Object in focus: Wheat flail from Molong

By Sandra McEwen, Consultant Curator, Paddock to Plate: a history of food and wine in Orange and district

It’s not often that I’m lost for words…but it happened recently. I was rummaging in a cupboard at Molong Historical Museum, looking for treasures. Suddenly, out of the darkness emerged a wheat flail that was made and used in 1873. The label attached indicated that Sam Clarke used it on his first wheat crop grown at Home Plain, Grega. It wasn’t just a wheat flail. It was one in excellent condition, with a complete story!

Wheat flails were used for the horrible job of beating (winnowing) the outer casings off ears of wheat to produce clean grain. The user hung on to the longer stick and thrashed the wheat with the short one. Leather tied the two sticks together. In 1884 the task was taken over by stripper-harvesters that could both reap the heads off wheat stalks and winnow them to harvest grain in one operation.

Wheat flails weren’t precious, so not many have survived to tell their tales. This discovery at Molong reinforced for me what an important role small regional museums play in preserving the treasures of our rural past. That little wheat flail sat undisturbed in the dark for many, many years, just waiting for its time to shine. The exhibition will be full of gems similar to this one. Whatever you do, don’t miss it!

Image above: Sam Clarke’s Flail, c.1873. Loan courtesy Molong Historical Museum

Villages of the Heart

Wheat heart shaped logoVillages of the Heart is a major project currently being developed by Orange City Council, in conjunction with Blayney and Cabonne Councils with funding from the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities.

Villages of the Heart aims to capture stories from the past to the present through the themes of; village secrets, village produce; village places and village gold.

Stage 1 of VOH in 2013 developed a contextual history of the villages, together with around 30 oral histories.

Stage 2 in 2014-16 built on this work through a Regional Partnership Grant between Orange Regional Museum and Sydney Living Museums (SLM), with funding support from Arts NSW.  The work with SLM focussed on a key theme in the Villages research – From Paddock to Plate, about the produce, food and culinary history of region and its villages and people. This included building skills in the community museums in developing public programs abound their distinctive food stories.  Among the public programs delivered in the last two years, Carcoar Hospital Museum held a ‘Farewell Dr Rowland Dinner’ framed around an 1867 dinner to farewell its local doctor, with food inspired by the original menu. http://blogs.hht.net.au/cook/farewell-dr-rowland/   Molong Museum celebrated the Packham pear with legendary CWA cook and MasterChef star Merle Parrish, cooking a pear and spice cake with the Packham pear, ORM hosted a masterclass with SLM’s gastronomer Jacqui Newling on food programming in museums and organised a community picnic in Lucknow village inspired by a community picnic held in the 1880shttp://blogs.sydneylivingmuseums.com.au/cook/?s=lucknow&submit=Search .

It is expected this work will help to inform and shape the Paddock to Plate exhibition and its public programs, supported by research for the thematic history