To most people the word winnowing doesn’t mean a thing. To a computer enthusiast it could indicate a secure deciphering method however to us survivalist or the average homesteader it means a method devised to make life just a little bit easier.
Wind winnowing is an ancient method used in many early agricultural societies to separate the usable grain from its associated chaff. It was not uncommon in the olden days for stored grain to be attacked mercilessly by weevils or other pests which would make the product useless. By means of this method of wind winnowing a homestead family could effectively remove the offending weevils from their stored grain and save what they could for human use.
Prior to using winnowing the farmers would thresh their crop in order to separation their seeds or grain from the husks. This is the chaff removal process. The winnowing process which followed has often been referred to in historical documents as “Winnowing the chaff”.
The simplest form which winnowing can possibly take is simply to toss the mixture into the air and allow the wind to blow the lighter chaff away while the heavier grains fall down to the earth for proper recovery and ultimate use. Various techniques have been incorporated in the past and included the use of a winnowing fan as well as special tools. The fan is nothing more than a shaped basket which is shaken in order to cause the chaff to rise. This specialized tool is known as a winnowing fork and is used to harvest a pile of grain. Hand held winnowing baskets were very effective but unfortunately they were extremely slow.
The winnowing fan dates back to the ancient Greek culture where it was referred to as a “cradle”. It was featured predominantly in the Dionysus rites as well as in the Greek Eleusinian Mysteries. In all reality, it was nothing more than a simple agricultural implement employed in the Dionysus religion.
In China the people made use of a rotary fan winnowing machine as indicated in Song Yingxing’s “Tiangong encyclopedia.” China was the first to mechanize the process when they developed their rotary winnowing fan. This was a crank powered fan used to produce a directed air stream towards the grain.
The New Testament mentions the process in Matthew 3:12 where a reference is made to the separation of wheat and chaff meaning the division of good and bad. The scripture states “His winnowing fan or fork is in his hand”.
It took European farmers until the 18th century to adopt the early Chinese techniques. These early attempts at developing a winnowing machine used something similar to a sail fan. Later around 1700 a rotary winnowing fan was brought to Europe from Java by Dutch sailors. Although these machines were becoming popular in Europe the Swedes preferred to import their machines from China. Lastly, not to be left out the Jesuit Priests took several to France around 1720.
In 1737 a Mr. Andrew Rodger a Scottish farmer developed a winnowing machine which was used for corn called a ‘Fanner’. The invention caught on quickly and the Rodgers family sold them all around the country.
In America the use of winnowing barns in South Carolina allowed the larger rice plantations to effectively increase their rice yield dramatically.
Copyright @2011 Joseph Parish