• I had a chance to go with some friends to the a tractor show today. If you have never been you should think about going. It is a celebration of old time farming life, machinery and the mechanical genius of the last 100+ years of American agriculture. One of the things we got to see was threshing of wheat using an 95 year old threshing machine and a 70 year old tractor.

    My Uncle Bill once told me about working on the threshing crew when he was a boy which would have been around 1915. In the Midwest farms were small and a single farmer could not afford, and did not need a threshing machine of his own for a few acres of wheat that he might grow each year. So six or eight farmers would go together to form a threshing circle. They would buy a threshing machine and a power source, probably a steam engine together. One farmer would be responsible for the upkeep and operation of these. The other members of the circle would be responsible for bringing a team of horses and a wagon plus men for the crew. In turn the circle would meet at each members farm and work together to thresh his wheat which had already been cut, bound with a binder and placed into shocks to dry. The women from the circle and especially the wife on the farm where the wheat was being threshed would be responsible for feeding the whole crew while they were working on that farm.

    With the advent of the tractor, a machine that was small enough and cheap enough that each farmer could own his own, and with the invention of the combine which combined the functions of the binder and the threshing machine into one machine that could be owned and operated by a single farmer, the social fabric of the community that was woven by the threshing circle rapidly began to unravel. Some Amish communities still harvest their oats and wheat this way and not surprisingly they are often known for the resiliency of their communities.

    The picture at the top of the page is the threshing machine being run at the tractor show. It took a minimum of six men working together to get the wagon of wheat threshed to fill up two fifty pound bags with the wheat grains.

    Another thing we got to see was the baling of the straw from the wheat that was threshed. That is what the picture below is of.

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