After I published yesterday’s post about the Plateau of Lasithi I remembered I had some photos that were probably taken on that day, because as I mentioned previously, the plateau is a fertile farming area.
All the photos are very aged, but they do demonstrate some interesting techniques, so here we go . . .
As you will have realised by now, Crete is a stony island, but the soil in the below photo is rich, even loamy perhaps, so I was reasonably sure it was taken at Lasithi. I’d like to say the trees are olives, only because they were so common, but the leaf looks too large. Perhaps it was some kind of fruit tree. The farmers don’t have much free space to work with do they? I’ll talk a bit more about that in a future post.
Cropping in for a closer look confirmed the location to my satisfaction. You can see a windmill in the background . . .
Which means these photos must have been taken earlier in the day before we got into trouble by sliding the Citroen Dyane into an irrigation ditch.
You have to get up early in the morning if you intend to thresh and winnow wheat in the traditional manner depicted in the next photos. The wheat had been harvested by scythe.
As you can see, the wheat has been spread directly on to the ground and the woman driving the oxen is standing on a wooden sled; her weight and the flat surface separates the wheat grain from the straw. What you can’t see in either photo is that she is also balancing an enamel dish – the kind of thing often used for washing up – and she is alert to any movement of the tails which indicates either ox is about to relieve itself. She has to shove that dish under the tail pronto!
The oxen and driver go around, and around, and around in a circle. In other parts of the photos you can see different stages of production. The mound is grain waiting to be winnowed. The clump in front of it – I think – is the straw by-product. Or it may be the sheaves waiting to be spread out. Actually, given that they look darker in this photo, and evenly stacked, that is more likely to be the case.
There are even some hessian sacks, which presumably contain the finished product.
The man was doing the winnowing, by pitchforking the grain into the air and letting the breeze blow the chaff away. In the photo below he seems to have swapped the pitchfork for a winnowing shovel. Every so often the woman would join him. I think she is giving the grain that has dropped back to the ground a second winnow with a hand-held sieve. I don’t think she is actually gathering the grain yet. You can see she has taken her shoes off at this stage, possibly to prevent contamination from anything that she picked up on the sled. He is also barefoot I think.
Well, I know at least one of my followers has experience of manual threshing, so it will be interesting to hear how this method compares!
And please feel free to correct my terminology, analysis, understanding or any other thing I have misinterpreted from these photos. I was born and raised a city girl (which reminds me, I must tell the story of when a subsequent “landlady” wanted me to fetch a chicken from the hen-house, destined for the cook-pot, based on which one was no longer laying . . . )