Letter Re: Advice on Small-Scale Grain Growing, Harvesting, and Processing

Friday’s letter on grains was very good. I have acquired myriad of 19th century farm tools at what are called Threshermen’s Shows in Wisconsin. These are shows for Hit and Miss [stationary] engines, Steam engines and the tools from late 19th Century to early 20th Century Farming. There is usually a flea market as well. I have picked up a scythe in reasonable condition for $20.00. I had to spend about an hour carefully sharpening it, but I got it sharp enough to cut my thumb pretty well. After a visit to my first aid station I took it over to mt neighbors barley field and cut about a 4 foot by 100 foot swath in 20 minutes. It is back-breaking, hard work.

I would look for those shows in your home area, stay away from antique stores. I have also found that buying from Lehmans.com. for a new tool is sometimes wiser than buying an antique. I bought an antique jar and paddle type butter churn for $50. It quickly fell apart under a load. The new Amish-made one from Lehman’s works great. – Carl R.

JWR Replies: Thanks for mentioning antique tractor and stationary engine enthusiast meetings. In the western U.S., these are often held in conjunction with annual county fairs. The folks that attend these meets are primarily interested in engine-powered equipment. If they have something in their collections that cannot be powered by their engines, (such hand mills, presses, and agricultural implements) they will often sell them to someone that promises to put them to good use for quite reasonable prices. From my conversations with these gents, they rightfully have deep disdain for people that buy a piece of old equipment simply to use as a decorator item. If you make it clear to them that you are a hobbyist that plans to regularly use a piece of equipment for its originally intended purpose, their eyes will light up. If nothing else, they they gladly share their knowledge with you.