In multiple Little House books, Laura talks about the threshing season and how important the back breaking work is. But what exactly is threshing? At the time the books were written, many people already knew what threshing was, but today, it is now well known in practice.
Threshing is the process of separating the edible part of a crop (such as grain or seed) from the inedible parts (such as straw or chaff). It is typically done after the crop has been harvested and is most commonly associated with “cereal crops” like wheat, oats, barley, and rye. In the Little House books, threshing was primarily for wheat.
Traditionally, threshing was done by hand using a flail, which is a tool made of two wooden sticks attached by a chain or leather strap. The flail is swung back and forth to strike the harvested crop, breaking the stalks and causing the grain to fall out.
Later, threshing machines were developed to automate the process. These machines use a combination of mechanical processes such as beating and separating to separate the grain from the straw. Sometimes pioneer communities owned threshing machines they shared, other times it was a travelling service where a threshing machine and crew would travel through communities and provide threshing services for either cash or for part of the crop as payment.
Threshing is an important step in the processing of cereal crops and is crucial for the production of food staples like bread and cereal.
Today, there are several types of threshing machines that automate the multiple processes, such as combine harvesters, which cuts, threshes, and separates the grain from the straw in one pass.