A simple way to winnow

To winnow is to free grain from the lighter particles of chaff, dirt, etc.  A simple form of winnowing is to throw grain into the air and allow the wind or a forced currant of air to blow away impurities.

Ed Groff in his speech at New Perspectives on Faith brought stocks of grain to the podium with him to introduce the winnowing of ideas. Parts of almost every book or lecture  should be “blown away” or disregarded so that  worthy ideas can be recognized  and retained.

This reminds me of the major winnowing that I enjoyed with youthful cousins on the hill where my Uncle Walter and Aunt Ada and their children lived and farmed.  We called it the threshing day. Yellow-ripe sheaves of wheat were hauled by the wagon load from the fields to the threshing machine temporarily installed in the barn.  The machine was powered by a steam engine attached by a belt pulley.

Imagine this machine in Uncle Walter’s barn

Sheaves of wheat were fed into the machine.  Winnowing took place inside the machine.  Unseen, the grain was separated from its wrappers. Clean grain poured-out and was into bags and weighed. I remember it well because we children could chew a handful of the fresh grain until it became gum-like dough. That was fun.

Then the chaff and straw were blown out by a blower onto a stack to be used  as feed or bedding for the animals in the barn.  As the straw left the machine the wind continued the separating process.  It caught the chaff and blew it from the straw and piled it somewhat like drifts of snow.  I remember running and jumping in the chaff with the other kids.  That was fun, too.

But the major purpose of the exercise was to preserve the grain to be used as an ingredient of the grain mixture to be fed to animals during the winter season.

image1Ed Groff as a sacred humanist encouraged us to carefully winnow kernels of truth from every thing we are exposed to, including the ancient writings of all religions.  l would add that we should winnow radio and television programs  as well. Groff’s lecture is worth reading and listening to, available at the New Perspectives website.


About Martin Lehman

I was born 92 years ago, the son of a Mennonite pastor and organic gardener in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. At age 10 I was baptized as a member of the Marion Mennonite Church. I own the "Old Fool" moniker because I want to walk the Jesus Way even though the world and much of the church takes me as a fool for doing so. In my life I have moved from being a young conservative to an elderly radical. I tell that story in My Faith Journey posted on my website.
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1 Response to Winnowing

  1. This reminds me of the time I was traveling through the mid-west somewhere. The terrain was hilly with wheat fields for miles. Finally, I fell to the temptation to do what I had never done, since we don’t grow wheat in south Florida. I stopped and walked into the field – just a few feet. Nobody was coming up or down the road.
    I gazed across the fields. I totally understood the “amber waves of grain” thing. I picked a stem of wheat and pulled it smoothly through my fingers. I marveled at the things people have woven from wheat straw and I wonder if anyone ever does that now.
    In the Bible, Jesus got in trouble for picking and cleaning the wheat on the Sabbath.
    I could get in trouble for trespassing in the field. I looked up and down the road. Still nobody coming.
    If I rubbed the wheat between my hands – so I tried it, and sure enough. There were the tan covers and yellow brown seeds. Poooh. There went the chaff just like “and the chaff which the wind bloweth away”. “It works!”, I thought. Would it taste like anything? When you taste flour when you’re baking, it is nothing special. But this wheat was like nothing I ever tasted. It was so good.
    I thought of wheat being the staff of life, of it being a symbol of the resurrection, of the Russian Mennonites who brought wheat with them. Now, Martin, I remember riding hay wagons in Ohio and that was itchy. I thought of hot bread, and cookies, and now I have the memory of “discovering” wheat. No trucks or cars visible yet.
    . No apologies to all you to whom that sounds weird and boring. There are things about visitors to my ares that make me shake my head and grin too. Thank you, farmer who never knew I was there, for growing your wheat.

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