Thursday, July 18, 2013

Threshing with Draft Horses: A Farm Story

Folks who farm with horses tend to be drawn to one another.  Though there are many reasons to get together, threshing time is one of the most enjoyable.

When we lived on our old farm, we were fortunate to be a part of an annual threshing gathering.  It was a lot of hard, sweaty work.  It included a pretty fabulous potluck lunch.  And it was great fun.

This is not a part of some kind of organized event or demonstration for some kind of group, club, what have you.  Rather, it's a gathering of like minded friends who spend the day harvesting oats and baling oat straw in preparation for winter;  a by-invitation-only happening.  By-standers and gawkers not welcome - held on private property with very good farm insurance.

As you look at the photos, you may wonder: where are the women?  They're up at the house with the little kids, visiting and dealing with the food.  Not me.  I'm out there with the guys.  The lone woman who works horses.

I've come across women who enjoy driving horses, but few who work them.  

At any rate, here's a bit of a photo story of harvesting oats our way. 


It all begins in the fall with plowing.  Shown above is the dog daddy plowing one of our valley fields with our mules Bonnie and Clyde, plus Tom, one of our Belgian draft horses.  There's such a drag on the plow, that a 3-up is best when plowing fallowed land such as this.


To prepare the seed bed requires harrowing.  Shown above is yours truly working with Tim and Tom.

Unfortunately, I've found no photos to show you seed planting.  The old farmer's guideline is to get your oats in the ground before St Patrick's Day.  An early start is important and seed should be drilled as soon as the soil can be worked.



Harvest time - July.  Here you see the binder at work.  The binder cuts the oats and binds them into shocks.  Yes, we're cheating with the tractor.












The oat sheaves are then gathered and shocked - stacked to dry out and cure.  The sheaves are standing with the grain end up and a sheaf fanned out on top to deflect moisture.  When they've cured enough - usually only a few days in the hot summer sun - it's time for threshing.

All that hot, sweaty, itchy, back breaking work to build the shocks...  only to be torn apart a few days later!  

The shocks are broken apart and the sheaves - bound bunches of oats - are gathered onto wagons.  Shown above:  Andy is preparing to pitch a sheaf onto the wagon.  There's a method to stacking the sheaves to built a nice wagon load that is safe and secure.

Higher and higher... the load of oats grows.

Here are Tim and Tom with a nicely built wagon load of oat sheaves.

A bit of a line up.  Mules in the center are Mollie and Nellie.  Tim and Tim are on the right.

 Another photo line up of full wagons waiting to line up at the thresher.  Equine include Belgian draft horses, Haflinger draft horses, and mules. 

Forking the oat sheaves off at the threshing machine.  

The thresher separates the grain from the stalks.  The wagon you see right in front of the thresher is collecting the oats grain from an auger.  The stalks are coming out of the thresher on the left, augered into a huge pile.  Those stalks will then be baled into oat straw.  This particular threshing machine is belt driven and powered by a small gasoline engine attached to the thresher.
 


Shown above is a steam engine which we've also used to power a threshing machine.

Hard work?  Yes.  However, the fun and fellowship greatly outweighed the sore muscles, sunburn, and perspiration.

For me, threshing is a strong tie to my roots and my love of working with my animals as a team.   And the fellowship with like minded friends and their equine can't be beat.

23 comments:

  1. Wow that's an amazing set of photos, thanks for sharing that x

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  2. I loved reading this! The photos are amazing - what a lot of hard, yet rewarding work and such a great partnership between horses and humans.

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    1. Thanks, Kathy. Everyone's idea of "fun" is different... working with my horses is definitely fun for me.

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  3. Fascinating. This was so interesting, especially with all your detail.

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  4. Wow, fascinating. Thank you for sharing and I'm passing it forward! ;-)

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  5. Oh what fun!! I am going to share this with my horse friend!! You are one tough cookie! :)

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  6. That is a great story and pictures. Great memories you have! I can't imagine doing that now a days. I had horses a few years ago and making hay with tractors was hard enough can't imagine doing it by hand and with horses. You rock!

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    1. We used to put up 40 acres of hay with our horses, now fewer. Much less involved compared to threshing :-)

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  7. that is so cool, very old school. i never realized what a process this is till i read this

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  8. Wow - that looks like hard work. I can barely do a little weeding in my yard without throwing out my back! Great pics.

    (Even though I don't know anything about working with a horse, I'd rather be like you in that scenario - would rather be out with the horses than in the kitchen with the little ones!) :)

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    1. Oh my... all that time spent on sleeves would leave the horses hungry in the winter. LOL

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  9. I'm sure it is a great experience. Mom has milked cows on a dairy farm but that is about it for us and farming.

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  10. I love that it is about the fellowship and team work as opposed to anything else. It is so "Little House on the Prairie" and I love those stories. Someday perhaps I'll be invited to help out. :-)

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    1. Are you any good with a hay fork, Jodi? ;-)

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    2. I've no experience, but I can learn. :-) And I can cook!

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  11. It does look like fun! I'd almost rather be in the field working and sweating too than in the kitchen. I hate cooking.

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  12. Great photo journey through your past! With the heat we have been having, I can't imagine working in those fields. It would be like torture!

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  13. Oh my word. That looks like an AMAZING time. When I was in high school I wanted to marry a farmer, be a farmer's wife. Now that I have several farm animals, but live in the city, I'm grateful to be an educator's wife and have the life that I do. But that does look like fun!

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  14. This is fascinating! It must be really hard work, but satisfying.

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  15. Wow - amazing! Certainly did learn a lot from reading this.

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  16. Pretty neat and great pictures!

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  17. These days, it's a luxury to be harvesting and baling together with friends...

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