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Threshing Album
Threshing Album
The straw blower.

Threshing Album

photos by Kristi Gilman-Miller and Lynn R. Miller

The extended McIntosh family of central Oregon has carefully evolved a family tradition on their farm each end of Summer. They grow four acres or so of grain to bind and thresh with their John Deere binder, Belgian horses and Case threshing machine. The belt drive power is provided by their old Oliver tractor which gives the perfect combination of torque and rpm for the job. Neighbors gather to help with the work and enjoy a pot-luck meal.

While the ‘view’ of old-tyme threshing is most always photogenic, and the beneficial social aspects of a threshing bee – where neighbors come together to share the work and have a good time – are wonderful to experience, we were interested this time around in the mechanical ‘interiors’ of the process. The paths and tension of the drive belts, the adjustments of everything, the mid-work servicings are all things which might escape most eyes. But for any of us who appreciate this decidedly appropriate technology for a handmade farming, such views can be helpful and even critically important.

Threshing Album
Threshing Album
An essential twist in a drive belt works to keep it from ‘walking’ off the pulley.

This publication has always held that it is our responsibility to extend the ‘shelf life’ of technologies, methods and practices which have worked well in the past (as well as the present) but which are threatened with slipping away into the dustbins of farm history. Who knows but what a day might come when we need to know we can separate our grains in such a friendly and effective way with machines that beg to be able to work year after year far, far into the future.

Threshing Album
Threshing Album

Day one grew cloudy but it didn’t stop the work, not until it actually started to rain. Spirits were high and many people showed up to help. Joanna McIntosh commented that she and her husband Mike truly enjoy the shared work aspect, especially when new people come and want to learn. Mike is the superintendent of the local school district which makes it more and more difficult to find the time for these aspects of farming that are so important to him and his family. Their children James, Jacob and Nellie, are growing up fast but are still committed to the farm. The world is a better place because of the McIntosh family.

Threshing Album
The straw blower is adjustable, right to left, up and down, and at the telescoping periscope-style cap. Mike’s left hand is on the wheel which swings the pipe right to left, right hand for raising and lowering. The cord running atop the pipe adjusts the cap end.
Threshing Album
Threshing Album
Frequent lubrication keeps the machine running quiet and extends the life of wearing surfaces.
Threshing Album
Careful measurements have resulted in knowing exactly where the tractor has to sit for the proper tension on the long primary drive belt. Mike has dug two holes for the front wheels of the tractor to help hold the position. Rachel, Mike’s mom, works the clutch, ever vigilant for any problems that might require the machine to be shut down.
Threshing Album
This machine has a spool frame for rolling up the primary belt in storage.
Threshing Album
Every couple of hours of work, a twist is given to the grease cups, forcing new lube up into the mechanisms. Common sense tells us which working points might require more grease than others.
Threshing Album
McIntosh’s employ a canvas tarp under the bagging area of the thresher. This allows them to keep the space clean and to gather any spilled grain easily. After the bundle wagon is in place, they unhitch the team and move the horses aside, thereafter spreading the tarp back out. Takes a few minutes more but makes for a clean, efficient and safe operation.
Threshing Album
Threshing Album

Mike uses a small, antique, Starret Tachometer to check the rpms of the thresher at the main cylinder pulley. Case machines are felt to work most efficiently at between 900 and 1,000 rpms. Mike McIntosh chooses to run his machine at 900. The cylinder speed might become an issue if the crop is at all tough. And green materials, such as unwanted weeds, can slow the cylinder down and even cause it to bog out. The ‘cheap’ way to try to avoid this is to speed up the rpms. Mike prefers to protect his machine by running at the slower end of required speed and paying closer attention to the quality of the bundles being fed as well as how fast the job is being pushed.

The tachometer’s pointed end rests in the depression in the end of the pulley and turns with the action. This turning passes through the shaft of the tach and turns a numbered measuring wheel. Mike marks the time on his watch and counts the 100 rpm revolutions of the measuring wheel to see how many stack up in one minute. If he needs to adjust to a higher or lower speed he motions to his mother to adjust the throttle at the tractor. With time the knowledgeable and interested thresher mechanic can ‘hear’ how fast the machine is going and set the speed very close before having to double-check with the tach.

Notice the livestock panel Mike’s hand is resting on. They wire this in place to provide security so that no one fall accidentally into the driving mechanisms.

Threshing Album
Threshing Album
Jerry Andres drives one of the McIntosh Belgian teams to the bundle wagon. Jerry and his wife raise Cyldesdales in the area.
Threshing Album
Burlap sacks are hung at the bagger, where a handle allows selection of which bag is filling.
Threshing Album
Approximately 90 pounds of grain is going into each sack.
Threshing Album
Typically, good McIntosh Belgians are used on the binder and bundle wagons but this year young Jacob McIntosh wanted his Morgan-cross team to have the experience so they were asked to work either side of an old experienced gelding. Ed Joseph of the Okie Chrome Ranch expertly handles the team back to the barn as an unexpected rain squall arrived. The binder was driven by Nellie McIntosh, visiting from college, Mike and his dad Mac McIntosh.
Threshing Album
A job that would have easily been done in half a day had to be split between two days because of the rain (which didn’t last long and, given a full day to dry, had no bad effect).
Threshing Album
Threshing Album
Day two, sun shining and threshing complete, the remaining crew gathered for this picture with about half the separated grain loaded on the California box wagon. Far right of the wagon is Mac McIntosh, patriarch of the remarkable clan.