This week we are featuring an agricultural tool called a winnowing basket which is used to separate grain from the chaff. After being harvested, farmers would bring the grain into the barn to be threshed, which involves beating the grain with a flail to loosen the grains from the husks. It would then be placed into the winnowing basket where the farmer would toss the recently flailed grain up from the basket into the air. With both barn doors open it would create a cross breeze which would allow for the wind to blow the light chaff away and the grains would fall back into the basket. The grain would then be ready for the grist mill where it would be turned into flour. Different techniques included; using a winnowing fan (a shaped basket shaken to raise the chaff, like the one from our collection shown in the picture) or using a tool (a winnowing fork or shovel) on a pile of harvested grain.
Today, in developed areas, the process of threshing and winnowing grain is mostly done by machine usually by a combine harvester, which harvests, threshes, and winnows the grain all while it is still in the field.