I thought I’d share some of the options available on de-hulling grain, for others, who are embarking on raising their own plot or field of grains and then plan to long term store their harvests. This information is also relevant to processing many varieties of grains, seeds and hulled legumes.
Processing Overview There are several separate steps to the processing of grains to get them ready for storage, if, they are to be utilized for human consumption and not just for replanting as field seed.
These steps include: Harvesting or cutting the grain stalks, upright stacking the cut stalks and tying them in drying bundles and allowing them to field dry for several weeks, then de-heading the grain from the stalks by threshing, then winnowing the grain from the chaff, de-hulling the grain, and winnowing or cleaning again to rid away the hulls, and then, storing the grain.
If you wish to read more on growing and harvesting your own grains, I recommend the book Small-Scale Grain Raising by Gene Logsdon. It is a “must have” book for inclusion in your prep library, if you intend to grow your own grains.
Our wheat is now successfully dried and cut from the shaft. So next in the processing, I will be de-hulling and cleaning close to a half ton of wheat for our larder. This will be my prepping project for the next couple of weeks. The final goal will be to have it stored away for long term later use in either, 5 gallon buckets or, 55 gallon barrels with tight fitting gasketed lids.
Manual Threshing Method
Of course, this is the most simple method, in terms of the least expensive materials required to get the small yield job done. It will require some meticulous arm, shoulder and back muscle repetition exercise however, in order to obtain a clean end product. In using this simple threshing method, you merely require a bat or stick to beat the dried grain heads off the shaft, over a tarp or flat bed sheet. Next you will bucketing the grain spilled onto the tarp, and winnowing it numerous times. This is done by slowly pouring the grain from one bucket into another below it, from the height of about one foot, while the wind carries off the hull and chaff. If there is no wind, you can use a fan to assist the chaff to fly from the seed. This method is effective, only if you winnow the grain 6 to 10 times to remove the chaff. It is recommended only for processing a very small plot of grown grain, unless you have a lot of assistance from others available.
Other Manual De-hulling Methods: Grain and Rice De-huller Attachment for a manual Corona Mill Corona Grain Mill De-huller Instructions, at the Southern Exposure web site.
The instructions on how to make the de-hulling disc to optionally turn your Corona Manual mill into a de-hulling device are available as a free PDF, courtesy of SavingOurSeeds.org.
Seed Cleaner/Separator Method
Another solution to de-hulling, which is my favorite method, is the use of a seed cleaner/separator. Just some mere sixty years ago, these were found on many farms which produced small to medium fields of peas, oats, wheat, beans, soy, barley, corn, and other grain seeds. These small farm use cleaners came in many models from many makers, in different sizes and configurations, could be manually operated by man or animal, or electrically motorized, and some could be attached to the farm tractor via the secondary, side PTO with the use of a pulley and leather belt. Here is a demonstration video of a horse powered treadmill powering the seed separator. They are processing oats. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jHstGIgBu7U&feature=related
Several years ago, I searched for many months to find a cleaning fanning mill in pristine condition, with all the variable size accessory screen trays I would need for our small farm crop grain and legume yields. The unit, also called a “fanning mill”, basically consists of several stacked vibrating trays, starting with the largest mesh screen at the top, to the smallest mesh required for the cleaned grain to shake the finished product down to an eventual “clean” bin. Each screen mesh size allows the seed to fall from one tray down into the next, and each removes any chaff off to the side or back into a “dump” bin. I finally found a 100 year old Clipper, it’s a beauty of a seed cleaner. It was some 400 miles away, offered for sale on an online farm auction. I purchased it online and made that journey to procure it as soon as I could! It is an absolute joy to use while it is powered with my small diesel tractor! Note: I always wear hearing protection and a light face mask when I’m working with any grain chaff.
And, here is another showing a more modern industrialized unit in use for processing tons of grain.
Also, here’s another suggestion for de-hulling Buckwheat:
How to De-hull Buckwheat Using the Country Living Mill by Tom Kast. [This report on de-hulling buckwheat was prepared by Tom Kast, who was kind enough to share the information and asked to disseminate it for the benefit of others]:
Step 1 – Get round-hole test screens from a seed testing house such as Seedburo.com. The screens are measured in 64ths of an inch. Purchase the 9, 10 and 11 64th’s screens. They are 15″ square perforated pieces of metal. If you pay a bit extra they come with frames, or if you want to save a few dollars you can build the frames yourself.
Step 2 – Size your buckwheat. In my experience most kernels were larger than the largest 11 64th holes, but the value in putting the kernels through this largest screen is that all the tiny kernels fell through and could be discarded (because there were not enough to work with); otherwise, they would mix into the final result and be surprises that are very hard on your teeth.
Step 3 – Take the County Living Grain Mill and set it to a very wide aperture. Take a test handful of the same-sized buckwheat kernels and run them through the mill. Check your results. The results should be (A) All the kernels have been opened or (B) There has been little or no grinding of the black hulls which would result in “hull flour”, (C) – The buckwheat is as large as you would like it (for example, Russian kasha calls for whole, de-hulled kernels where as buckwheat flour can be as fine as you like).
Gradually decrease the aperture of the Country Living Grain Mill until all the kernels have been opened and before the black hulls begin grinding. If the hulls start grinding then widen the aperture a bit. Once you have the result you like, keep the setting on the mil and put all your buckwheat through the mill.
Step 4 – Take the loose hulls and buckwheat and sift them through the medium-sized test screen (10 64th’s). Shake the hulls and buckwheat over a cookie sheet. This will extract 90% of the hulls which you can save to make a Japanese soba pillow. Then take the cookie sheet outside and blow lightly over the pan, shaking it slightly. This will blow off most of the remaining hulls. That’s it, you’re done. Use the buckwheat flour in your favorite recipe.
Long term grain storage is best accomplished using heavy duty, food grade, drum liner bags, lined inside the containers, with the additional use of any of the following grain stabilizers which all displace oxygen from the storage container: oxygen absorbers, nitrogen or carbon dioxide gas infusion, dry ice. Alternatively we use #10 cans.
Let’s face it, if you’ve grown your own, you’ve done a great deal of hard work to get the grain to the storage stage for your long term keeping and use, so don’t take any short cuts on the storage component of the processing.
The de-hulled and cleaned grain must be stored below temps of 75 degree F, in a cool, dry environment, preferably in an enclosed space away from vermin and varmints, up off the ground, off the concrete slab, and preferably up on pallets. All of this preparation in considering a storage site is crucial to discourage mold forming moisture developing, and to ensure a flow of air circulation to prevent rancidity and slow the degradation process of the grain. If properly stored, wheat will store well for many years.
As a closing reminder, do not forget to purchase a quality, reliable grain mill. Carefully, consider the types of grains and legumes you will grinding and the amounts you will need to grind before you make this important purchase.
For our household’s use, based on feeding 6 to 10 people, three meals a day, which would consist of the need for grinding corn, wheat, oats, rice, beans, and rye, we chose a Country Living Grain Mill with two sets of backup parts for any unexpected or required repairs. For redundancy, we also have and use a C.S. Bell mill grinder for cracking corn and grinding bone meal. For our animal feed, we use a Hammer Mill which chops up all the shafts and stalks to be used for livestock forage feed.