- The axe was a very important tool. With an axe the homesteader built a home, chopped firewood, chopped down trees and cleared the land.
- A pickaxe, hoe and spade (shovel) were used for digging and turning over the soil.
- A wooden rake was used to level the soil.
- Grain or hay was cut with a scythe (a long blade on a stick) or a sickle (a curved blade on a stick) and left to dry in the sun.
- A cradle scythe (also called a hand cradle) cut the hay and also dropped the hay in piles.
- A pitchfork was used to gather up the hay or grain into piles. Then the hay or grain was loaded onto a cart or wagon and stored in the barn.
- A flail was used to separate the seeds from the rest of the plant.
PLOWING AND PLANTING
plowing (ploughing) to prepare for planting
Then the farmer sowed the seed (planted). Wheat, rye, oats, barley and flax (for making linen) were planted. After the seeds were planted, there were many ways that the crop could fail -- too many weeds, drought (no rain), floods, frost, hail, insects, plant diseases and prairie fires destroyed crops.
The grain was spread out on the floor of the barn and hit with a flail. Seeds, chaff (bits of seed head) and straw remained. After most of the straw was raked away, the farmer gathered what was left. The grain seeds and chaff were placed in a winnowing tray (or basket) and shaken and tossed on a windy day. The wind blew the light straw and chaff away and the seed would fall back in the tray.
Winnowed grain was stored for animal feed or taken in sacks to the mill to be ground into flour. Stone-ground flour was better than flour ground by hand.
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