number of used copies of Build it Better Yourself available through our bookstore at Amazon. If you don’t care about mint condition, it looks like you can pick up a copy at a very reasonable price.

 

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