How To Harvest Wheat By Hand?

Wheat harvesting is typically done in vast fields with huge machinery. But, how do you harvest small scale wheat crops? Luckily, the whole process can be done by hand with a couple of simple tools you probably have lying around the homestead. In the absence of those tools, it can be done with just your own two hands. Read on to learn more on how to harvest wheat by hand.

What Is The Process Of Harvesting Wheat?

process of harvesting wheat

Wheat is grown and then cut when it is mature. Then, it is threshed to remove the wheat berries from the other plant material.

Winnowing is done next to remove plant material from the wheat berries so you have a more pure end product.

Most of this involves heavy machinery in commercial operations. How do you harvest winter wheat by hand or any other type of wheat for that matter? The steps are all the same. It’s just the tools that change!

Harvesting The Wheat

Harvesting wheat won’t start until the crop is fully mature. Once the wheat has turned a golden color and the seed head is hard, the wheat is ready to harvest.

What do farmers use to cut wheat stalks? Well, if you are doing this by hand, you can start by harvesting wheat with a sickle.

Or, you can use a scythe if you prefer leasing bending down. If you want no tools at all, your bare hands will work.

How do you harvest wheat with a scythe or sickle? You have to cut the wheat down to harvest the seed head.

Don’t cut too close to the seed head. Make sure you leave enough room to hold the stalks, as it will be useful when you move onto threshing.

If you want to completely do this by hand alone with no tools at all, you’ll have to go to each stalk and break off the seed heads individually.

Threshing The Wheat

Once you have your harvested seed heads, it’s time to thresh the wheat berries from the stalks. How do you hand thresh wheat?

Well, there are numerous options to try, but this guide will focus on bucket threshing or simply using your two hands.

All you need is a bucket to catch your wheat berries as you thresh them. A 5-gallon bucket will work but if you want to use a larger one, that is just fine.

Slam your wheat back and forth against the inside of the bucket so the wheat berries fall to the bottom.

While this will effectively separate all the wheat berries, you’ll also have some plant debris in the bucket as well. That means it’s time to move onto winnowing.

You can also thresh your wheat by simply grabbing the seed heads and rubbing them in your hands until the wheat berries are released from the plant material.

Winnowing The Wheat

Winnowing is just a fancy way to say separating the wheat berries from the plant material. For this process, you can use a fan. Or, if it’s a windy day, you won’t even need the fan.

Point the fan towards the bucket and grab handfuls of wheat berries. Drop the berries back into the bucket in front of the fan.

The fan will blow away the plant debris while the heavier wheat berries fall back into the bucket. A windy day will do the same job as a fan.

If you are set on using no tools at all and have already rubbed the wheat berries between your hands to separate them, you can do this by hand alone.

Just pick up handfuls and drop them over and over until the wind has blown away all the plant debris.

Now, all you are left with is wheat berries that are ready to process into flour or anything else you want to do with them. Congratulations, you’ve harvested wheat by hand!

Frequently Asked Questions

wheat FAQs

What Happens After Harvesting Wheat?

After you harvest your wheat, the wheat berries can be stored or processed into flour. Wheat berries last longer than processed flour, so it’s best to store them instead of processing them without the need for flour right away.

How Do You Know When Wheat Is Ready To Harvest?

When wheat is mature, it will lose its green color and turn a golden brown color. You can test if the wheat berries are mature by breaking them off the plant and biting one. If it is hard, it is ready to harvest.

Are Winnowing And Threshing The Same?

No, threshing involves separating the wheat berries from the stalk and winnowing involves removing excess plant debris after threshing is complete. Both are integral parts of wheat harvesting, however.

What Is The Difference Between Harvesting And Threshing?

Harvesting is typically used as an overarching term of cutting down, threshing, and Winnowing the wheat. Threshing is simply one of the steps during the harvest process to remove the wheat berries from the wheat stalks.

Why Is Threshing Done Before Winnowing?

Threshing is used to initially remove the wheat berries from the plant stalks. Winnowing is done after that because threshing causes small plant debris to fall off with the wheat berries. It’s used to remove all the debris so all you are left with is pure wheat berries.

When are the ideal times of year to plant and harvest wheat?

When creating your planting schedule for wheat, you have two options. You can plant winter wheat during the autumn and plan on harvesting it in mid-summer, and/or you can plant spring wheat in April or May and plan on harvesting it in late summer or early autumn (August or September).

What s the easiest and most practical way to harvest small amounts of wheat for use in your home?

Just cut off the seed heads and lay them out to air dry. You can allow the stalks to dry and leave them standing for the benefit of wildlife in winter or cut them down and add them to your compost heap.

If your crop is too large to simply gather by hand, what sort of tool works best to harvest a fairly small home crop?

A sickle is designed to cut down stalks of grain quickly and easily at ground level. Failing that, use a sharp pair of clippers or similar cutting tool.

How do you cure wheat in the field after harvesting it?

Gather the felled stalks and bundle them together in bunches with the wheat heads all together at one end.

Lean the bundles up against each other so that they will stand on their own as sheaves to be dried by the sun and the breezes. Remember to keep all of the wheat heads at the top of the bundles.

What s the best weather for wheat harvest?

Naturally, warm, dry weather is best for airing, drying and curing wheat. It is also the best for working in the fields.

How can you thresh small amounts of wheat?

When your gathered wheat is thoroughly dried and cured, you can separate the grain from the grain heads by beating the wheat bundles inside of a clean, new trash can. This will release the grain into the bottom of the can.

How can you winnow small amounts of wheat?

Once you are done threshing your wheat, you can separate the wheat from the chaff by turning on a fan, setting up your work space in front of it and pouring your newly threshed grain from one bucket to another.

The wind from the fan will catch the chaff and blow it away. You will probably need to pour the grain back and forth several times. Be sure to wear a mask to protect your airways from inhaling the fine particles.

Go Harvest Your Wheat!

Of all of the wheat harvesting methods, doing it by hand may be the most rewarding on the homestead. Being self-sufficient with your food and harvest needs is the epitome of homesteading.

Now, with this guide, you know how easy it can be to harvest the wheat by hand with a few simple tools!

9 thoughts on “How To Harvest Wheat By Hand?”

    • Well, Eugene. I have a garden of a couple acres, and the wheat straw ground cover that I spread last year has left me with beautiful winter wheat that is almost ready for harvest. This kind of post helps me (and I’m sure many others) know how to process a small-ish harvest!

    • I need to know ,because i grew a small amount and i have some wild flowers that sprouted up inbetween. I dont want to disturb the beautiful display. The golden wheat actually looks stunning. I really should be looking up how long can i leave it unharvested.

      • Generally speaking, wheat should be harvested promptly when it reaches the appropriate stage of development. Failure to do so can result in the grain becoming too old to use. Excessively mature seed heads may shatter causing significant loss of grain. Aging wheat may also be negatively impacted by inclement weather and/or pest predation. Furthermore, if you leave your wheat in the field for too long, it may be out-competed by weeds. Even if you are able to harvest wheat that has been standing for a long period of time, you may not be able to store it successfully because its moisture content will be unpredictable.

  1. Those of us who want to farm self-sufficiently and off grid, Eugene! Weird though we may be, and on the margins of society like we are, information like this is helpful, Sam. I’ve just hand-cut my first bit of wheat this morning–I’m building up a supply of seed from a tiny packet of 500 heirloom seeds, so it will take a while to get to enough to plant our field. Exciting all the same–it’s a tall-standing, old variety that will yield ample straw as well as grain (Red Fife).

    • Yes, it’s a good idea to bundle your wheat together and lean the bundles up against each other to dry and cure in the field. Provided the weather is dry and sunny and not too terribly windy, this is a great way to make the most of the sun and the breezes to air the grain evenly. Having your crop bundled in sheaves also makes it easier to load it up and transport it when the time comes.

  2. I raise Alba six-row barley every year in rotation with Austrian winter peas here in Oregon. This year I harvested just over 700 lbs of barley and next year I’ll top 3000 lbs. I use a sickle bar mower with a handmade iron catch basin. Worked quite well for the past dozen years but now I’ve planted quite a bit more on my farm. Next July the barley will be ready and the peas quite a bit sooner than that. So now I’m seriously looking into finding a reaper binder. I’m going to build a stationary thresher.


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