Rejoicing in Lindoso

Tuesday, September 13, 2016, 11:15

Sheaves and stooks in Lindoso

Do you remember a hymn with the refrain "Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves: we will come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves."? This American gospel song was one of my favourites as a child when, in autumn, the church was decked out with ears of corn for harvest festival.

To find out what and where in Portugal has sent me reminiscing about old-time harvesting, click here.
I can't remember when I last saw sheaves in the UK though they were common in my childhood. In fact, it was so long ago that I'd pretty well forgotten all about them and had no idea that I missed them. Imagine then my surprise a couple of months ago when, taking friends to see the espigueiros below the castle in Lindoso, I suddenly found myself rejoicing to see sheaves again; and I began to wonder how many people today actually know what a sheaf, or indeed a stook, is.

Stooks on the threshing floor below Lindoso castle

In my 1950s childhood mechanisation of farming was relatively new and expensive and so most agricultural work was carried out by farm labourers. Though I don't remember men reaping with scythes – as famously seen in the recent TV version of Poldark – sheaves and stooks were abundant in the countryside. A sheaf essentially was an armful of wheat ears bound together with a twist of straw. A stook was a small pyramid of sheaves leaning against each other so that the air could circulate and dry the ears out ready for threshing. And there, on an 'eira' – a threshing floor – in Lindoso was a whole collection of stooks made up of individual sheaves.

Group of stooks in Lindoso

Somehow, this was a surprise as espigueiros, some of which you can see in the background, are granaries for maize not wheat. That day, however, wheat was king and the stooks took pride of place in Lindoso.

Do you have any curious tales of traditional Portuguese farming practices that have either been lost or are on the point of disappearing? If you do, please write in and tell us. If you are Portuguese, please feel free to write in your own language. You don't have to write in English. (Lembre-se:  o que é importante não é a língua mas a contribuição.)

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