Jay Mills - 12 March 2008 Volcan, Panama
One of the big events on the farm in the early 1940s was the grain harvest that involved a “threshing machine”. *Always spelled ‘threshing’, although ‘thrashing’ makes more sense to me. This was in “olden times” before combines that now take grain from standing in the field to bushels of grain in one continuous operation.
The threshing machine was a huge machine, maybe 6 feet wide by 30 feet long. They had large iron wheels, or sometimes rubber tires, and were pulled to the field by a team of mules or a tractor. Once in place it was powered by a long, wide power belt from a small power “pulley” on the side of a tractor. Originally a threshing machine would have been powered by a steam engine, but we lived in “modern times” with gasoline power.
The grain, wheat or oats, was first cut by a horse or tractor-drawn mower with a long, flat “sickle”. Triangular teeth on the sickle moved past fixed, pointed guards that bunched the stalks. Once the grain stalks were on the ground, they were raked into piles with a horse-drawn rake with large steel tines so that they could be bundled and stacked in “shocks” or teepee like groups. Each shock was then picked up and loaded onto a horse drawn wagon.
Wagon loads of grain stalks with their grain heads, were taken to the threshing machine and fed onto the conveyor belt chute at the front. After a series of oscillating thrashings inside the machine, the separated grain was fed into a large pipe with an auger that delivered it to a waiting wagon, or into bags. The straw came out of a pipe at the back of the machine into a pile to be hauled away.
Speaking of food, in the 1940’s we grew potatoes at one end of a field near the coral and behind the barn. I remember the men using a mule-drawn, single bottom plow to turn up the soil so we could collect the potatoes. I also remember my mother growing a vegetable garden about 300 yards behind the house and down the hill, in the rich soil near Otter Creek. Ears of field or garden corn were always a treat, either as “roasting ears” or freshly cut from the cob and cooked. Fresh, ripe tomatoes were one of my favorites and often during the summer my mother almost lived on fresh tomatoes and buttered bread. Mother made butter from our own cream, separated from the fresh milk with a hand-cranked “separator”.
My best food memory by far is of my mother’s homemade cottage cheese. It had a remarkable rich, tangy flavor. I still love cottage cheese, however I have only had good cottage cheese once since leaving the farm in 1948. This was in the 1970’s, and it was homemade by a lady on a farm near
We had a grove of tall black walnut and pecan trees just across the creek, below the barns. It was great in the fall to go down and pick up the pecans and walnuts. They made great treats if you could get past the tough shells. Fresh walnuts in cakes are delicious, and fresh Pecan pies are the best – except for Cherry, or Pumpkin, or Mincemeat, or Apple, or …. Dinner time! – 30 -