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Threshing is the process of grain extraction, which consists of separating the ears and dislodging the grain from them. After threshing, the grain was cleaned. Initially, both operations were carried out manually. The mechanization of this process was slow, due to the difficulty in accessing the land, so until the middle of the 20th century, the mechanical threshing was limited to the surroundings of Funchal and to some areas of the south coast.

In the manual operation of cleaning the grain, several tools were used, namely the pitchfork, the wind-up” shovel and the winnow.

The shovel, used in the “wind-up” operation, caught and raised the ears. This operation consisted of throwing the grain into the air, so that it fell at the farmer's feet, while the remains of straw on the ear was blown away by the wind. This process was repeated, as often as necessary, until the grain was properly cleaned.


BRANCO, Jorge Freitas, Camponeses da Madeira – As Bases Materiais do Quotidiano no Arquipélago (“Peasants of Madeira – The Material Bases of Everyday Life in the Archipelago”) (1750-1900), Publications Dom Quixote, Col. Portugal de Perto, No. 13, Lisbon.

Credits: Madeira Ethnographic Museum