Easy Mode of Thrashing, Cleaning, and Preserving all Sorts of Grain, as practised in India, and various Parts of Europe ; recommended in the Infancy of St. Helena Farming.
THROUGHOUT India, the manner of reaping and preserving corn, is nearly the same. It is cut down within four inches of the ground ; and when dried in the sun it is, without binding it in sheaves, put in small stacks about ten or twelve feet high. The stalks are placed outward, and the ears inward. After remaining in the stacks a week or ten days, it is spread evenly on a thrashing floor, made hard, level, and smooth ; and coated with a mixture of cow dung, clay, and water. The grain is then trodden, by driving a number of cattle over it. When the thrashing is completed, the straw is separated from the grain and chaff ; and these being projected in the air, by means of wooden shovels, the corn becomes perfectly winnowed, by this simple process, which is performed entirely in the open field.
The natives of India have various ways of preserving grain. Some put it in large earthen jars, and keep it in their houses ; others use pits, about fifteen or twenty feet deep. These are excavated, in a dry and compact soil, by digging a narrow shaft, two or three feet in diameter, which is gradually widened towards the bottom, and forms a spacious cave under ground, leaving only a small opening at top. Through this opening, after the cave has been lined with straw rope, the grain is deposited ; and the opening is then closed by a few sticks or boards, over which soil is laid, and made level with the surface of the field. These under ground granaries exclude all air and moisture, and grain is preserved in them for several years. I think it is probable that potatoes on this island might be preserved in the same manner for several months.
In some parts of India, small store rooms are erected, which are strongly floored with planks, to keep out the bandicoots, a species of destructive rat, much larger than those at St. Helena. In the store rooms, no opening is left for air : but there are small doors, one above another, for the convenience of taking out the grain as it is wanted.
In some of the northern countries of Europe, the flail is not used in thrashing. A large circle is cleared, and levelled, upon all open and elevated place. After the stones, or gravel, have been carefully removed, water is sprinkled and the space is covered with short straw. A post is then fixed in the centre of the circle, and as soon as the soil is somewhat dry, it is trodden by horses, fastened by means of a rope, to the central post. As the horses are driven round, the rope gradually shortens ; and the animals, when they have approached the centre, are made to move in a contrary direction. After repeatedly pursuing this alternate career, towards and from the centre, the floor is at length prepared. The sheaves are now untied, and disposed in successive circles from the post to the circumference, in order to be trodden. The thrashing is performed exactly in the same manner as in preparing the floor, by driving two or three horses round the post until all the ears are separated. The straw, which is reduced to very short pieces, is separated, and used as fodder during the winter ; and the grain and chaff are then collected into a heap, and the winnowing performed in the same manner as is practised in India.
It is remarkable that the winnowing of corn in Egypt and in several parts of the Mediterranean, are the same as abovementioned. The mode of thrashing in Egypt is, however, different ; for small carts are there made use of, which, by being driven repeatedly over the corn, separates the grain from the straw in a manner equally effectual as the other two modes I have described.
24th January, 1811.