First* Wheat Harvest

*We did harvest wheat last year – with a scythe. Then we threshed it with a modified chipper/shredder and used a winnower made with an old furnace fan. That was on a quarter of an acre. This year, we did things a little differently for our twenty acres of hard red winter wheat.

Our “new” combine arrived on July 7th on a truck with “Oversized Load” signs all over it.

new combine arrives!

I call it “new” because it’s older than me – it dates from 1979, and the head (the piece that goes on the front) was made in 1978. But it’s in very good shape, and it’s new to us! And very exciting that we got it just in the nick of time to harvest our winter wheat crop.

There was one very exciting moment in the process of unloading – the head is so big that before it was properly situated, it lifted up the back wheels of the forklift. Fortunately, the delivery driver and my dad think fast.

up on two wheels!

This combine is also “small” – it has a 16-foot head, so it can harvest a swath 16 feet wide at a time. More modern combines harvest 30 to 40 feet at a time or more. Standing next to it, though, it sure looks big.

A few days later, after many hours of studying the operator’s manual, adjusting settings, and greasing fittings, we finally had a nice dry day and enough confidence to give it a try. It worked!

a little help

Uncle Johnny rode the first round along with my dad, giving him pointers. Wow, there are a lot of moving parts on that machine.

moisture tester

After the first round, we had to stop and test the moisture of the grain with this tester (left).
checking the moisture
We were hoping for a 13.5% moisture content, but it tested at about 14.5%. We were anxious to get it harvested before the weather changed, though, so we went ahead.

A break for explanation:

This harvesting machine is called a “combine” because it does a combination of things: it reaps (cuts) the crop, threshes the grain by breaking it out of the hull or husk or pod, and then winnows the grain from the chaff. If this all seems like terminology you last heard from the pulpit, that’s probably because there are a lot of farming parables in the Bible – in fact, this Sunday’s Catholic gospel was chock full of them. Someone in charge of setting up the readings must know it’s wheat harvest time. (Too bad we can’t blame the weeds in our field on an enemy!)

the head, up close and in motion

Here you can see the head doing the reaping – if you look closely just below the lowest black horizontal bar, you can see a bunch of zig-zag cutters moving back and forth (very sharp, and very fast), cutting off the wheat stalks as we drive through them.

The reel (the black part that turns) pushes the stalks into the augur, which is the green drill-bit-looking part. The augur moves the grain toward the opening in the center, where it’s pushed in to the thresher.

From there, it goes through the winnower, which is basically a fan that is precisely set to let the grain fall down while blowing away the rest of the plant materials.

augur in holding bin

The grain comes out an augur into a bin up on the top of the combine, behind the operator’s seat (left).
Everything but the grain – the chaff – is blown out the back. I’m holding a handful of these “tailings” in the photo on the right.

When the bin is full, it’s emptied into a waiting grain truck with yet another augur:

unloading grain

We took most of the wheat to a local grain elevator, but some 200 bushels went to Kaneville Feed & Seed to be cleaned to food grade.

emptying the truck at the cleaner

Now it’s available for sale! If you’re on the fence, check out some of these mouth-watering recipes.


combine dramatis

– Molly

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