Threshing is the process used to separate the chaff, the protective covering around the grain, and the kernel of grain used for food, from a plant’s stalk. Farmers used flails to remove the chaff and grain from the stalk and to crack open the chaff.
This image from Benjamin Butterworth’s The Growth of Industrial Art, depicts reaping grain during the colonial period. Reaping had to be done by hand, using a scythe or hay knife to cut the grain. Notice that the whole family helps with the field work.
By the mid-nineteenth century, farmers no longer had to reap entirely by hand. Machines made the work of harvesting go more quickly. This Self Raker Harvester was patented in 1855, to help farmers bring in their harvest.
During the nineteenth century, the woman of the household was usually responsible for making cheese and butter. She would set milk out in pans to separate the cream from the milk. The thick cream would rise to the top of the pan, and she would skim it off. The cream was used to make butter.
Patented in 1865, the adjustable switch reel rake was intended to make reaping grain more efficient for farmers. Although some farmers used steampowered machines by the 1860’s, many still used horses or oxen to power the equipment on their farms.