This barn came from South New Berlin, New York. William Mayhew bought the property in 1822 and sold it to William Brooks in 1863. Brooks Barn is a three bay, English-style barn. Typical for the 1840’s, the barn’s floor plan has a hay mow, threshing floor, stable, and grain loft. The barn’s log construction, typical of the time period and geographic area, is rarely seen today.
Nineteenth century farmers grew wheat for flour, but the process of turning harvested wheat stalks into edible grain was rather time consuming. It also required a great deal of human strength.
The first step was to separate the grain seeds from the stalks. To do this, the wheat was laid out on the floor of the threshing barn. Next, a person with a large flail would swing it down onto the wheat, releasing the seeds from the stalks. (You can check out a flail in the object section below).
After the threshing, kernels of wheat and their husks would be winnowed, or separated. The husks, also known as chaff, can not be eaten by humans. Using a winnowing tray on a windy day, the farmers would toss the mixed chaff and grains repeatedly into the air. The wind would blow the chaff away, as the good kernels of grain fell into the tray. This was a very dirty dusty job.
Sheep and the Nineteenth Century Farm Family
Nineteenth century farm families made many of the goods they used. They raised sheep as a source of wool. Sheep shearing occurred in April. Later in the year, they washed the wool in huge kettles, hung the fleeces to dry, and then carded it. Carding was very important, as it not only helped remove unwanted grass that tangled into the fleece, but also caused the fibers of wool to align in the same direction. This was important when the wool was spun into yarn on a spinning wheel. Women and children did most of the spinning in the 1800’s. Some wool was dyed with certain vegetables and minerals to give it different colors.