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Harvesting the Rye

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It was one of those fine mid-summer days that I noticed the five to six foot tall golden rye tracking the movement of the breezes as it bent in ever-flowing ripples down the row.  Golden rye means harvest time is getting near.  Picking a head of rye I headed down to the farmers’ market where my farmer friend Jerry would be the judge as to whether it was dry enough to harvest.  “Nope, not yet”, he said, after digging out a kernel from the head and putting it into his mouth.  Finally, we got the ok at the end of July.

I grew up on a farm where we used machines for nearly everything we did, including harvesting and threshing out grain crops.  However, in my current grain growing attempts I had decided on certain principles, one of them being that everything would be done by hand when at all possible.  Sowing, weed control, harvesting, threshing and winnowing all fell into the “possible” category.

  • Sowing: 5 lbs of winter rye seed onto 325 sq. ft. (2.5 ft by 130 ft. equivalent to 16 ft by 20 ft).
  • Harvesting:  kneeling position, grasp stocks of grain and cut with hand trimmer, tie into bundles.
  • Threshing:  “threshing apparatus” a garden cart, wire mesh screen, sides, “wap” grain onto screen. See video below.
  • Winnowing:  with a light breeze pour grain slowly from one bucket to another.
  • Harvesting: we got 15 lbs of clean rye and this lasted us a whole year when mixed with oats as breakfast porridge.

Howard Stoner is a retired math professor, gardener and lives in a home retrofitted for energy efficiency. He is interested in doing things by hand, the use and care of hand tools: crosscut saws, harvesting scythes, grain threshers, grinders, rollers, etc.



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