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FROM THESEED FIELDS TO THE THRESHING FLOOR

Agriculture has until very recent times been the main activity of the inhabitants of the Sierra de las Nieves, because now the construction industry and related services have relegated it to a second place over the last decades. This agricultural activity, based on the Mediterranean trio of wheat, wine and olives, has shaped a modus vivendi that characterizes and unites the older members of our community.

Below, we shall take a general look at the daily activities of people and their occupation. The first in this chapter is: from the seed field to the threshing floor.

This cycle began in Autumn, with the first rains, when the fields filled with farm labourers with their teams of mules or oxen to till the soil. Once the earth was worked, it was furrowed so that the grain could be scattered, or sown by placing in holes after the furrow had been opened by the ploughing process.

In Winter, and even in Spring, once the grain had germinated and had reached sufficient height, the ground was weeded. There was little more work to be done to the cereals (wheat or barley) or to the leguminous cops (chick peas, broad beans, peas) until the arrival of Summer.

Once dried by the persistent action of the sun, the teams of farmhands began the harvesting, or uprooting in the case of chick peas. Sickle in hand, protected by a hand grip and apron, they reaped the fields, forming bundle after bundle, stopping only to slake their thirst with water from a pitcher already warmed by the sun.

After reaping, the sheaves had to be taken to the threshing floor, that is to say, they had to be pulled or dragged, for which mules working in tandem were required. The mules were harnessed together to pull the bundles of cereal. Once they arrived at the threshing floor, the sheaves were spread around the floor to separate the grain from the stalks and chaff, first by being trodden our by animals, and later with the aid of a threshing cylinder that broke up the straw and separated the grain from the chaff (the pod that covers the grain) This was how the stacks of unthreshed grain were formed, which were nothing more than the stalks of grain piled up on the threshing room floor.

Next, the unthreshed grain was tossed through a current of air with hay forks and wooden spades to separate the grain from the straw. The duration of this work depended on the force and direction of the wind, because if the wind was variable, the unthreshed grain had to be thrown from the direction in which it was blowing at any given time. For this reason, the threshing floors were situated high up and open to the beating of the wind.

To help with the threshing process, the chaff was swept and raked (to clear residues of straw, ears of wheat, unchaffed grain, etc.) completing the process by sifting and packing the grain. In the packing of grain, the units of measurement prior to the metric decimal system were utilized, these having all but disappeared nowadays, such as “fanega” (1.58 bushels), “cuartilla” and its corresponding divisions (almud, half almud, celemín, cuartillo, etc.).

Now the only task left was to store the grain and straw in the barns and haystacks, which was also hard work because the hay had to be stored using sheets and sacks in a suffocating heat, and putting up with the itching and the dust produced by the recently harvested grain and the straw.

Then came the time to return to the fields with the livestock and to finish off the stubble left by the reaping. When Autumn came, this important cycle began all over again, having been repeated since ancient times and which has only been changed by industrialization, although we can ask ourselves whether any advances have been made.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Association for the Rural Development of Sierra de las Nieves

Edificio Sierra de las Nieves, Paraje de Río Grande-Las Millanas, s/n - 29109- Tolox (Málaga) - Phone: 952 48 28 21 - Fax: 952 48 29 44

Email: agdr@sierranieves.com