Having cut some sheaves of wheat growing wild in the field below the Mill house just before the Open Gardens weekends, we have been talking about the possibility of growing a patch of wheat, cutting and binding it, threshing it and then milling it, then baking bread from it, all in one day!

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I was hoping that Jayne & Sebastian would be able to accompany me on a fact-finding mission to the Old Time Harvest day at Brakfontein, between Heidelberg and Riversdale this year; in the end I went on my own.

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For non-Afrikaans speakers, it says Harvest Day from the Old Days with Veteran Implements and Machinery. In the background are the coastal dunes where our host, Emile Cronje harvests roofing thatch.

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As usual, after the introduction and prayer, the sickles and scythes were demonstrated.
Tied to Emile's waist is a bunch of matjiesriet. Literally, matting reeds.

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Here Herman Gilliomee explains how, earlier in the year, these long bulbous plants are pulled out of the ground in this area, the bulb is then cut off and the stalks are beaten between two wooden blocks to flatten them. They are tied in bunches of 100 and hung up, pending Harvest Day. On the day, they are dipped in a bucket of water and then they're ready to use. The person harvesting will match the size of the sheaf to the length of the riet, starting with the longest, making his sheaves slightly smaller every time according to the length of the riet. When he has no riete left, he knows he has tied 100 sheaves, and that equates to a certain number of bags of wheat. The riet is passed twice around the sheaf, then pulled tight and the ends are twisted together several times and the twist is tucked in under the two bands. The sheaf is then firm, and can be handled easily.

It was then the turn of the reaper-binders to demonstrate how dramatically this invention increased the harvesting rate!

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These are wheel-drive binders, there was a third 'power binder' driven by a power take off shaft.

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Once these machines had done a few passes, we went out into the land and collected the sheaves. Those which hadn't tied properly were thrown into the windrows already swathed for the pick-up combine harvesters. Just look at the driver of the Bloubottel! She's the 8 year-old daughter of South Cape Veteran Club chairman Christo Terblanche, standing right behind her.

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These sheaves were immediately fed into one of the two blikbakke (tin-mills). Emile has an IH / McCormick one as well as this magnificent Massey Harris:

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There was some competition with the bag-sewers; Johnny Verreynne is watching critically that Slabbert Terblanche would sew his bags correctly later. They paired up on the Massey Harris 21A combine like Johnny used to own, which he always drives.

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Johnny demonstrated how to cut the baling string into exact lengths for sewing bags. Two people stand facing one another, their arms going back and forth looking as though they have a saw between them, sawing fast! In an instant, and just one cut with a pen-knife, a hundred or so strings are cut to length!

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Emile had a collection of about six stampbalers connected to tractors, all in a row. He brought out this Wisconsin single-cylinder-powered baler under the output of one of the threshing machines. Next to it, the wires were being prepared. Soon, bales were coming out like clockwork!

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Next, the Sunshine headers were let loose. The long fingers of these machines catch the ears of the grain only. They are cut off, leaving a much longer stalk for stubble. The difference in the land afterwards is very noticeable.

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Emile demonstrated a pick-up baler behind a tractor. Automatic wire-tie, producing well-compressed, very straight bales. Soon it was the turn of the combines to go out into the land. Each one is different; make and model, pick-up or cutter, sack or bulk.

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Emile has about eight self-propelled combines, apart from the tractor drawn machines, and excluding the West Cape Club's Sunshine from Thys Swart, which he looks after.

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There was no shortage of drivers and sack-sewers! Derick added to the display with some of his Stationary Engines; his Gardner is now running well, with resized main bearings.

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Hugo-John brought his Agrico Mill, powered here by Ronnie's Fordson:

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Inside the shed, Conrad was plying his trade, forging various objects; here yet another pair of tongs. Later he was producing intricate coils.

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Lots of good ideas were gleaned; we're really looking for a reaper-binder. We have an IH threshing machine, in need of restoration, found on a farm near here in the Elgin Valley, where it last worked!

Andy Selfe
13th December 2009