Author Topic: looking for a knot - tying a sheaf of wheat  (Read 14875 times)

JonathanWaller

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looking for a knot - tying a sheaf of wheat
« on: October 17, 2009, 05:50:23 PM »
Hi
I am new to the forum.
Does anyone know if there was a specific knot that was used to tie up wheat sheafs? or if not, what knots would be suitable for such a task?
Thanks in advance for any help.
Best
Jonathan

roo

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Re: looking for a knot - tying a sheaf of wheat
« Reply #1 on: October 17, 2009, 10:34:59 PM »
I don't know the most common method in ages past, but I can make some suggestions:

http://notableknotindex.webs.com/reefknot.html
http://notableknotindex.webs.com/butcherknots.html
http://notableknotindex.webs.com/Versatackle.html

On the last link, since you're likely just using twine, any old loops (i.e. overhand loop) will do.  A watered-down version of the Versatackle would involve just using one end loop, and after applying tension, finish off with two half hitches.

ref:  http://notableknotindex.webs.com/roundturntwohalfhitches.html

If you have a stick, you can use it tourniquet-style to apply more tension to just about any binding.
« Last Edit: October 17, 2009, 10:43:22 PM by roo »
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DerekSmith

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Re: looking for a knot - tying a sheaf of wheat
« Reply #2 on: October 18, 2009, 09:35:51 AM »
Well, sadly - or perhaps luckily - I am old enough to have been born when the wheat harvest was cut by a Sail Reaper pulled by two horses.  It threw out loose sheaves and everyone on the farm except the Farmers sons would be in the fields binding and stooking the sheaves as fast as they were thrown out of that hellish machine.  I am not old enough to have seen the crop cut by scythe though, but I am sure it must have been a more sedate atmosphere.

It might come as a surprise, but the sheaves were not bound by cord.  Cord is too thin and cuts into the outside of the sheaf, crinking the all important straw.  You might think the crop was only the grain, but not so, the straw was just as vital a part of the crop, and if it was going for thatching or equally important -corn dolly making- then the straw was not to be damaged by crinking.

I was only a child, and only saw a couple of harvests brought in with the Sail Reaper, but at least I was taught how to bind the sheaves and stook them.  For a child, it was almost impossible to handle the man sized sheaves wafted out by the sails of the reaper, so I was given permission to bind half sheaves.  To watch the men binding sheaves, all you saw was a blur and a punch and the sheaf was bound and bound tight at that.  My dad showed me in slower motion.

He picked the loose sheaf up and laid it against his legs.  As he scooped up the sheaf, he also took hold of a small bunch of straw in his left hand.  He reached behind the sheaf with his right hand and grabbed the ends of this small bunchl and brought it round the back of the sheaf , then both ends came together in front of the sheaf.  In the process of wrapping this tie round the sheaf it had been given about a turn twist which bound the straws together into a soft rope.

Then the two ends were brought together with a heave which tightened the sheaf, and in one movement the ends were crossed, twisted and tucked in behind the band. No knot, just a twist and a tuck - the very stiffness of the straw locked the binding in place.  An important trick turned out to be gauging the amount of straw selected to make the band with.  Too much and it would be impossible to bend and tuck, too little and the sheaf would  just collapse in a whirled splay.

Although I was shown how to tie the sheaves, our job as farm kids was to follow the men, pick up two sheaves and stook them, making a long row of sheaves, six each side to make the sheaves stand in the wind and let the grain finish drying.

Later, the sheaves would be stacked onto huge carts and taken to the farm yard, where they would be built into round stacks, wider at the top than at the bottom.  Then some very long ladders would be laid on the stacks and two thatchers would set to work using sheaves and hazel pegs to thatch the stacks.  There the stacks would stand until a huge steam threshing machine drove into the farm and the whole harvest would be threshed.

Thinking back, it was a dangerous time, with the great belts flapping around, taking power from the steam engine to the thresher and the elevators.  The grain was bagged into sacks far too large for a boy to lift and the chaff went into sacks that seemed bigger than a man, while the straw went back up an elevator into what would become the main yard straw stack, and as it was being built, the thatchers were at work again giving it a new roof.

Some sheaves escaped threshing.  Good looking sheaves went into a barn by themselves and a braided straw girdle was made to cover around the tie, these sheaves would then go into the church at harvest festival as a backdrop for all the produce the villagers would bring to dress the church with.  For a short time the church would smell wonderful instead of its usual dank mustiness, polish and death watch beetle spray.

Hmm, sorry, got off the topic a bit there.

One thing to note, is that the straw in those days was very long and strong, often 3ft long, so it was easy to use for a binding.  Try it today with modern short straw varieties and I doubt you will manage it.

Derek

SS369

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Re: looking for a knot - tying a sheaf of wheat
« Reply #3 on: October 18, 2009, 02:57:00 PM »
Seems to me that some variations of the "Butcher's" knots and the ABOK with #'s 186 - 192 could do it well. Though there are quite a few that would do the task equally well in the "Binding" section as well.

Is this request for an authentic knot for the purpose or decorative?

SS

JonathanWaller

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Re: looking for a knot - tying a sheaf of wheat
« Reply #4 on: October 18, 2009, 07:30:02 PM »
Thanks for all your help

Jonathan
 

Andy

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Re: looking for a knot - tying a sheaf of wheat
« Reply #5 on: October 19, 2009, 03:43:17 PM »
Hi Derek,

Loved your post. Wow, you're a great writer. Your post belongs in a book. Where's the next page? :)

Thanks for the great read,

Andy
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DerekSmith

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Re: looking for a knot - tying a sheaf of wheat
« Reply #6 on: October 19, 2009, 09:33:23 PM »
Ha Ha, thanks Andy, I thought I might have been censured for going way off topic.  But hey, it was about bindings and really, that is at the heart of knotting - binding, making fast making safe...

Strangely enough, the next 'page' began the very next year.  I only saw two years of the Sail Reaper at work.  The following year a combine harvester Appeared on the farm and brought the crop straight off the field into sacks which were dropped into a cart drawn alongside the harvester.  Out the back spewed dust and the scruffiest straw you ever saw - useless for anything but bedding.

And then life changed - IT came into the field - A mechanical BAILER.  It scooped up the scruffy straw and stuffed it into a box, and out the other end came a brick of straw, bound by two bands of golden binder twine.  Then came the magic.  The baler tightened the twine and in a move so fast you could not make out what it had done - IT KNOTTED IT - then spat the straw brick out the back.

Before you knew it the field was balled and the machine moved on to the other fields behind the harvester.

The farmhands used to use long handled pitch forks to loft the sheaves up onto the cart.  Now they had to try to heave these bales onto the cart.  Several fork handles snapped under the weight and they had to resort to two men lofting a bale at the same time.  Pitch fork handles quickly got shorter and the bales soon were made smaller - but that is another story.

The real story here revolved around what was binding those bales together - the binder twine

Up until then string and rope had been valuable commodities.  At best, as a child, you could collect odd bits discarded by dad in the garden, or cadge a bit of used parcel string from mum.  But now - hundreds and hundreds of feet of binder twine sat in the stack.  Some bales broke and the twine was eagerly collected (that's if the farm hands didn't get it first)  Then the straw began to be used in the stock pens and those great lengths of cut string began to be collected and soon it was EVERYWHERE.  There was so much of it that even us kids were allowed to use it when we wanted to.  But it was horrible stuff - unravelling at the slightest hint of work.

My dad was ex navy and showed me how to lay up several strings into a really usable rope, and how to take out strands to lay up much finer string that we could use instead of stinging nettle string for stringing a bow (if my mum caught me 'using' the fine string saved to tie up the roast, then my legs would get a roasting of their own, so a 'legal' source of strong fine string was a real bonus.

Rope for the go-cart handle, string to rig the sails on the model boats sailed on the goose pond, at least until the geese got the hump and chased us off.  You could outrun a lone goose easily, but when the whole flock turned on you, then you were going to go home with at least one bite on the bum or legs, and that witness mark was enough to catch us out for being 'in that goose pond again, haven't you!!'.  Either that or it was the stink of the foul black mud at the bottom of the pond caused by countless goose poops stirred up when an errant boat inevitably went the wrong way and had to be rescued.  Feet and legs tended to go blue black on contact with the stuff at the bottom of the pond and a certain 'whiff' lingered as yet another tell-tale give away.  Sorry, off tack again, but isn't it strange the way just about everything conspires to 'give away' ones antics - you only had to touch a walnut and everyone had it in for you - teacher, mum, Vicker, even the lady in the village shop would ring your ear if she saw brown fingers...

The point was, that within a year of the combine harvester and baler moving into the farm scene life on the farm, rope and string wise, changed forever.  Binder twine hung everywhere in great bundles for reuse.  And reused it was.  Instead of carpentry, if something could be tied, then it WAS tied.  Of course, the fact that there was knot every eight foot had to be contended with, but then every boy had his penknife...  the fact that I carry a penknife to this day is now a serious risk.  I went to renew my passport and had my Leatherman confiscated before I was allowed to approach the counter.  Sorry, off again...

It was a life changing event - string, cord, rope was now in abundance - instead of climbing up the tree to the den, now we were able to make a rope ladder, and the den grew like topsy as boards and boughs were lashed into place.  Knots became very important to us farm kids - because we had access to FREE ROPE.  All we had to do was learn to use it...

Andy

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Re: looking for a knot - tying a sheaf of wheat
« Reply #7 on: October 22, 2009, 01:00:22 AM »
Hi Derek,

Sorry about the delay. I read your post the other day but have not had time to reply.
Your story took me to a different time and place. I really enjoyed it. Thank you for sharing.
And with all your details about the availability of tying material, iit is 100% on topic :)

Wishing you a wonderful evening,

Andy
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Re: looking for a knot - tying a sheaf of wheat
« Reply #8 on: October 23, 2009, 05:05:27 PM »
Derek,

I agree - you should write down these fascinating memories somewhere, and keep them safe until they're printed.  I grew up on a goat farm from the early 70's to the mid 80's.  My best recollection of bindertwine was "rabbit and tree" and very scratchy hula skirts for the Bonfire Night float for the girl guides.

Put me down for a copy from the first print run :)

Regards

Glenys
Lesley
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DerekSmith

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Re: looking for a knot - tying a sheaf of wheat
« Reply #9 on: October 23, 2009, 08:30:05 PM »
Derek,

I agree - you should write down these fascinating memories somewhere, and keep them safe
snip...
Glenys

I have Glenys - here.

Great idea though for a new topic  -- 20 things to do with Binder Twine --

Top of the list would be Hula skirt and a rope ladder - of course, we would have to include details of how we made them...

Derek

turks head 54

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Re: looking for a knot - tying a sheaf of wheat
« Reply #10 on: October 26, 2009, 02:04:27 AM »
I love your posts Derek! They take be back to when I was younger. I didn't grow up on a farm, but my home was farm like. (We had 11 dogs.)
I really think you should make a collection of childhood knot memories.

TH54