Growing your own grains is no more difficult than growing most other garden crops, and you can easily harvest a small plot by hand using a lightweight scythe, such as those offered by Johnny’s Selected Seeds and Peaceful Valley Farm and Garden Supply. The hardest part of harvesting is separating the grain from the chaff. That’s why we were excited to see the Sylvan Foot-Powered Thresher demonstration at the Mother Earth News Fair in Asheville, N.C., back in April.
Sharon Howard, the owner of Sylvan, told us she was so frustrated by not being able to find a tool to help her thresh wheat that she tracked down one made overseas, and now she’s importing it. The unit threshes rice and beans, too, and sells for $595 plus shipping. View a video of this thresher in action in Affordable Foot-Powered Wheat Thresher.
If you’re more inclined to take a DIY approach, browse the numerous videos on YouTube showing creative homemade thresher setups, including one that uses an electric drill to spin a short chain inside a 5-gallon bucket — details in DIY Wheat Thresher
Another excellent homestead tool, the new Avalon Cider Press, debuted at the Fair in Puyallup, Wash., in May 2014. This is one serious cider-making machine: The industrial-style, stainless steel grinder can produce up to 400 gallons of fresh apple juice per day! Its baskets and fruit pan are stainless steel, too, and the unit is made in the United States. Go to Meadow Creature for more info.
The simple-to-operate, portable grain thresher and the heavy-duty cider press would each make a great homestead tool to share among several families, or to rent to neighbors, to offset the initial purchase price.
Note: The Sylvantec foot-powered thresher is no longer available from Sylvantec; however, foot-powered threshers are still useful tools for small-scale grain processing.
Cheryl Long is the editor in chief of MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine, and a leading advocate for more sustainable lifestyles. She leads a team of editors which produces high quality content that has resulted in MOTHER EARTH NEWS being rated as one North America’s favorite magazines. Long lives on an 8-acre homestead near Topeka, Kan., powered in part by solar panels, where she manages a large organic garden and a small flock of heritage chickens. Prior to taking the helm at MOTHER EARTH NEWS, she was an editor at Organic Gardening magazine for 10 years. Connect with her on Google+.