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What happened to the wheat after it was harvested?

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Wheat Berries

The part of the wheat plant that people use is the seeds, or wheat berries. Find the wheat berries in the photograph.

There were two ways to get the wheat berries off the stalks in George Washington's time.




People used a tool called a flail to beat the wheat and knock the berries off.

She is using a flail.

The bottom part of the flail swings and hits the wheat.


People also used animals, often horses, to walk on the wheat. This was called treading. As the animals walked on the wheat, the berries were knocked off the stalks.

The problem with treading was that it was done outside. Much of the wheat got wet when it rained or got too dirty to use.

What Do You Think?

Why would dirty wheat be a problem?

A Very Interesting Barn

George Washington came up with a new and better way to use treading. He designed a special barn with sixteen sides. It was almost round!

Why do you think George Washington wanted a round barn?

Inside the Barn

Wheat was spread out over the top floor of the barn. The floor boards were spaced 1 ½ inches apart. Horses were led into the barn. They trotted around and around on the wheat. The wheat berries were knocked off the stalks. The berries fell between the floor boards down to the bottom floor. The stalks stayed on the top floor.

Enslaved workers scooped up the clean wheat berries. Other enslaved workers hauled the wheat stalks out. The covered barn kept the people—and the wheat—dry.

George Washington's barn was built between 1792 and 1794. This model of the barn was built in 1996.

What Do You Think?

Why were the floor boards spaced apart but not too far apart? What other questions do you have?

Treading in the Barn

Watch the video to see how the 16-sided treading barn worked. Do you see why it worked best as a round barn?

What did you find out?

What happened to the wheat after it was harvested? Download worksheet

Think about what you read and watched. Look back if you need to. Write your sentences in your worksheet.

Think about what you have learned. How does it connect to the Essential Question, How did George Washington grow and use wheat at Mount Vernon?

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