The past two days on the 1900 farm have been a flurry of activity in the fields as the farm hands have diligently performed the task of cutting and binding the oats and forming shocks in the fields so they can dry. You don’t really see shocks of cereal grain crops in Iowa fields anymore as most farmers use combines to bring in the harvest. Though the combine had been patented in 1835 by Hiram Moore, it did not see widespread use as other machines were also being developed. One of those machines was the steam powered engine. We will thresh our grain on this farm with a steam-powered engine on August 6-7, but before the threshing could happen, the crop would first have to be prepared. That is where the binding and shocking comes in.
At the 1850 farm, our interpreters demonstrate how Iowa pioneers would cut their cereal grain crop of wheat. It shows the difference technology made on this farming process. Prior to the binder/bundler, the crop would be cut by hand with a sickle and tied using the wheat itself. This was a very labor intensive and time-consuming process.
By the late 1870s grain binders were available thanks to knotting technology credited to a Wisconsin man named John F. Appleby. This made the process of making bundles (called sheaves) considerably more efficient. Our binder is a McCormick-Deering, pulled by a four-horse team.
The binder works by mowing the oats using a bull wheel to push the stalks into a mower. The stalks are cut and fall onto a conveyor belt which raises it to the knotting machine. When enough stalks constituted a bundle, the machine would tie the sheave and deposit it onto a platform on the machine that would collect a number of bundles. When the farmer had collected a certain number of bundles they would dump them off the platform so they could be shocked.
No, the bundles were not being struck by lightning. Shocking in the process of placing the bundles in an upright pile so they can dry quickly. The drying part is essential when it comes to threshing.
It took 5 guys 2 days to get our 5 acre field bound and shocked, but the oats are now drying. What we need is some warm and breezy days to finish off the process. Just like the days we expect around this time in Iowa.