Mount Vernon Day 3 – Down on the Farm

This morning I walked through the garden where there was a lot of pruning and trimming going on. Here’s a video from just outside the garden wall.

Later on we walked to the Pioneer Farm, which is a portion of the Mount Vernon estate which is a working farm. There we talked a bit about Washington’s slaves, who did most of the farming. I’ll be writing more about that later since it deserves its own blog post.

We also saw the barn, which Washington designed to thresh wheat without the danger of letting it get wet. It was built with 16 sides so horses could walk on the wheat (to separate the wheat berries from the husk/chaff). The floor had slots in it so the berries could fall through into the lower floor to be collected.

Inside ceiling of the barn

Inside ceiling of the barn

Floor of the barn - Slots are hard to see

Floor of the barn – Slots are hard to see

This is a genius design and also a big experiment. Washington thought of himself as a farmer, but he loved to experiment with ways to make his operations more efficient and profitable.

After gathering up to the wheat berries Washington’s enslaved workers would have winnowed the wheat to remove more of the chaff. This was done by tossing the wheat in baskets. The light chaff would be blown away while the wheat would fall back into the basket.

Wheat Berries

Wheat Berries

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