Reaper, Binder and Spreader

   These three words have at least three things in common at Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV). They are all old farm implements in our machinery collection. They all have a significant number of wooden parts. And because their wooden parts make them more vulnerable to weathering and decay than metal machines, they are all desperately in need of repair.

   In earliest times, the term “reaper” likely referred to a person. This individual would be using a scythe (a long knife with a long wooden handle) to cut grass or ripe grain to prepare it for threshing. Various mechanical devices were later invented to automate this process.

   Britannica.com informs us that the earliest mechanical reapers were invented and patented in the early 1800s. Some of these machines had a sickle, or “reciprocating,” cutter bar that cut the stalks of grain, a table that held the cut grain, and a series of paddles that rotated over the table and pushed the bunches of grain off the table. These bunches could then be manually tied into sheaves, which would be set up in small groups, or stooks, to dry. Once dry, the sheaves would be collected and threshed in a thresher or separator.

   Today, the most commonly used mechanical reapers are swathers and combines. The type of reaper that preceded today’s swather was a binder, which we still use in one of our pioneer demonstrations. This machine cuts the grain and bundles and ties it into sheaves to facilitate handling.

   Various models of binders were used to cut and bundle either cereal grains or corn. The corn binder, similar to the grain binder mentioned above, cut corn stalks and tied bunches of stalks into bundles for easier handling. These bundles of corn were then typically taken to a stationary silo filler to be cut into silage.

   The manure spreader was an early model organic fertilizer spreader. Composted manure was loaded into the spreader and broadcast on the fields, pulled by either horses or a tractor.

   These are all interesting machines, and videos of each one in operation can be found on YouTube. MHV’s machinery collection includes at least one reaper, one corn binder, and one manure spreader. As noted above, the many wood components on these old machines are decaying and need to be replaced, hopefully with a view to using these functioning artefacts for our pioneer farming demonstrations.

   Here’s where we offer a great opportunity to anyone who enjoys working with wood as a hobby. We have a heated shop with a variety of woodworking tools. This would be a great place for interested volunteers to gather one or more days a week to work on restoration projects such as this one. In winter, our staff enjoy having volunteers join them in the Village Centre for free coffee. In summer, when the Livery Barn Restaurant is in operation, meals are available to volunteers at half price. Give us a call at 204-326-9661 if this interests you, and we’ll provide more information about project options.

Calendar of Events

February 3, Vespers Service – 7:00 PM

February 7, Second annual Author Reading Event – 7:00 PM

February 15, Teen Gala – Western Night – 7:00 PM

February 16, MHV Winter Carnival – 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM

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About the Author

Barry is the Executive Director of the Mennonite Heritage Village. While he does not consider himself to be a historian, he places a high value on the preservation and interpretation of the Mennonite and pioneer stories that help people of all ages understand and appreciate their heritage. Learn more about the MHV.

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