- "Threshing Grain"
Since the end of the 19th century, farmers on Slovak territory have used two threshing techniques: flails < http://www.harvestofhistory.org/assets/object-images/main/Thrashing-03.jpg >, and treading out grain by cattle. While treading out by cattle (pretend the horses are cows < http://vmek.oszk.hu/02700/02790/html/img/VII.jpg >) was typical of southern Slovakia, which formed the northern border of a large southern European cultural region that used this technique, flails were used throughout Slovak territory. In the various regions of Slovakia, the use of the two techniques, as well as their gradual replacement with threshing machines, was based on socio-economic, geographic, and cultural factors.
In Slovakia, threshing with flails was a basic threshing technique. Flails are among the oldest agricultural tools in the broader Slavic area. Historic and ethnologic sources show that there are two basic types of this tool: both are cudgel-like, with either single flails or two-part flails. While the first type was typical of the Russians and the Balkan Slavs, two-part flails were typical among the western Slavs and on the territory of present-day Hungary.
Until the first half of the 20th century, flails went through various levels of technical development, which are defined by how the flail is connected to its handle. The oldest type is the halterless flail, from which other forms developed, culminating in two-halter flails with rotary halters, which eliminated two big drawbacks of older flails by attaching the hu'z~va (a belt) directly to the handle, and eliminating the need to rotate the handle manually during threshing.
Flails were made by the farmers themselves. The leather endings on the handle and flail (ohla'vky, kapice) were made of pig, cow, and sometimes dog skin; some flails had metal halters, made by local blacksmiths (northern and central Slovakia). The leather belt, which connected the hu'z~va or s~vihle was made of the same material. It was important for the flail (bilen, bijak, bosa'k) to be made of a hard wood because of the stress placed on it during threshing. In western Slovakia, flails were sometimes made with a thin flail, which ended in an iron scythe-blade ring. The remaining part of the flail is the handle (ruc~ni'k, hu'lka, dzerz~a'k), which was mostly made of hazel wood, allowing for a long, smooth, light, firm handle.
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