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It is quite impossible to put the young reader in possession of this, or other manual arts, in general, by mere words; nor will the continued sight of the operation give the notion which is to be acquired by practice. The use of the flail, apparently so easy to the mere observer, seems almost impossible to those who first take it in hand. Unless it descend horizontally, so as to touch the floor with its
whole length, the shock to the hand and arm is intolerable, whilst the corn probably remains untouched. The danger, however, to by-standers, is still greater, as the peasant knows, who hands the instrument to an unpractised operator. He instantly skips out of the way, well knowing that the intended blow is far more likely to reach his head than the corn below. One or two thumps generally suffice to cure the young beginner of any notions of his capability for that employment. He walks off, blowing his fingers, and not much comforted by the broad grin of the rustics in the barn.
When a sufficient quantity is threshed out, and the straw raked off, the process of dressing commences; that is, separating the grain from the chaff, small seeds, and refuse, which are then amongst it. For this purpose, various
methods have been adopted. Those particles being lighter in proportion to their bulk than the corn, winnowing, or winding, will generally accomplish the purpose. This may be performed either by fanning with a large expanded machine of basket-work, or by setting the barn-doors open in an airy day, and then throwing the grain from a wooden shovel a few yards against the windy current. I have much admired the dexterity and success with which this has been done. The corn falls in one heap, and the chaff and rubbish in another, with astonishing precision.
But machinery has of late years superseded much of this skill and labour, not greatly to the satisfaction of the peasantry. Threshing machines, as we all know, were lately the peculiar objects of rustic vengeance. These engines, by the strength of horses and mill
work, which we cannot here explain, will dispose of the winter's employment for several men, in a few weeks, or, perhaps, days. Yet it is doubtful, seeing they are expensive and subject to mismanagement and injury, whether the farmer gains much by them beyond the mere convenience of a speedy preparation of his corn for sale.
Dressing machines, for cleansing the grain from chaff, seem liable to fewer objections, and are very generally adopted now. The wind in these is occasioned by the rapid motion of wings, or flies, fixed on a revolving rod. A jolting motion is at the same time. given to a wire sieve, down which the grain slides, and, in passing, the smaller seeds and particles are bolted through.
The next thing is to measure the corn into sacks for the market, or the miller; -much nicety, as well as honesty, is required here. The miller measures when he receives; and if there be a deficiency of half a pint he complains, and must have it rectified. Wooden bushels, of exact dimensions, are used. The top is struck off level, with a straight edge. Four bushels make a sack, eight bushels a quarter, and forty bushels one load of wheat.