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All cereal crops grow as stems with what are known as 'ears' at the top. These ears are themselves made up of a hard outer coating and an inner softer part which is what is used for making flour. The act of separating out the softer part is known as threshing and the machine for doing it in years gone by was called a threshing machine or just a thresher.
The threshing machine was driven as close as possible to where the corn had been stacked. In fact the original siting of the stack had to allow for all the placing of this equipment, usually near a field gate.
Below are two photos of threshing machines; the second one shows the older machine. The captions describe what is happening.
The thresher was driven by a belt from a traction engine. The belt needed a twist in it to stay on, but in museums, set up presumably by people who never saw a threshing machine in action, I have seen it without a twist. The belt was long and it whirled round at head height, so everyone was expected to keep clear. There was no health and safety.
As the corn was threshed, the threshed grain cascaded down a shoot into waiting sacks, suspended on the threshing machine. The straw was ejected from the back. Sometimes, it would be fed into a baler and stacked.
Threshing had to be done on dry corn which needed to be some time after the corn was cut. As threshing machines were so expensive, few farmers could afford to buy their own, and one was hired out locally from farm to farm. So the time of a farm's threshing depended on both the weather and the availability of the threshing machine.
Furthermore because the need for grain was not confined to harvest time, threshing could take place at any time of the year, particularly at less busy times. This meant that the sheaves had to be stored in 'haystacks' or barns until ready. Then they were threshed inside the barns, which was excessively dusty.
The threshing machine delivered the grain into sacks as shown in the top photo. The remaining dry stalks were now known as straw. They were delivered onto the ground where they were pitched onto a cart to be carried away for various uses or for storing. Later models bound them into bales.
The outside of the ears of corn, known as chaff, was a waste product, used as livestock fodder or ploughed into the soil or burnt.