Mail Call: Letters to the Editor — January/February 2017

Readers write to the editors with stories of backyard threshing, corn husking competitions, hunting traditions, and more.

treshing at home

Samuel and Anna work together to bundle the wheat and place it into the threshing tube so that the drill can be used to flail the wheat stalks.

Photo courtesy Tim Froehlke

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Backyard Threshing  

Like most small homesteaders, we’ve attempted to grow a number of different food crops. Often this results in a flurry of canning activity in the fall. One crop that we’d never had a good method for harvesting was wheat.

Wheat is relatively cheap, and threshing can be so awkward, that until recently, we haven’t put much effort into thinking of a better way to recover the wheat berries beyond just flailing away at it.

We have a small home business and some tools that we can use for working PVC. We made a PVC thresher out of a spindle that would fit a 3/8-inch hand drill and a housing that would take filaments from a weed trimmer. Together with a 4-inch PVC tube, we have a way to insert a bundle of wheat and recover most of the berries in a bucket.

Our son, Samuel, and our daughter, Anna, (see photos) work together to bundle the wheat and place it into the threshing tube so that the drill can be used to flail the wheat stalks. The tube is cut such that most of the wheat berries fall down the tube and into the bucket.

On a windy day, the bucket is slowly emptied into a bowl so that the wind can carry the chaff away but the berries will end up in the bowl so that they can be cleaned fairly easily.

The actual PVC thresher is made of three parts. The first is a piece of PVC rod turned on a lathe to get the spindle diameter down to 3/8 inch.

The other half is tuned so that it will fit inside a piece of 1-inch PVC pipe nipple that has had the threaded ends cut off. This is then milled to spline the end with four grooves.

The PVC pipe nipple that had the ends cut off is drilled with a series of six holes on each of four lines that are 90 degrees apart. This allows the trimmer line to be inserted from the inside.

Sliding the splined end of the spindle into the housing allows the compression of the filaments where they make a “U” inside the housing. This compression force has been sufficient for us not to have to use any PVC cement, and can allow for us to change and use stiffer filaments if we want to have a more forceful threshing action.

Tim Froehlke
Toronto, South Dakota
timf@emssensors.com

What an awesome bit of ingenuity, Tim! Also, readers, Tim is happy to build these little contraptions for others, for a small fee. Please find his email address below his name above. – Editors


Hunting Traditions

First let me say how much I love Grit. I’ve been a subscriber for quite some time now, and I always read it from cover to cover. Then I usually pass it on to friends — unless it has something I want to refer back to, then it goes in my library.

Your editorial “A Rite of Passage” in the November/December 2016 issue brought back memories for me, and I thought I would share them with you.

I was hunting long before it was really acceptable in my neck of the woods for a girl to hunt. I grew up in the 1960s and ’70s in northwest Arkansas, and at that time, girls were still treated like porcelain dolls. We were not allowed to play baseball, full-court basketball, or any other strenuous sports — and we certainly were not encouraged to hunt! But I was the only child of a wonderful man whose best friend had been his sister. So he taught me all the things he would have taught a son, including how to shoot and hunt, much to my mother’s horror.

Daddy was a crack shot. He was so good in Army basic training that they wanted to make him a sharpshooter, but he declined. He became an anti-aircraft gunner instead. His first rule of hunting was: Kill it with one shot. My daddy loved wildlife and could not stand for anything to be wounded and in pain. He also told me that stray bullets were a dangerous thing. At age 11, he gave me a .22 and told me to learn to bull’s-eye every time. Then I could go hunting.

It took me nigh onto a year, but I finally got good enough to satisfy him, and we went on our first squirrel hunt. That’s when I learned Daddy’s second rule of hunting: Don’t kill more than you will eat. We always had an excellent hunting dog (trained by Daddy) and he would hunt squirrels all day. Of course, I was carried away by the experience, and after we had bagged half a dozen squirrels, I was surprised when Daddy called the dog and said let’s head for home. When I protested, he explained that a good hunter is one who respects the wildlife and never takes more than will be eaten. Then he explained his third rule of hunting: Don’t kill it unless you are going to eat it, or unless it is a threat to
your livestock.

When we weren’t hunting, we would go for walks in the woods, and Daddy showed me burrows and told me what lived there. We looked for nests in trees, tracks on the ground, and he told me the importance of leaving brush piles for things like skunks and other small “critters” to make a home in.

Besides squirrels, we hunted rabbits, and Daddy hunted quail. I never shot at quail, because the shotgun kicked too hard. We never hunted deer. At that time, hunters ran deer with dogs. There was no sitting in a blind or tree stand and patiently waiting. Daddy hated the practice of running deer, and he was greatly relieved when it was finally banned in our area.

Daddy was 76 when we went on our last hunting trip. He missed his squirrel and had to kill it on the ground. He stood there just looking at it for a few minutes, then handed me his gun and said “I’m done.” He died a year later from a brain tumor.

I haven’t hunted since then either. My husband is also an excellent shot, but he grew up hunting elk in Colorado, so Arkansas deer just hasn’t been a challenge to him. But my daughter has carried on the tradition. She and her husband hunt every deer season, and two of their three children have bagged some really nice bucks. They also live by Daddy’s hunting rules. He’d be pleased.

Leah McAllister
Oldhome Farm, Arkansas

Sounds like your dad did things the right way, Leah, and we’re grateful those principles are being passed down through subsequent generations. We’re also grateful to count you among our satisfied readers. – Editors


Barn Preservation

I enjoyed the article about barn preservation and reuse by Joshua Young in the November/December 2016 issue of Grit. I would like to add that Kansas has an active barn preservation organization, the Kansas Barn Alliance. We have a website and hold an annual barn tour and conference, as well as awarding small grants to help barn owners start their barn restoration.

Sally Hatcher
Founding Member, Kansas Barn Alliance


Corn Husking

I recently posted a blog on www.Grit.com about the Indiana State Corn Husking Contest that I attended October 1, 2016. There were a couple of positive things for Grit that happened there that day.

First, I did not realize that this event was such a big deal, but participants take it extremely seriously. I wanted to enter because it not only brought back fond memories, but also because I thought it would make a nice piece for my blog, Country Moon. There were other magazines, newspapers, and radio stations covering the event. Darrell Hartman announced the events all day, and all day he repeated that Grit was covering the day’s events. Various folks found out that I would be writing a blog about the husking contest, and they sought me out, telling
me how much they enjoyed your publi-cation, and the older ones told me how much they enjoyed the older, weekly newspaper version. It was good to hear such positive comments.

What really struck me was when a gentleman came up to me and asked if I was the one who was writing about the event for Grit. When I answered that I was, he said, “I have something for you.” His name is Robert Hamilton, and he went to his truck and brought me a couple cornmeal muffins. He explained that he had seen an article in Grit a few years ago on red flint corn (www.Grit.com/red-flint-corn). He started to grind it for chicken feed for $2 per pound, until he realized how much more profitable it is when he grinds cornmeal and sells it for nearly $100 a bushel. He has made quite a business from this article he saw in Grit. The muffins were quite tasty, and I plan on telling his story in a future blog post.

I so enjoy running across interesting people and places like this, and I love writing about them. I am from southwest Michigan, and my fiancé is from central Indiana. We cover a lot of backroads and meet some interesting folks and stumble across some innovative farming and gar-dening practices.

Lois Hoffman
Country Moon Blog

Awesome, Lois, and congrats on how well you did in the husking contest! Check out Lois’ blog about the event at www.Grit.com/corn-husking-event. – Editors


Rascally Rabbits

I’m in my 70s and have been gardening all my life. Never have I met a more formidable foe than the rabbits of 2016. I lost much of my garden, but ... I learned a lot.

My symbol and rallying cry has been this sunflower (see images). It was the only seedling left. I encircled it with everything I had, and voila! It didn’t disappoint.

Wynne Crombie
via email


Neighbors to the Rescue

I first heard of Grit magazine sitting in a doctor’s office. I started to go through it and found it to be a really good read, so I wrote down your address and put my order in for my own subscription.

I have not been disappointed with any of the articles, especially the ones with helpful hints on any manner of things.

Then I discovered a page that allows your readers to ask for advice on where to find things. Well, my wife and I had lost our grinder and strainer in a previous move. Boy, we really missed that grinder and strainer when we started to make pear relish.

So, I wrote a letter for the Friends & Neighbors department, and what great results! We literally received more than 100 responses, and every one of them was helpful.

I just wanted to use your letter page to thank each and every one who replied to our request. These days, it is real comforting to know that in the America that I hold so dear, there are still such caring people.

God bless!

Gene Whitney
Braselton, Georgia