Saturday, July 31, 2010


flailing the grist


Dr. Smartypants said...

A thresher does not flail grist; he flails stalks of grain to release the grist. Grist is the actual grain kernel before it is ground. If you have ever seen an intact barn in New England, there is a large, flat floor situated above the stalls on the ground level. Usually accessible by wagon, many barns were built into hills, and this "threshing floor" had room for a pile of unthreshed stalks (often wheat but more times barley) and enough room to beat the daylights out of those stalks to release the kernels from the seedheads. Two large doors on either side allowed the wind to blow through, carrying much of the lightweight chaff out into the barnyard, where it was eaten, chewed, and ground back into the soil by the animals below. Those old threshing floors are often still polished and slick from hundreds of years of this practice. So when Bobby Burns first wrote (or stole) the lyrics to "John Barleycorn," he was right on the mark when he said "They've hired men with the crab-tree sticks to cut his skin from bone." It's to your thresher buddy and his practices that he referred.

"Crab-tree sticks", of course, are the crooked branches of the crab-apple tree, which, besides being extremely hard wood, are twisted enough to make the proper angle with which to properly thresh the stalks (straight sticks just won't do, you know).

Jay said...

This is my thresher and he flails grist. He will tell you if it is necessary to flail the grain to release the grist, it is purely semantics to say he is not, in fact, flailing the grist as well as the grain. The grain contains the grist, does it not? Therefore, both are flailed.

If you purport to be an expert in agrarian practices, I suggest you study up on alternative farming methods. There are working threshers today who flail chaff. They do so for their own reasons, reasons that are far from sound, but my point is I, not being an agriculturalist, do not lecture them on the proper manner in which to thresh; no, I leave it them to decide the right and proper method to go about their farmily duties. You, Dr. Smartypants, should do so as well.

Incidentally, I can't help but wonder how a doctor knows so much about seedheads and crab-tree sticks.

Dr. Smartypants said...

I am duly chastened. However, I will continue to thresh my grain; you and your thresher are welcome to flail your grist.

As to my knowledge of seedheads and crabtree sticks, all I can say is that my doctor gave me a cream that quickly took care of the problem.