Thursday, October 15, 2015

Winnowing Wheat

A couple of years back, Willie and I decided to try giving our goats wheat hay. There was a family just a few blocks down selling it, and we wanted to support a local grower and give something new a try. Well, the idea was less than successful. The goats didn't care for wheat hay, and held off on eating it until we started feeling bad, gave in and gave them more traditional types of hay.

About a month or so ago I was out near our hay stack and I noticed that there were some volunteer wheat plants that decided to spring up. I thought that this would be a good opportunity to figure out how to thresh and winnow wheat. I waited until the wheat had matured and dried, and I clipped the seed heads off the plants, and put them in a bag while I did my figuring.

While perusing the shelves at one of my local thrift shops I found a wide, shallow basket. A light went off and I said "Winnowing basket!" I paid a dollar, and brought my winnowing basket home.

I smashed the wheat heads to loosen the kernels, took all the wheat kernels off their stems, and discarded the stems. (They are not good eats.)

I gathered together all my kernels, and set about trying to figure out how to thresh the wheat. I began by rubbing it between my fingers, but then I had a better idea!

Tadah! This little beauty is a garlic peeler, and I figured that if it worked to remove the papery skin from my garlic, it would loosen the papery husk of my wheat!

After I put my kernels through my makeshift thresher, I took my winnowing basket and went outside into the breeze.

The winnowing part really isn't too hard, you just have to jostle and shake your little wheat kernels very gently and let the wind pick up the chaff and blow it away. It doesn't have to be a big production, like in a documentary on tribal peoples, where the fling it high into the air and catch it on tarps. Although you could do that, and it would look totally cool, I'm just saying it isn't really necessary.

After the first round of winnowing, I found that there were still some kernels that had chaff still attached, so, back through the thresher they went, and then back out to winnow. Eventually there were just a few kernels resisting my threshing, so I had to remove the chaff by hand.

Here's my finished wheat! Threshed and winnowed, I'm going to put it away to plant in the spring. I would like to plant a little patch of garden with animal fodder for my creatures to eat. Big ideas, right?