With so much focus at this time of year on the acquisition of stuff, it seemed as good a time as any to share our thoughts about an unusual group of handy items. We’re talking about holey stuff, useful for cleaning garden seeds, beans, and grains. Moving beyond the old window screen, there are some other sizes of sieves that can make chaff removal more effective.
Usually we do some rough screening or winnowing outdoors to remove the bulk of the debris before attempting a more controlled winnowing with a variable-speed fan. Of course, if the seed is merely for your own planting use, the first step may be as far as you’ll need to go. But if you want to eat or sell any seed/grain, you’ll need to remove nearly every speck of debris. Even with our winnowing setup, there is still a fair bit of final screening to get the desired results, and we make those finishing touches with the help of assorted sieves.
For each type of seed, you’ll need at least 2 screen sizes. The first is a “scalping” screen, which removes the large pieces of chaff/pods and lets the seed and fines sift through. While most of the fines and dusty particles will winnow out, having a finer sifting mesh will remove the rest. This screen has holes that hold back the seed and will let all the smaller particles fall through.
While most folks may start searching for screen with bigger or smaller mesh sizes, you don’t have to be limited to woven wire. Other kinds of holey stuff work as well, or in some cases, even better. Here’s a few of our favorite things: flour sifter, folding steamer basket, mesh office paper tray, mesh office garbage can, steamer inserts, colanders, and a newly acquired perforated french bread baking pan. Most of these items have been re-purposed and/or scrounged.
As the Solstice approaches, here’s hoping that you’ll have the stuff you really need and use, and not the excesses so prevalent this season.