The process is undoubtedly laborious but this wholesome way of working and harvesting the land keeps the tradition alive and the family motivated. “Passers by will often stop and watch and friends in the village will often pop by to lend a hand”, says David. “Every year we say this will be our last year but here I am again, at 82 feeding wheat through the same drum.”

Once the wheat has ripened, the family armed with pitch forks put their old faithful David Brown back out to work, but this time towing a flatbed trailer. “Dad and I, alongside my wife Alison and our children Sally and Thomas will fork the shocked sheaves of wheat up onto the trailer”, says John. “The sheaves are then stacked by hand onto pallets into a tall circular stack that’s then covered with a sheet until we are ready for the final process.”

“Years ago they used to thatch the stack”, adds David. “Nowadays you simply don’t have the thatching straw available due to conventional combining.”

The Kitchiners Foster threshing drum dates back to the 1940’s when all types of grain would have been harvested by a binder before being put through a drum. “The drum has five outlets, one for the grain that can be graded into three, one for the straw, one for the cavings (rubbish), one underneath for the empty ears and a blower for the chaff”, explains John. “All our grain is used for animal feed so there is very little wastage.”

It’s all hands to the deck when the drum is brought out to the stack. Powered by a belt driven off a vintage Fordson Major, David takes pride of place at the top of the drum. “In the olden days there would have been a team of eight to ten people working the machine and stack but we sometimes have to manage with just us five”, says John. “Alison and Sally will be on the stack passing the sheaves to dad who then cuts the bundles and feeds the wheat into the drum, then I will be on the ground dealing with the cavings, grain and chaff whilst Thomas sorts the straw.”

Arguably, the worst job is dealing with the cavings but a calloused handed helper on the stack may well disagree. “You can only feed the machine at a certain pace so once the people working the stack are in a routine feeding the sheaves to Dad, it isn’t that bad”, reassures John. “The cavings and the chaff are a filthy job as it’s very fast paced due to managing all the various outlets and then there’s the job of dealing with any inevitable mechanical faults.”

The important end product is obviously the thatching straw itself and as the now prepared material leaves the front of the drum the arduous process nears completion. “The straw makes its way through the drum through some straw walkers into the trusser, when that’s full the machine automatically ties it into a bundle”, explains John. “The bundles are then put into a collector that compacts approximately 30 bundles to make one large bundle before being stacked ready for collection.”

There is no denying that the families yearly dedication is driven by David’s passion for hard graft and a deep rooted pride of our countries heritage. Seeing David leading this back braking operation in his eighties whilst his younger counterparts struggle to keep up, is truly a sight to behold. “I bought my first threshing drum in the 1960’s which I towed back from Puckeridge to Shillington at 5mph with an old International W6 and we have produced a crop nearly every year since”, says David. “I like work, I like being busy and I like to keep old traditions going, it is so important that we don’t forget where we came from and continue to encourage a good work ethic and good old fashioned values.”

David and John Kitchiner Please mention THE VINTAGE SCENE when responding to advertisements NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2019 7

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