Anybody threshing wheat?

We're starting to harvest our 1 acre wheat field and are getting outstanding yields! I expect to see about 100 gallons of wheat harvested this year, which is excellent and above my expectations. Next year we'll do better, as we sowed too thinly in most of the field and I know we could have grown 4 times as much.

Anyway, does anybody have any tips for threshing? What we're doing right now is throwing the wheat onto the (clean) concrete driveway and going over it back and forth with my truck. Then rake away the straw and gather the wheat/chaff for further winnowing.

I am keen on looking at other ideas, especially ideas or plans for building a small scale thresher. Any thoughts from anyone???

San Francisco Bay Ar, CA(Zone 9b)

I'm looking for the website that has plans for a small scale, livestock powered, mechanical thresher. It's lost in my gazillion links, but I'll find it eventually.

In the meantime, please let us know how many pounds of wheat berries are in your 100 gallons? What type of wheat did you grow? What rate did you sow?

Frederick, MD(Zone 6a)

From a tractor website we read: Hubby spent many years in Nicaragua and had to come up with crazy inventions to do various things since there was no such thing as "parts" or ready to work machines. I'll have him look into this also when he finishes bush-hogging 5 ugly acres....

More reasonable, with the mfg skills I'm assuming you have, and assuming your mosly interested in small grains, a treadle operated cylinder should be easy (but you will need to feed it slow, it takes more power than you think to keep up the RPMs for threshing). The reason I say easy is that for small grains you can make a tooth cylinder and concaves then the clearance doesn't matter quite as much [on the other hand to avoid making 100 teeth, you could likely spend some time with trial and error of clearances of a "straight cylinder"]. For small grains the hole size on the concaves will be very forgiving too. I'd start with, perhaps, a couple 12" diameter disks then connect them with a shaft (long enough to have bearings and your pully or crank). Then run about a dozen peices of 1/4" X 1" steel [or lighter, shallow 1/8 wall channel]. Make concaves as a negative of this and about 10-20% of the circumferance - don't forget to account for clearances and/or teeth; on the concaves you'll likely have the best results leaving little gap bettween the bars, but perhaps drilling plenty of 1/2 inch holes. Of course, the cylinder isn't the reason threshers are so big; it's the "separator" part [straw "walkers" to reduce the work for the sieves, a least one set of sieves, and a built in fanning mill for the chaff, but I think you allready have ways to deal with that.

Frederick, MD(Zone 6a)

Michael says here ya go and hope it helps!

He's all hot and sweaty :)

San Francisco Bay Ar, CA(Zone 9b)

Here are some links to plans for converting a small leaf shredder/woodchipper to a grain thresher, as well as seed winnowers and grain dehullers:

You might find this article on Small Scale Grain Grain Production interesting. It's written by one of our small tractor dealers. He's been getting a lot of questions on this topic. Perhaps you will find some useful ideas here.

This message was edited May 23, 2009 3:10 PM

Frederick, MD(Zone 6a)

good stuff g_m :)

San Francisco Bay Ar, CA(Zone 9b)

Thanks. :)

I remember my uncle cutting his hay and harvesting the wheat with a scythe. I wish I had photos of the threshing equipment. Alas, one of the constraints of visiting the Soviet sector during the Cold War was that we were not allowed to photograph any machinery/equipment, train stations etc.

One of these days I'll find the original link I mentioned.

Thanks for all that info.

I came across that PDF for the Rodale thresher a few days ago and found it incomplete. I think they want you to use your imagination in some areas.

That, and I don't yet know how to weld.

I'm going to continue thinking on this. In the meantime, we're threshing by driving over the sheaves on the driveway with my truck. It's working well but not as fast as a thresher would.

let us know how many pounds of wheat berries are in your 100 gallons?

I'm expecting between 900 and a thousand pounds, assuming I'm able to harvest and thresh it all.

What type of wheat did you grow?

Regular old hard red winter wheat, purchased in a 25 pound sack at my local feed store. We bought the sack and baked bread with it and found it to be fine eating.

What rate did you sow?

20 pounds to the acre, which I've learned is far too little. Next year I'm going to at least double the seeding rate.

Frederick, MD(Zone 6a)

Welding should definately be on you and Trish's "to do" list. It is actually quite fun and women tend to really excel at this :) But then again, with your basket weaving talents, you'll probably be great at it.

Michael loves to weld; he finds it very satisfying and extremely useful for plumbing and fixing fence gates and arbors!

Your production levels are super :)

Yes, welding is absolutely on my TODO list. Perhaps this year. There have already been over a dozen times when I wish I knew welding so I know that the skill will be constantly used.

Panama, NY(Zone 5a)

Dave, we don't thresh. We hire a neighbor with a combine to do our oats, in the years when it it possible to combine them. The combine was built in the '60s and doesn't like wet ground, lodged oats or weeds. The Amish neighbors have a threshing machine that they use in a communal way.

Have you ever seen this book, "Handy Farm Devices" ?,46154,46140&ap=1

It has a lot of interesting information in it for the handy person.

Yes, actually I have that book. I wonder if he has any thresher ideas in there... I'll pull it off the shelf later today and have a look.

I know a guy locally who has a combine for sale. It's about 60 years old and doesn't work anymore, but I bet it could be fixed up as a stationary thresher.

Panama, NY(Zone 5a)

I think we're following each other around!

It's amazing what a little ingenuity can come up with.

San Francisco Bay Ar, CA(Zone 9b)

Maybe that old combine just needs a little welding somewhere. :)

You'll definitely need something bigger than a converted leaf shredder for your excellent harvest.

southeast, NE

There are groups that still have threshing bees. I remember seeing a mini thresher at an antique farm machinery show. Here's a list of groups.

Lewisville, MN(Zone 4a)

When I was a kid my dad took plow lays to be made new by a blacksmith. He built a scale steam engine & thresher.
The thing worked just like a full size one.

Dave, you need to talk wheat in bushels instead of gallons. A bushel of wheat weighs 60 lbs. Up in MN they expect around 60 bushel to an acre. I think they seed about a bushel per acre, but not sure.


Dave, you need to talk wheat in bushels instead of gallons.

I understand that, but I'm storing the grain in 5 gallon buckets so that's the term I'm used to thinking in.

A 5 gallon bucket of wheat would be about 3/4 of a bushel if my calculations are correct.

Lewisville, MN(Zone 4a)

I knew there was a good reason behind it.
It sounds like a decent yield for the amount you planted.

Yes indeed. We were happy with the production. Next year we're going to plant more per acre, though, as we could have had much more this year. Lesson learned for us.

San Francisco Bay Ar, CA(Zone 9b)

For a trial crop, you did very well. Pat yourself on the back!
You've got ~1000 lbs of find wheat to work with and find the best ways to thresh it.
Threshing 4000 lbs of wheat with your truck might get a tad onerous.

Will you also need to expand storage capacity or develop your market for the 4000 lb harvest?

I'm planning on storing the threshed wheat in sacks (with in my storage shed. I don't think I'll ever have 4,000lbs of wheat at one time, but if I did I think I have the storage between my storage shop and the upcoming barn that we're planning.

I'll definitely need something different than the truck for threshing when we get to that point. ^_^

San Francisco Bay Ar, CA(Zone 9b)

Are you thinking of growing any heritage grains like spelt or emmer (einkorn)?
What about barley, rye or oats? Hops?

heritage grains - perhaps. I've considered spelt and will probably grow it one day as a trial.

Barley, maybe.

Rye, yes every year. Elbon Rye is what we typically grow.

Oats, absolutely. It's planned for this fall.

Hops, probably not. I don't usually drink beer and don't know of another reason to grow hops. :)

Grapes, that's another matter altogether. ^_^

San Francisco Bay Ar, CA(Zone 9b)

We're hooked on spelt for our weekly bread. The flavour is wonderful! I do mix it with winter wheat flour to save costs and only make 100% spelt bread if baking for others who can't digest standard wheat.

Hops are also a useful medicinal herb with antispasmodic/soporific/sedative pharmakinetics. The herb is often included in bedtime teas or in sachets and pillows.
It also makes a nice natural dye.

The world is currently experiencing a global hops shortage so I thought you might be growing it as a possible cash crop to sell to local micro or home breweries.

Grape vines definitely lend themselves to more options (table grape, wine, stuffed grape leaves etc). Have you seen the movie "BottleShock" yet?

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