Managing the wheat harvest.

It is advantageous to cut wheat before it is fully ripe; but, in ascertaining the proper state, it is necessary to discriminate between the ripeness of the straw and the ripeness of the grain; for, in some seasons, the straw dies upwards, under which circumstance a field, to the eye, may appear to be completely fit for the sickle, when, in reality, the grain is imperfectly consolidated, and perhaps not much removed from a milky state. Though it is obvious that under such circumstances no further benefit can be conveyed from the root, and that nourishment is withheld the moment that the roots die, yet it does not follow that grain so circumstanced should be immediately cut, because after that operation is performed it is in a great measure necessarily deprived of every benefit from the sun and air, both of which have greater influence in bringing it to maturity so long as it remains on foot than when cut down, whether laid on the ground or bound up in sheaves. The state of weather at the time also deserves notice, for as in moist or even variable weather every kind of grain, when cut prematurely, is more exposed to damage than when completely ripened. All these things will be studied by the skilful husbandman, who will also take into consideration the dangers which may follow were he to permit his wheat crop to remain uncut till completely ripened. The danger from wind will not be lost sight of, especially if the season of the equinox approaches, even the quantity dropped in the field and in the stack-yard, when wheat is over ripe, is an object of consideration. Taking all these things into view, it seems prudent to have wheat cut before it is fully ripe, as less damage will be sustained from acting in this way than by adopting a contrary practice.

If the weather be dry and the straw clean, wheat may be carted to the stack-yard in a few days; indeed, if quite ripe it may be stacked immediately from the sickle, especially when not meant for early threshing. So long, however, as any moisture remains in the straw, the field will be found to be the best stack-yard; and where grass or weeds of any kind are mixed with the crop, patience must be exerted till they are decayed and dried, lest heating be occasioned.

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