24 June 2017

A year among farmers (Part 5)

A man holding a “manajil” (sickles), it’s used to cut dry (or almost dry) plants (Picture:sudanforum.net)

Baba” (October, in the farmers’ Pharaohic-Coptic calendar) was the beginning of the wheat season. The farmers say: “In bada al-zarie fi Baba, yaghlib al-nahaba” (if wheat season starts in October, the harvest will be so much that even thieves would not be able to steal it all).
The season peak was in “Kiahak” (December), with cold winds blowing, farmers working in the cold water and days becoming shorter. In “Baramoda” (April), the golden color of grown wheat extended until the horizon. Cold winds were getting replaced with “samoom” (hot winds); right on time for harvesting.
One field at a time, early in the morning, old and young, men and women, gathered in “fazaah” (collective work) and were served “ghurasa” (bread made of wheat) and tea. Then, there was nothing but the sounds of “manajil” (sickles) cutting the now almost dry plants, of falling stalks, of stalk tied together and of men carrying them to “jorn” (huge pile).

Aldarrasa” (Tractor-pulled harvester machines), would be coming soon to separate the grain from the chaff. Nowadays, no farmers used the old-fashioned way of hand harvesting. “Daris” (threshing, separating the chaffs and the stalks) was done by beating the pile with sticks. Or it was done with flails; two sticks attached by a short chain; one stick was held and swung, causing the other to strike the pile of grain, loosening the husks. Some farmers used “Noraj,” where donkeys or oxen walked around dragging heavy threshing boards.

That was followed by “Altadria” (winnowing, separating the grain and the chaffs). They were thrown-up into the air with wooden fork-like tools or shovels, and the winds blew away the chaff while the grain fell at people’s feet .
Then came the “Alqharbala” (sieving) a shaking process that cleaned the grain from debris.The last process was storing the grain in sacks, to be taken to the market or left at homes for the year-long supply.
It was amazing how modern machines simplified and sped up the process. Some harvesters just separate the grain from the chaffs. But a bigger one, like the combined one, cuts the plants, rolls them though threshing cylinders, separates the grain from the husk, gets rid of the chopped stalks and leaves, and stores the clean grain so as to be transferred, through a shaft, to a trailer, and then to sacks.
It was also amazing how the farmers who switched to the new technologies have, in just one generation, crossed centuries of human endeavor to better harvest the wheat. “Altaractar” (tractor) has become modern-day animal, pulling harvesting machines from one farm to another and transporting tillage parts as well. Old harvesting or modern harvesting, by the end of “Baramoda” (April), the wheat season was over as well as winter agricultural season. In “Bashans” (May), cows, sheep and goats were roaming freely in “Albarwad” (cultivated fields). Farmers sold their wheat to local merchants and settled year-long accounts of debts and loans. And it was time to rest and celebrate, as schools closed and immigrants returned to the village.

Winnowing (Picture: Prof. Phil. Claudia N-The German Research Team-field work in Almanasir-Sudan- February and March 2005).

I extend my thanks to Mr. Mohammad Ali Salih for his help in the writing.

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