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Page 8

Plowing, Reaping, and Threshing

 

    Thrice a year the Athenian farmer plows, unless he wisely determines to let his field lie fallow for the nonce; and the summer plowing on hybrias's estate is now in progress. Up and down a wide field the ox team is going.[8] The plow is an extremely primitive affair—mainly of wood, although over the sharpened point which forms the plowshare a plate of iron has been fitted. Such a plow requires very skilful handling to cut a good furrow, and the driver of the team has no sinecure.

    In a field near by, the hinds are reaping a crop of wheat which was late in ripening. The workers are bending with semicircular sickles over their hot task; yet they form a merry, noisy crowd, full of homely "harvest songs," nominally in honor of Demeter, the Earth Mother, but ranging upon every conceivable rustic topic. Some laborers are cutting the grain, others, walking behind, are binding into sheaves and piling into clumsy ox wains. Here and there a sheaf is standing, and we are told that this is left "for luck," as an offering to the rural Field Spirit; for your farm hand is full of superstitions. Also amid the workers a youth is passing with a goodly jar of cheap wine, to which the harvesters make free to run from time to time for refreshment.

    Close by the field is the threshing floor. More laborers—not a few bustling country lasses among them—are spreading out the sheaves with wooden forks, a little at a time, in thin layers over this circular space, which is paved with little cobblestones. More oxen and a patient mule are being driven over it—around and around—until every kernel is trodden out by their hoofs. Later will come the tossing and the winnowing; and, when the grain has been thoroughly cleaned, it will be stored in great earthen jars for the purpose of sale or against the winter.

 

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